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Mr. Frank M. Chapman in his "Birds of Eastern North America" says :--
"The best time in the year to begin studying birds is in the winter, when the bird population of temperate regions is at the minimum. The problem of identification is thus reduced to its simplest terms and should be mastered before spring introduces new elements."
Those who have at any time endeavored to initiate young people into the mysteries of bird-study, know how truly Mr. Chapman has spoken. They also know that children, notwithstanding their keen sense-perceptions, become confused if too many details are presented, but seize eagerly upon striking characteristics of a bird's structure, color and markings.
Long experience has developed the plan of this book, which presents first the most common permanent residents and winter visitors, and then introduces in proper order each newcomer of early spring, before the woods and fields become so filled with songsters as to render identification almost hopeless to a beginner.
The descriptions are intended to emphasize distinguishing points in each bird's appearance and song, or to show his most pronounced traits; the illustrations, not only to give a true picture of the bird himself, but of the environment where he is most frequently found.
As rhyme and rhythm are delightful to children, it is hoped that the verses will aid in fixing many truths in their minds and that the book may fill a great need in schools. It aims at accuracy of statement but not to be a technical hand-book, as there are so many excellent ones on the market. It is hoped that it may make friends, not only among young people, but among "children of a larger growth."
I wish to express my deep appreciation to Mr. T. Gilbert Pearson, Secretary of the National Association of Audubon Societies, for his generosity in allowing me the use of twenty-two Audubon plates, for his kindly interest and encouragement, and for his criticism of the manuscript and drawings.
I acknowledge gratefully Mr. Frank M. Chapman's careful inspection of every drawing and his kindness in loaning to Mr. Horsfall a number of bird-skins from the American Museum of Natural History, New York City.
I am deeply indebted to Houghton Mifflin & Co. for their generous permission to use the following poems and quotations:
Edith Thomas's "Nuthatch," "Vesper Sparrow," "Catbird" and "Morning in Birdland ;" Celia Thaxter's "Sandpiper;" Lucy Larcom's "Field Sparrow," "Sir Robin," (in part,) and four lines on bird-song; Frank Bolles' Oven-Bird ;" Frank Dempster Sherman's "Bird Music;" E. R. Sill's "Spring Twilight;" Edna Dean Proctor's "Bluebird;" Ednah Proctor Clarke's "Hummingbird;" Edgar Fawcett's "To an Oriole;" Maurice Thompson's "Kingfisher;" Edmund Clarence Stedman's "Flight of the Birds ;" three stanzas from William Caldwell's "Robin's Come," two from Emerson's "Titmouse," two from James Ryder Randali's "Why the Robin's Breast Was Red," and two from Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney's "Sparrows ;" one stanza from J. T. Trowbridge's "Pewee," and extracts from Longfellow's "Birds of Killingworth," Lowell's "Vision of Sir Launfal ;" Maurice Thompson's and T. B. Aldrich's lines on the bluebird, J. T. Trowbridge's on the thrush, Lowell's on the oriole and Stuart Sterne's on warblers.
To the courtesy of D. Appleton & Co. I am indebted for Bryant's "Robert of Lincoln," "To a Waterfowl," and two stanzas of "The Return of the Birds ;" also for the diagram of the goldfinch's song, Wilson Flagg's interpretation of the red-eyed vireo's song, and John Burrough's rendering of the oven-bird's song, all found in Mr. Chapman's "Birds of Eastern North America." (Copyright, 1903.)
I wish to acknowledge the kind permission of Charles Scribner's Sons to use three stanzas of Henry van Dyke's "Song Sparrow" and two of his "Maryland Yellow-throat;" also that of Little, Brown & Co. for the right to use Helen Hunt Jackson's "The Way to Sing."
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