THE FEATHERED FRIENDS:
sample story ideas for future books in this series
As a series, “The Feathered Friends” will feature a cast of characters of birds commonly found in many American backyards:
- Wren, a house wren
- Grace, a grackle
- Jay, a blue jay
- Red, a cardinal
- Goldie, a goldfinch
- Woody, a downy woodpecker
Thanks to the variety of characters, as well as the various facets of a bird’s life that can be brought to life in different books, the amount of interesting and exciting stories that can be explored in this series are countless.
Here are some of the various story ideas that could be explored in this series:
Jay Meets His Match
Blue jays love acorns, and Jay is no different. So much so that he has quite the rivalry with the neighborhood squirrels, who try to steal the acorns his dad buried last year that he’s guarding. Meanwhile, a new subdivision is being built nearby that results in the destruction of a large swath of woods. That also destroys the homes of a large number of animals, as well, who must now seek out a new place to live. Woodie, a downy woodpecker, is one of those displaced animals who makes his way to Avian Lane. But when Woodie shows up and begins chiseling out a new place to live, Jay is not thrilled about the newcomer.
One day, Jay finds a rare acorn on the ground. He is thrilled to add it to his collection and begins to bury it. But then, he notices Woodie worrying and looking around frantically. Finally, he discovers that Woodie is looking for a lost acorn. At first, Jay doesn’t want to give it back, but when he thinks about his own beloved collection, he changes his mind. Then the two birds bond over their acorn collections and how they store them and where to find them. That’s when Woodie tells Jay about his home being torn down.
The two decide to go and see it together. When Jay sees the destruction of Woodie’s former home, Jay feels sorry for Woodie and apologizes for not welcoming him to Avian Lane. Now he’s glad to have him there—and they can’t wait for fall when they can collect more acorns together!
Red Sings Out
Red, the cardinal, does not sing—at all. That’s because he once heard his parents talking about how humans used to catch cardinals and put them in cages so they could listen to their beautiful songs inside their houses. (Fact: People really did used to do this!)
Red vows that that will never happen to him—so he hasn’t sang since then. But his neighbor Goldie, a goldfinch, loves to sing. That’s when Red notices that the woman who lives at the house in the Wild Yard, Madame Violet, has taken notice of Goldie, as well. Madame Violet begins spending more and more time outside until, one day, when she’s holding Goldie’s favorite seeds in her hand.
Red is convinced that Madame Violet is going to capture Goldie. He tries to warn her, until he sees her on a nearby bush, eying the seed as she begins to hop toward it. With Goldie flying toward her doom, Red does the only thing he can think of to try to save her: He begins to sing his song and distract Madame Violet from her evil plan.
That’s when he finds out that Madame Violet isn’t interested in capturing any bird–she simply enjoys listening to the birds and wanted to handfeed Goldie. Not only does Red discover that humans aren’t so terrible after all, but he also realizes the beauty in singing out without fear.
Grace and Wren’s Great Adventure
This continues the adventure that Wren and Grace talked about at the end of “Wren Builds More than a Nest.” After much planning, the two birds decide to journey over there to the schoolyard to watch the children and see what they are really like. Is it really as wild as they’ve heard or are those just stories meant to scare everyone off?
When they go over there, Grace discovers she loves it—especially all the snacks and food the children have dropped on the ground! (Fact: Grackles are known for eating all kinds of human food scraps from the ground!) But then they discover something else—they hear a series of squawks coming from a corner of the playground. When they investigate it, they discover a baby robin who has fallen from his nest!
They eventually realize the robin, whom they’ve named Robby, is hungry and through a series of trial and error, discover what to feed him. That’s when the school bell rings—which the birds know means that the children will be coming outside for recess now. But Robby still can’t fly! Grace and Wren must get him to safety before the children come, and the birds are forced to find out if the stories they’ve always heard are true, after all.
Goldie and the talent show
Set in early summer when the sun stays up later and later, the Feathered Friends have decided to put on evening talent show performances to pass the time. Goldie, a goldfinch, performs acrobatics and flying tricks for her portion and enjoys the attention and acclaim she receives from it. Until Ruby, a ruby-throated hummingbird, shows up. Ruby seems to do everything better than Goldie—she has more flying tricks (she can even fly backwards!), brighter colors and even gets her own feeder!
Goldie grows jealous and challenges Ruby to a contest between the two at their next talent show. Ruby wins, and Goldie is angry. So much so that she decides to lie when Ruby asks about a certain flower. As a strict vegetarian, Goldie knows where all the flowers on Avian Lane are—but doesn’t want to share them with her rival.
When Ruby needs help, Goldie reluctantly helps her. That’s when Goldie discovers the hummingbird is jealous of her—because Ruby can’t sing songs the way Goldie can. They bond and become friends, discovering that neither is competition after all.
Woodie and Jay’s Search for Acorn Treasure
Woodie and Jay have been waiting for this moment all year—when the great oak tree will finally rain down acorns all over the Greenwoods’ yard. But something happened this year, and there aren’t enough acorns for everyone to store up! (Fact: This can happen, especially if there’s a late spring frost that kills the flower buds before they can set their acorns.)
The boys don’t know what to do. That’s when Woodie reveals the real reason he came to Avian Lane when his woods were cut down: He’d heard about a secret stash of acorns that had been buried somewhere on Avian Lane! With only a hint of a clue, he and Jay team up and find the acorns—before winter comes and neither one of them has enough acorns to survive.
The two work together against the elements and obstacles to unearth the treasure-trove of a stash—hidden in the Greenwoods’ attic!
Red Makes a Splash
Red, the cardinal, is serious about his work and getting a job done. So when he watches Grace and Robby playing in the puddles after a rain, he harumphs. He hates the rain and how it keeps him from being able to work! He doesn’t have time to stop and play.
But then Grace asks him to watch Robby for her while she has to leave. He wants to say no, but begrudgingly agrees—until a big storm hits. With no other options, he takes Robby into his nest with him. But Robby gets bored there and wants to get out—and play! (The rain also makes it easier for him to catch worms!)
Red reluctantly changes after Robby. In the process, Red discovers he isn’t really bothered by the rain—and in fact he loves it. So much so that later when the Birch children put out a sprinkler later that week when the sun is out and hot, Red decides to run through it—as cardinals have been known to do! Red learns the joy of playing and how to have fun while he works.
Jay Learns His Lesson
Jay has some secrets—like the fact that he can make himself sound like other birds, including the red-tailed hawk, which is one of the gravest enemies the backyard birds face. However, Jay likes to use his talent to scare other birds away so that he can get the bird feeder and its food all to himself!
He even tricks Grace when she finds an acorn by spooking her with his hawk call so that she drops it to the ground. But when she flies away, she realizes there’s no hawk—that it’s just Jay. She decides to get him back and follows him while he sneaks off. But she discovers that he has another secret, too: He likes to roll around in ants—which is something she does, too! But he doesn’t know this, so he gets embarrassed when she finds out about his “anting.” Eventually, she admits to it, and they also discover another thing they have in common: Grace is also able to mimic sounds.
But when a real red-tailed hawk comes to Avian Lane and spots Grace, she ignores the call—assuming that it’s Jay pranking her again. But this time, it’s not. Now Jay needs to save Grace—before the hawk really gets her. This time, he learns how to use his mimicking for good—to save his friend!
Grace is NOT Afraid of the Dark
Late one night, Woodie tells a scary story about a haunted old woodpecker hole—and how, if you hear the drumming sounds at night, watch out or the old woodpecker ghost will come get you! Everyone else laughs and goes home happy, except Grace. She is still spooked by the story and when she goes back home to her nest high up in the tree, she can’t sleep. When a nearby owl starts hooting, Grace cries out in fear, thinking it’s the haunted woodpecker!
The owl befriends her and tells her there’s no such thing as a haunted woodpecker hole. The owl begins to tell her what the sounds of the night really are and why she doesn’t need to be afraid of them. He also tells her about how he loves the silence and stillness of the night—and how it’s good for him to think and listen to his thoughts more. This gives Grace a new perspective and introduces her to a new part of herself she hadn’t discovered before: Her love for fishing! (Fact: Grackles really do wade into the water and fish! They also are known to dip food in water before eating it.)
Wren to the Rescue
It’s summer on Avian Lane, and the birds are loving the bounty it brings. Wren is loving exploring the Wild Yard and all the bugs flourishing in the garden there and has even discovered berries and ripened fruit that falls to the ground. Even Ruby the hummingbird is basking in all the choice food—beyond just the red hummingbird feeder at the Greenwoods’ yard.
But they aren’t the only ones discovering abundant food sources. A little green insect is also on the prowl. And he thinks Ruby looks quite tasty. Ruby has heard tales of the praying mantis attacking hummingbirds, but Wren doesn’t believe her. She ate one once and insists they can’t hurt a bird—even one as small as Ruby.
But when Wren spots a praying mantis try to attack a mouse, Wren is aghast. She starts to believe that Ruby is right. That’s when she spots a praying mantis standing on Ruby’s favorite feeder. He doesn’t move at all—which Wren knows from experience is exactly what a good hunter does. Then, Ruby approaches, hungry for a drink, but doesn’t notice the praying mantis.
Can Wren save Ruby—before it’s too late?
JAY’s BAD-FEATHER DAY
With food in high supply at the end of summer, the birds spend a lot of their time taking care of their feathers: Jay and Red, especially, put a lot of stock in their bright, eye-catching feathers. Until one day, Jay notices some of his feathers begin to fall out. He’s used to losing a feather every now and then, but he becomes alarmed when he notices more than that.
Then, when he shows up at the bird feeder, Red laughs hysterically at him as he points out that he’s missing almost all the feathers on his head! (Fact: This really happens sometimes, to both blue jays and cardinals!) Jay didn’t realize it was that bad and is embarrassed. He retreats into his juniper tree and hides in the shadows.
But then a funny thing happens—Red begins to start noticing that he’s losing some of his head feathers, too. He flies to a window to inspect and, sure enough, discovers he’s losing all of his head feathers, too! When he relegates himself to the shadows, as well, the two bald-headed birds find each other. Red apologizes for teasing Jay, and the two bond over their unattractive outfits—while also appreciating being able to feel the breeze on their heads and faces for the first time!
Goldie’s Big Decision
The time is almost here when Wren will leave Avian Lane and head south for the winter. All the other birds plan to stay on Avian Lane for winter—except Goldie. She can choose whether to stay or go for the winter: Some goldfinches will stay if they think they can find enough food and stay warm enough to survive winter, while others will follow the roads and rivers to where the trees are still green and find new homes there for the winter.
Goldie isn’t sure which choice to make. But Wren does: Even though she’s excited for her upcoming plans, she’s also nervous and wants Goldie to migrate with her. She tries to persuade Goldie with different reasons to leave, while Grace is ready to give her reasons to stay.
Goldie feels pulled in both directions and can’t decide whether to stay or go. Goldie visits Old Owl to ask what he thinks she should do. But instead of giving her his prediction for the upcoming season like she’d expected, she’s surprised by his answer: “Only you know the path for you.”
With time ticking away, she must decide what that is—and whether she’ll stay on Avian Lane or spread her wings and fly south for the winter.
Grace is Grateful
Pumpkins are on porches. The leaves are changing color and falling from the trees on Avian Lane. All of the birds are enjoying the changing of seasons—except Grace. She grumbles about all that she has to lose with the coming of fall: no more corn in Madame Violet’s garden, the sun is going down earlier which means less time for fun, fishing and chitchat. But most of all, Grace is upset that Wren is going to have to leave soon to head south and go on adventures without her.
She can’t shake her bad mood, so she goes to the lake where she shares her complaints with a great blue heron.
He helps her look at her situation differently and focus less on what she is losing and more on what she is gaining. She goes back home to Avian Lane with her new perspective, only to discover that there’s something else new afoot there: a cat! Now Grace is really scared for Wren, who hunts on the ground, and would be a prime target for the cat!
When Grace sees the cat inching closer to Wren, she confronts him. Only to discover that he isn’t a stray and isn’t after Wren—he just moved to a new house on the street and simply likes chasing squirrels and chipmunks around for fun. Relieved, Grace decides to throw a celebration in honor of Wren leaving—with the new cat standing guard to keep away any squirrels! As the birds host their celebration, Grace notices another celebration taking place inside the Greenwoods’ home: a Thanksgiving feast. Finally, Grace is grateful for all she has.
Red Saves Christmas
The birds are in high spirits when winter begins, enjoying playing in the snow and continuing to snack at the bird feeder in the Greenwoods’ yard—a routine Red depends on. But when snow keeps falling, the Greenwoods aren’t able to keep refilling the bird feeder. Now Red and the others begin to fear what will happen if the snow doesn’t stop falling and the bird feeder isn’t refreshed. How long can the birds survive?!
They all bundle together in a conifer tree to stay warm. Red decides to take charge and search out some new food sources before it’s too late. He hears the others chirping and laughing while he’s out doing the work. When he finds a faded old sunflower in the Wild Yard, he decides to keep it as a secret for himself.
But the snow continues to fall and the others grow weak. Finally, he decides to yield and share the seeds with them. But he can’t bring the seeds to them—he must inspire them (with his “cheer, cheer, cheer!” song) to be brave and make the trek to get the sustenance they need. Red learns the joy that comes with sharing—and then being on the receiving end when the Birch children unexpectantly leave out treats of their own as the spirit of Christmas is alive and well on Avian Lane!