The Most Beautiful Bird


Percy Peacock and his friends lived in the garden of the finest castle in the land. On sunny days people loved to stand outside the castle gate and watch the peacocks.

Percy and his friends held their heads high and strutted around the garden. Sometimes they spread their tail feathers to make colorful fans of orange, gold, green, and blue.

The people clapped their hands. “How lovely!” they cried. “What beautiful colors!”

“It’s true,” Percy said to his friends. “We peacocks are the finest, most beautiful of all birds. Just to prove that’s true,” he added, “let’s have a contest to show which bird is the finest of all. We are sure to win.”

The other peacocks all agreed that it was a splendid idea.

“Each bird must bring seeds, nuts, and berries for the prize,” said Percy. “I’m tired of eating the same old castle food.”

Percy and his friends practiced their proudest walks. They spread their tail feathers, walked down to the lake, and admired their reflections in the water.

On the day of the contest, birds came from many lands. There were small ones and large ones. Some birds squawked and others sang. There were yellow birds, red birds, blue birds, and birds of many colors.

Percy had never seen so many birds.

“There is still no bird as fine as we are,” he told his friends. “Look how fat that one is.”

“Yes, and those others are so plain,” ridiculed another peacock.

All day birds flew into the garden. Soon prize baskets were full of corn, wheat, rice, and nuts. Others were overflowing with plums, cherries, and berries.

“What a feast!” declared the peacocks.

When the robin came, she asked, “Who is the judge?”

“Oh, dear!” said Percy. “I forgot about that.”

An old owl sat nearby. “I will be the judge,” he offered.

That was fine with Percy. “I have heard that owls are very wise,” he said. To himself Percy muttered, “Owls are drab and brown and not beautiful at all.”

So all the birds flew before the judge. They flapped their wings and sang their best songs. A white swan glided on the silver lake. Parrots flashed their bright wings. Eagles soared high above the oak tree.

Last of all were the peacocks. They walked proudly and turned all around so that the judge could admire their colorful tails.

Percy anxiously clicked his beak as he passed the prize baskets. Then he shouted, “Now announce who the winner is!”

All the birds stood around the owl. The owl looked at Percy. He cleared his throat. “It is true that you peacocks have beautiful tail feathers,” he said. “But you are not modest like the robin or sensible like the sparrow. You don’t have the nightingale’s sweet song or the swan’s fine manners. You are not as fast as the hummingbird or as friendly as the canary.”

“Then who won?” asked the parrot.

“No one and everyone,” the owl said wisely. “Each of you is special. Each can learn from the other.”

For once Percy had nothing to say.

Then all the birds asked one another, “If no one won, who gets the prize?”

“All of us,” said the sparrow. “We will share.”

And that is what they did.

[illustration] Illustrated by Matt Kesler