The Grey Roost

How the African Grey got it's red tail

Once there was a forest of many colors. The trees were green. They were gold and orange. They were yellow and red in their season. In the fawning time the trees bloomed. They were hung with ropes of flowers! They were green altars garlanded with color! The smell of the flowers was a prayer to heaven. The flowers were many colors, too. They were white and apricot. They were pink and plum. They were blue and yellow and purple and bronze. The flowers were courted by bees. They came in colors, too. They were yellow and black; fuzzy and brown. Spiders sat in the flowers and waited for the bees. They were even more colorful than the flowers! Some spiders had eight bright green eyes each! Some had blue eyes. They wore fine suits of many colors and striped stockings on their eight legs. Butterflies came to drink from the flowers with their long tongues. Yellow butterflies drank from blue morning glories. Blue butterflies drank from red hibiscus. Giant green moths flew about in crowds, gathering for a dance. All the butterflies carried the rainbow with them all through the forest. After the bees had visited the flowers the trees made fruit. Clusters and clusters of fruits hung on the trees. Purple it hung, and red. Yellow and orange. And palest green blushed with pink. Soon the forest smelled of too-ripe fruit. Then the flies came. Flies flew from tree to tree carrying blue and green with them. Over the forest the sky stretched. It was a blue cloth with a yellow circle. At night it was an azure box full of diamonds! But the most colorful thing in the forest was its birds. Bright among the branches they sang. Living dots of color they climbed. Shimmering pallets of nature they flew among the shadows. The birds had all the colors of the trees. They had all the colors of the flowers, too. They had all the colors of the bees, the butterflies, and the spiders. And God was very pleased with His creation when He watched His birds twirling below. God loved His living top spinning in the forest He had made. But a Little Gray Parrot lived in the forest. She alone had no color. Even the gray doves had bright red feet! But the Little Gray Parrot had gray feet. Her beak was gray, and her wings were gray. All her feathers were gray, too. One day the Little Gray Parrot looked out of her gray eyes at all the colors spread in the forest below. She looked up at the blue sky, pale and dark. And she thought, "I am the only one in the whole forest that has no color. God is pleased by the prayers of the fruiting trees. He is pleased by the beautiful butterflies and bees. How can I ever give Him anything if I have no color?" The Little Gray Parrot thought about it all day. She dreamed about it all night. She was still thinking about it the next morning when the Jungle Bird woke her up. "The Jungle Bird is very beautiful," said the Little Gray Parrot. "He wears a green shawl over his red velvet vest. He wears gold buttons and sharp orange lace-up boots. I will go to him and ask him to give me some of his color." And the Little Gray Parrot got her little red wagon. "I will put all the colors he gives me in my wagon and bring them home," she said. "Then I will be so beautiful heaven will notice me!" So the Little Gray Parrot started walking toward the sound of the Jungle Bird who was still singing to the sun. She pulled her little red wagon behind her through the forest.

Soon she came to a tree stump. The Jungle Bird was standing on the stump calling to his brother in the sky. He stamped his orange feet on his stage and rose up very tall. He called so loud his shiny red wattles shook. He opened his yellow eyes very wide, and crowed. Wrapped in his cloak of black, purple, green and gold he sang, "I! Me, me, me, I! I! Me, me, me, I!" When the Jungle Bird stopped singing the Little Gray Parrot said, "Jungle Bird, you sing a very beautiful song. You have the color of the sky in your tail. The soles of your feet shine like the sun. Your red head glistens with the warm color. Your throat is wrapped in green. I am a very plain parrot. Please give me some of your colors so I can be beautiful, too." But the Jungle Bird only rose up on his long orange toes. He opened his yellow beak tipped with black. And he sang, "I! Me, me, me, I! I! Me, me, me, I!" The Little Gray Parrot stamped her small gray foot. But the Jungle Bird continued to sing his song to the sun. Finally, the Jungle Bird shook his head to rearrange his wattles and jumped down from his perch. The Little Gray Parrot fluffed her gray feathers. She said, "Jungle Bird. You sing a very conceited song." The Jungle Bird preened a blue feather in his tail. Then he preened a green one. Then a bronze. Finally he answered the Little Gray Parrot. "Do you think so?" was all he said. "Yes," said the Little Gray Parrot. "For you are singing about yourself." The Jungle Bird walked to the Little Gray Parrot. He circled her and looked at her empty wagon. He pecked on the wagon. It rang like a cymbal. He stood very tall and near to the Little Gray Parrot, and she began to regret her words. But the Jungle Bird was a king in his realm, and he simply said, "Little Gray Parrot, my song is about me. I wake the sun up every morning so it will shine on men. I sing about my place on the earth. I remind man of his place, too. We are all so high. If man knew his own worth, the forest would be full of my song every morning! Every throat would cry out, singing my song." The Little Gray Parrot looked at the Jungle Bird. She knew what he said was true. The Little Gray Parrot bowed her head and said, "Jungle Bird, everyone says how beautiful you are. And it is true. Your brilliant tail sweeps the ground mixing the rainbow with dust. But, your true beauty is in reminding man that he is not dust. You rise while it is yet dark to do this service. Please forgive me." The Jungle Bird clucked slightly in his throat and said, "I have promised my hens some grubs today, so I must go." And he left. Mother’s green arms embraced him, and he was gone. The Little Parrot said, "I came to beg some beautiful colors from the Jungle Bird to take home. But his true beauty is in his service. I will put that in my wagon instead." And she did, and pulled the little red wagon behind her down the path.

The Little Gray Parrot made quite a sound pulling her red wagon through the dry leaves! From high up in the trees the Scarlet Parrot looked down to see what all the noise was about. "Hello!" he called. Then he mimicked the wagon wheels. And he made the sound of the crunching leaves. He was so clever the Little Gray Parrot stopped on the path. She listened carefully for her echo. But she heard nothing. As soon as she started to pull her red wagon again, she heard the Scarlet Parrot mocking her high up in the trees. "Scarlet Parrot! I was looking for you," said the Little Gray Parrot. "You are very beautiful. Your color is of fire, red and gold, yellow and brightness! Your eyes are ringed in silver, and your wings are cobalt arrows! Please, may I have some of your colors? Then I will be beautiful, too." But the Scarlet Parrot simply mimicked the monkey jabbering in the tree. He babbled like the brook, and roared like a chainsaw! He sang like all the birds, at once! He barked like a dog and growled like a tiger! The Little Gray Parrot stamped her small gray foot. "You are very rude," she said. "Why do you make such a fuss, and repeat everything you hear? What good is that?" But the Scarlet Parrot laughed like a girl child. He cried like a piglet. Finally he said, "I record everything in the forest. Man must work hard all day and night. He does not have time to listen to the birds singing. He does not have time to remember what dangers lie here. I record all these things for the time man will ask me for them. When he is sad, I will sing like the nightingale–even at noon! When he is careless, I will speak in the tiger’s tongue to make him wary." The Little Gray Parrot hung her head. She felt ashamed for her words, and said, "You are right, Scarlet Parrot. You are the most beautiful of all parrots. But your true beauty is in being a storehouse of knowledge. I came to ask you for some of your colors, but I will put your wisdom in my red wagon instead." And the Little Gray Parrot did, and walked on through the forest. Of a sudden the Little Gray Parrot heard a bird talking like a clock. "Cuckoo!" he said. "Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!" The Little Gray Parrot stopped to listen. She stood beneath the green umbrella of a palm. She turned her gray eyes to the blue sky. She searched among and between the green leaves and their gray/black shadows. Finally the Little Gray Parrot found a bright black and white bird shining in the shadows. The Little Gray Parrot sat on the edge of her red wagon and admired him for a full minute. Then she raised her wing politely. "Cuckoo Bird," she said, "Why are you so happy today, filling the trees with noon and dinner songs?" The Cuckoo Bird closed his beak and hopped to a branch an inch from the Little Gray Parrot’s gray beak, and said, "I am very happy. I have five new babies, all fat and healthy, and I am going on a vacation tomorrow." The Little Gray Parrot looked into the eye of the father Cuckoo Bird. He did not look tired. He looked well rested and full of life, so the Little Gray Parrot said, "Your babies must be very good indeed! You have slept well lately, and your breast feathers are sleek and smooth. You would hardly know you have five babies to take care of. You must be very proud!" The father Cuckoo Bird replied, "Oh, I am very proud! They are all so beautiful, and so big each one fills a whole nest!" The Little Gray Parrot was astounded. "Every baby has his own nest?" she asked. She remembered when she was small she had warm brothers and sisters around her like a blanket. "How wonderful," said the Little Gray Parrot. "Can I see your babies?" The Cuckoo Bird puffed up with pride, "Oh surely," he said, "Here is one above us in this tree. And the others are scattered like leaves throughout the forest." The Little Gray Parrot looked high up in the tree. In a crooked crotch she saw a neat, small nest nestled against the black bark. A big chick spilled over the edges of the nest. His mouth gaped open, red and yellow like a flower. He demanded food loudly, and soon a small Yellow Wren flew to him and stuffed his beak with worms and bugs. The Little Gray Parrot could hardly believe her eyes, for this was the very Yellow Wren she was looking for to ask for her color!

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