©Arlene R. Taylor, PhD

articles200408Perry Parrot flew home upset and confused. He sat dejectedly on a sturdy branch; his head shoved under a wing.

“Whatever is the matter?” his mother asked.

“I hate my stupid beak!” Perry blurted, sounding very pouty.

“Why do you hate your beak? I think it’s beautiful,” his mother replied.

“All the other birds have much cooler beaks. Sol Spoonbill, Frank Flycatcher, Pearl Pelican, Hunter Hawk, Pippa Pigeon, Earl Eagle, and Finola Finch. All of them!” Perry sighed dramatically.

Perry’s mother sat silent for a moment, thinking. He may be right, she thought to herself. They do have very cool beaks. However, I would prefer he was happy just being Perry. What shall I do? “I think you should pay a visit to Brains Macaw, Perry,” she said after a moment. “Brains Macaw is a wise parrot who lives in the tallest tree in the forest. Yes, she’ll know what to do.”

So, Perry Parrot flew to the tallest tree in the forest and located Brains Macaw.

“Excuse me, Brains,” said Perry. “Do you have a moment? I have a problem.”

“Oh, Perry,” said the wise macaw. “Everyone has a problem once in a while. What is your problem?”

“I have a stupid beak,” Perry blurted out. “I would like to know why I cannot have a cool beak like Sol Spoonbill, Frank Flycatcher, Pearl Pelican, Hunter Hawk, Pippa Pigeon, Earl Eagle, and Finola Finch. All of them have really cool beaks.”

“Tell me, Perry, do you like eating worms and crustaceans?” asked Brains Macaw.

“Yuck, yuck!” responded Perry. “Worms and crustaceans? That would be completely unthinkable!”

“Well, that’s what the spoonbill’s beak is designed for. Eating worms and crustaceans. How about flies?”

“Flies?” squawked Perry. “You can’t be serious! They eat filthy and disgusting things. They carry filthy and disgusting things on their feet. I am sure I would rather starve; I tell you.”

“A flycatcher’s bill is about catching insects—including flies—so that’s a non-starter,” commented Brains Macaw. “What about fish?”

“I could think of nothing worse,” said Perry emphatically. “Fish stink!”

“So, the pelican’s beak would not work for you either. Well, what about rabbits and mice?”

“Are you kidding, Brains?” asked Perry. “I feel sick just thinking about eating them.”

“In that case, I suggest you avoid aspiring to have a hawk’s beak,” said the Macaw calmly. “Let me see. How about wheat, oats, and corn?”

“Cereal?” exclaimed Perry. “I don’t think so.”

“OK. Scratch a pigeon’s beak. Ducks and reptiles?”

“Are you joking? Ducks and reptiles—never!” fluffing his tail feathers emphatically.

“Then that lets out eagle beaks,” said Brains Macaw patiently. “How about small seeds? Finch beaks are designed for small seeds.”

“I could choke down a few I suppose, in a pinch, but my favorite is Brazil nuts,” said Perry, eyes brightening at the very thought.

“That is very fortunate. You are in luck. I think I have some here. Would you like one?”

Perry Parrot’s eyes lit up. “Yes, please.” The sound of cracking began almost immediately.

“Tell me Perry, if you had the beak of a Spoonbill, Flycatcher, Pelican, Hawk, Pigeon, Eagle, or Finch, would you be enjoying that Brazil nut?”

The sound of cracking stopped. Perry looked at Brains. “Uh, oh. I guess not,” said Perry, his mouth full.

“You see, my young friend, you have been designed a certain way—with a special beak and unique skills, attributes, and tastes. Stop wasting your life being envious of the uniqueness of others. Make sure that you identify your own uniqueness, know what you are good at. What you can do well.”

“What is special about my beak?” asked Perry.

“For starters, your beak,“ explained Brains Macaw, “is a hookbill. Curved, sharp, and pointed on the end. You can use it for manipulating things, for climbing, for crushing objects—and for cracking your favorite Brazil nuts. It is unique. It can do something that none of the other beaks you mentioned can accomplish.”

Perry slowly nodded his colorful, feathery head.

“Did you know that Brazil nut shells are so hard to crack that Capuchin monkeys have to hammer them open using a stone, much as an anvil?” asked Brains Macaw.

Perry shook his colorful, feathery head vigorously. “Wow! All I need is my beak!” he exclaimed. “That’s awesome.”

“You are still growing,” continued Brains Macaw. “Estimates are that a large parrot has the bite strength of 500 to 700 pounds per square inch—close to that of a large dog’s bite. You can crack a Brazil nut and rip a large branch into shreds. Your beak also has blood vessels and sensitive nerves.”

“Oh,” said Perry. “I did not know that. No wonder Ma can kiss me so gently with her beak.”

“There you have it,” said Brains Macaw. “The next time you feast on Brazil nuts with that special beak, you can choose to be happy Your bill is totally unique. Here, take another one with you. While you eat it, think about what you are good at and why you are here.”

“Thanks for telling me about my unique beak,” said Perry. Brains Macaw nodded. She would have smiled, but her beak was not that flexible, so she was content just ‘thinking’ a smile.

The wiser and more contended parrot flew back home, a large Brazil nut grasped firmly in his unique, specialized, powerful, handy hookbill. He could hardly wait to tell his mother what he had learned from Brains Macaw. Now, Perry Parrot wouldn’t have it any other way!