How the ugliest little bird changed into one of the most beautiful, the GOLDFINCH (041)

The goldfinch is a wonderfully colourful bird with a strikingly red head. Did you know that long ago he was a laughing stock because he was so ugly? Being one of the last creatures to appear on our planet, the supply of colours had already been used up by the time he had been created and it looked as if he would have to go through life colourless. How this bird still managed to become one of the most beautiful you will find out in this old German fairy tale.

Millions of years ago animals were created naked as they appeared one by one on our planet. Once an animal had been created, it could choose its own attributes from an abundant supply of tales, legs, hooves, toes, coats, feathers, snouts, eyes, ears and colours. There were the modest creatures who were more than satisfied with a simple brown coat like the deer or simple feathers like the chiffchaff. But back then there were already greedy animals. The haughty red deer chose some huge antlers. The proud peacock picked out not only a very substantial tail but also many colours to go with it. The fox managed to acquire a long tail. When nearly all the animals had appeared on earth, one of the very last to appear was the naked and colourless goldfinch.  From the remaining selection of beaks he picked out a strong pointed one and there was only one pair of ordinary pink feet left. However, the entire supply of colours had been completely used up. The goldfinch was very very unhappy about this, because he would have to walk around naked. The other animals just laughed at him. Every day he begged the gods to help him. One morning he awoke to find a nymph next to him, smiling. It said: “I have been given orders to help you. I can ask all the animals to give you a little bit of their colour, my dear goldfinch.” Very sweetly the nymph asked the animals to give a little bit of colour and promised them that the missing colour would grow back in time. The first bird, the great spotted woodpecker, very generously gave a bit of red from the back of its head. The goldfinch stuck this on his face straight away. The crow said that he had enough black and gave the goldfinch some large black stripes which he then put here and there on his tail and wings. The spoonbill had more white than he needed. Without being asked the yellow wagtail was the next bird to drop by. He offered the goldfinch a large piece of yellow from his stomach, which the goldfinch gratefully put on his wings.

The goldfinch was really happy: from being one of the ugliest birds he had become one of the most beautiful. Even today you can hear flocks of goldfinches happily twittering away together. And if you listen very carefully, you might even hear one finch chattering to his neighbour:”Well, you are looking amazing today.”  To which the other then responds:  “Well, your beautiful colours are also making me feel so happy.  We are such fortunate birds, aren’t we!”

Goldfinches are sociable twittering group birds. Males and females share the same colourful appearance. They live in flocks mostly in areas rich in trees such as the edges of forests, parks and gardens throughout nearly all of Europe. Another name for the goldfinch is the thistle finch because it loves the seeds in thistles, teasels and alder catkins. This finch is a partially migratory bird. Like the robin and the starling, for instance, some of the population stays while others move off to spend colder winter spells in more temperate climes.   


© Els Baars,

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Els Baars