A thin-billed Flycatcher was sitting on a branch and looked around. As soon as a fly or a butter-fly would fly by, he would chase them, catch and swallow. Then again, he would sit on a branch, and wait, looking around. He saw a Grosbeak nearby, and began to complain to latter about the hardship of his life.
"It is very tiring for me," he said, "to catch my food. I work all day long, no rest, no breaks, and still live half-starving. Imagine for yourself: how many gnats you must catch to be full. And I cannot peck seeds - my bill is too thin."
"Yes, your bill is worthless," replied Grosbeak. "Now mine, on the other hand! With it, I crаck cherry pits like shells! You sit in one spot and peck berries. If you had such a bill."
A Crossbill heard him and replied:
"You, Grosbeak, have a very simple bill, just like Sparrow"s, only thicker. Now look, just how fancy my bill is! All year round, I extract seeds from tree cones with it. Like so."
Dexterously, Crossbill bent a scale on a spruce cone and extracted a seed.
"True," said Flycatcher, "your bill is more complex!"
"You know nothing about bills!" a long-billed Snipe rasped from a swamp. "A good bill must be long and straight, to easily extract insects from silt. Look at mine!"
The birds looked down, and there, from cattails, protruded a bill as long as a pencil and as straight as a matchstick.
"Ach!" said Flycatcher. "If I had such a bill!"
"Wait!" Two wading bird brothers squawked in stereo. "You haven"t seen our bills yet!"
Flycatcher looked, and saw two wonderful bills in front of himself: one was turned downwards, the other - upwards, and both were as thin as needles.
"My bill is pointed upwards because," said Avocet, "to pick up various small meals from the wa-ter!"
"And my bill is pointed downwards because," said Curlew, "to pull worms and insects from the grass!"
"Well," said Flycatcher, "you cannot imagine better bills than yours are!"
"Then you, apparently, have never seen real bills!" Shoveler duck quacked from a puddle. "Look, at what a real bill looks: here!"
All birds burst in laughter, right at the Shoveler"s bill:
"What a shovel!"
"And it is very easy to shovel water with it!" angrily snapped Shoveler and quickly dabbled headfirst into the puddle once more.
"Pay attention to my bill!" from a tree squeaked a humble grey Goatsucker. "It may be tiny, but it serves me both as a net and a funnel. Gnats, mosquitoes, butterflies - entire swarms end up in my net and funnel when at night I fly above the ground."
"How can that be?" Flycatcher was surprised. "I catch one gnat at a time and he catches them by hundreds!"
"Here"s how!" Goatsucker opened his maw - the other birds scattered from him.
"Lucky birds!" Flycatcher replied. "I catch one gnat at a time and he catches them by hundreds!"
"Yes," the birds agreed, "you cannot lose with that mouth!"
"Hey you runts!" yelled a bag-billed Pelican from a lake. "You catch a gnat and are happy! You do not think about keeping anything in store. Meanwhile, I catch a fish - and store it in my sack, I catch another one - and store it also."
Fat Pelican raised his bill, and beneath it was a sack full of fish.
"What a bill," Flycatcher exclaimed, "an entire pantry! You really cannot imagine anything more convenient!"
"You, then, haven"t yet seen my bill," said Woodpecker. "Now enjoy!"
"How can I enjoy it?" Flycatcher asked. "A most ordinary bill: straight, not very long, without a net and a bag. With such a bill you have to hunt for a long time, and not even think about surplus supplies."
"You cannot just think only about food," said Woodpecker. "Us forest workers must always have a tool ready for woodworking and carpentry. With it, we not just catch food, but also hol-low-out trees: we make homes both for ourselves and for other birds. That is what sort of chisel I have!"
"Wow!" said Flycatcher. "So many bills I have seen today, but cannot decide which one is the best. All right then, fellows, stand in a row. I"ll look at you and choose the best bill."
Before Flycatcher, Grosbeak, Crossbill, Snipe, Avocet, Curlew, Shoveler, Goatsucker, Pelican and Woodpecker stood into a row.
However, here a grey Hawk fell from above, grabbed Flycatcher and carried it off to dinner.
Moreover, the rest of the birds scattered from fear.