"How Birds got Their Feathers." in Bruchac, Joseph. The Boy Who Lived with the Bears. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.

Ethnic Origin: Iroquois

Running Time: 6 minutes

Power Center:

Buzzard is left with the worst set of feathers due to his vanity.

I chose this because the whole story builds up buzzardís character as a vain bird and in the end he gets the ugliest, most ill fitting set of feathers. I looked for another power center, but this scene is what the whole story is about to me.






The meeting of all the birds to discuss their similar dream and decide who visits the Creator.

Buzzard flying to meet the Creator

Buzzard trying on many suits of feathers only to get the ugliest due to his greed and pride.


All of the birds dream the same dream that the Creator is going to give them suits of feathers and they must choose who goes to the Skyland to choose for everyone. Buzzard is chosen because of his strength. He flies and stops on the way to eat rotten fish. He goes to the Creator where he tries on all of the suits of feathers, discarding each one because of his vanity, and ends up with an ugly suit of dirty, brown feathers that is too small and shows his bald red head.


4-5 year olds

Short attention span (Huck)

Rapid language development (Huck)

Very active (Huck)

Beginning interest in how things work (Huck)

Egocentric (Piaget)

Importance of repetition (Piaget)

Imaginative play (Erickson)

This story is short and sweet, and will not challenge their attention spans (or lack thereof) too much, and it will also introduce new language and perhaps new kinds of birds. It involves the use of imagination in envisioning the birds and their plight of life with no feathers. It also answers questions of why things are the way they are (even though itís mythology and not factually based). I think that children, being egocentric at this age, will put themselves in the place of Buzzard. While the story is not repetitious, it does have repetition in the thought of Buzzard trying on many suits of feathers and discarding all of them. Also it shows that greed and vanity are bad characters in buzzards!

Source recommending this story/collection as good for storytelling:

Greene, Ellin. 1996. Storytelling: Art and Technique. New York: Bowker.

I couldnít find another source with this as a good story. I looked through sources that have been recently published and it was not listed in any of them.

Bibliographic information on other versions/variants:

Bruchac, Joseph. 1985. "How Buzzard Got His Feathers." Iroquois Stories: Heroes and Heroines, Monsters and Magic. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press.

I couldnít find another version or variant or really any other story trying to make a similar point in this way, so I am only using an earlier version of the story by the same author, with interesting differences.

Brief comparison:

While the two stories are similar and have the same endings, there are many differences. The story Iím telling begins with a dream sequence in which the birds are visited by the Creator and told to pick a representative bird to come and select feathers for each bird. The other version begins with the birds deciding they want feathers and taking the initiative to visit the Creator and ask for them.

In the version I chose, Buzzard is in such a hurry to meet the Creator he leaves without eating and in the other he eats, but gets hungry on the way and eats again. The second version included more types of feathers and Buzzard talks more. I will include both of these aspects in my story.

I chose the version Iím telling because of the initial dream sequence, which seemed more traditional Native American to me and also because the Creator seems to be more of a kindly father. He does not seem out to get Buzzard, which seems to be the case in the early version.