'The Birds And The Trees' | Circle Round 9323:37

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Think about someone you admire for their courage.

Maybe it’s a person from history, who stood up for what’s right. Perhaps it’s a family member or friend who’s always bold enough to try something new.

In today’s story, we’ll meet a character who’s so brave, she’s willing to give up everything she’s ever known. Everything!

Our story is called “The Birds and the Trees.” Versions of this tale come from New Zealand, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean.

Voices in this episode include James Konicek, Adam Mastroianni, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Gamalia Pharms, and Krys Marshall. Grown-ups, you can see Krys Marshall on Apple TV’s fictionalized version of the 1960s race to the moon, For All Mankind. Krys is also a mentor with the Young Storytellers Foundation, which seeks to "inspire young people to discover the power of their own voice.”

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

Kiwi showed a lot of bravery in today’s story. What are some ways you’ve shown bravery? Think about one time you were especially proud of yourself for being courageous. Then, find a piece of paper and something to draw with, and make a picture of you being brave!

Once you’re finished, share your picture with someone who’s at home with you. Then, together, think of a picture you can draw that shows you being brave in the future. A picture of you doing something that, perhaps, you’re not quite ready to do just yet, but that someday you’ll work up the courage to achieve.

After you’ve drawn your two pictures, you can share them with us! Your grown-ups can find Circle Round on Instagram @circleroundpodcast.

Musical Spotlight: Flute

The flute is the oldest instrument unearthed by archaeologists; some flutes date back more than 40,000 years! The flute is a member of the woodwind group.

(Eric Shimelonis for WBUR)
(Eric Shimelonis for WBUR)

But unlike its siblings (e.g. the clarinet, the oboe, the bassoon), the flute is not played with a reed. Instead, the flute player — most commonly known as a flutist or flautist — produces sound by blowing air across an opening. The resulting sound can be airy, light, bright, graceful, even whistling - just like a bird!


NARRATOR: Long, long ago… when the world was new... a great spirit known as Tane Mahuta created the forests and birds. So the trees, the bushes, the flowers, and all the feathered creatures who winged through the sky… they were all Tane’s children.

One of Tane’s favorite things was taking long walks in the woods. He loved everything about the forest, especially...

TANE: ...the fresh, cool, fragrant air!

NARRATOR: ...and…

TANE: ...the whoosh of the breeze as it rustles the leaves!

NARRATOR: ...and…

TANE: ...the lively twittering of the birds in the treetops!

NARRATOR: It warmed Tane’s heart to know that all of his children were doing so wonderfully well. But then, on one of his morning walks, the great spirit spotted something... strange.

TANE: Hmmm… let me take a closer look at this beech tree over here. (beat) Ooh! Its bark is so brittle and blotchy! And its leaves are riddled with holes!

NARRATOR: Alarmed, Tane glanced around the forest. To his dismay, many of the other trees looked unwell, too.

TANE: My goodness! What’s happening to my trees?!? To my children?!?? They look so sick! What could be ailing them?

NARRATOR: That’s when Tane noticed… the bugs. Vast armies of bugs scuttling across the forest floor… skittering over the mud, mulch and fallen leaves... then heading straight for the trees.

Suddenly, Tane understood.

TANE: (a-ha moment) Oh my! The bugs are coming up from the ground and feasting on my trees! They’re sucking the life out of my children! (beat) I must find a way to stop those vicious critters!

NARRATOR: Now, remember — Tane wasn’t just the creator of the trees. He was the creator of the birds, too. He took off through the forest, running as fast as he could, and calling up toward the sky.

TANE: (calling out) Birds! Birds! Come to your Father! Birds! Birds! Come to me now!

NARRATOR: There was a great fluttering and flapping of wings, and all at once  birds of every size and color left their perches in the treetops, and glided down to the forest floor. Some birds settled on mossy logs, while others stood on the ground, with their talons and claws sinking into the squishy mulch and mud.

TANE: Thank you for coming, my children — thank you! But I’m afraid I’ve called you down from the treetops to deliver some very bad news.

NARRATOR: Tane gestured toward a sickly tree; its ragged bark was peeling off in thick strips. Then he gestured toward another tree… and another… and another.

TANE: See these trees? Hordes of bugs are climbing up from the ground, then biting and nipping at the bark and branches and leaves… and making the trees sick. Very sick! (beat) That’s why I need one of you to help me out. I need one of you to give up your home in the treetops… and live here on the forest floor… where you will gobble up those voracious pests before they gobble up our trees!

NARRATOR: The birds were silent. No one even ruffled a feather.

TANE: (seriously, carefully) Now, I will admit… if you volunteer, your life will be changed forevermore. You will lose your wings… and your tail… so you will not fly — you’ll never see the treetops again. You’ll also lose your smooth, bright feathers… and instead have shaggy, bristly feathers the color of the forest floor. ...But you’ll be saving the forestour forest! (beat) So... who’s with me?

NARRATOR: Tane flashed the birds a smile. Not one of them smiled back.

TANE: (good-natured dad) Oh, come now, children! Surely someone will volunteer to give up the sky and come down to earth? (beat) Someone…? Anyone…?

NARRATOR: Tane looked around, then pointed to a brown-eyed bird with an iridescent swirl of blue, green and bronze feathers.

TANE: Tui! (TOO-ee) How about you? Will you help me save the forest?

NARRATOR: Tui blinked his brown eyes.

TUI: Who, me...? I don’t know…

TANE: And why not...?

TUI: (not the least bit humble) Well, Father… when you created me, you were kind enough to give me a beautiful voice, one of the most beautiful in the forest! And up in the treetops, I can raise that voice and sing loud and clear for all to hear!

TANE: So…? What’s the problem?

TUI: Isn’t it obvious, Father? If I move down to the forest floor, no one will hear my tuneful tones! My pleasant pipes! My melodious music! My harmonious ha - harmonious heh - (unable to come up with appropriate alliteration) Anyway, you get what I’m saying!

NARRATOR: Indeed, Tane got what Tui was saying… and realized that this was going to be much more difficult than he thought!

TANE: (to the birds) Alright then. If Tui won’t volunteer to help me save the forest, then which one of you will? Hmmm...?

NARRATOR: Tane looked around the flock of birds that surrounded him. Then he waved at a large bird with a violet chest, a scarlet head, and bright orange legs and feet.

TANE: Pukeko! How about you? Will you help me save the forest?

NARRATOR: Pukeko gulped.

PUKEKO: Who, me…? I don’t know…

TANE: And why not…?

PUKEKO: Well, Father… when you created me, you gave me these lovely orange feet, with long, slim toes! They’re my most elegant feature. And up in the treetops, where the breeze blows all day, I never have to worry about my fabulous feet getting wet!

TANE: (pretty much knowing what’s coming next) And if you move down to the forest floor…?

PUKEKO: If I move down to the forest floor — the damp and soggy forest floor — my glorious feet will be wet all the time! Drenched! Not to mention covered with mud. Nobody will ever see them!

NARRATOR: Tane took a deep breath.

TANE: Right then… (beat) So... if Pukeko won’t volunteer to help me save the forest… and Tui won’t volunteer to help me save the forest, surely someone else will…!

NARRATOR: Tane nodded toward a plump, green and white pigeon.

TANE: Kereru! How about you? Will you help me save the forest?

NARRATOR: Kereru did a double-take.

KERERU: Who, me…? I don’t know...

TANE: And why not…?

KERERU: Well, Father… when you created me, you gave me a craving for fresh, juicy fruit. And up in the treetops I can pick as much fresh, juicy fruit as I want, right off the branches! (beat) Do you see where I’m going with this?

TANE: (frustrated, sarcastic) Please, indulge me.

KERERU: Think about it! If I move down to the forest floor, I’ll have to wait until that fresh, juicy fruit gets overripe... and rotten... and falls from the tree. And seriously, who wants to eat spoiled fruit?!? Off the ground?!? Not me!!!

NARRATOR: Tane was quiet for a moment. Then he shrugged his great shoulders and shook his great head.


TANE: Oh, my children. Can this be true? Will none of you step forward? Will none of you help me save the trees?

NARRATOR: Tane waited for an answer. He waited. And waited. And just when he was certain that all was lost… he heard... a voice.

KIWI: I’ll do it, Father! I’ll help you save the trees! (slow and confident) You can count on me!

NARRATOR: Who you think finally spoke up?

And if you were one of Tane’s birds, what would you do?

We’ll find out what happens next... after a quick break.


NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “The Birds and the Trees.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, the great spirit, Tane Mahuta — creator of trees and birds — wanted to save the forest from hungry bugs that were crawling up from the damp ground and wreaking havoc on the trees.

All of Tane’s birds lived high up in the treetops. So he called the birds together, and asked which one of them would volunteer to move down to the forest floor and chow down on the creepy-crawly critters. Whoever accepted would have to give up their wings, their tails and their bright colors.

At first, the birds were reluctant. Tui feared that nobody would hear his amazing singing voice if he lived on the ground. Pukeko fretted about her bright orange feet getting wet and muddy. And Kereru worried about having to eat spoiled fruit after it had fallen off the branches.

But then… all of a sudden… another bird spoke up.

KIWI: I’ll do it, Father! I’ll help you save the trees!

TANE: You will? (beat) Who are you? Who’s talking?

NARRATOR: There was a rustling of dried leaves. Then a beautiful bird with slender legs, a tiny beak, and smooth, rainbow-colored feathers stepped forward.

KIWI: It’s me! (beat) Kiwi!!!! 

NARRATOR: The other birds were astounded.

TUI: Kiwi!??

PUKEKO: Are you out of your mind?

KERERU: You’d live on the forest floor?!??

TUI: And give up those silky, colorful feathers?!??

PUKEKO: And tail?!??

KERERU: And wings?!??

NARRATOR: Kiwi paid no attention to Tui, Pukeko and Kereru. Instead, she fixed Tane with a steady gaze.

KIWI: Father... like everyone else here, I have lived in the treetops my entire life. I’ve used my rainbow wings to soar up to the sky and whiz through the clouds! I’ve glided over mountains... I’ve sailed past volcanoes… I’ve sped across sandy beaches and watched the waves crash and tumble far below!

NARRATOR: Kiwi turned to her fellow birds.

KIWI: But my family is in trouble. Our family is in trouble! The trees are our brothers and sisters… and without those trees, we are doomed! The whole world is doomed! (beat) So I’ll do it. I’ll give up life on the forest roof... and live forever on the forest floor.

NARRATOR: Tane leaned down toward Kiwi.

TANE: Kiwi… my child… remember... If you move to the forest floor, all those glossy, bright feathers of yours… they’ll be become shaggy… and brown — the color of the earth! Your tail will disappear... your wings will become weak little stumps... Are you sure about this?

NARRATOR: Kiwi took a deep breath.

KIWI: I’m absolutely sure, Father. I fully understand all that I have to lose… and all that the world has to gain.

TANE: Very well then! You will be our hero of the forest floor, Kiwi. But before I take care of your transformation...

NARRATOR: He cast a glance at Tui, Pukeko and Kereru.

TANE: ...I have some other business to attend to. (beat) Tui!

TUI: Yes, Father?

TANE: Tui… kindly remind me... You were concerned that if you moved down to the forest floor, nobody would hear your tuneful tones... Is that correct?

TUI: Yes, indeedy! They’d miss out on my pleasant pipes! My melodious music! My harmonious - (gets interrupted)

TANE: (interrupting) Right, right, right. (beat) Well, Tui... after today, your tuneful tones won’t be quite so tuneful, your pleasant pipes won’t be quite so pleasant, and your melodious music won’t be quite so melodious.

TUI: I don’t understand...

TANE: I’m changing your bird call, Tui! You’ll still have your tuneful tones, but they’ll be constantly interrupted by coughs and cackles, grunts and gurgles — perhaps even a wheeze or two. (beat) That is how it shall be forevermore.

NARRATOR: And it was! To this day, the bird known as the “tui” has a very odd call — a series of sweet-sounding tweets and twitters, interspersed with not very sweet-sounding clicks and creaks and groans.

But Tane wasn’t finished. He turned from Tui… to Pukeko.

TANE: Pukeko, you were concerned that if you moved down to the forest floor, your lovely orange feet would get all soggy and damp. Is that right?

PUKEKO: That’s right! I mean, look at these beauties! Have you ever seen such terrific tootsies?

TANE: Well, Pukeko, here’s the thing about your “terrific tootsies.” After today, those tootsies of yours will be terrifically wet!

PUKEKO: What…?!??

TANE: I’m turning you into a swamp bird, Pukeko! You’ll leave the treetops and find a new home in marshy, mushy places… the wetter, the better! (beat) That is how it shall be forevermore.

NARRATOR: And it was! These days, you’ll see the pukeko living in swamps, lagoons, even water-logged ditches by the side of the road.

But Tane had more work to do. He turned from Pukeko… to Kereru.

TANE: Kereru, you feared that if you moved down to the forest floor, you couldn’t munch fresh fruit off the trees. That you’d have to wait for it to spoil, and fall to the ground. Yes...?

KERERU: Yes! Who wants to feast on rotten fruit?!??

TANE: Well, Kereru, after today, you will want to feast on rotten fruit! As much rotten fruit as you can fit in your belly!

KERERU: Come again…?

TANE: I’m changing your diet, Kereru. Your new favorite food will be rotten fruit. And you’ll eat so much rotten fruit that you’ll grow dizzy and woozy. Your flying will become clumsy... you’ll even fall out of trees from time to time. (beat) That is how it shall be forevermore.

NARRATOR: was! The kereru is famous for gorging itself on fermented fruit… and demonstrating some truly klutzy behavior… like, yes, tumbling right out of trees!

After Tane announced the fates of Tui, Pukeko and Kereru, he finally cast his gaze... on Kiwi.

TANE: Kiwi, you already know about some of the changes coming your way. Now that you’re moving down to the forest floor, your sleek, colorful feathers will grow shaggy, bristly and brown. Your wings will become stumps. Your tail will disappear. (beat) But that’s not all!

KIWI: (curious, perhaps a bit worried...) It isn’t…?

TANE: No! Those slender legs of yours will grow thick and muscular. So thick and muscular that you can run very fast if other creatures try to get you! And you can use your strong legs to dig a burrow beneath the ground, where you will stay cozy and safe and warm.

KIWI: Father! That’s amazing!

TANE: But wait - there’s more! That petite beak of yours will grow long and tough. So long and tough that you can root deep into the earth to eat all the creepy-crawly critters who live down there. And your sense of smell will be so keen that you’ll know exactly which critter is lurking beneath the soil… before you’ve even begun to dig!

KIWI: Wow! This is incredible! (beat) Father, I don’t know what to say... other than… thank you.

TANE: No, my child. (pause) Thank you.

NARRATOR: From that day forward, Kiwi became the shaggy, brown, long-beaked, stout-legged, wingless bird that lived on the floor of the forest. But what she lost in beauty she made up for in strength, skill, and speed.

Kiwi became so beloved in the country of New Zealand that she became the official national bird. Kiwi has had sports teams named after her... her picture has been engraved on coins... And you may know that people in New Zealand even refer to themselves as “kiwis”... as a symbol of pride, love and admiration for the brave, selfless and noble bird who came down from the sky… and saved the trees.


This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Circle Round’s executive producer, Katherine Brewer. Circle Round’s original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Rebecca Sheir Twitter Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.