Ku was tired of being naked. Like many other birds, he was born without feathers. But while his sisters and brothers sprouted feathers of brilliant red and yellow, Ku was left in his bare pink skin. When the nest got too crowded, Ku's brothers and sisters flapped their wings and flew away. But when Ku tried to fly, he plummeted to the ground beneath his tree. While he was dusting the dirt of his beak, he heard laughter next to him.
"You can't fly without feathers," laughed a gray and brown bird.
Embarrassed, Ku ran deep into the forest. When the sky grew dark, Ku took shelter in the nook of a tree trunk. Without his family's feathered bodies to keep him warm, he shivered so hard that his chattering beak caught the attention of an owl, which hopped down from a tree branch.
"Who are you?" asked the owl.
"You must be freezing," said the owl. Instead of laughing at Ku, she extended a wing and wrapped it around his cold body.
"I can't help but noticing," the owl said, "I have plenty of feathers, and you have none." She shook her body, and a spotted feather came loose. "So take one of mine."
"Thank you!" Ku said, wrapping the feather around his cold skin. Already he felt a tiny bit warmer.
In the morning, he opened his eyes to see the owl speaking to a large flock of birds — some big, some colorful, others tiny. "My new friend Ku has no feathers and is very cold. If each of you would give him just one of your feathers, he could cover his body and stay warm."
A cardinal walked up to Ku, noticing how different he looked compared with most birds. Imagining how that must feel, the cardinal plucked a beautiful red feather from his head and handed it to Ku. A parrot came next, offering a long blue feather. An eagle, a canary, a duck — even a hummingbird gave Ku a tiny feather.
Ku was overwhelmed by their kindness and thanked his new friends as he placed the feathers in his wings, around his head, and on his chest and feet. He topped off his new plumage with the peacock’s gift: a shimmering green-and-blue tail feather. Ku had never felt so warm, and he’d never felt so ready to fly.