The birds who couldn't fly

One of the things which made the Aviary School for birds special was its unique open-air setting. In a sprawling green meadow near the pond where Dazel lived, this school for birds was in an enclosure of low and high trees planted in a semi-circle. In this way the birds could perch themselves on any high or low branch and listen to their teacher giving the lecture.

Today, however, Aviary School was buzz¬ing with gossip and excitement. There were two new admissions and they were extraordinary creatures. They were taller and larger than all the other birds.

"What are you called?" asked Dazel politely as the new pair approached their special seats.

"My name is Oti and my sister here is called Trish," said the huge bird nervously. Dazel couldn't help but stare at their huge eyes, sharp beaks, bald heads and resplen¬dent feathers. The tall legs on which they stood towered over Dazel as she peered up to talk to them. Dazel noticed at once that the skin on Oti's neck and thighs was grey while his sister's was pinkish grey.

"We are ostriches," they explained shyly in unison.

A flock of magpies came and sat on the lower branches of an oak tree listening to the conversation with interest.

"Ostriches!" they chirped. "I've heard ostriches can't fly?"Oti and Trish looked at each other. "Yes," they replied finally.

"Maybe you shouldn't be in Aviary School," teased the flock of magpies.

"This school is just for birds...and birds can fly."

"What good are such huge wings when you can't fly," another magpie snickered. With this final quip the magpies giggled and flew away with a flutter of their ebony wings.

Dazel was embarrassed to see Oti and Trish's shame. As the days went by she could see that the two ostriches were shunned by most of the other birds. As a result, the two kept themselves away from the other birds; their only focus was on attending lessons.

The only creature who was kind to them was Wiz Rooster, the principal of the Aviary School, who always inquired how they were settling down. Oti and Trish always replied politely to him and never complained.

One day, one of the magpies came to Aviary School with a bandage around his wing. "What happened?" crooned the other birds sympathetically.

"I fell out of my nest in my sleep. I was too groggy to realize I was falling and only when I crashed onto the ground and felt the pain, did I realize that I had fallen," said Pip, the magpie.

As the other birds oohed and aahed in remorse, Pip continued his story mournfully. "Dr. Owl bandaged my wing and said I wouldn't be able to fly for a week or so. It took me such a long time to walk to school today." Oti and Trish were also listening to the magpie's story while they were strolling in the green field surrounding the Aviary School enclosure.

"I'm glad I'll be able to fly in a week's time again," said Pip in relief. "Boy, do I pity those who can't fly."

There was an awkward silence as all the other birds glanced at the pair of ostriches. But Oti and Trish pretended that they hadn't heard.

During break time, Dazel noticed that Oti and Trish were standing at a distance from the Aviary School enclosure and seemed to be in deep discussion. Dazel decided to go and keep them company for a change. As she neared the pair, she could hear Trish crying softly, "I don't want to continue in this school, I hate it here! I'm going home."

"Trish, please you have to be brave. We can't sacrifice our education for a bunch of thoughtless, teasing remarks," ex¬plained Oti intently.

Dazel was just about to go and join the conversation when a shout startled them all. Dazel swung around to see what the commotion was about. She saw that Pip the magpie, who had been sitting on one of the highest branches of the trees sur¬rounding Aviary School had slipped off the branch and was hanging off its edge. His injured wing did not allow him to fly.

The other birds were too shell shocked to react. All of a sudden in a flurry of large wings Oti and Trish dashed across the green clearing and reached the tree in the blink of an eye. Oti stretched his long neck to the swaying branch and caught hold of Pip in his beak. He then gently laid him on the ground. All the other birds crowded around to see how Pip was.

Pip seemed flustered but all he could say was, "Thank you, Oti."

The other birds murmured words of praise and wonder.

"I'm so sorry, Oti and Trish," whispered Pip, "We treated you so badly and you helped me inspite of that."

Oti and Trish just smiled shyly.

"We didn't know you could run like that?" said Dazel with a smile of awe.

Just then Wiz Rooster came to see what had happened. The birds chattered and told him the whole story.

"I cannot believe that you all have been giving Oti and Trish such a hard time just because they are different in appearance and can’t fly," said Wiz Rooster sternly. "Let me explain to you that there are many flightless birds. These birds lack the ability to fly, but rely instead on their ability to run or swim. There are about forty species in existence today, the best known being the ostrich, emu, cassowary, rhea, kiwi, and penguin."

"Ostriches like Oti and Trish have the ability to run at maximum speeds of about 70 kilometres per hour which is the fastest land speed of any bird. The ostrich is also the largest living species of bird and lays the largest egg of any living bird," said Wiz Rooster as the other birds who had gathered around listened in marvel.

Pip spoke up in embarrassment, "Wiz Rooster, Sir, we apologize for the ill treatment we have shown Oti and Trish. Today I have realized that even though they can't fly they are better than us and special in so many ways."

Dazel added, "Yes, we certainly shouldn't judge anyone by their ap¬pearance." And that was the turning point of Oti and Trish's life at Aviary School.

The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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