One day late in autumn the birds gathered at the edge of a forest. They had been making ready for their journey south for seven days, and now it was time to be leaving.
"All here? Come, speak up! All here? Come, speak up!" they called to each other.
And as it turned out, they were all there, indeed, all that is, but the Wood Grouse.
The Golden Eagle struck a dry twig once and then again with his humped beak, and he told a young Grey-Hen to go and fetch the Wood Grouse.
The Grey-Hen flapped her wings and off she flew into the thick of the forest. She looked, and there was the Wood Grouse perched on a cedar, busy picking the nuts out of the cones.
"We are all very eager to fly south, my dear friend," the Grey-Hen said. "You alone are keeping us waiting."
"Nonsense!" the Wood Grouse returned. "Why should we hurry? There is no end of nuts left in the forest. It's silly to go and leave them!"
The Grey-Hen flew back to the edge of the forest.
"The Wood Grouse is gorging himself on cedar nuts and does not want to go south," she said.
There was no help for it, so the Golden Eagle sent the fast-winged Hawk to fetch the Wood Grouse.
The Hawk flew into the thick of the forest and began wheeling over the cedar. The Wood Grouse was still perched there, making a squeaky little noise as he picked out the nuts with his beak.
"Hullo there, Wood Grouse!" called the Hawk. "We have been waiting for you for nearly a fortnight! It's high time to fly south."
"What's your hurry?" the Wood Grouse returned. "We can always do that. A hearty meal is just what one needs before a journey."
The Hawk flew back to the forest edge and told the others that the Wood Grouse was in no hurry to join them and fly south.
Now, this made the Golden Eagle very angry, and he decided to wait for the Wood Grouse no more. Up he soared to the sky and away he flew, and all the other
birds flew after him.
The Wood Grouse stayed in the cedar picking the nuts out of the cones for another seven days, and it
was only on the eighth day that he stopped eating and began cleaning his beak and feathers.
"I don't think I can eat any more nuts," he said. "I'll have to leave some for the squirrels."
And off he flew to join the other birds.
He came to the forest edge, and he could not
believe his eyes! For the cedars there had lost all their needles, their branches were bare and brown and their trunks as white as if covered with snow. It was the birds who, while waiting for him for fourteen long days, had pecked all the needles and in trying to clean their feathers had rubbed themselves against the trunks and turned them white.
The Wood Grouse burst out crying.
„I'm the only one of all the birds to be left in the forest," he sobbed. "How will I spend the winter all by myself!"
And so hard did he cry that the feathers above his eyes turned red.
And in all the years since, whenever the Wood Grouse's children, grandchildren or any of his kin have heard this story, they have wept bitterly. That is why there is not a wood grouse in the forest today whose feathers just above the eyes are not as red as rowanberries.