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I can't figure out the title of this short story I read in the early 2000's about a bird that was so self-conscious about its ugly appearance that it would die of shame if it noticed that someone else could see it.

The bird was named after the sound it made which was a sad sound something like Yonk or Yawp or such, and I think that might have been the title of the story, but I can't find it.

The bird was also phoenix-like in that when it died by crying tears of shame, each of the tears would turn into a new bird.

I think I may have read it in one issue of Realms of Fantasy, but I'm not sure. Any information about the title and author would be appreciated.

  • 7
    I knew a bird kind of like that in high school. Thing is, she ended up quite pretty years later. – Omegacron Feb 24 '15 at 18:25
  • "Walking home that night/the sack across my back/the sound of sobbing on my shoulder/when suddenly it stopped/I opened up the sack/all that I had/a pool of bubbles and tears/just a pool of tears..!" – Bob Jarvis Feb 25 '15 at 0:13
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That would be a Squonk most likely. Incredibly ugly, lives in Pennsylvania. It makes the sound of its name. And it dissolves in tears if captured as per the account in William T. Cox's Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, With a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts. It's also appeared in McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales as "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter" by Glen David Gold, and in Jorge Luis Borges's Book of Imaginary Beings.

The childhood book I remember it from portrayed it with a birdlike appearance, but the text was drawn directly from William T. Cox's book.


A 1996 short story by Nancy Springer titled "Byrd Song" centers around an outcast girl who meets a squonk (presented here as a bird), and was published in Bruce Coville's Book of Magic.

  • 3
    .. and the subject of a Genesis song from 1976! :) – JeffFerguson Feb 24 '15 at 20:29
  • Looking at the wiki page you cited, one of the works under Cultural references is a short story story call "Byrd Song" by Nancy Springer in which the Squonk is actually depicted as a bird. – Trish Ling Feb 24 '15 at 21:02
  • So it does. I may have to see if my library has a copy. – FuzzyBoots Feb 24 '15 at 21:27
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    @TrishLing The story is Absolutely "Byrd Song" by Nancy Springer from "Bruce Coville's Book Of Magic". – YoungJohn Feb 24 '15 at 22:01
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    Thank you for the edit, Trish, and for the accept, YoungJohn. ^_^ It was pleasant childhood memories, remembering reading the book we had at my grandma's house. – FuzzyBoots Feb 25 '15 at 2:01
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Maybe The Olverung by Steven Woodworth (2008)? It was published in the December 2008 issue of Realms of Fantasy.

Finally we have “The Olverung” by Stephen Woodworth. This piece is historical fantasy set in medieval London, and while he brings the details alive, it should be noted that with a few tweaks, if the the author were so inclined, he easily could have set this story in a secondary world. As to the story itself, it deals with the olverung, a hideously ugly bird that makes music that brings people to tears whenever it’s hurt. Enter our protagonist, a heartless rogue with gifts for illusion and deception, who at the behest of a nobleman pulls quite the caper as he steals the olverun from the royal court. But when he hears the olverung sing, he gets more than he bargained for.

Audio edition here: http://podcastle.org/2009/09/09/podcastle-069-the-olverung/
Text here (for Tor members- free registration): http://www.tor.com/?option=com_content&task=download&id=58335&file=books/ybf9/YBF9-2.pdf

  • I don't believe this is the story I'm looking for, but thank you for the response. – YoungJohn Feb 24 '15 at 21:55

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