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The Wisdom of Birds - what we can learn from them

Updated on October 17, 2016

What we can learn from birds

While this article is based on my observations in New Zealand, I have to say that my opinion about birds has only become even more positive in recent years. Birds are awesome! Here is my original article - it is still as relevant today as it was when I lived in NZ (I am now based in the UK).

As I was walking to town, I noticed a black cormorant sitting on a pole that was used to fasten one of the local paddle steamer's mooring lines. I had not planned to write anything on that particular day - apart from the things I get paid for. However, looking at the bird that usually never sits on that pole made me think about different aspects of life and I decided to sit down at the river side, simply watching the birds. I am often watching birds and we can learn so much from them. All we need to do is spend a little time with them - with an open mind, open eyes and open ears.

So what can we learn from birds?

Mindfulness and living in the moment

The cormorant had no other worry than to have a little rest – but he was resting in a very mindful way and took everything in that was happening around him. There is most likely nothing that escaped his attention. Yet, he did not worry about what would happen next, about where he would fly next – there was no frown on his face, his eyes were full of intelligence and a certain kind of wisdom. Birds follow their instincts – and their instincts always tell them to rest, but not to let their guard down during that time.


While I was sitting close to the riverside, I noticed a sparrow being follow by a duck that was at least ten times the sparrow's size. The sparrow had a piece of bread and would not want to give it up to the bigger duck. The sparrow would have no chance against the duck in a full-on fight, yet he took on the challenge and used his strengths (agility and speed) to outwit the duck by using the paddle steamer as an unknowing assistant. This should teach us that just because someone is bigger, stronger, wealthier or prettier than us it does not mean that we automatically have to give up. If we stand up and believe in our skills, we can overcome the people (or ducks) in our way.

Being faithful

A couple of black-backed seagulls was flying across the river. Black-backed seagulls mate for life. Once they have a partner, they stick to it. You could say that they believe in true love and overcoming obstacles that stand in their way. If seagulls can stick to one partner, why is it so hard for humans?

Believing in yourself and constantly practising

There were black birds in the trees around me and they were singing their songs. They were singing their song and they did not mind that others were listening. They did not care about what others would think even though some of their notes were kind of off the mark. Making mistakes every now and then and not sounding perfect all the time does not deter them. It does not do anything bad to their confidence. They believe in their voice, they enjoy singing, they simply do it again and again. And I don't think that one black bird would bully the other black bird about not singing perfectly.


While I was at the riverside, there was that black cormorant, many sparrows, a few black birds, some seagulls (black-backed ones and red-beaked ones), ducks, feral pigeons and I heard some Tui singing in the distance. Sometimes you also get Kereru at the riverside, and fantails and Kingfishers. On some days, there are dozens of birds from different “races” sharing the riverside. And you would not hear the Tui tell the Seagull “Hey, you can’t be here. That’s MY river.” The seagull might often complain a lot when a duck or sparrow steals some bread from them, but they would never tell them that they do not have the right to share the same space at the river with them. In the world of birds, there is no “this is my land, you have no right to be here” (of course some birds are very territorial but that’s usually just among males from the SAME species). Imagine putting the same amount of people together, and they were all from races that were very different from each other. Would that be as peaceful as the life of birds at the side of the river? There is no racism among birds (though black swans and white swans seem to hate each other), they can all live together, sharing the same space.

Using what is there, going with the flow

Birds use the wind and the flow of the river to get where they would like to be. They live within in nature and are part of it. They are in harmony with their surroundings and use them without polluting them.

Accepting that we don't know everything / learning to not judge too quickly

Many birds go with the flow, but what do you think when you watch that one duck that is paddling against the stream? Maybe you think that the duck is silly because it has wings and simply could use the wings to get where it would like to be. But couldn't it be that the duck has a wing that hurts and can only fly with very strong pain? This is one example that shows that we often do not know the reasons for something by simply observing. We do not always have enough information about something or someone. But humans are quick to make a judgment (have a look at my other blog entry about how we judge people).

Being good parents

Birds always teach their young how to fly. Bird parents would not hold their young back and prevent them from becoming a part of the wonderful world around them. And you would most likely never find a bird who tells another bird off for having a dream, telling the young bird that the dream can never come true.

Those were just a few observations I made in half an hour at the riverside (observations are of New Zealand birds). Have you ever learned anything from birds?

© 2014 Kim Snow

Learning from birds

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    • KimAnisi profile image

      Kim Snow 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thanks for the comment. That article is actually quite old as it has been imported from Squidoo. Since writing that article, I learned a lot more about birds, so I could add to it, or write another page once I find some more time. Yes, birds can be quite violent, too, but to me, it's important to generate some general interest in birds as something else as just "oh, would be nice on my plate". After working with chickens for years (not for eating, nor for killing after their productivity became less), I feel that people need to learn more about birds - they aren't just pretty objects in trees.

    • bje117 profile image

      bje117 3 years ago

      Good job. Nature can teach us all sorts of things about life... a little too anthropomorphic, but still a conversation starter. I have seen birds kill their young, fight to the death and show high levels of prejudice against their own kind, even ostracizing those who are different in color, actions or physical abilities, so it is not all lovey dovey so to speak ;-), but still you can learn a lot and be awed by bird behavior.

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      RStiltskin 5 years ago

      "Black-backed seagulls mate for life. Once they have a partner, they stick to it"

      No doubt there is no mother-in-law involved