We spend a lot of time watching and listening to birds, but have you ever considered what life lessons we could learn from them? The lives of birds have long been idolised as free and unencumbered, and while we might not be able to sprout wings of our own, there is certainly much to learn from our feathered friends.
There is an ever-growing list of self-help books and pocket guides to mindfulness that can be very useful in this day and age, but perhaps we can start our journey towards a greater enjoyment of nature and life by spending a little time looking up at the skies rather than at our phones.
Here are a few life lessons that we can learn from birds…
1. Be Confident
Barnacle geese chicks, at just one day old, will throw themselves off their precarious nest site to the ground below. Their parents lay their eggs high up on rocky outcrops to avoid predation and the chicks therefore have to be brave and trust that they will survive the jump. This jump is potentially life threatening and yet the chicks do not flinch, they know what needs to be done and they are ready to be confident.
Or we could think of the Guillemots which nest along cliffs. These birds also nest on tiny cliff edges and their juveniles quickly become too large to stay at the nest site and so these semi-flightless birds throw themselves into the icy waters below with complete confidence and instinct.
Don’t let your nervousness be the reason you miss out on a leap of faith.
2. Let your colours shine
Here we can certainly learn a lesson from the Birds of Paradise. These masters of colour and performance are not afraid to be themselves and to let their eccentricities shine. Many are adorned in wonderfully colourful and exotic plumage and others create such stunning dances and flourishes that they would show up any professional dancer. Perhaps we could learn from the birds of paradise to let our true colours shine through.
3. Show up early and often
The early bird catches the worm- an old adage which certainly has its roots in truth. Not only are early birds more likely to survive by finding more food but they might have an advantage in more ways than just staving off the hunger. In fact a recent study in Functional Ecology showed that Great tits which got up later than their peers were more likely to lose their partner to a competitor. Although getting up early for us might be a lot less crucial, creating and practicing good habits can lead to a healthier and happier life; so find something worth getting up early for and commit to it.
Try Birda, it's FREE
4. Go with the seasons
Some birds are seasonal of course; heading south in the winter in search of warmer climates or heading north on the hunt for a place to breed. Sometimes the pull of the seasons is all that’s needed to nudge us along our path. We could perhaps learn from the Bar-tailed Godwit who now has the world record for the longest migration on the planet (a whopping 13,560km). The godwit moves with the seasons annually always confident that it will find a place to call home where it ends up. This is something we could certainly take to heart!
5. Be a good parent
Many birds will go to any lengths to protect their young; even putting themselves into danger to secure a safer life for their babies. Take the Killdeer for example. These brave little birds will mob and feign injury to distract a predator. They will throw themselves onto the ground flapping and flailing to draw the predator closer. Surely there is no greater indication of a parent’s love?
Many corvids commit a lot of time and energy to raising their young. As a result, the young develop the ability for lifelong learning making them flexible and adaptable to life’s challenges and changes. Corvids therefore also have a higher brood rearing success and longer lifespan than other birds which shows us just how important parental support is to youngsters.
6. Flock together
What better example of flocking is there than Starling murmuration. What is truly magical about these gatherings is that people still aren’t certain why they do it. Some think that these enormous groups come together to evade predators, meet prospective mates, or to exchange information. However, the most popular belief is that they do it to strengthen bonds, find friends and make new ones. This is certainly something which we too could practice; find comfort in our friends and family and keep those bonds strong throughout our life.
7. Spread your wings
Eventually, no matter how comfy and cozy the nest might be, there is something which calls to young fledglings to take the leap. The Californian Condor, for example, can spend up to six months in its nest before finally taking flight. Despite being one of the United State’s largest birds, it is still a little nervous to head out into the world too soon. Just as condors need to take flight eventually, as humans we also have to be brave, spread our wings, and find our own space to explore and thrive.
8. Return home
One of the big life lessons we can learn from nature is the tendency to return home eventually. There is something deep within the natural world which calls individuals to return home at the right time. Take the Northern Gannet for example: the juvenile gannets may not return home after the first year, although some will. Something calls to the youngsters when it’s time for them to make the journey back to where they were born. But what can we learn from birds then? Perhaps that although our birth place may not always be the “right” place for us, we need to be able to recognise and respond to the call of home, if and when it comes.
9. Be always cheerful
Have you ever sat at a window on a cold and wet day and watched the thrushes singing? Or observed a pair of pigeons cooing over one another amidst the drizzle? Have you ever seen the evident joy from a blackbird as she bathes in a muddy puddle? Or seen a woodpecker pulling at a worm on a frosty day? It is possibly the greatest life lesson to be cheerful no matter the weather. When the rain clouds gather and storms come into our lives, let’s keep positive and sing in the rain.
At first glance the lives of birds are simple and carefree but as we can see, they are anything but. They lead challenging existences fraught with danger and yet they move forward and remain a constant source of joy for everyone. We can learn a great deal from nature and from simply watching birds. This mindful practice is an essential part of our growth. Finding solace in the simple things and learning from the world around us.