Animal Wisdom: Connecting People and Animals

A blog encouraging deeper relations between people and animals.

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Winged-Ones: Living in the Moment

Birds fascinate people. Many people set out feeders to attract birds to their gardens. Others travel long distances to spot a particular bird. People watch birds fly, perch in trees, and sing to each other. What is it about birds that draw humans to them? Many will tell you they love birds for the joy they bring.

Birds teach living in the moment. A flash of brightly colored feathers, then they are gone. The sight of a condor soaring in the sky makes people pause and watch. Crows amuse on-lookers with their antics. A lonely call of the loon fills those who hear with longing. Constantly in motion, birds teach humans to live in the moment.

Birds live on all of the continents of the world. They encompass diverse groups such as the fierce cassowary to the melodious lark to the soaring hawk. Groups of birds have descriptive names which describe their characters. There is a party of jays, a murmuring of starlings, a murder of crows, a waddle of penguins, a wake of vultures, and an exaltation of larks. Each group brings a different sense to the human viewing them.

Noted naturalist David Attenborough wrote, “[birds] are a part of our world yet, at a clap of our hands, they lift into the air and vanish into their own with a facility that we can only envy.” He added that people have studied birds with a greater intensity than any other group of animals (including mammals). Birds simply enthrall humans.

Not all birds in a particular family are the same. For example, penguins are known for their even-tempered dispositions; however the rockhopper penguin is a bad-tempered bully. Not only that, but he hops instead of waddling, unlike the other penguins. Meanwhile, the emperor penguin is the model of cooperation for all animals. Study both penguins to learn what the individual species have to teach, and study the family for they have in common.

Birds on different continents often have the same name given to them by settlers who were homesick for the birds they left behind. The robin of North America and the robin of Europe both have red breasts. However, one is a thrush while the other is a finch. Fairy-wrens of Australia are not wrens, although they are active small birds.

The vulture is a special case because there are two groups of distantly related birds, which are called “vulture.” The Old World vultures are in the eagle-hawk family, while the New World vultures are placed in their own family. They do the same thing of feeding on carrion but are different in how they do it. Old World vultures rely on their sense of sight, while the New World ones rely on smell.

Because of their love of birds, people have mourned the passing of the passenger pigeon and other species. Humans have employed extraordinary measures to prevent more extinctions from happening. They look to birds for inspiration and hope, and want to share the future with them.

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Virginia Carper, a Roman Polytheist, lives in the Washington D.C. area with her family. She navigates life with a traumatic brain injury which gives her a different view on life. An avid naturalist since childhood, she has a blog called “Nature’s Observations.” Having experienced the animals directly, she teaches on-line classes about the spiritual and natural aspect of animals. She has published articles on her brain injury, Roman polytheism, and working with extinct animals. In addition her writings on animals (including dragons and other mythic creatures) can be purchased her book site, Animal Teachers.  


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