Human language reveals a positive connotation between bird’s nests and human homes and families. Why do we identify with birds?
Human families generally don’t build their own houses, so we are often fascinated by birds that forage materials and weave or construct their own nests, from the simple robin to the mighty eagle. There is a great deal about self reliance and sufficiency to be learned from nesting birds. When our house flooded a few years ago and my husband and I decided to do the renovations ourselves, we found strength and stability in being able to master the skills required to put things back together and improve them. As Thoreau suggested in a quote that I posted earlier this week, available here, working like birds to build our nest restored our song, even as it was hard work. Frequently we needed to repeat a project a few times before we got it right. To quote a Russian proverb that I heard recently, “The first pancake is always messed up.”
Video via unreality’s channel on YouTube.
Birds that nest, such as the South African Weaver birds introduced by David Attenborough in the classic clip above, are an inspiration for their skill, craftsmanship and persistence. They are also masters of timing. A successful bird knows when to build a nest and where it will be safe, how to care for their babies, and when it is time for those babies to transition out of the nest and become their own birds. As advanced as the human species is, we don’t possess the depth of instinct that many birds do. I think we’ve always been a little in awe of them.
Where humans mold the landscape to themselves, resulting in a disruption of and disconnection from nature, birds know how to live in their environment, capitalizing on its strengths and adapting themselves for survival. Exploring their understanding of nesting can teach us a great deal about sustainability and resilience. We can go back to the symbol of the nest, which stands for home, and modify our own behavior.
Birds are perhaps the most obvious nest builders, but insects and other animals build nests too. What do we have to learn from the ant colony, the wasp nest and the rabbit warren?