Illustration: Meryl Rowin


Patience, Happiness, and Other Virtues Learned From Birds—with Jason Ward

“If you just look and observe the world around you, you’ll find that things are not that bad.”

This is episode no. 5 of “Murmurations,” a podcast asking people why birds and the environment matter to them.​

I live in Atlanta, which in my opinion, has the absolute worst traffic of any large city in the United States.

I’m sitting in this traffic jam. (I’m not sure that I know of anyone who’s completely thrilled and happy to sit in traffic for long periods of time.) I’m frustrated, as many many others probably are. But I look out of my window and I notice that there are about eight to twelve Barn Swallows that are swooping around, flying between the cars and catching insects in mid-air. And I often wonder to myself when I see birds, especially in urban settings, “Am I the only one seeing this?” 

So many people are distracted by cellphones or the driver doing something silly in front of them—just distractions that take our minds off of things. But these birds are literally flying between cars. They’re feet from my window. And at that point, I’d completely forgotten about the fact that I had still been sitting in traffic for about 10 minutes and hadn’t moved. I probably moved four feet, while I’m watching these Barn Swallows. And I just couldn’t help myself. I wasn’t upset anymore.

Birds can teach us simple virtues such as patience. Just be patient. These birds are swooping around you; they’re pretty much giving you an intermission show for your traffic jam. If you just look and observe the world around you, you’ll find that things are not that bad. I feel a lot of people can learn from that.

Birders in general are happy people. I’ve never met a birder who was walking around with a frown on their face, even if they’d just missed a bird that was reported previously. There are other birds to suffice in those cases.

I feel like in today’s climate, a lot of people, especially if they took up birding, could learn a thing or two about enjoying life and being happy. Birds are the best teachers when it comes to helping us exhibit that happiness.


Credits: Interviewed by Purbita Saha; Edited by Purbita Saha; Intro music: Podington Bear, “The Mountain” (CC BY-NC 2.0); Barn Swallows, © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others; Traffic noise:

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