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The Deceitful Bird

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A Tale about Selfishness

This is one of the most amazing Jataka tales.

The story is about a cunning bird who chooses to keep the grains that fall on the road from passing trucks a secret from his friends.

While the rest of the flock looks for food to share, the bird eats his fill without sharing.

The story concludes sadly with the bird's death and a powerful message about the bad consequences of selfishness.


A large flock of birds used to live in the Himalayan foothills a long time ago. The King of the Birds said to other birds, "Go in search of grain. If you come across any, please let me know and we'll share it!"

King of Birds Order Other Birds to Search for Food

King of Birds Order Other Birds to Search for Food

Soon, all of the birds flew away. One bird flew far away and saw many grain loaded carts passing by on a road. Grain fell on the road as the carts passed. "Wow! There's so much grain! What a treat! I'm not going to tell anyone else or I'll have to share with them," thought the selfish bird then flew back to his flock.

When the other birds inquired if he had found anything, he replied, "Oh, my beloved friends! I came across a route lined with carts." "Carts? There has to be a lot of grain in that place!" The birds were ecstatic. "Yes," the greedy bird replied, "but there were so many carts rushing by that it would be pointless to even try."

The other birds expressed their disappointment and said, "What a waste! It is more important for us to live our lives. We're not going there." The bird was overjoyed to see his idea come true. He'd fly off to the road every day after that and eat his fill.

He became very fat soon and the other birds began to be suspicious of him. The King followed the bird from a distance one day as he flew away as usual. The King realised he had fooled the others when he saw the bird eating on the grain. A cart came down the road while he stood there watching. When the greedy bird saw the cart, he said, "It's still a long way off. I still have time to eat," and continued to eat.

Selfish Bird Continue to Eat as Cart Nears Him

Selfish Bird Continue to Eat as Cart Nears Him

The cart was speeding along when the bird suddenly screamed out, "No way !" The cart ran over him before he could fly away. The bird landed on the dying birch, and the King flew to him. "I am very sorry, your Majesty!" he cried, ashamed. He died after saying this.

The King returned to his flock and told them of everything that had happened. "I hope you understand that selfishness leads to one's own destruction," he added.

Lessons from the Jataka Stories

The Jataka stories are a large collection of Indian literature that details Gautama Buddha's previous lives as both a human and an animal. 

The lesson of these stories is that acts of love, kindness, duty, generosity, and wisdom ensure a better place in the next life. 

The story of The Deceitful Bird reminds us that selfishness leads to our own destruction. 


The characters in these jataka tales are symbols of ancient India's everyday life, animals, rulers, priests, and so on. Prior to his enlightenment, the character is always an incarnation of the Buddha. Each life is a message in its own way. The themes are moral, although a little dark at times.

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FAQs on The Deceitful Bird

1. What did the king of the birds order?

The king of the birds once ordered his birds to go looking for grains. He told the birds to inform the kings if they saw the food so that they may all share and eat it.

2. What selfish bird said to other birds?

He returned to his flock and said that he, too, had not been able to find any grains like the other birds. The bird went on to say that he spotted many carts, but that since they were moving so fast, it was impossible to even try because one could be killed by the speeding cart.

3. What are Jatakas and Panchatantra?

Jataka tales are about Buddha's previous lives, in which he appears in both animal and human forms. Panchatantra, on the other hand, is an animal-based moral story. There are 550 stories in the Jataka Tales, and there are five tantras in the Panchatantra, which feature many animal stories with morals.