Evolution Encyclopedia Vol. 3 

Chapter 28



The freedom of the bird! Able to fly so high and so far! Yet It took careful design to make them. There Is nothing haphazard about the structure of a bird. Everything had to be carefully thought out In advance. But, all aside from most of those basic marvels, In this chapter we will consider a number of additional ones.

ARCTIC TERN The arctic tern nests north of the Arctic Circle. When the summer ends, these birds fly south to spend the next half of the year on the pack ice near the South Pole! All year long they are either living in summertime at one of the poles, or traveling between them! Before returning to the Arctic when the next northern spring begins, they may circle the entire continent of Antarctica. By the time they have returned to their Arctic nesting grounds, they will have completed an annual migration of 22,000 miles [35,200km]!

BLACKPOLL WARBLER This little bird weighs only three-quarters of an ounce! Yet in the fall it travels from Alaska to the eastern coast of Canada or New England, where it stops over and gorges on food, stores up fat and then waits for cold weather to arrive. When the cold comes, the tiny bird heads south. In its little mind, it is planning to go to South America, but it gets there by first going to Africa! Out over the Atlantic Ocean it flies at an altitude of up to 20,000 feet [6,096 m] in the air! How can it keep its warmth at such a height? The little wings must beat constantly, yet there is very little oxygen! In addition, at such high altitudes it is more difficult for beating wings to make progress, there is so little air for them to push against! At some point in its travels, it encounters a wind blowing toward South America; it then turns and heads toward that continent. That prevailing wind tends to be found only at such great heights, but who told that to the little bird?

This journey is about 2,400 miles (3,862 km), over trackless seas, and requires about 4 days and nights of constant flying. No one is there to tell the bird where to go, the height at which to fly, or where to turn. No one is there to feed its tiny three-fourth's ounce body during the trip. It dare not land on the water. Its tiny brain must guide it by day by the sun moving across the sky, and at night by the stars; double navigation!

it seems almost beyond comprehension, yet the little bird does it. And its offspring takes the same trip, without ever having been taught the route or shown any road maps.

RUBY THROATED HUMMINGBIRD This little fellow weighs only a tenth of an ounce. That is all: one tenth of one ounce, and much of that is just feathers. Yet twice each year this hummingbird crosses the Gulf of Mexico, from North America to South America. Its little wings beat 75 times every second throughout the 25-hour trip. The experts, who have time to figure out the mathematics, tell us this amounts to 6 million wingbeats non-stop! Six million wingbeats in 25 hours with no rest stops.

OTHER MIGRATING BIRDS The golden plover migrates from the Arctic tundra to the pampas in Argentina. That is a long distance! But certain sandpipers migrate a thousand miles beyond the pampas to the southern tip of South America.

Starting in Alaska, the bristle-thighed curlew flies to Tahiti and other South Pacific islands. Such migrations take them across 6,000 miles [9,655 km] of open seas, with absolutely nothing beneath them to act as markers to guide them! How can they do it? And their destination is tiny islands in an extremely large ocean. Men need special navigational equipment to make such a journey.

STILL MORE MIGRANTS How can these creatures travel such long distances and arrive at the right place? How can they have the stamina to do it? Who taught them what to do, where to go, and how to get there? One thing is certain: other birds did not teach them. This is obvious when we consider the cuckoos and Manx shearwaters.

When the cuckoos of New Zealand travel 4,000 miles [6,437 km) to Pacific islands, they do so having left their recently-born children behind. After strengthening for the trip, the young cuckoos later fly that same 4,000 miles [6,437 km) and join their parents on those islands!

Manx shearwaters migrate yearly from Wales in England  all the way to Brazil. Left behind are their chicks, which follow after they have grown strong enough to make the trip. One shearwater did it in 16 days, averaging 460 miles [740 km] a day. A bird enthusiast became so excited about this, that he took a Manx shearwater to Boston in the United States, tagged it, and turned it loose. In less than two weeks 12 1/2 days, that bird had returned to Wales, a journey of 3,200 miles [5,149 km].

The young birds have never seen their destinations or been there. They have never been over the route before. No one showed them a map; no one sat down and explained where they should go or how they should get there.

OTHER MIGRANTS It is well known that homing pigeons will find their way back to where they came from. Taken from their home lofts to any point 625 miles [1,006 km] away, they will return during the daylight of just one day.

Birds are not the only creatures that migrate. Insects such as the monarch butterfly and the locust take long migrations. (When the monarch migrates, different generations do different parts of the complete migration cycle.) Eel, salmon and other fish also migrate, and in most unbelievable and mysterious ways. Whales, porpoises and seals find their way through vast distances of unmarked ocean waters to distant breeding grounds. They do this as unerringly as do the birds which fly overhead to faraway places.

The barn swallow annually migrates 9,000 miles [14,483 km] from northern Argentina to Canada.

A major part of many of these migrations is done at night, and over unmarked water. Each species follows special routes not taken by other species. The birds leave their summer nesting grounds only at certain times. They arrive at certain times. They come back at certain times. Last but not least, they succeed in what they are doing. They do the impossible, and get there!

GUIDANCE SYSTEMS How do they do it? Scientists are trying to unravel the mystery of migrational flight. They have made a few discoveries, but the discoveries only deepen the mysteries.

The lesser white throated warbler summers in Germany but winters near the headwaters of the Nile River in Africa. Toward the close of the summer, when the new brood of young is independent, the parent birds take off for Africa, leaving their children behind. Several weeks later, the new generation take off and fly, unguided, across thousands of miles of unfamiliar land and sea to join their parents. And they have never been there before!

German researchers raised some of the warblers entirely in a planetarium building. Experiments proved that, within their little bird brains, is the inherited knowledge of how to tell direction, latitude, and longitude by the stars, plus a calendar and a clock, plus the necessary navigational data to enable them to fly unguided to the precise place on the globe where they can join their parental Talk about dogs that travel thousands of miles to their masters; we are here considering birds with the smallest of brains!

Cornell University scientists were able to figure out that the homing pigeon determines directions by observing the position of the sun in relation to the bird's internal calendar and clock.

But that does not solve the problem of how they get home on overcast days. Further investigation disclosed that they have directional electromagnetic abilities also. Tiny electromagnets placed on their heads destroyed this homing ability on cloudy days, but not on sunny days. So they have sunlight and some type of internal magnetic compass as two separate guidance techniques. But what are we talking about here! A pigeon's brain is no larger than a small bean!

STILL MORE ON GUIDANCE The indigo bunting is a beautifully-colored bird. Before September and April, they eat a lot, gain weight, and, significantly, they start becoming more active at night. Are they taking some time to match information in their genes with the stars they see overhead? If they are a year old, the last time they saw those stars was many months earlier, and those stars were positioned differently at various times of the night.

Then in September and April, migration begins. The little birds will fly as much as 2,000 miles [3,218 km] south or north.

Emlin, a research scientist, took indigo buntings and put them in a cage so that they could see the sky at night. In the fall the birds kept facing south and in the spring they faced north.

Then he took them into a planetarium. Those large dome-covered buildings house very expensive equipment that is able not only to project points of light where the major stars would be on the sky above,but the equipment can omit various lights. After painstaking work, blotting out certain stars and permitting others to shine, it was learned that the small birds were being navigated by the northern polar stars. This includes Polaris (the north star), the Big and Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Cepheus.

In one experiment, he had the north star moved into the western sky, and the birds began facing west. This and similar activities demonstrated the importance of that single star over any other single star in the northern sky.

Then he took a dozen baby indigo buntings, which had never seen the night sky before, and set them out in cages. At first, they did not seem to know directions, but two weeks later, and thereafter, they did. Within two weeks something had matured in their brains and certain inherited knowledge became available to them.

How then does the monarch butterfly navigate as much as a 1,000 miles every spring and fall when he has a brain far smaller than that of a baby bird?

Before concluding this section, it is of interest that the indigo bunting changes the color of its coat each fall from blue to brown. In the spring it changes it back to blue. Researchers found that the change was due to a change in the length of the day. As it shortened in the fall, something within the brain of the little bird told it to change the color of its feathers ! In the spring, longer days triggered it automatically to return to blue. So, in addition to their other abilities, these little birds automatically time the length of the daylight hours!

EMPEROR PENGUIN The emperor penguin lives 35 years, and is the largest of about 12 species of penguins (all of which stay close to the south polar waters). Near the end of May, when the horrors of an Antarctic winter are about to begin, the emperor penguins decide that it is time to travel overland onto the Antarctic ice pack for some distance, and then lay their eggs, incubate, and hatch them! This will be done in the middle of winter near the South Pole, with its perpetual darkness, terrible cold, and fierce wind storms! The penguins will encounter 110F (-80C] temperatures, plus some of the worst weather on earth.

Swimming through the frigid ocean waters past ice floes, the penguins head toward the shelf of ice. Sighting it, they leap up and land right on it. That is no easy task, since sighting an object out of water--from underwater--cannot easily be done.

Then they begin their march inland. Sometimes walking, sometimes sliding on their bellies, onward they go for many miles. Arriving at a desolate place, that is frankly as desolate as all the other places on the journey, they stop and the female lays one egg onto the males feet. He quickly covers it with a fold of feathery fur skin and keeps it warm. For 64 days he stands there, living on body blubber and eating nothing. At the beginning, the female held it briefly, but soon she leaves and he cares for them. She spends the next 2-3 months feeding in the ocean. About 100 penguin males will be in each group, standing a few feet apart, hatching eggs on their feet.

Soon after the babies hatch, the females return. But how do they know where to return to, across the trackless wastes of that white land? This is another great mystery. If you or I tried to do it in the perpetual darkness of an Antarctic winter, we would get lost in the wind and storms. When the females return, the males have lost 20 pounds ]9 kg], and now they go to the ocean and feed. The females remain and each gradually regurgitates a stomach-full of food for their little ones.

By bearing their young in the winter, the children can be young adults within six months. They need summertime in the Antarctic Ocean to get ready for the soon-coming long winter.

PTARMIGAN The willow ptarmigan can change its color at will to fit the environmental background. Other creatures, such as the arctic fox, chameleon, iguana, flounder, and reef fish do it also, but in other ways.

PIGEON SORTING No, people are not sorting pigeons; the pigeons themselves are doing the sorting. Pigeons at Japanese Deer Park, California, have been trained to sort electrical parts. They are able to do it faster, better, and longer than people! The problem is that people rapidly become bored with the task.

HORNBILL The hornbills of Africa and Asia have large bills with what appears to be a small horn, parallel to the bill, lying on top.

A pair of hornbills find a hollow tree and they make a hole in the side. Then they bring clay and wall up the opening until the female can barely squeeze through. Inside, she continues to wall up the opening to only a narrow slit, using more mud which the male brings her. Through this opening the male feeds her 30 times a day as she incubates the eggs and after they hatch. Soon he is bringing her food 70 times a day! When he no longer can bring enough food to supply their need, she breaks out the mud door and flies out. The 3-week-old babies then set to work and patch up the hole again with mud! Both parents now bring food to the young. Three weeks later, the little ones break down the opening and fly out.

QUETZAL The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala, and is, indeed, very beautiful. It is a foot long, with two 2-foot [61 cm] tail feathers!

It lives on fruit which grows on the sides of trees. Much of the time it hovers as it eats the fruit. But whether it hovers or lands, when it is time to leave the fruit on the side of the tree, the bird goes through a special procedure to do so.

The problem is those long tail feathers. It cannot just fly off or it will trip over the feathers or they will get caught on something. So it flies backwards several feet away from the branch, and then hovers for a moment, flies forward and leaves.

When it is time to make a nest, the quetzal female prepares it a foot deep in a rotten tree with nice soft rotten wood inside. After making the nest, the male helps incubate the eggs. But once again, he has that beautiful long tail to contend with. He solves the problem by pulling his long tail up over his head, and then flying backward into the nest!

When the babies hatch they cannot digest fruit until they are a month old. The parents automatically know this, and only give them grubs during that first month. This may seem a little matter, yet if the parents gave them the wrong food, the babies would die and within one generation there would be no more quetzals. So from the very beginning, quetzals have known what to do.

Three years after birth, the males grow their nice long tails.  


HERRING GULL Herring gulls have bright red markings on their bills. One researcher (Tinbergen) discovered that hungry chicks instinctively peck at anything red. When they peck at the mother's beak, they receive food. But they will even peck at a red spot on a piece of cardboard.

OwlsOwls have soft down on their feathers so they can fly noiselessly, since their diet is primarily mice and rats. Their eyes are unusually large so they can see well at night. In the darkness, the retina (black portion in the middle of the outer eye) becomes very large. If it were not for owls, the world would be overrun with mice and rats.

The head of an owl can turn around in almost a complete 360 circle, without moving its body in the slightest. Then suddenly it snaps its head back around and begins again. In this manner, it appears to be turning its head endlessly around and around.

ANTINGThere are 200 different types of birds which rub ants on the underside of their flight feathers. They crush the body of the ant and a special acid comes out formic acidwhich is colorless and has a strong odor.

This acid helps keep lice off the wings, but also softens and tones the flight feathers. When the wing beats up, the barbs on the feathers become unhooked; when the wing beats down, they become hooked again. Ten times a second this hooking and unhooking occurs. The acid keeps the feathers in better condition.

Birds begin "anting" 2-3 days after leaving the nest, but there is no indication that they are taught to do it.

Many species will sit on the ground near an ant nest. The ants, concerned to protect their nest, climb up on the bird's feathers and there release formic acid, which drives off mites and most other tiny pests.

EYESIGHTAn OWL Can See 100 times better than man at night. The golden eagle can see a rabbit at two miles.

HAWKS AND THE WARREN TRUSSGo into a modern wide warehouse having no central posts, a flat roof, and no drop ceiling to cover the supports and gaze upward. You will probably see a Warren truss above your head. Look at the best of the modern bridges, and you will see it again. Draw two parallel horizontal lines, one above the other. Between the two lines draw a straight not curvedzig-zag line back and forth (at 45 angles from the horizontal lines) from top to bottom. You have designed a Warren truss. It is full of triangles.

That is the design of the bone structure of hawks. It is the lightest, strongest engineering structural design known.

Animals generally have hollow bones to give them more strength with less weight in those bones. Bird bones must be especially light and strong, so, for added strength, they will have struts built into their thinner bones. But hawks need especially strong bones. They must climb quickly, drop at high speed, and carry heavy weights. So they have the best-designed bones: they have Warren trusses in them.

It cost modern mankind millions of dollars and untold thousands of man-hours to invent the Warren truss. And here the hawk had it all the time! These excellent inner diagonal struts which connect the load-bearing bony beams, give them maximum strength with the least possible bone fiber.

WINGSFlight requires two forces: lift and push. Lift gets the plane off the ground and keeps it in the air; push moves it forward. Lift comes from the wings, and push from the propellers.

On the forward edge of a bird's wing are specially-designed feathers, called primaries. The air flows up and over this leading edge of the wing, providing partial lift. The downstroke of the wing movement provides the rest of the lift. But on the upward stroke of the wing, the primaries move upward and backward, providing push. So birds have the equivalent of both wings and propellers.

FEATHERSA feather grows from pin feathers, and when it reaches adult size it becomes lifeless. A feather from a wing or tail will have a shaft with branches. Each branch is called a barb. Each barb has branches called barbules. These barbules overlap one another and are hooked together with tiny hooks and eyelets. It is this automatic hooking mechanism which renders the feather useful for flight.

The feather is the lightest, strongest thing in the world. Or, to put it another way, it combines the least weight with the most air-resistance of any object in the world.

When a bird molts, it drops feathers from both wings symmetrically. Thus the balance is more easily preserved than if one wing lost more feathers than the other. In this way each bird can at all times protect itself and obtain food.

Birds frequently preen their feathers. It is important that they do this, for in this way they clean, oil, and rehook feathers. Birds of the heron family accumulate a coating of slime on their feathers. To clean it off, a feather is plucked from one of three special patches of feathers on the body. Then the heron crushes it into something like talcum powder. The powder is then applied to the feathers, and it absorbs the slime. After this is done, the feathers are combed out using a special toe. As with most other birds, oil from a special oil gland is also placed on the feathers to condition and waterproof them.

TEMPERATURE GAUGESThe beaks of the malle bird, the brush turkey can tell temperature to within half a degree Fahrenheit. A mosquito's antennae can sense a change of 1/300 degree Fahrenheit. A rattlesnake can sense a change of as little as 1/600 degree Fahrenheit.

EGGSWhich came first the chicken or the egg? We have all heard that question before. But it only sounds simple because we have heard it before; the truth underlying it is still profound. Before an egg could exist, there had to be a perfect chicken. Before there could be a perfect chick, there had to be a perfect egg. Without eggs, no chickens could survive more than that first generation. So the answer is a simple one after all: They all had to be there together at the very beginning! On the first day that a chicken existed, it had to have the full potential of perfect egg-laying ability.

But there is more to eggs than appears on the surface:

(1) The shell has to be strong enough to resist accidental breakage, yet fragile enough that the chick can get out of it. (2) As the chick grows inside, more and more water accumulates. The egg must lose the right amount of water through the shell so that the chick does not drown, does not dry out, and has enough water for its needs. (3) The original size of the egg must match the size of the chick just before hatching. (4) Gases from inside must be able to get out through the shell. (5) There has to be a special membrane which separates the chick from its wastes. (6) There has to be a second special membrane which allows it to breathe air in some way from the outside. (7) Waste products from the chick must be in the form of insoluble uric acid, not the soluble kind produced by amphibians and mammals. (7) The egg must be fertilized before the shell hardens. (8) The chick must be given a small hammer to chip its way out of the shell, and the sense to use it at the right time.

What are the chances of all that happening by the random events of "evolutionary progress"? None; none at all. Yet everything had to be just right when the very first hatching occurred!

Well, here are a few more facts about this "simple subject" of eggs:

The chick has to be able to breathe inside the shell, so the eggshell has 10,000 tiny holes in it for this purpose. You need a microscope to see them. Under the shell there are not one but two tiny membranes, with tiny holes in them also.

The baby chick needs oxygen, but first it must grow something that can take in that oxygen! For the first several days, it has all the nourishment and oxygen it needs inside the yolk. Two blood veins gram out of its body and branch out into hundreds of tiny capillaries. They grow around inside of the shell, just below the two membranesand they attach to the lowest of the two. By the 5th day, they are fully in place. The heart is pumping, air is going through the 10,000 holes, through the membranes, and into the veins.

The "law of diffusion" operates here. Because there is lots of oxygen on one side of the skin or shell, and a small amount on the other side, the gas wants to get through to equalize. So oxygen passes through the shell and to membranes and into the veins and gives oxygen to the chick! This matter of the "simple chicken egg" is becoming more complicated all the time! And it is all supposed to have evolved by chance? But, by the time evolution got around to getting started on developing the egg, all the birds in the world would be dead. And by the time it got ready to figure out how to make birds successfully grow and hatch from eggs, all the eggs would have rotted.

The baby chick uses 61/2 quarts, or 1 1/2 gallons [6.15 liters], of fresh oxygen while he is inside the shell. He gives off waste gas (carbon dioxide)4 1/2 quarts [4.26 liters] of itwhile he is in the shell. It goes out by diffusion; there is more inside than outside, so the gas leaves, and plants use it to give us more oxygen.

Interestingly enough, when the chick first begins, everything he needs is inside the shell except, after the first few days, the oxygen. The yolk becomes food for the baby. On the 5th day, 2 veins go into the yolk and branch out. This brings food from the yolk to the chick.

As fat inside the yolk is used up, it is replaced by water vapor. That water vapor must go, for it is a waste product. From the chick it goes out through veins to capillaries just under the shelland then out by diffusion through the shell.

But what takes the place of that water vapor? Oxygen and other important gases enter through the shell. This air goes into the little sack at the blunt end of the shell

As the chick grows, the sack grows also, until it is 15 percent of the egg. This is important, for when the baby chick is 20 days old, it is so big it can no longer get enough oxygen from capillaries under the shell The chick is in serious trouble! It will soon die before hatching! But, no, instead at that crucial time, the chick jerks it headand punctures a hole in that air sack! It finds airand now it begins using his lungs for the first time!

But why is it that the chick always grows with its head facing toward that sack? If it faced the other way, it would not punch that hole in the sackand the chick would die from lack of oxygen. But the head is always faced the right direction.

Six more hours of air is given to the chick by punching that hole in the sack. But then another crisis comes! The air from the sack is about used up,and a second time it has run out of oxygen! Now, in a last desperate attemptit hits the shell above its beakand a small hole is made. Air comes through! Now the chick begins in earnest to punch a hole in the shell itself. Pecking on the shell, it breaks throughand still more air flows in.

But this final rescue would be impossible were it not for a small pointed object on the top of the chick's beak. This is a tiny "egg tooth" which looks like an upside-down "W'. Now the chick must work to get out of the shell, and that very work strengthens its little body. Soon it is out, and a few days later the egg tooth falls off, for it is no  longer needed.

BIRD SONGS Bird songs require special body parts. The organ which produces the song is the syrinx. It is located at the lower end of the trachea (whereas our larynx is positioned at the top part of the trachea). Because it is at the bottom in birds, the length of the trachea can be used as a resonant organ to reinforce the sound, and the throat can be used to modify the tones. Because birds do not have facial sinuses to produce resonance, if their syrinx waslike oursat the top part of the tracheas, we could hardly hear their songs.

FEEDING NICHES Birds fill different "niches" in the scheme of things. Each type of bird has a special place where it feeds which is somewhat different than most other birds. Because of this, there is very little competition among the various birds. Consider this:

Creepers feed on the bark, going up. Nuthatches feed on the bark, going down. Woodpeckers feed on the trunk and branches, digging in.

Chickadees feed on the smaller twigs. Kinglets feed on the smaller twigs and foliage. Warblers feed on the ends of the twigs and in the air.

BODIES OF BIRDS Each bird has the type of feet it needs. Land bird have short legs and heavy feet; wading birds have long legs; swimming birds have webbed feet; perching birds have slender legs and small feet; scratching birds have stout feet and moderately long legs.

Each bird has just the type of beak it needs. Seed eaters have short, blunt beaks; woodpeckers have long, sharp beaks; insect-eating birds have slender beaks; ducks and geese have beaks fitted for gathering food from the mud and grass; hawks have hooked beaks.

Birds are designed for lightness, since most of them fly, and many need buoyancy in the water. The bones are hollow and filled with air. There are large air sacs in the body. Feathers enclose more air spaces. All the air inside a bird's body is heated 10-20F above that of a human body. This heated air gives added lift and buoyancy to the bird.

Because the air in a bird's body is lighter in weight than anything else, birds balance by shifting their air load! A bird is able to automatically shift air from one body air sac to another, so that it can maintain its balance while flying. If a bird did not do this, it could not maintain its balance in flight.

A bird has rib muscles just as we do, but it also has flying muscles also. When it is resting, a bird breathes by its rib muscles as other animals do. But when it flies, the rib muscles cease operating-and the ribs become immobile. This is because the strong flying muscles must have a solid anchorage on a rigid bony frame. How then does the bird breathe while it is flying? The wing muscles cause the air sacs to expand and contract, and this provides oxygen to the bird in flight since its lungs are not operating properly due to locked ribs. It took a lot of thought to design that!

Birds that feed out in open fields will tend to be more brilliantly colored. This is because they can see their enemies at a distance. Birds living in the woods and thickets will tend to have protective coloration, since they cannot as easily escape from enemies.

Water birds spend much of their time floating on the water, so they have thick, oily skin and a thick coat of feathers which water cannot penetrate. Diving birds have a special apparatus so they can expel air from their bodies. In this way, they become heavier and can stay underwater more easily.

PARROT BEAK Parrots can move the upper jaw separately from the skull! But they need to be able to do that, for in this way they can use the jaws as pincers to grip and climb up and down, as well as in obtaining food.

CROSSBILL The crossbill is a bird with an unusual shape to its bill. The two parts cross somewhat like curved scissors. But why? The crossbill feeds on pinecone nuts, and it uses its bill to open the pine cones. Of all the birds, only the crossbill is able to open an pinecone and eat the nuts inside it.

DUCKS Have you ever wondered how a duck obtains its food? Along the edges of its spoon-shaped bill are small teeth. The duck reaches down to the bottom of the pond and feeds on the mud. It squirts mud through its spoonbill mouth, and as it does so the small teeth strain out small creatures which it eats. The mud is spit out.

DOUBLE-COLOR BIRDS When, in the fall, the new feathers appear on many bright-colored birds, the tips of the feathers are dull in color. During the winter, these dull tips wear off, and when spring and mating season arrives, these same birds now have brilliant plumage colors.

HONEYGUIDE The African honeyguide is a small bird which leads people and animals to bees' nests. When it leads a badger to the nest, the badger tears open the nest and both enjoy the honey. But the honeyguide also leads the Boran people of Kenya to the honey nests also. Having found a nest, it will, through flight patterns and calls, alert a Boran to send a group to follow the bird to a honey site. But the Borans initiate the search as well as the bird. They will whistle to call the honeyguide. Arriving, it will lead them by flying a short distance and waiting for them to come. Arriving at the honey nest, they always leave some honey for the honeyguide. Scientists have even seen the honeyguide scouting out bees nests at night, so it could promptly lead a group to it the next morning!

WATER OUZEL The water ouzel is a regular songbird that flies underwater!

The water ouzel (pronounced oo-zul) looks like a normal bird, such as a robin. It has no webbed feet, no fins. There is nothing different about its appearance in any way from normal song birds.

But, flying to a rock on the edge of a river, it will jump right in and begin flying with its wings under the water! The water can be swift, white water, swirling over rocks, but it matters not. The water can be cold also! This small bird will dive into ice cold water in the creeks and rivers in the high country of the Sierra Nevada range. But, wherever it may be, the ouzel is quite at home in the water.

After flying for a time, it will land on the bottom and turn the rocks over with its beak and toes to feed on various water creatures that are uncovered. Then it will fly up out of the water again.

When it is time to prepare its nest, the water ouzel flies into a waterfall and makes its nest on living moss on a rock. Spray from the waterfall keeps the moss wet and well attached to the rock. So the nest has a secure foundation. Each time the bird goes to or from its nest, it goes through that waterfall!

WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT The white-collared swift is found in the Mexican jungle and, like the water ouzel, also flies through waterfalls! This small bird looks and lives totally unlike the ouzel, yet also regularly lives behind waterfalls for protection. It also makes its nest there. It drinks from ponds while it is flying but never goes into them. Instead, it flies over a mile up into the air and eats tiny flying insects and aphids, often being blown by 60-mile-per-hour [96.5 kph] winds.

The white-collared swift is a powerful flyer and can go 80 miles [129 km] per hour. In many ways, this swift is completely unlike the water ouzel, but in one way it is very similar: It builds its nest behind waterfalls. But, in addition, when not nesting, the white-collared swift continues to make its home behind waterfalls when not nesting; something that ouzels do not do.

SNAIL KITE The snail kite is a hawk like bird which lives in the southeastern U.S. swamps. It soars over the swamp looking for large snails, called "apple snails." Every so often one rises to the surface for air. Swooping down, it seizes the snail before it sinks again, and carries it off to a tree limb where it proceeds to eat the snail. But the shell is strong and the kite could not eat it except for the fact that the curve of the kite's bill exactly matches the curve of the snail's opening!

SUGARBIRD Here is a bird that depends on one bush for everything. The sugarbird lives in the mountains of South Africa, and has a 4-inch [10cm] body, and a 10-inch [25-cm] tail.

The protea bush, growing on those same slopes, is large-about 7 feet [21 dm] tall and very bushy. The sugarbird goes to its pink flowers and sips the nectar. It also eats bugs, flies, and worms that come to the flowers.

The bill of the bird is long, round and narrow just right for sipping the sugar water in the flower. A problem is that the flower, which is also long and narrow, curves downward. But the bill of the bird has exactly the same angle of curve, and it is also a downward curve! So the sugarbird need only go up to the flower and reach down in and take the nectar.

But more than a long, narrow, curved bill is needed. There is also a pump in the bird's throat, with a pipe leading from the pump to the bill. That pipe is its tongue which it twists into a pipe shape.

Both the bird and the bush are obviously designed for one another.

But there is more: The sugarbird makes its nest in the protea bush, but only makes its nest when the bush is blooming throughout the summer. In this way, the bird can feed nectar to its children. Along with grass, the nest is made from dead protea bush twigs which the bird finds underneath the bush.

Inside the stick nest, the bird places soft, white fluff for the baby birds to sit on. Where does that fluff come from? It is dried-up petals which earlier fell from the protea bush.

For its daily drink of water, upon arising, the bird obtains water from the leaves. The same dew which fell on the bush at night also provides enough wet leaves that the bird takes its bath by flying into the branches and shaking itself. As it does so, water showers down upon it, providing it with a morning shower bath!

Occasionally the bird must search elsewhere for food, but that does not happen very often. For the most part, the bush provides for all the needs of the sugarbird.

CANADA GEESE As do a number of other creatures, the Canada goose mates for life. As the geese are flying in "V" formation, if one mate goes down from sickness or injury, the other will go down with it and stay with it till it is able to fly again.

When landing on the water, these large birds lift their wings at the last moment to cut speed, and then run on the water for a distance, and then alight on it. Taking off, they begin running on the water again as they pick up speed for flight.

The first day the goslings are hatched, the female leads them immediately into the water. The male goes ahead and beats on the water with its wings to frighten away enemies.

When they migrate, Canadian geese fly in the long "V" formations you have seen in the sky in order to reduce air resistance on the entire flock. The leader meets the full force of the wind, so they take turns leading. Scientists now know that they navigate by the stars.

SNIPE The snipe has two special feathers that jut out at right angles when it makes a dive, resulting in a loud buzzing noise. The snipe only makes this buzzing sound on two occasions: (1) when it is ready to mate, and (2) when a storm is coming that will hit later that day or night. For this reason the snipe is sometimes called the "weather bird" or "barometer bird." 

OILBIRD In the deep, dark caves of northern South America is to be found a strange bird. The oilbird (Steatornis caripensis) gets its name from the natives that rob its nests, boil the squabs for their high oil content, and then store and use the oil to flavor their food.

A major part of the life of this bird is spent in total darkness in those caves. The young are hatched in total darkness, fly around in the caves without hitting the walls or other birds, and eventually emerge with their parents during the night to search for tropical fruits.

How can this bird fly around the cave without striking something? The answer is that it uses sonar. The oilbird emits distinct evenly-spaced clicks. The return time for the echo tells the bird what is in front of it, which is not only boulders and cave walls, but other flying birds as well!

No one ever taught the oilbird how to do this. It was born with the ability. When scientists plugged the ears of two of the birds, they found that they collided with the walls, thus proving that sonar was being used.

SUNBIRD The sunbird of Africa has metallic colors: blue under its chin, bright red on its chest, and shining black feathers on its back. This 5 1/24 inch ]14 cm] long sparrow-sized bird hovers as it takes nectar from flowers in African jungles. Its wings beat 50 times a second, so you can see that the sunbird is somewhat like the hummingbird.

Its bill is 2 inches (5.08 cm] long and slightly curved to match the flowers, with a special tongue which curie and sucks out the sugar water. When it encounters extra-long flowers, the bird pokes a small hole at the base of the flower and sucks out the nectar. A built-in pump is in its throat to draw the nectar up its bill and down into its stomach.

It pollinates flowers with its feathers. Just as bees do, the sunbird only goes to one species of flower at a time; in this way cross-pollination is insured.

When the sunbird arrives at the African mistletoe flower, it has to tell the flower to open up! If the bird did not do so, that flower would always remain clod. Carefully, the bird puts its long bill inside a slit in the flower. This triggers the flower, and it opens immediately, shoots out its anthers, and hits the bird with pollen all over its feathers. Then the bird goes to the next mistletoe and pollinates it, repeating the process.

Evolutionists declare that all flowers were made millions of years before insects and birds. But if that was true, then the flowers had to wait millions of years before being pollinated.

EAGLES, HAWKS, AND BUZZARDS These large birds have to be able to see very well, so they have been given excellent eyesight. They can climb high in the sky, as much as a mile up and then as they ride on thermals (rising warm air currents), they gaze down and are able to see a mouse or a rabbit on the ground.

Their brain causes the eyes to be able to zoom in and make things look closer, or zoom out and see regularly when they land in a tree or on the ground. If that did not happen, they could not see things less than 40 feet [122 dm] away.

In the morning they do not leave the tree they roosted in during the night until it warms up. Then they fly off on rising air currents, and soon they look like gliders, floating in the sky.

PIGEONS AND DOVES When their young hatch, both parents produce a milk in their throats, and open their mouths. The baby doves and pigeons (squabs, they are called) reach into their parents' throats and get the milk that is there. Here is how it works in more detail: Having eaten grains out in the field, a special enzyme made in the throat is also swallowed. It digests the food in the stomach, softening and turning the grains into a thick, white milk that looks like cottage cheese.

As the parent stands before the squabs, it opens its mouth wide, and a special pump turns on, pumping up the milk into its throat. A baby sticks its head into a parent's mouth and sucks it in. They continue to eat in this way for at least a week, and then are ready for grains and worms. But first they must have that milk or they will die. There was no time for the milk to slowly "evolve" over thousands of years.

Four days before the babies emerge, both the mother and father somehow know that the egg is about to hatch. This excites them and they stimulate the gland in their bodies that produce that milk. By the time the squabs have come out of the shells, there are lots of enzymes, and milk production begins.  


WHIPPOORWILL The whippoorwill is the well-known southeastern U.S. bird which flies at night. There are bristles on either side of its beak, and these can feel the bugs as it flies. Quickly, turning its head, it eats them.

The whippoorwill is one of the only birds that hibernates. It remains through the cold winter and sleeps. While its body temperature is normally 104F (40C), it drops 40F during hibernation to 60 (15.51/2). When the temperature goes down to 38F (3.3C) and stays there a few days, then the whippoorwill searches for a place to hibernate between some rocks and begins its long sleep.

A whippoorwill only needs 1/3 ounce (9.36 g] of food to keep it alive and well during the approximately 100 days it hibernates. During that time, no breathing or pulse will be detectable.

Not only can the whippoorwill take the cold, it can withstand terrific heat. When the weather becomes too hot, the whippoorwill slows its body rate (breathing, heart rate, etc.) to 1 /30th that of normal. So, both in summer and winter, the Whippoorwill adapts by slowing its metabolic rate.

  KIWI The kiwi bird is the national bird of New Zealand, and is the smallest bird in the world that does not fly. It has "hair" instead of feathers; actually they are pinfeathers. Short stubby wings balance it as it runs. This little bird is dark brown, nocturnal, and catches and eats earthworms by smelling them. The kiwi has the best sense of smell of any bird in the World. 

  EGYPTIAN VULTURE The thrush throws snails on a rock to break them open, but this is not considered tool-using, since no in-between object was employed to open the snail shells. But the Egyptian vulture does use tools. It is one of the few tool-using birds known to mankind.

The Egyptian vulture is about the size of a raven, and it eats the eggs of other birds-especially large ostrich eggs. The eggs of an ostrich are so large and strong that they cannot be opened by pecking them.

In the Serengeti! National Park in northern Tanzania, the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), has been photographed throwing rocks to break ostrich eggs so the bird could eat them. Various species of birds may be standing nearby, wishing they too could eat some of the egg, and will watch the Egyptian vulture in action, but will never try to do what it does. They seem not to be able to understand how it accomplishes the egg-breaking, but they know !t can do it.

Seeing the egg, the Egyptian vulture goes into action. It hurries here and there, searching for a rock of just the right size. Picking up a stone in its beak, the vulture raises its head as high as possible and then throws the stone at the ostrich egg. Sometimes two birds will take turns throwing stones at an egg. When rocks were not nearby, the vultures will range as much as 50 yards [46 m] away looking for them. These birds have been known to hurl stones as large as a pound in weight. About 50 percent of the time the vulture hits the target directly. Crack/splash! It is dinnertime.

Checking this out, scientists found that the Egyptian vulture will hurl stones at anything that is egg-shaped, regardless of the size; but it will ignore anything not egg-shaped.

Other tool-users include chimpanzees which occasionally use sticks as tools to dig termites and ants out of their nests. A Liberian chimpanzee was observed using a rock to pound open a palm kernel. A small finch in the Galapagos Islands uses a cactus needle to dig worms out of holes in wood. Several other examples of tool-using animals are known.

COWBIRD It is well-known that the cowbird in America, and the cuckoo in England, lay their eggs in other birds' nests. In one research study, young male cowbirds were only paired with song-less female cowbirds from another locality, where the cowbird song is distinctly different. (Keep in mind that only male cowbirds sing; the females do not sing.) Soon, the young birds had totally reworked their songs to match that distant area, even though the females had not once uttered a single note! How can you teach a person to sing a new song, if you never sing it to him? Additional research indicated that the females taught the new singing style to the males using only motion and touching. The scientists are still trying to figure out that one.

MARVELOUS HUMMINGBIRD The Peruvian marvelous hummingbird, truly is marvelous! It has iridescent green, yellow, orange, and purple feathers which glint in the sunlight as it flies and hovers over flowers. While most birds have 8 to 12 tail feathers, the marvelous hummingbird is unique in having only four. Two of those four are long, pointed, thorn-shaped feathers. They are 6 Inches long, which is 3 times longer than the birds body. On the end of each of these two long narrow feathers, is a large, wide fan! Their surface area is almost as large as the hummingbird's wings! With such feathers, the little bird should hardly be able to fly, yet it can, and for a special reason: The marvelous hummingbird has complete control over those two feathers! At will, it can bend and tilt them in any direction. In flight it uses them to help maneuver, at rest, it can move them in various directions. During mating season, it signals with them. They are like little semaphores.

HUMMINGBIRD The ruby-throated hummingbird beats its wings at an incredibly rapid speed: 50 to 70 times a second! It requires an immense amount of energy to do that. If a 170 pound (77 kg] man expended energy at the rate of the hummingbird, he would have to eat and digest 285 pounds [129 kg] of hamburger or twice his weight in potatoes each day in order to maintain his weight. In addition, he would have to evaporate 100 pounds [45 kg] of perspiration per hour to keep his skin temperature below the boiling point of water.

PALM SWIFT The ways that different creatures live is incredible. No two seem to be exactly alikeand some are so very different as to be astounding.

The palm swift lives in Africa and, with its long, narrow wings, can fly 70 miles [112.6 km] per hour. It flies as much as a mile high in the sky eating bugs flying in the air. A sensitive barometer is in its brain, and it can know when storms are approaching. When that happens, it will fly at right angles to the storm and thus avoid it.

The palm swift only lands on trees or buildings, never on the ground. With its weak legs, it would have to climb a tree to take off!

This swift builds its nest in the sand palm tree. Using sticky saliva, it glues some of its feathers to the back side of a palm leaf. Then it will lay its eggs, catch and glue them to the feathers! What a strange nest; always on the verge of falling to the ground, but never doing so. Next, the bird  climbs onto the leaf! Digging its claws into the palm leaf, it covers the eggs with its body and incubates them!

Researchers trying to figure out this strange procedure, decided that the wind blowing the palm leaves back and forth, substitutes for turning the eggs! After 19 days, the eggs hatch.

But now, more problems! Now the emerging babies will fall out of the nest! But no, instead, each of the tiny chicks digs its claws into the leaf and hangs on! Although each baby is born with weak legs, yet it has strong claws. The parents feed them for a week, and then the babies crawl to the stem of the leaf where they are fed a couple more weeks. Then they fly away.

WOODPECKER The redheaded woodpecker spirals up the tree trunks. It pecks, then listens for a grub moving or turning. If no sound, it moves on.

The woodpecker also pecks for three other reasons: to send messages to other woodpeckers, to store acorns and other nuts in holes, and to dig holes for a nest. These nesting holes are 1 foot [30.48 cm] deep and 5 inches [ 12.7 cm] wide. After vacating them, more than 30 other species of birds will later use those holes for nests.

The woodpecker has extremely strong neck muscles. It tenses them and they vibrate. When it pecks, it aims straight down, perpendicular to the wooden surface. If it did not do this, the offset pressure would tear its head off.

The woodpecker has special spongy bones to protect its brain, and its bill is stronger than that of any other bird.

WOOD DUCK The wood duck makes its nest in a hole 40 feet [122 dm] up in a tree! The female lays eggs, but does not set on them until they are all laid. In this way they will hatch at the same time.

She pulls feathers from her chest to line the nest, and then while setting on the eggs her body temperature 94F [34C]is exactly the amount of heat needed by the eggs. The male feeds her while she is setting on the eggs.

As the time nears for the eggs to hatch, she peeps to the unhatched chicks. They peep back. She quacks some more. She is telling them that she is their mother and that they must listen to her and obey her when she warns of danger. Researchers have proven that if she does not do this, they will not obey her afterward.

One day after they are hatched, they leave the tree! They must do this for their safety. But they are not only very tiny (only 3 inches (7.62 cm] long), but they are also a foot [30.5 cm] deep down inside a hole that is 40 feet [122 dm] up in the air!

That second day after they are hatched, the mother flies to the ground and calls up to them. They obey her voice and, one by one, jump out of the nest and down, down to the ground far below they fall.

How do they do this? The little creatures are covered with down, but have no feathers yet. Using their egg tooth with which to grip the sides, they crawl up to the entrance of the hole. Then out they go! Because they are so light, they land without being hurt. If they did not jump they would die, for she never goes back up there again to feed them.

BLACK SKIMMER This is a sea bird which does literally that: it skims over the surface of the water. The top of its bill is 4 inches (10.16 cm], but the bottom half is 41/2 inches [11.43 cm]. The skimmer uses it as a fish trap.

While flying over water, the skimmer drops to about 6 inches above the surface, and lowers its bottom bill so that it is dragging in the water. There are special nerves in the lower bill, so the bird can always know how much of it is dragging in the water. With this automatic depth gauge, the lower bill is kept exactly 4 inches [10.16 cm] in the water. As soon as it touches a fish, the upper bill shuts and catches it.

Flying at 20 miles (32 km] per hour and striking its bill against a fish should break the bird's neck! But this does not happen, for it has very powerful neck muscles. As soon as it strikes a fish, its tail automatically goes down, slowing it to 10 miles (16 km] per hour.

In addition, the continual wear on that lower bill should cause considerable damage over a period of time, but instead that lower bill is constantly growing to compensate for the fact that it is continually being worn down! (Only the lower bill keeps growing; the upper one does not.)

In addition, this bird saves 50 percent of its flying energy, because there is very little wind next to the water.

Because it has a 4-foot (12 dm] wingspread, it only needs to slightly flutter its wings in order to keep flying steadily. That is important. If it had shorter wings, it would have to flap them, and the wings would dip into the water, quickly slowing the bird.

With this creature as with all the others, everything was obviously thoughtfully planned out in advance.

The skimmer is the only bird in the world with cat eyes! The pupils of its eyes are like vertical narrow slits, and after dark they widen so it can see the fish at night. According to evolutionary theory, this proves that the skimmer must be closely related to cats! Except for its eyes, it surely does not look like a cat.

When a fish is caught, it is taken back to the babies who grab it out of their parent's mouth. But they could not grab the fish if their bottom bills were like those of their parents, longer on the bottom. So the baby birds have the same size bills on both top and bottom. Later, when they are ready to fly and catch their own, the bottom bill grows a half-inch (1.27 cm] longer. When is that time? Exactly 6 weeks after birth, and right on schedule the bottom bill grows longer by just the right amount at the right time!

MORE ABOUT BIRDS During World War I, parrots were kept on the Eiffel Tower to warn of approaching aircraft long before they could be heard or seen by human observers. The parrots had far better hearing than the people did.

A young robin will eat the equivalent of 14 feet [43 dm] of earthworms a day.

In the 1840s, pigeons would carry European news from ships approaching the U.S. to newspapers along the Atlantic coast. In spite of having traveled all the way to one or more European nations and back, those pigeons still knew where home was and how to get to it.

The albatross has the largest wingspread of all: 10 to 12 feet [30-37 cm] from tip to tip. When a young bird leaves the nest, it may not touch land again for 2 years. Day and night it glides above the ocean, occasionally landing on the water.

With few exceptions, birds do not sing on the ground. They sing while flying or while sitting on something above the ground. Exceptions include the turnstone and some American field sparrows.

The African eagle swoops down at more than 100 miles [161 km] per hour, and can suddenly brake to a halt in 20 feet [61 dm].

A parrot's beak can close with a force of 350 pounds [159 kg] per square inch.

Every bird must eat half its own body weight every day in order to survive. Young birds need even more.

The ancient Vikings from Norway navigated on the ocean with ravens. Releasing them one by one, the men watched to see where they would go. If the raven flew back to where it came from, they continued sailing west. If it flew in a different direction, they would change course and follow its flight path in search of new lands. They knew the raven could sense distant land better than they could. Stories passed down from generation to generation from Noah's time may have encouraged them to try releasing ravens in the ocean, and they found it worked.

When a woodpecker beats on a dry, resonant branch of a tree to talk to other woodpeckers in the vicinity, the duration and rhythm of the drumming tells whether what species it is, and whether it is a male or female. Then another woodpecker, by pecking on a branch or hollow tree, replies and tells what it is.

The hoatzin when full grown is about the size of a medium turkey, but has claws on its wings. Not long after birth, while still naked and without feathers, it uses those claws to crawl up, down, and along tree branches!

The yolk of a bird's egg is connected to the shell by albumen "ropes." When the mother bird begins incubating the egg, these ropes break. Because of this, the mother bird must rotate her eggs every so often. If she does not do this, the yolks will not remain in the center while the chicks are forming, and they will die. Yet the mother bird knows to do this. How long did it take for mother birds to learn that, while, for thousands of years beforehand, all their unhatched chicks repeatedly died?

BIRD NESTS There are probably as many different nests as there are birds; here are a few to think about:

The weaverbirds of Africa weave grasses and other fibers into hanging nests. A variety of weaving patterns are used.

Social weavers build woven apartment houses, with thatched roofs 15 feet [45 dm] across. They locate strong tree branches and build the roof, then groups of individual pairs gather under that roof and make their own family nests. Before it is finished, over a hundred nests may be housed under one roof. (When necessary, they add on to the diameter of the roof.)

The tailorbird of southern Asia sews leaves together, using threads it obtains from cotton, bark fibers, and spider-webs. Carefully punching holes along the edges of the leaves, it then pulls the thread through it all and laces it up like shoes. The end is knotted, or spliced to a new piece so the sewing can go on. The result is a big leaf cup, and all of it done by the bird using its bill.

The swift of Southern Asia makes its nest out of saliva. Gradually layer after layer is built up until a cup-shaped nest is attached to the sides of a cliff. The famed "bird's nest soup" of Southern Asia is made from these nests.

The nest of the peduline tit is rounded with a small entrance hole and appears to be made of felt. A skeletal structure is first made of woven grass, then overlaid with downy plant fibers pushed through the grass mesh. Finally still finer fibers are pushed into the larger fibers. These nests are so beautiful and sturdy that they have been used as purses or even as children's slippers.

The horned coot locates quiet water and then builds an island! The bird laboriously carries over and piles up about 2-3 feet [61-91 cm] of small stones until it dears the surface of the water; then a nest is built on top, using vegetation. The bottom of the stonework may be as much as 13 feet [40 cm] in diameter. More than a ton of stones may have been carried in for the project!

MALLEE FOWL The mallee bird lives in the Australian desert and does not appear to be anything special, until you take time to watch it carefully. Having done so, you are stunned with what you learn.

In May or June, the male mallee bird makes a pit in the sand with his claws. He continues until it is the right size: about 3 feet [9 dm] deep and 6 feet [18 dm] long! Then it is filled with vegetation of various kinds, anything that will rot. But leaves from the mallee bush are especially used, hence the name given to the bird.

As the heap decays, it produces heat. The male waits for warm rains. When they come, the rains soak up the vegetation and start it heating. Soon it is up to over 100F [38C] at the bottom of the pile. The bird waits until it is down to 92F [33C]. It continually it tests the sand with its amazing beak.

If the female tries to lay eggs on the pile before it is 92F, the male will chase her away. He has a thermometer in his beak, and knows exactly how warm it is, so well in fact, that he can identify temperature to within half a degree!

When the right temperature is achieved, he calls his wife and she lays an egg on the dry leaves. Every day she returns and lays another egg, until about 30 of them are there. The male then covers them with sand and uncovers and turns the eggs every other day.

The sand holds the heat in, especially at night when the temperature drops to 50F [10C]. But at night he tests the temperature within the sand, and if it becomes too cold, he piles on more insulating sand. The next day, he will test it again and take off extra sand. If he did not do this, the nest would get too hot. He cannot let the eggs overheat even a half degree!

This goes on for 7 weeks until the first chicks hatch. Each chick comes out of the egg, using its egg tooth, and then crawls out of the sand rapidly, in spite of the fact that it may have to go up through as much as 2 feet of sand!

Arriving at the top, it is fully able to fly and is on its own. Neither mother nor father give it any attention, training, feeding, or care from the moment it is ready to hatch, onward. When it grows up, it does just as its parents did.

How can the offspring know to do the complicated procedures that its parents did, if it never watched them or was taught anything by them? Even Isaac Asimov is astonished:

"The chick of the mallee fowl never knows either of its parents. As soon as it burrows out of the mound in which its mother built her nest, the chick is able to fly and is left entirely on its own. No mother mallee has ever been seen with a brood."Isaac Asimov, Asimov's Book of Facts (1979), p. 118.

PETREL The black-rumped petrel is 2 feet [6 dm] long with a wingspread of 4 feet [12 dm]. An ocean bird, it is also called the "Peter bird," or "little Peter," because from shipboard, it appears to walk on the water. Flying low and slowly over the surface with its feet down, it is looking for fish, and so only appears to be water walking. It has a nesting pattern that is totally unexplainable by any theory of evolution:

The black-rumped petrels know at nesting time to migrate from wherever they are in the broad Pacific, to the Hawaiian islands. How they get there is a mystery, but they do it.

Arriving, they go to Haleakala, the highest mountain on the island of Maui, Hawaii. This mountain is said to have the widest crater of any volcano in the world. These petrels nest in that extinct crater. The problem is that it is 10,000 feet [3,048 m] up! Their nest is built higher than any other ocean bird nest in the entire world.

The female lays only one egg, and the reason is simple: it requires so much energy for the two parents to bring just one chick to maturity! They set on this egg longer than is done for any other bird in the world: 55 days.

It takes 3 weeks just for the egg to form within the mother! This is because the yolk in the egg must be so rich. The baby will have to live on that yolk for 55 days. She lays the egg, and the male sets on the egg for 2 weeks. During that time she is down skimming the surface of the sea eating fish. Then she flies up and sets on the egg for the next two weeks while the male goes down to the ocean to eat.

There is not much oxygen at that high elevation, and it is very dry. Both factors could injure the chick within the egg. This is because most eggs absorb oxygen and emit water through tiny holes in the shell. But this egg shell has fewer holes in it than any other bird eggs! In fact, it has just the right amount of holes to let the water vapor out in the proper amounts, not too much and not too little.

Yet there are fewer holes in the egg, and the thinner air at that high altitude ought to mean less oxygen to go into the shell. But it is a scientific fact that oxygen travels through eggshell faster at high altitudes, and gases come out faster also! So this egg has, in all respects, been designed in advance for high altitudes. "Designed in advance," that is, because if it were designed later on, all the petrel chicks would have long since died in their shells before the design was properly worked out.

After the chick is hatched, it stays in the nest for 4 months! The great horned owl cares for its chick for a full 5 weeks, and that is considered a long time. But the petrel is fed by its parents for 4 months! This is because it grows so slowly.

The parents fly down to the ocean and catch fish and small squid and bring it up to their chick. But the problem is that they are simply unable to provide their infant with enough food. Why should that be a problem, since it is only one chick? Watch birds in your backyard: both parents are continually flying to and from the nest bringing food to their babies. But the nest of the petrels is 10,000 feet [3048 m] in the air, in a very wide crater, with sides that drop off at an angle thus increasing the distance to the bottom. Beyond the foot of the mountain, there is additional travel time to the ocean, which is the only place that petrels can obtain their food. The parents have to fly so far to bring food to their chick, that they simply cannot bring it enough nourishment as it grows larger. Thus we encounter another insoluble problem. But it also has been solved.

The mother and father petrel produce a special oil in their stomachs. It is a rich red oil, and is nutritionally packed! As they are down skimming the ocean surface and eating to the full, their bodies make this concentrated oil out of much of the food they are eating. Arriving back at the nest, they regurgitate this oil and feed it to their baby, along with some fresh fish or squid.

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Chapter 28 The Creator's Handiwork THE BIRDS

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