The Strange Bills of the Nuthatch, Bower-birds and Crossbills
Of all the hundreds of types of bills, we consider these three among the most peculiar.
The nuthatch will wedge a nut in a crack of the bark of a tree. Pivoting on its legs, it strikes the nut with the full force of its body with its beak, which serves as a hatchet — and it certainly knows how to use its hatchet bill to best advantage! While opening a nut, “it almost seems to prefer to hang head downwards, probably because this position adds power to its strokes.”
Two species of bower birds actually paint the twigs and grass stems that form the walls of their bowers. One of these, the spotted bower, was filmed in the act.
“The paint used was chewed-up grass mixed with saliva, and the actions of the bird when painting were . . . as follows: The bill, exuding paint, was wiped repeatedly with short jabs, first on one side and then on the other, on the stems forming the bower walls.” (The Strange World of Nature, p. 109).
The crossbill “has one of the strangest tools (its bill) in nature, and surely one of the most specialized.” Its peculiar crossed mandibles are used to pry apart the cones of certain pine trees.
Here is how it is done:
“The bird inserts its opened bill under the scale of a fir cone and levers it up with a lateral movement. The lower mandible, which is applied to the body of the cone, acts as a fulcrum, while the upper part of the crossed bill does the work, While the scales are held apart in this manner, THE SINGLE SEED, with its delicate wing attached, is then removed by the tongue.” (Ibid).
If evolution, with its need for countless ages of time, had to be depended on, the poor crossbill (before it was the crossbill) would have starved to death a million times over — that is, if it had to depend only on the seeds hidden in pine cones. And if it lived on other types of seeds, it would never need its crossbill! This highly specialized organ (the bill of the crossbill) had to be made AS IT IS, at once, to work as it works.
Let us raise one more question relative to birds’ bills. How does the evolutionist explain the outlandishly large bill of the South American Toucan? The bill of the toucan is so large it makes the bird look ludicrous. It is about half as big as the bird itself, and seems unnecessary — except that the toucan is at catching fruit tossed to it. Fortunately, though the bill is gigantic and looks heavy, it is actually hollow and light, supported by an interior network of interlacing bony fibers.
How can evolution account for this awkward bill? It is no advantage, in this instance, as far as eating is concerned, for the toucan lives mostly on fruit. Did the Creator want to make a bird bill obviously not designed to give the bird an advantage in eating habits? God is sovereign in His creative activities. “Natural selection” and “random mutations” leading to advantage do NOT explain the bill of the toucan — but Divine Creation does!
(F) Other unique features of the anatomy of birds
The heart and lungs of birds are truly phenomenal. The heart of the bird is the largest in proportion to its body size of any animal, and its rate of beating, sometimes as high as 600 beats per minute, is far more rapid than man’s. And through the bird’s heart is pumped “the richest blood in the world” — i.e., blood with the highest count of oxygen-carrying red cells. A bird maintains a very high temperature (about ten degrees higher than man’s) which assures a steady flow of energy, regardless of weather conditions. And this, incidentally, makes the bird ravenous, which in turn means that each bird will consume enormous quantities of insects, and so keep down insect pest populations.
“The lungs of man constitute about 5% of his body volume; but the respiratory system of a duck, in contrast, makes up 20% of the body volume (2% lungs and 18% air sacs). The anatomical connections of the lungs and air sacs in birds seems to provide a one-way traffic of air through most of the system, bringing in a constant stream of unmixed fresh air, whereas in the lungs of mammals stale air is mixed inefficiently with the fresh. IT SEEMS ODD THAT NATURAL SELECTION HAS NEVER PRODUCED A STALE AIR OUTLET FOR ANIMALS. The air sacs of birds apparently approach this ideal more closely than any other vertebrate adaptation.” (Scientific American: article by Carl Welty, on “Birds as Flying Machines”).
Mr. Welty says that the respiratory system of birds is far superior to that of mammals — and wonders WHY evolution (natural selection) did not do as much for mammals as for birds!
This is indeed a difficult problem for the evolutionist, but it is not difficult for those who believe that all nature is the handiwork of the Sovereign, all-wise God, who gives to each form of life blessings and abilities best suited to their status and function in life.
Another writer calls attention to the “super-efficiency of the bird’s respiratory system.” Because the air passes through the air sacs as well as through its lungs, “the bird gets oxygen when it inhales and also when it exhales, because the air passes through the lungs to the air sacs and, on its return, again passes through the lungs. The lungs consequently receive two doses of oxygen.” So DIVINE DESIGN works wonders for birds that evolution is unable to achieve for more advanced forms of life — according to evolution’s adherents.
A thousand and one “miracles of anatomy” could be cited that make birds among the most marvelous of all God’s creatures. Some of these miracles of construction are:
The tongue of a woodpecker. To extract grubs from trees, a woodpecker has a tongue so long it curves over inside the bird’s head and is actually anchored, not in the throat where one would expect, but IN FRONT OF ITS EYES, to give it more length!
The uncanny time-sense in many birds. Many coastal birds have a built-in time-sense so precise that after inland trips they return to shore for feeding AT THE EXACT HOUR WHEN THE TIDE IS RIGHT.
(2) Birds’ Eggs give most convincing Evidence of Special Creative Design.
An egg looks simple enough — but it is “incredibly complex,” from the air space at its end to the twisted cords that suspend the yoke in perfect tension at the eggs center. The yoke is something like a boat: it is lighter at the top where the germ cell is. No matter what way the egg is turned, the germ cell, being in the light top section, is always on top, near the warmth of the mother’s breast! The egg shell has tiny funnel-shaped pores that let the embryo breathe. If you varnish an egg, the embryo dies because it needs oxygen that seeps through the pores of the egg.
A baby chick starts to breathe with its lungs two days before it is hatched. There is enough air in the little air space at the end of the egg to keep the chick breathing for just two days. Then, when the air runs out, the chick jerks its head, and what would seem to be its death struggle, gasping for breath, proves to be the needed agitation of its head, with the temporary hard cone on its soft bill, that breaks the egg shell, and lets the chick get out of its shell! SUCH AN INGENIOUS ARRANGEMENT THAT CAUSES WHAT WOULD APPEAR TO BE A DEATH STRUGGLE TO TERMINATE IN LIBERATION AND LIFE, IS THE WORK OF AN INTELLIGENT BEING OF VAST RESOURCES OF THOUGHT AND ACHIEVEMENT.
The Master of all life has so created its various departments as to preserve what we have before referred to — “the balance of nature.” This carefully DESIGNED “balance of nature” can be traced to the very origins of life: eggs; for the NUMBER of eggs wild birds lay varies from one to thirty each season. Birds which build their nests in protected places usually lay few eggs; on the other hand, domestic fowl, whose eggs are used by man, lay many eggs — obviously so designed for man’s benefit! A quail, whose nest is on the ground where it is subject to more hazards, will lay up to thirty eggs, while the eagle, whose nest is on a high cliff, or in a tall tree, lays only two eggs.
Even the color of eggs is well planned by the Supreme Architect — and all with a purpose in view. Woodpeckers lay white eggs; most other birds lay eggs with colored or spotted shells. The nests of Woodpeckers are in the dark hollows of trees, and white eggs are more easily seen in a dark place when the mother bird returns from the bright sunlight of the open. Birds which lay eggs in open nests on the ground usually lay eggs with brown spots. This makes them look much like stones and clumps of dead plants that surround the nest. Did the birds select the color of the eggs they lay? Of course not. Who did then? The Great Designer, who wisely created all things. The red-wing blackbird, which builds its nest in bushes near water or in the tall grasses in the marsh, lays three to five pale-blue eggs, streaked with purple — obviously camouflaged to make them hard to find in their natural surroundings. Did the red-wing blackbird think up this special color design for its eggs, or did the Creator so plan it to give added protection to the species?
The Egg of the Murre
The egg of the Murre is distinctly pointed at one end — and there is a reason for its odd shape. The egg of the Murre is often laid on a narrow rock shelf high above the sea, along the coast. When the wind blows across the rocky shelf, the egg rolls in a small tight circle, with pointed end inward. Even a strong wind will make the egg spin, but it will NOT roll off the ledge! Obviously, the Murre did not decide what shape it wanted its eggs to be. An Intelligence outside the bird did all the designing.
(3) Bird’s Nests give convincing Evidence of Special Creative Design
Of God’s creatures, birds show more “personality” than most others. Their songs, their distinctive beauty, their very nests, reveal individuality of a high order. And the nature of birds is as different as that of individual men: some kinds of birds are “cross,” some are cheery, some are lazy (e.g. the cuckoo), some are fierce, some are gentle — gentle as a dove — and some are industrious, bundles of energy, as the hummingbird. Who gave birds their distinctive personality? If you give evolution the credit, WHAT caused one kind to differ from another when many kinds live in the same environment?
Let us consider the miracle of VARIETY in bird’s nests. This is a subject of surpassing interest, and causes us to fall in love even more with these fascinating creatures of God’s handiwork. Each species has a characteristic nest! And the young birds never need to be taught how to build their nest. *
* All authorities agree, “The first nest a bird ever builds is just as expertly constructed as any made thereafter.”
“Four generations of weaverbirds were bred under artificial conditions in which they never saw a nest or nest material. Then the FIFTH generation of the birds were set free. At once they began constructing with unerring skill the complex woven nests of their ancestors! (Alan Devoe).
Who teaches the young bird to build a nest, according to an established pattern? Though there are literally thousands of types of birds’ nests, some simple, some complicated, there is NEVER any deviation from the established style! This is most amazing, and is evidence of Divine Creation, certainly not of “evolution.”
God made mention of birds’ nests in the Bible. this shows the Divine interest in maintaining “balance in nature,” for if mother birds are not protected, and are indiscriminately killed, the insects will greatly multiply, for birds keep down insect populations. Here is the Biblical reference to birds’ nests:
“If a bird’s nest chances to be before thee. . . .and the dam (mother bird) sitting with the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young; but thou shalt in any wise let the dam go. . . .that it may be well with thee.” (Deuteromony 22:6, 7).
Nature (the work of God) has been careful to protect birds’ nests, not only by obvious efforts to camouflage, but also by keeping the female birds a plain color, drab or brown — while their mates may be dazzling red, yellow blue or white. The reason is clear: it is usually the female bird that sits on the eggs — so nature keeps the female bird colors plain, to protect the mother, her young and the eggs. Surely the Hand of God can be seen in such obvious provisions in nature! For the same reason eggs frequently are given protective coloring.
“The speckled eggs of the piping plover, laid in a slight hollow of a beach, are almost invisible to the passerby because of their coloring and pattern, WHICH MAKE THEM APPEAR TO BE A PART OF THE SHELL STREWN GROUND.” They were planned that way, don’t you think?
As we describe some of the more interesting birds’ nests, note how many of them are intended to conceal the nest or camouflage it or merge it into its surroundings — all, of course, for the protection of the birds and their eggs and their young.
The PLACES where birds build their nests vary greatly. Most nests are built in trees or bushes and are shaped like a cup; but some choose the grass, others sand, or even rock. Some dig into a clay bank, others select the eaves of houses, some build inside the trunks of trees and others choose dark and foreboding caves.
There is also great variety in the selection of MATERIALS out of which they build their nests. Some use sticks laid crosswise. Others use grass, stems, roots, moss, yarn, feathers, horsehair, and even mud.
The examples of peculiar birds’ nests we give here will bear out this statement by Alan Devoe:
“Birds’ nests are often so elaborate that it is almost impossible to believe such skill can be instinctive..”
Some birds, such as the megapods of Australia, lay their eggs in sand. In Australia also lives a strange race of birds called mound builders, or “brush turkeys.”
“The cock Brush turkey in spring walks backward in circles, kicking the fallen leaves as he goes until he raises a mound at least six feet high, and many yards in circumference, and often weighing as much as FIVE TONS. In this heap several hen turkeys lay their eggs, and there the eggs stay until the heat of the sun and the warmth of the rotting rubbish hatch them — just as alligator’s eggs are hatched.”
Who CREATED the type of egg that would hatch under such adverse conditions? And who taught the father and the mother bird their respective duties — the one to make the huge mound, the other to lay her eggs in it? Did such a devious scheme of hatching “just happen?” Of course not; it was so planned.
We might mention further, concerning these mound nests, that “the birds have to lay their eggs (in these mounds) at a time when the temperature is remarkably uniform” — otherwise, the eggs would never hatch. Who teaches the birds the need of selecting the proper TIME OF YEAR to lay their eggs in “mounds?”
Emperor Penguins have the most unusual nest of all.
“The single egg rests on top of the bird’s feet, tucked under a feather flap that hangs down from the lower belly. Before going to the ocean to feed the incubating bird stands close to its mate; the egg is transferred to the mate’s feet and tucked under the flap there!”
Who put that flap on BOTH father and mother penguin, that they might take turns going to the ocean to feed? This is only one of a million evidences that God provides for all His creatures. He so made them that they would not lack food.
“Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your HEAVENLY FATHER FEEDETH THEM.” (Matthew 6:26).
The nest of the FLYCATCHER is a beautiful, symmetrical structure: it resembles the horn of plenty.
One of the most remarkable of all nests is that of the TAILOR-BIRD. These birds actually sew large leaves together with fibers — using their beaks as needles!
The long-tailed TITMOUSE builds a bottle-shaped nest, skillfully woven from the cotton-like down of the willow. The PENDULUM TITMOUSE goes one better, and suspends its nest from a flexible willow branch!
The nest of the BAYA SPARROW is designed to give the parents a chance to think things over if they quarrel! The nest is built with TWO entrances, one for mother and one for father, and the nest contains separate rooms! So, when they are not on speaking terms, they can pout in the seclusion of their own rooms!
The CHIMNEY SWIFT builds a nest of twigs by gluing them to the inside of a hollow tree or a chimney not in use. He pastes the nest to the wall with a sticky material from his mouth. WHERE DID HE GET THE GLUE FACTORY IN HIS MOUTH? And why does the chimney swift have such a glue factory and other birds do not? To try to explain this phenomenon by “natural selection” or “random mutations” is ridiculous.
The RUFUS FANTAIL makes a curious nest at the fork of two tree branches; it decorates its nest by attaching a tassel that dangles from the bottom of the nest — and the next generation, and the next, and the next, WILL BUILD THE SAME TYPE OF A NEST! No one knows why, except — GOD MADE THEM SO!
The red OVENBIRD of Argentina builds nests of mud, mixed with a binding material. It builds a domed nest out of mud, with hair and rootlets added. It constructs an entrance chamber on one side, then a curved passage to an inner chamber which is lined with dry grass. Here it lays its white eggs.
The Superb Achievement of the Oriole
The BALTIMORE ORIOLE builds a deep, purse-like nest that dangles lightly from the descending outermost twigs of a tree. Its nest “is among the most complicated known to man.” Many thousands of shuttlelike movements of the oriole’s bill are needed to produce the thousands of stitches, knots and loops found in the average oriole’s nest. When completed, the nest looks like a small hammock. It is so well made that it often hangs on a tree for years without being broken by winds or storms. This one bird’s nest knocks out the theory of evolution.
But the KINGFISHER, we are told, “through thousands and thousands of years” of the “workings of evolution,” came to a different conclusion as to the relative merits of nests and nesting. He decided to build a nest in the side of a bank; so he digs a tunnel four to twelve feet into a bank along a stream. At the end of the tunnel he builds his nest — out of fish scales and bones that he has partly digested and regurgitated!
But the saucy WOODPECKER frowns on such an idea as building his nest in mud. So he chisels out a hole in solid wood (and he has the beak to do it with) “as round as if measured with a compass.” First he goes downward at an angle for about six inches, and then he goes directly down for about ten inches more. He is careful, while building his capacious home, to carry the chips away from the tree and scatter them at some distance to divert suspicion. AND THE NEXT GENERATION OF WOODPECKERS WILL FOLLOW THE SAME PATTERN! One can readily see that the woodpecker was MADE to dig a nest in wood, and the oriole’s bill was MADE to weave with, and the kingfishers beak and feet were MADE to dig with! The problem is as simple as that: each species is MADE to perform as it does. Why complicate the matter with much mystery and theorizing? Why not accept the simple obvious fact that WHERE THERE IS CLEAR EVIDENCE OF DESIGN FOR AN INTENDED PURPOSE A DESIGNER DID THE DESIGNING. The only Designer who could create such an involved system of life as we find in this world is the Almighty.
Consider next this phenomenon: Without “overseer or master” a colony of a hundred to two hundred African WEAVERS will get together and build a gigantic, mushroom-shaped mass which turns out eventually to be a veritable “bird apartment house.” Each individual nest in this huge conglomerate mass is entered from below. Future generations may add to the mass, until eventually “the whole thing may collapse from sheer weight and crash to the ground — tree and all!”
The Henpecked Female HORNBILL
We speak — that is, we men do — of the “henpecked man.” But nature provides the spectacle of a “henpecked female.” (The phrase doesn’t sound right; but anyhow, you know what we mean).
“The male of the African HORNBILL walls up the opening to the nest in a hollow tree with mud, until ONLY THE FEMALE’S BILL CAN BE PROTRUDED. He keeps her locked up in the small nest; he then proceeds to bring her all her food, and likewise that for the young later on. And she remains a prisoner there UNTIL HER YOUNG ARE NEARLY FULL GROWN.”
Most females are patient, but not THAT patient, by nature. How, in the course of a thousand million years, did that male ever persuade his wife to submit to SUCH tyranny? And why, in the name of self-preservation, did he WANT to assume the task of providing food daily for his imprisoned wife and children, when at times the task wears him out to the point of complete exhaustion, and even death? Such oddities in nature just do not make sense, until we realize that GOD MADE THEM SO, for reasons best known to Himself! “Natural evolution” could not persuade a female to permit herself to be penned in like that! Such freaks in nature as the “imprisoned female African hornbill” can not be accounted for other than on the basis of Divine Creation.
We could write page after page on such bird’s nests as the swallow’s nest of mud, built under the eaves of barns; of the “expanding nests” of some species of hummingbirds who use spider’s web in the construction “so their nests will stretch with the growth of their young!” Of the nest of the Toddy bird that looks like a miniature canoe! Such miracles are more than strange; they are prevalent in nature to attract our attention to this fact: there is a Master Designer Who has worked in the shadow behind the strange workings of “nature.”
(4) Peculiar Birds that Defy the Rules, and bear Witness to God and Creation
Among the “roughly 25,000 species and subspecies of birds” (Carl Welty’s estimate, in the Scientific American) there are innumerable oddities and strange specimens in the world of birds that defy explanation. One must just accept them — as part of God’s vast creation. There are birds that talk; bower birds that go through an intricate procedure of building a BOWER where the male courts the female; birds of great beauty, like the cockatoo, the peacock and the birds of paradise; there are birds that are scavengers and birds that are pure killers. Let us consider some of these interesting kinds of STRANGE BIRDS that bear witness to God and Creation.
(A) The Water OUZEL: “the Bird of Three Elements”
“Though the ouzel is ‘the most buoyant bird in all the records of ornithology’ and can float on the surface of water like grease, seeming to ride just above the water, instead of partly in it, the hidden observer is startled to see the water ouzel suddenly descend into the swift stream LIKE A LEAD SINKER! Then this strange creature of three worlds — land, air and water — WALKS about on the bottom, as though he were made of iron instead of flesh and bones.”
This seemingly miraculous conduct is possible only because of special equipment that the ouzel has — and this argues for the fact of specific and special creation. The bird is provided with a special muscular apparatus that instantly exhausts the air from all its body, and gives it the weight needed to sink in swift water, and to stay down! Then when it comes to the bank it fills its body with air and so instantly regains its lost buoyancy, and floats away on the surface of the stream as though it never did anything else! To fly at will, float on the water or sink like a stone into the water and walk along the bottom of a stream requires DESIGNING from some Master Artisan, Evolution would match God if it alone could achieve such marvels.
(B) The Accommodating HONEY - GUIDE of Africa
“The honey-bird of Africa, a bird no larger than a sparrow, will deliberately lead men or honeybadgers to a bee’s nest, twittering loudly to them as it does so, while they respond with calls or grunts (as the case may be) to show that they are following. The association is obviously of benefit to both parties: the bird cannot break into the nest itself, but the men or badgers can, and are bound to leave enough honey and grubs around to satisfy a small bird.” (The Living Sea; page 124).
Who gave the honey-guide such wisdom? Who first taught it to do this? To say that it is “instinct” and that instinct is the “congealed actions of centuries” explains nothing — for what force first caused “actions” to become repetitive? And why did one bird turn out to be a honey-guide and another a falcon, for example? The whole mysterious realm of nature can not be explained by such trite phrases as “congealed actions” and “random mutations.” In the honey-guide we find a behaviour pattern that is certain, yet static, with no evidence whatever of having come about through a gradual process. The honey-guide seems to have intelligence above instinct; but it is an intelligence that is instinctive that God gave it.