Hummingbirds See Colors Over (Beyond) the Rainbow

Hummingbirds See Colors Over (Beyond) the Rainbow

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

HUMMINGBIRD acquiring nectar (Wikipedia photo credit)

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.  [ Proverbs 20:12 ]

God has equipped hummingbirds with a range of color vision that exceeds that of humans, so it’s fair to say that hummingbirds see over—or beyond—the rainbow.

This “beyond-the-rainbow” vision helps birds to see food, predators, nectar-producing plants, potential mates, and 3D objects within their physical environment. Recent research corroborates this amazing fact.(1),(2)

Humans have three types of color-sensitive cones in their eyes—attuned to red, green and blue light—but birds have a fourth type, sensitive to ultraviolet light. “Not only does having a fourth color cone type extend the range of bird-visible colors into the UV, it potentially allows birds to perceive combination colors like ultraviolet+green and ultraviolet+red—but this has been hard to test,” said [Dr. Mary Caswell] Stoddard. …  Stoddard and her colleagues designed a series of experiments to test whether hummingbirds can see these nonspectral colors. Their results appear June 15 [2020] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.(1)

[ see Princeton University citation below ]

Nonspectral colors are perceived when nonadjacent cone types (sensitive to widely separated parts of the light spectrum) are predominantly stimulated. For humans, purple (stimulation of blue- and red-sensitive cones) is a nonspectral color; birds’ fourth color cone type creates many more possibilities.(2)

[ see Stoddard , Eyster, et al. citation below ]

HUMMINGBIRDS at suspended feeder (Flickr photo credit)

For years, literally, Dr. Stoddard and her team tested and quantified how wild hummingbirds see colors beyond the spectrum of white light that humans see.

To investigate how birds perceive their colorful world, Stoddard and her research team established a new field system for exploring bird color vision in a natural setting. Working at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic, Colorado, the researchers trained wild broad-tailed hummingbirds (Selasphorus platycercus) to participate in color vision experiments. … [using] a pair of custom “bird vision” LED tubes programmed to display a broad range of colors, including nonspectral colors like ultraviolet+green. Next they performed experiments in an alpine meadow frequently visited by local broad-tailed hummingbirds, which breed at the high-altitude site.(1)

[ see Princeton University citation below ]

The experiment was sweet, as one would expect with hummingbirds.(3)

Each morning, the researchers rose before dawn and set up two feeders: one containing sugar water and the other plain water. Beside each feeder, they placed an LED tube. The tube beside the sugar water emitted one color, while the one next to the plain water emitted a different color. The researchers periodically swapped the positions of the rewarding and unrewarding tubes, so the birds could not simply use location to pinpoint a sweet treat. … Over the course of several hours, wild hummingbirds learned to visit the rewarding color. Using this setup, the researchers recorded over 6,000 feeder visits in a series of 19 experiments.(1)

[ see Princeton University citation below ]
See the source image

HUMMINGBIRDS feeding (ReallyCoolGardenStuff.com photo credit)

The results were—one might say—colorful. Unlike human eyes that can see one “nonspectral” color, purple, hummingbird eyes apparently see five “nonspectral” colors.

Stoddard’s team was particularly interested in “nonspectral” color combinations, which involve hues from widely separated parts of the color spectrum, as opposed to blends of neighboring colors like teal (blue-green) or yellow (green-red). For humans, purple is the clearest example of a nonspectral color. Technically, purple is not in the rainbow: it arises when our blue (short-wave) and red (long-wave) cones are stimulated, but not green (medium-wave) cones. While humans have just one nonspectral color—purple, birds can theoretically see up to five: purple, ultraviolet+red, ultraviolet+green, ultraviolet+yellow and ultraviolet+purple.(1)

[ see Princeton University citation below ]

Birds have four color cone types in their eyes, compared to three in humans. In theory, this enables birds to discriminate a broad range of colors, including many nonspectral colors. … We trained wild hummingbirds to participate in color vision tests, which revealed that they can discriminate a variety of nonspectral colors, including UV+red, UV+green, purple, and UV+yellow. Additionally, based on an analysis of ∼3,300 plumage and plant colors, we estimate that birds perceive many natural colors as nonspectral.(2)

[ see Stoddard, Eyster, et al. citation below ]

Also, the research team studied minute differences in color, as they are featured in plant material and bird feathers—there is a lot more to color that is appreciated by most human eyes!

Finally, the research team analyzed a data set of 3,315 feather and plant colors. They discovered that birds likely perceive many of these colors as nonspectral, while humans do not … [due to the birds’] four color-cone visual system.(1)

[ see Princeton University citation below ]

How colorful the world must be to hummingbirds!

HUMMINGBIRD in Trumpet Vine (Harold A. Davis photo credit)

Dr. Stoddard’s team were not the first to study the beyond-the-rainbow vision of birds. Previous studies have been reported, using finches and sparrows, indicating that diet is important for avian eyesight.

The ability of finches, sparrows, and many other birds to see a visual world hidden to us is explained in a study published in the journal eLife. Birds can be divided into those that can see ultraviolet (UV) light and those that cannot. Those that can live in a sensory world apart, able to transmit and receive signals between each other in a way that is invisible to many other species. … The study reveals two essential adaptions that enable birds to expand their vision into the UV range: chemical changes in light-filtering pigments called carotenoids and the tuning of light-sensitive proteins called opsins. Birds acquire carotenoids through their diets and process them in a variety of ways to shift their light absorption toward longer or shorter wavelengths.(4)

[ see PhysOrg citation below ]

If that seems complicated and mathematically challenging, it is!(4),(5)

The researchers characterized the carotenoid pigments from birds with violet vision and from those with UV vision and used computational models to see how the pigments affect the number of colors they can see. … The study also revealed that sensitivity of the violet/UV cone and the blue cone in birds must move in sync to allow for optimum vision. Among bird species, there is a strong relationship between the light sensitivity of opsins within the violet/UV cone and mechanisms within the blue cone, which coordinate to ensure even UV vision.(4)

[ see PhysOrg citation below ]

[ Stoddard Lab infographic, A.D.2020 / PNAS ]

The more-technical description of the research is even more challenging, to read, but the implications are “clearly seen”—God has given birds amazing eyesight.

Color vision in birds is mediated by four types of cone photoreceptors whose maximal sensitivities (λmax) are evenly spaced across the light spectrum. … SWS1 [shortwave-sensitive cone] opsin is accompanied by a corresponding short-wavelength shift in the spectrally adjacent SWS2 cone.(5)

[ see Toomey, Lind, et al. citation below ]

Hummingbird eyesight is facilitated by some really technical details!

Here, we show that SWS2 cone spectral tuning is mediated by modulating the ratio of two apocarotenoids, galloxanthin and 11’,12’-dihydrogalloxanthin, which act as intracellular spectral filters in this cell type. We propose an enzymatic pathway that mediates the differential production of these apocarotenoids in the avian retina, and we use color vision modeling to demonstrate how …  spectral tuning is necessary to achieve even sampling of the light spectrum and thereby maintain near-optimal color discrimination.(5)

[ see Toomey, Lind, et al. citation below ]

At the practical level, how can Christians benefit from knowing about avian eyesight? Or, what about other features—like wings, feathers, and motion-regulating software—that God has designed and installed into the world’s hummingbirds? Are we missing an opportunity to appreciate God if we ignore what He has done to enable hummingbirds to live as they do?

HUMMINGBIRD approaching flower (Bioluminescent.org photo credit)

Hummingbird beaks, bones, and feathers differ from those of all other living or extinct bird kinds. Their wings don’t fold in the middle. Instead, they have a unique swivel joint where the wing attaches to the body so that the wings rotate in a figure-eight pattern. And they move fast! They have to beat their wings rapidly to hover, levitating with level heads as they extract nectar from flowers for hours per day. Scientists still need to discover the bird’s mental software that coordinates information about the location of a flower’s center with muscle motion that expertly stabilizes the hummingbird’s little head as it drinks.(6)

[ see Thomas citation below ]

Astonishing! What a stupendous and beauty-broadcasting imagination our God has—how can we see His busy, busy hummingbirds without admiring His technical genius and His bioengineering power?(7)

[ see Sherwin citation below ]

Yet every hummingbird alive today is a descendant from the originals made by God on Day 5 of Creation Week.

Their size, flight characteristics and patterns, metabolism, all point to our magnificent Creator who designed these amazing animals and created them on Day Five.(8)

HUMMINGBIRD (Harold A. Davis photo)

References

  1. Staff writer, Princeton University. 2020. Spectacular bird’s-eye view? Hummingbirds see diverse colors humans can only imagine. PhysOrg (June 15, 2020), posted athttps://phys.org/news/2020-06-spectacular-bird-eye-view-hummingbirds-diverse.html .
  2. Stoddard, M. C., H. N. Eyster, et al. 2020. Wild Hummingbirds Discriminate Nonspectral Colors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (June 15, 2020), posted at  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1919377117 .  
  3. Mitchell, E. 2014. Our Creator’s Sweet Design for Hummingbird Taste (Answers in Genesis: News to Know, September 6, 2014), posted https://answersingenesis.org/birds/our-creators-sweet-design-hummingbird-taste/ (with a link, in Footnote #1, to video footage of hummingbird sugar consumption).
  4. Staff writer, eLife. 2016. How Birds Unlock their Super-Sense, Ultraviolet Vision.PhysOrg (July 12, 2016), posted at https://phys.org/news/2016-07-birds-super-sense-ultraviolet-vision.html?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Phys.org_TrendMD_1 .
  5. Toomey, M. B., O. Lind, et al. 2016. Complementary shifts in photoreceptor spectral tuning unlock the full adaptive potential of ultraviolet vision in birds. eLife Sciences / Biochemistry, Chemical Biology, Neuroscience (July 12, 2016), posted at https://elifesciences.org/articles/15675 ; doi: 10.7554/eLife.15675
  6. Thomas, B. 2016. Hummingbirds! Acts & Facts. 45(4), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/hummingbirds .
  7. Sherwin, F. 2006. Hummingbirds at ICR. Acts & Facts. 35(9), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/hummingbirds-at-icr .  
  8. Dreves, D. 1991. The Hummingbird: God’s Tiny Miracle. Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal. 14(1):10-12.  

How Much Are You Being Monitored? A Hummingbird Lesson

How Much Are You Being Monitored? A Hummingbird Lesson

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16)

hummingbird-trumpetvine.HaroldADavis

Hummingbird at Trumpet Vine blossom (Harold A. Davis photo)

Beware! – you are being watched, more than you know!

In some neighborhoods surveillance is all around—neighbors watching neighbors, using cell-phones to document questionable (“non-essential”) activities, to see if pet dogs are on leashes, and to see if people are six feet apart when talking to others who are out and about. Neighbors are calling the local police on neighbors, to enforce social distancing, travel restrictions, and other disaster protocols.(1)

In short, if you are outside, you are being monitored! But is this really new?

Actually, we are being watched all the time, by neighbors, by family members, by co-workers, at the grocery store, at church, and in many other places.(2)

A birdwatching friend’s recent email reminded me of that fact, when he (Thomas Lane) reported on his home’s avian visitors.

Good to hear from you.  I am working from home … I’m also enjoying watching the bluebirds in the backyard – they are raising young and busy gathering food for them.  We built several bluebird boxes a few years ago and always have at least one couple nesting here.  We also have a couple of hummingbirds that have returned to the feeder, and we are waiting for the rest.  We typically have 5 feeders out in various places.(3)

Hummingbirds-at-feeder.Flickr

Hummingbirds at feeder (Flickr photo)

As spring blossoms into April (and May), the nectar pantries of bright-hued flowers are “open for business”, ready to feed the voracious appetites of neighborhood hummingbirds  —  those petite, iridescence-sparkled, blurry-winged wonders with super-sized metabolic fuel needs.  Floral nectar is a sweet resource!

Yet, as flowers bloom in spring, such fly-by “fast-food” opportunities cannot be taken for granted, especially if one is an energy-craving hummingbird.

Hummingbirds are famous for their (males’) jewel-like throats, their hovering and multi-directional flying, and their ability to change directions   —  stop, go, up, down, left, right, backward, forward, — using high-speed wings that whip figure-eight patterns faster than human eyes can follow, producing a humming sound (that explains their name) that almost sounds like a contented cat purring.

Hummingbirds, due to their speedy, darting movements, and their iridescent green colors, attract the eye.  So you see them  –  zip!  –  then you don’t.  Zip!  –  then you see them again.

Spring always flows into summer.(4) The summer range of hummingbirds (such as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Archilochus colubris) is broad enough that most of us have seen hummingbirds. But, as time goes by, there is no time for hummingbirds to relax  —  their needle-like bills must sip up nectar wherever and whenever it is available! The business of a hummingbird’s life is so intense, so metabolically demanding, that slurping up available nectar is a lifestyle priority, requiring dietary focus and persistence:  “Get nectar, get more nectar, get even more nectar!  Hurry, hurry, hurry!”  Sugar substitutes are unacceptable for hummingbirds – they must have real sugar to thrive.(5)

What an enormous appetite for such a miniature bird!  The calories consumed and burned by hummingbirds, on a boy weight ratio, are comparable to a human eating more than a 1000 hamburgers every day, as body fuel needed for a day’s normal activities!(6) That is high-maintenance metabolism!

Reading my friend’s email (quoted above) reminded me of when I saw, in my own backyard, a hungry hummingbird hovering by brilliant vermillion flowers, as he (or she) slurped up nectar from one flower, then another flower, then another, — without any (apparent) concern for my physical presence or proximity, only a few steps from him (or her).

Hummingbird-at-TrumpetVine-MikeLentz

Hummingbird at Trumpet Vine blossom (Mike Lentz photo)

Why was the buzzing hummer oblivious of me, the birdwatcher so close by?

The hungry hummer was too preoccupied with the pressing business of life, to notice me, a quiet spectator.  What a privilege it was, to watch – for a long time, actually – this sparkling-in-the-sunlight hummingbird, darting among the bright flowers.

Yet are not our own lives, at least somewhat, like that busy hummingbird?

Are we not – day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, moment by moment – preoccupied with the ever-pressing business of life (especially when daily routines are altered by changed circumstances—such as pandemic disaster restrictions), darting here-and-there, from this task to the next one, such that we often ignore the spectators, those watching eyes who observe and appreciate our lives – those who (hopefully) see God’s beauty and wisdom imaged in our own attitudes and actions?

Yes, we have audiences we should not be oblivious of.  As we live the moments of our fast-paced lives we should not forget three audiences, who watch us much more than we consciously realize.

First, there are many curious humans who watch our busy lives, especially those who are younger than us.  What kind of role-models are we?  Hopefully our Christian lives are like the Thessalonian believers whom Paul commended as examples to all of the believers in Macedonia and Greece.(7)

Who is monitoring us? Who is listening?  Who is evaluating the message(s) of our lives, comparing our “walk” to our “talk”?  Do our lives “shine” as God’s testifying “lights”, such that our good deeds prompt spectators to glorify God our Heavenly Father?(8)

Second, there are non-human spectators surveilling our lives:  angels!   Angels learn from watching the “spectacle” of human lives.(9) Indeed, the effect of God’s gospel of grace, in the earthly lives of redeemed humans, is something that angels can only learn about as spectators, since redemption is never experienced by angels.(10)

Yet the most important audience we have, always, is the Lord Himself  (Jehovah-jireh, the God Who is and sees), our omniscient and omnipresent Creator-God.  It is our wonderful Maker Who watches every sparrow’s (and every hummingbird’s) avian lifespan, and we are of much greater value to God than the lives of many sparrows.(11)

As the Lord Jesus Christ’s vicarious death and resurrection has peremptorily proved, for all time and eternity, we humans are God’s favorite creatures.  God is caringly concerned with every detail of our busy lives (from creation to ultimate redemption), so let us not be oblivious to our most important Audience.

Do we live our earthly lives as ingrates, ignoring Him and His Word?  Or do we live life appreciative of Him and His Word, grateful that He created us and provided us with redemption in Christ?

Accordingly, with these three audiences in mind, as spectators of our busy lives, let us consider the prophet Ezekiel’s serious question: “How should we then live?”(12)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.(8)

Hummingbird-TrumpetVine-HaroldADavis

Hummingbird getting nectar at Trumpet Vine (Harold A. Davis photo)

REFERENCES

(1) Declarations of “disaster”, from Wuhan (China) spreading to South Korea, then to dozens of European nations, plus many parts of America and other nations (excluding Singapore), have led to many government-promulgated “stay-at-home” mandates, being enforced by a combination of government and private sector actions. Johnson, James J. S. 2020. Turtles, Birdwatching, and Living through Tough Times. ICR News: Creation Science Update (March 30, 2020), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/turtles-birdwatching-living-through-tough-times . See also Johnson, James J. S. 2020. “Getting Crabby Over Labor Shortage”. ICR News: Creation Science Update  (March 24, 2020), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/getting-crabby-over-labor-shortages .

(2) 2nd Corinthians 3:2-3 (“living epistles”).

(3) Email correspondence from Thomas Lane, April 1, 2020.

(4) Genesis 8:22.

(5) Mitchell, Elizabeth. 2014. Our Creator’s Sweet Design for Hummingbird Taste (Answers in Genesis: News to Know, September 6, 2014), posted https://answersingenesis.org/birds/our-creators-sweet-design-hummingbird-taste/ (with a link, in Footnote #1, to video footage of hummingbird sugar consumption). See also Sherwin, F. 2006. Hummingbirds at ICR. Acts & Facts. 35(9), posted at https://www.icr.org/article/hummingbirds-at-icr/ .

(6) Dreves, Denis. 1991. H Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal. 14(1):10-12.

(7) 1st Thessalonians 1:7.

(8) Matthew 5:16.

(9) 1st Corinthians 4:9(Paul is referring to the apostles, yet the indirect implication is that the righteous angels learn from observing the lives of ordinary Christians.)

(10) 1st Peter 1:12.

(11) Matthew 10:29-31; Luke 12:7.

(12) Ezekiel 33:10.

Hummingbird.Purple-throated-Carib-Wikipedia

Purple-throated Hummingbird of the Caribbean (Wikipedia photo)

On Bird Kinds, the Bible, and Racism

“And God created every winged fowl after his kind:” – Genesis 1:21

The dove represents peace and the Holy Spirit… two things we should be seeking in this day-and-age. White-winged Dove; Hays County, TX. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

“What kind of bird is that?” my young daughter asked, pointing up into the tree. “It’s a White-winged Dove.” After giving a short species account, I went on to explain, “For many, the dove represents peace. And in the Bible it often represents the Holy Spirit.” When she asked what kind it was, I understood that she was asking what species of bird sat perched before us. But her use of the word “kind” brought another thought to my mind.

The Bible reveals that on Day Five, God created all the winged creatures after their kind. While Baraminologists (scientists that study created kinds) aren’t sure of the specific groupings, perhaps the bird kinds are similar to what you find the index of your favorite Field Guide: long-legged waders, ducks, seabirds and gulls, raptors, passerines, etc. Modern day science labels them by genus and species. The Bible says each were created after their kinds.

But when it comes to the creation account of man, the language of the Bible makes a change. We do not read the phrase “And God created man after his kind”. Instead, we read, “God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27). From the very beginning, we can see the truth that humans are not broken down into different kinds, but all mankind is one kind!

Grouping people into kinds, or “races” as we call them today, is purely a human invention. And racism is most certainly a human invention! The Bible is quite clear that all humans are related; all are of one blood. “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26).

In God’s system, all men and women are of the same kind; all are of the same standing and worth, no matter the differences in appearance. In fact, the value of something is based upon the price someone is willing to pay for it. Jesus Christ paid the price of His life and blood equally for all human beings.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).

Race is purely a discriminatory classification system concocted by humans themselves. In God’s order, there is no such thing as race, and therefore absolutely no grounds for racism! “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:12-13).

(Read the full text of this article at www.williamwisephoto.com)


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

Satisfying Shallows and Delightful Depths

“He led me through water to the ankles…, he led me through water to the knees…, he led me through water that was up to the waist. He measured off another thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass over.” Ezekiel 47:1-5

Bonaparte`s Gulls frolicking in ocean surf, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. March 2019. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

Birdwatching. Birding. Ornithology. In most minds, those three terms conjure differing depths of avian appreciation. Bird enthusiasm ranges from the simple enjoyment of backyard birds, to submerging in state lists and big years, and even deeper into the intellectual fathoms of anatomy and natural history. The books upon the shelf range from Your Backyard Feeder to Latin Terms for Taxonomists.

In the same manner, the Bible is book of unending fathomage. From inspiring daily devotionals, to word studies and commentaries, and into the depths of theology, the Sacred Writ can be enjoyed and experienced on so many different levels.

Stack of Antique New Testament Bibles. ©www.williamwisephoto.com

But is one level of devotee better than another? Is the ornithologist more serious or dedicated than a birder? Is the theologian more important than the lay congregant? Are we only dipping in our toes when we should be swimming deeper? Are we drowning in the depths and neglecting the satisfaction of the shallows?

In reality, one can be all things, or be what one desires! In his chapter of Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White, David A. La Puma writes, “Find out what you love about birds and dive in; the pool of knowledge is deep and rich and full of others happy to help you along the way.” An ornithologist can still enjoy birdwatching just as a theologian should still delight in daily devotionals.

Our Christian life and experience, just like birding, should enjoy the shallows, wade into the depths, dive the deep ocean trenches, and swim back again. Just as you would enjoy cardinals and chickadees at your backyard feeder, or decide to tackle identifying the gulls, sparrows and peeps, enjoy your yearly reading plan through the New Testament and Psalms, and simultaneously sound the depths of Biblical wisdom and application. Find out what you love about the Word of God in this season of life and dive in. The only wrong thing to do is to completely dry up!


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

Chicken, Magpie, and Easter Greetings

*

“Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” For centuries, Christians have used this greeting to celebrate Resurrection Day, better known as Easter.1 Ironically, there are two birds that can remind us of the historicity and importance of Christ’s rising from the dead, three days after His death and burial.

CHICKENS

Amazingly, the Lord Jesus once compared His own willingness and ability to care and protect humans to that of a chicken—specifically, a mother hen—who uses her own body to protectively care for her own hatchling baby chicks.2 How good it is to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ forever! When He offers to take us in and protect us, we should be eager and grateful to accept His care and security.

But we more closely associate a male chicken (rooster) with the arrest, trials, torture, and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

Readers might have already guessed that male chickens are associated with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection because of the rooster who crowed after Peter ignominiously denied the Lord Jesus, thrice, in fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy.3 In fact, this incident is so important that it is reported by all four gospel writers.3

For example, Mark reports this disappointing failure of Peter, involving the tattletale fowl, a sad chapter in the life of the usually bold apostle: Peter’s triple failure to stand up for Christ, as predicted by Christ Himself. This display of Peter’s imperfect courage and loyalty (even though his inward belief never failed) is linked to the twice-crowing of a rooster.

A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.4

What a sad note to end with! Except, as proven three days later, that wasn’t really the end.5

MAGPIES

Most people are unlikely to guess that magpies—such as the Australian magpie (Cracticus tibicen6)—can be associated with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. How so?

The most famous variety of this “butcherbird,” formerly called the “piping shrike” or “white-backed crow shrike,” is now called the white-backed magpie (Cracticus tibicen telonocua). But many call it the Australian magpie because it appears on the official state flag of South Australia.

Whatever you want to call it, it is famous for its flute-like call, entertaining with a complex repertoire of vocalizations. The black-and-white opportunist has habituated to human-dominated habitats, such as the agricultural fields of farms, gardens, and even wooded parklands.6

The Australian magpie is not timid. It will defend its territory against raptors trespassing therein, such as brown goshawks. The Australian magpie is not a picky eater. Its diet includes both plants and animals. Its preferred diet, however, is dominated by a variety of larval and adult invertebrates, such as insects (like ants, moths, beetles, bees, wasps, cockroaches) and arachnids (like spiders and stinger-wielding scorpions!), as well as earthworms and millipedes. The Australian magpie is also known to eat some small vertebrates, such as mice, skinks, frogs, and toads.6

Some compare the problem-solving resourcefulness and the brash cockiness of this bird to the national reputation displayed by many Aussie ex-patriots.

The Australian magpie is quite a clever problem-solver. It has been observed breaking off the stingers of bees and wasps before swallowing such dangerous bugs!7

By now you’ve likely guessed why this bird reminds us of Resurrection Day—the Australian magpie’s power to neutralize a dangerous stinger.

But insect or arachnid stingers are nothing compared to the powerful sting of death. Yet, Christ’s bodily resurrection on the third day defeated death’s “stinger.”

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.8

Hallelujah! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

References
1. Morris, H. M. 2006. Christ Is RisenDays of Praise. Posted on ICR.org April 16, 2006, accessed April 7, 2020.
2. Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34. Cansdale, G. S. 1976. All the Animals of the Bible Lands. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 163-165.
3. Matthew 26:34, 26:74-75; Mark 14:30, 14:68-72; Luke 22:34, 22:60-61; John 13:38, 18:27.
4. Mark 14:72.
5. Matthew 12:39-40; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4Romans 10:9Psalm 16:9-10.
6. Taxonomists have also labeled the Australian Magpie as the Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen (meaning “trumpeting bare-nose”). Regarding the physical and behavioral traits of the Australian Magpie, see Veltman, C. J., and R. E. Hickson. 1989. Predation by Australian Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) on Pasture Invertebrates: Are Non-territorial Birds Less Successful? Australian Journal of Ecology. 14(3): 319-326; Cake, M., A. Black, L. Joseph. 2018. The Generic Taxonomy of the Australian Magpie and Australo-Papuan Butcherbirds Is Not All Black and White. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club. 138(4): 346-359; Brown, E. D., and C. J. Veltman. 1987. Ethnogram of the Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) in Comparison to Other Cracticidae and Corvus Species. Ethology (International Journal of Behavioural Biology). 76(4): 309-333. This author also appreciatively thanks Fiona Smith, M.C.Ed.—ICR SOBA graduate and Australian creation science educator/author—for her help with research and perspectives on Australian magpies.
7. Dr. Amy L. Adams notes: “Magpies will walk along the ground searching for food by overturning debris or probing their bills into the dirt. They eat insects, larvae and other invertebrates. Magpies are known to remove the stingers of wasps and bees before eating them.” Adams, A. 2016. Gymnorhina tibicen Australian MagpieMuseums Victoria Collections. Posted on collections.museumvictoria.com, accessed April 7, 2020.
8. 1 Corinthians 15:53-57, quoting Messianic prophecy in Hosea 13:14.

*Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.


James J. S. Johnson Articles Here

Article at I.C.R. https://www.icr.org/article/chicken-magpie-and-easter-greetings/

Bird’s Eye View

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

Have you ever desired to fly like a bird or soar like an eagle? To see entire, sweeping landscapes and distant horizons all from one vantage point? Who wouldn’t! We imagine having the outstretched wings and keen eyes of the hawk; an image that personifies true freedom; a freedom other land-bound creatures covet.

Red Tailed Hawk profile; Walton County, Georgia. August 1, 2017. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

If able to fly, we’d have that proverbial “Birds’ Eye View” on the world… and that appeals to us! A drone photographer wrote, “One of the great advantages a drone offers is that it can get where we cannot…All of a sudden we can be transmuted into a bird and cross frontiers to reach our goal.” A soaring bird has a much greater field of view than us earthbound pedestrians. The bird’s eye view sees beyond the immediate moment.

And the “bird’s eye view” speaks of something even beyond birds; it speaks of an omniscient God with a much higher vantage point than ours… outside of time and space, in fact. A recent evangelist to my congregation spoke, “God has a bird’s eye view of our lives. He knows where He is trying to take us. He knows what lies ahead.” From His perspective, God’s view sees more than the moment we are struggling in.

Bird’s Eye View — Close up photo of Great Blue Heron. December 18, 2018. Walton County, Georgia. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

From His vantage point, God sees well beyond this time of crisis. And a view from higher up will change your outlook on our current trials and past failures. Instead of stopping us, we see these rough patches as teaching moments along the road to help us move forward. The evangelist concluded, “This is just a small portion of your life. But use it to move on.”

So even if you’ll never learn to fly, you have the ability to know a God who knows all the road ahead of you! You’ll find peace in sharing His view that this too shall pass.


Hi, I’m wildlife photographer and nature writer William Wise. I was saved under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology at the University of Georgia. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. I’m currently an animal shelter director and live in Athens, Georgia with my wife and two teenage daughters, who are all also actively involved in ministry. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. William Wise Nature Notes is my wildlife and birding photo blog documenting the beauty, design and wonder of God’s creation.  — “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalms 104, The Message.

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