Alaskans Alcids, Designed by God for Flowing through Both ‘Oceans’

Alaskan Alcids:  Efficiently Designed by God for Flowing through Both ‘Oceans’

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


COMMON MURRE Tom Ingram photo

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.  And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.  And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.  (Genesis 1:20-22)

About a year ago (specifically, July 19th AD2019), this writer saw–for the first time–Atlantic puffins in the wild.  These cute clown-faced alcids were flying near (and sometimes resting upon) the cliff-dominated isle of Staffa, often plunging into coastal waters for fish.  That privileged birdwatching experience is reported on this blogsite at  “Birdwatching at Staffa, Near Iona:  Puffins, Shags, and Herring Gulls” [posted at ].

In this blogpost, however, it is alcids near the coastal waters of Alaska (and thus the northern Pacific Ocean) that are the subject of our attention.

Recent research, on the flying behavior of Alaskan alcids—auk-like birds (such as murres, guillemots, and puffins)—shows how Earth has two kinds of fluid-filled “oceans”, the liquid ocean of sea-water and the gaseous “ocean” of air.(1),(2),(3)

The study reveals that these birds, from the Alcidae family which includes puffins, murres and their relatives, produce efficient propulsive wakes while flying and swimming. This means that the animals likely spend relatively low amounts of metabolic energy when creating the force [that] they need to move in both air and water.(1)


COMMON MURRE Tiki Joe photo

Maybe you don’t think of Earth’s atmosphere as an “ocean” of air, but a creation science pioneer, Matthew Maury, did. In fact, Maury is famous for his scientific breakthroughs in oceanography, which analyzes ocean sea-water dynamics—and also in meteorology, which analyzes atmospheric dynamics.(3)

The two oceans of air and water. Our planet is invested with two great oceans; one visible, the other invisible; one underfoot, the other overhead; one entirely envelopes it, the other covers about two-thirds of its surface. All the water of the one weighs about 400 times as much as all the air of the other.(3)

It’s all about fluid mechanics, including avian applications for efficient motions inside both “oceans”. The study included videographic documentation of flying, diving, and swimming by murres, guillemots, and puffins.


PUFFIN catching wind like a sailboat (Peter Stahl photo)

Study animals were common murres (Uria aalge, Pontoppidan 1763), pigeon guillemots (Cepphus Columba, Pallas 1811), horned puffins (Fratercula corniculata, Naumann 1821), and tufted puffins (Fratercula corniculate, Pallas 1769). Filming of aquatic flight was performed at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska. … At the time of this study, the exhibit contained 12 horned puffins, 10 tufted puffins, 4 pigeon guillemots, and 6 common murres. Individuals of each species of alcid regularly swam past the viewing window. … Given the clear contrasts between these two behaviors, we differentiate between horizontal (trajectory <10 deg) and descending aquatic flight (trajectory >20 deg). The birds swam on their own volition and selected their own swimming speeds and descent angles. Videos of aquatic flight of all four species were taken ….(2)

But would evolution predict that alcids are fitted for such efficiency?

Birds that use their wings for ‘flight’ in both air and water are expected to fly poorly in each fluid relative to single-fluid specialists; that is, these jacks-of-all-trades should be the masters of none.(2)

But the evolutionists guessed wrong when they suspected that these Alsakan alcids would be inefficient when moving in both fluid “oceans”.

Alcids exhibit exceptional dive performance while retaining aerial flight. We hypothesized that alcids maintain efficient Strouhal numbers and stroke velocities across air and water, allowing them to mitigate the costs of their ‘fluid generalism’. We show that alcids cruise at Strouhal numbers between 0.10 and 0.40 – on par with single-fluid specialists – in both air and water but flap their wings ~ 50% slower in water. Thus, these species either contract their muscles at inefficient velocities or maintain a two-geared muscle system, highlighting a clear cost to using the same morphology for locomotion in two fluids. Additionally, alcids varied stroke-plane angle between air and water and chord angle during aquatic flight, expanding their performance envelope.(2)


TUFTED PUFFINS Tim Melling photo

Thus, because God designed alcids to move in both fluids—liquid sea-water and gaseous air currents—God brilliantly programmed how they move in those two fluid environments.(4)

This mobile efficiency surprises evolutionists, but not Biblical creationists.

Interestingly, birds in the family Alcidae (puffins, murres, and their relatives) seem to contradict the notion of a trade-off between aerial and aquatic flight performance.(2)

Biomechanics is the field of biology that studies the action of internal and external forces on the living body, especially the skeletal system. Also called bioengineering, this fascinating area analyzes biological design and the physical forces associated with humans and animals. If ever there was evidence for creation on a macroscopic scale (Romans 1:20), it would be the vast array of creatures all over the world marvelously designed to move in and fill their environments based on these amazing design features.(8)

In fact, long ago, the Scriptures mentioned the magnificent ability of birds to fly, taking advantage of flowing air currents according to their availability.(5)

It should never surprise Christians to learn that God has carefully and caringly designed and bioengineered birds (including cute little alcids like puffins, murres, adn guillemots!)—all over the world—to fit and to fill their respective habitats, even in this fallen world.

Also it should not surprise Christians when evolutionists fail to give God credit for His handiwork—because not having “eyes to see” God’s Creatorship, evolutionists routinely imagine optimized biological behaviors (like alcids swimming, diving, and flying) as accidental products of “evolution”—as if merely using the word “evolution” somehow justifies believing that blind mindless luck did it all.(6),(7)


COMMON MURRE liftoff form sea (Tiki Joe photo)


  1. Staff writer. 2020. Scientists Shed New Light on How Seabirds Cruise through Air and Water. Science Daily (June 30, 2020), posted at .
  2. Lapsansky, A., D. Zatz, and B. W. Tobalske. 2020. Alcids ‘Fly’ at Efficient Strouhal Numbers in Both Air and Water, But Vary Stroke Velocity and Angle. Posted on eLife (June 30, 2020), posted .
  3. Maury, M. F. 1855. The Physical Geography of the Sea and its Meteorology. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc. (2003 reprint of Harvard University Press’s Belknap Press 1963 edition, including some revisions from Maury’s 8th edition published in 1861), 23-37, with quotations from page 23.
  4. Enticott, J., and D. Tipling. 1997. Seabirds of the World. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 213-227, especially pages 214-217 (murres and guillemots) & 226-227 (puffins). See also Kikuchi, D. M., Y. Watanuki, N. Sato, et al. 2015. Strouhal Number in Flying and Swimming in Rhinocerous Auklets Cerorhinca monocerata. Journal of Avian Biology. 46:406-411. Penguins, like alcids, “fly” underwater. Watanuki, Y., S. Wanless, M. Harris, et al. 2006. Swim Speeds and Stroke Patterns in Wing-propelled Divers: A Comparison among Alcids and Penguins. Journal of Experimental Biology. 209:12117-1230.
  5. The Hebrew verb paras used in Job 39:26, for the hawk’s wind-harnessing flight, is also used in Isaiah 33:23, to describe wind-harnessing of boat-sails in sea-water. See Johnson, J. J. S. 2018. Hawks and Eagles Launching Skyward. Acts & Facts. 47(4):21, posted at , especially at Footnote # 5. Eagles can fly, like dive-bombing airplanes, at great speeds (see 2 Samuel 1:23 and Lamentations 4:19). See also Johnson, J. J. S. 2008. Alaska’s Coastal Rainforests and Two of its Rangers, the Bald Eagle and the Alaska Moose. (Dallas: NWD Press/RCCL’s Radiance of the Seas), pages 10-11.
  6. 1 Timothy 6:
  7. Johnson, J. S. 2010. Survival of the Fitted: God’s Providential Programming. Acts & Facts. 39(10):17-18, posted at .
  8. Sherwin, F. 2017. Architecture and Engineering in Created Creatures. Acts & Facts. 46(10):10-12, posted at .


Northern Flickers: Red-shafted, Yellow-shafted, Whatever

Northern Flickers: Red-shafted, Yellow-shafted, Whatever

(Blending Biomes and Transitional Taxonomy)

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Was that a Red-shafted Flicker, or a Yellow-shafted Flicker, or a mix of them?

(Regarding Northern Flickers in Colorado, see “Want a Home in the Mountains? Some Birds Have One”, posted at– the discussion notes the difference between the “Red-shafted” and “Yellow-shafted” varieties.)


NORTHERN FLICKER (red-shafted form) photo credit: Evergreen State College

Hybrids don’t fit squarely into the category boxes that we use for convenience. The missionary mandate of Acts 1:8, given by the resurrected Christ, refers to outreach—to Jews and Gentiles, and a hybrid category: Samaritans.  In effect, Samaritans were a hybrid people, part Jew and part Gentile.

That reminds me of how birdwatching has its own taxonomy challenges, when “splitters” are forced to yield to “lumpers”, especially in transitional habitats.


NORTHERN FLICKER (yellow-shafted form) photo credit: BioQuick News

Have you ever seen a bird that looks partially like a particular subspecies, yet also like its “cousin” subspecies? Maybe you were looking at a hybrid.  After all, avian subspecies have shared ancestries, tracing back (through the Ark) to Day # 5 of Creation Week (Genesis 1:21).

When a gene pool is separated by geographic barriers the foreseeable result is geography-correlated phenotype pattern, illustrating recessive genes within the geographically isolated gene pool. Breaks in such geographic barriers, however, provide for transitional blending — of both biome-based habitats and of the communities of animals that inhabit those regions.  These “border” zones are sometimes called ecotones: expect to see (there) blended gene pool patterns.

“An ecotone is a boundary area between two kinds of habitats, or ecosystems. The transition between eastern deciduous forest and Great Plains prairie grassland forms one of the broadest and geographically largest ecotones in North America.  The separation between forest and prairie is a gradual one.  Remnant patches of prairie exist in Mississippi, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and other states, extending into southern Manitoba.  The farthest route of penetration of eastern deciduous forest into the west is provided by rivers:  the mighty Platte, Missouri, and Arkansas Rivers, and their many tributaries.  The forests that line these rivers usually flood in the spring when [snow-fed] meltwater brings the river to crest.  The floods are followed by summer drought, when evaporation tends to exceed precipitation, and the water level drops.  Because of this annual cycle, western riparian forests tend to have broad, fertile floodplains, where sediment is deposited as waters recede. ….

For the birder, the prairie riparian forest offers a unique mixture of eastern and western species and subspecies. Both Rose-breasted and Black-headed grosbeaks may be encountered in the same cottonwood grove [although usually the Rose-breasted Grosbeak lives in Eastern forests, while the Black-headed Grosbeak lives in Western forests].  Indigo and Lazuli buntings may sing from willows on opposite sides of a river [although usually the Indigo Bunting lives in Eastern forests, while the Lazuli Bunting lives in Western forests].  Eastern and Western kingbirds may sit side by side on utility wires.  A pendulous oriole’s nest may be inhabited by a pair of the [Western forest] “Bullock’s” subspecies of Northern Oriole, or a pair of the [Eastern forest] “Baltimore” subspecies—or a female “Baltimore” and male “Bullock’s”!  A Northern Flicker may prove to be a member of the [Western forest] “Red-shafted” subspecies, the [Eastern forest] “Yellow-shafted” subspecies, or a hybrid between them.”

[Quoting John C. Kricher, A FIELD GUIDE TO THE ECOLOGY OF WESTERN FORESTS (Houghton Mifflin,1993), pages 88-90.]

So, if you want to challenge your birdwatching taxonomy skills, go visit an ecotone — an don’t be surprised if you see a hybrid version of some bird that is otherwise known of regional subspecies.

And don’t be fooled by the fake-science baloney that often flies under the bait-and-switch flag called “speciation”  —  a lot of “‘science’ falsely so-called” has been pushed under the name “speciation” (see 1st Timothy 6:20).  The reality is a mix of biogenetic compatibility, limited by geographic barriers to the gene pool —  I.e., if the biogenetically compatible birds can mix, in time and space, those same birds can mate, assuming they all descend (biogenetically) from the same ancestors whom created by God on Day # 5!