Hummingbirds See Colors Over (Beyond) the Rainbow

Hummingbirds See Colors Over (Beyond) the Rainbow

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

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 ]

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
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!

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 ]

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 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)

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.  

Garden Longing

“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where… even as the garden of the Lord” Genesis 13:10

All winter, we long for spring and the day we can get back to dressing and keeping our backyard gardens. We feel a strong inward desire to rejuvenate our backyard bird sanctuaries for the return of our beloved hummingbirds and other avian friends. But why is there such an affinity within us for gardens?

Ruby-throated Hummingbird in my backyard garden; Clarke County, Georgia. July, 2014. ©www.williamwisephoto.com.

In the Old Testament book of Genesis, the nomads Abraham and his nephew decide to split up and settle down. In making his choice of a new homeland, Lot looks towards the plains of Jordan and sees a fertile land “like the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10). That same internal “garden longing” in his heart was triggered and leads Lot east.

I believe our love of gardens stems from a longing to return to Eden, that perfect state of beauty and fellowship with our Creator that man enjoyed in the beginning; where man walked with God “in the garden in the cool of the day”. When Adam’s eyes were opened, his first sight was a garden with “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden.” Our love of gardens stems from a desire to return to Eden, to return to a place that place of paradise that was lost through sin.

Even though we see disease, decay and corruption in this world today, one day we will return to paradise. As the story of this present age comes to its final chapter, a new book will be written. One where we will see a new heaven and a new earth brought forth (Isaiah 65:17, 2 Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1). Until then, let us enjoy our backyard gardens as a small piece of Eden; as a reminder of the blessed and perfect garden in world yet to come. As you till your soil with your hands, remember in your heart that one day, “thou shalt be with me in paradise.”

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7


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.

Birds Are Wonderful: G, H, and I !

BIRDS  ARE  WONDERFUL  . . .  D,  E,  and  F !

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, . . . your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”   (Matthew 6:25-26)

For ushering in the year of our Lord 2020,  below follows the third advance installment of alphabet-illustrating birds of the world, as part of this new series (“Birds Are Wonderful  —  and Some Are a Little Weird*).  The letter G is illustrated by Gila Woodpecker, Grey-Crowned Crane, and Golden Plover.  The letter H  illustrated by Hoopoe, Hoatzin, and Hummingbird.  The letter I illustrated by Iceland Gull, Ibis, and Invisible Rail.

“G” BIRDS:   Gila Woodpecker, Grey-Crowned Crane, and Golden Plover.

BAW-GilaWoodpecker-Grey-CrownedCrane

BAW-GoldenPlover

“H” BIRDS:  Hoopoe, Hoatzin, and Hummingbird.

BAW-Hoopoe-Hoatzin

BAW-Hummingbirds

“I” BIRDS:  Iceland Gull, Ibis, and Invisible Rail. 

BAW-IcelandGull-IbisBAW-InvisibleRail

Birds are truly wonderful — and some, like Hoopoe, are a little bit goofy-looking, if not also weird!  (Stay tuned for more, D.v.)


* Quoting from “Birds Are Wonderful, and Some Are a Little Weird”, (c) AD2019 James J. S. Johnson   [used here by permission].

Hoopoe-wikipedia

 

 

Hummingbird from John 10:10 Project

“Few creatures in the animal kingdom can capture the imagination more powerfully than a hummingbird. Their aeronautical abilities are stunning. But the genius of these birds isn’t limited to flight. Each day, they must consume twice their body weight in nectar to fuel their voracious metabolisms. The incredible biological mechanisms that make this possible are masterpieces of engineering and design.”

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 KJV)

A friend sent me this link. Thanks, Pastor Pete.

Peru’s Marvellous Hummingbird – Again

Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis)©©

Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis)©©

Peru’s Marvellous Hummingbird

(from Creation Moments)

In that day the LORD of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people. (Isaiah 28:5)

In 1835, when scientists first saw Peru’s most unusual hummingbird, they were so overcome with its beauty that they gave it the name “Marvellous.” This little bird treats the eye to iridescent green, yellow, orange, and purple feathers. But its most unusual feature is its tail. While most birds have eight to twelve tail feathers, the Marvellous hummingbird has only four. Two of these are long, pointed, thorn-like feathers that don’t seem to help much in flying or landing. The other two feathers are truly marvellous. They are six inches long, three times the length of the bird’s two-inch body. On the end of these two long narrow feathers are large feather fans that nearly equal the surface area of its wings.

Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis) ©©

Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis) ©©

Astonishingly, the Marvelous hummingbird has complete control of these feathers. At rest, the bird perches with these two feathers hanging down an inch or so from its body, and then crossing them until they are horizontal. In flight and landing they provide remarkable maneuverability. During mating, the hummingbird moves them as semaphores. Interestingly enough, evolutionists admit that they are stumped as to why these unusual feathers should have evolved.

One look at our creation clearly shows that our Creator appreciates beauty. But even the beautiful Marvelous hummingbird is but a poor and cloudy hint of the beauty of our Creator Himself.

Prayer:
Dear Father, help me treat the beauty You have created as You would have me to do. Let me be filled with thanksgiving to You for it, and let it remind me that You are the source of all that is truly beautiful. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Notes:
Crawford H. Greenewalt. The Marvelous Hummingbird Rediscovered. National Geographic, Vol. 130, No. 1. P. 98-101.”

©Creation Moments 2014


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Lee’s Addition:

This was originally done in 2010, but needs to be re-blogged again. [Which I did in 2014, It’s now 2019, time for it again.] Also, the YouTube above was added. It is astonishing to watch the little bird in action. Thanks to one of our readers who found the video to add to their site. See The Vine Vigil.

The Marvellous Hummingbird is now the Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis). It is in the Hummingbird Family (Trochilidae) and is part of the Apodiformes Order.

Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis) ©WikiC-Gould_Troch._pl._161

Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis) ©WikiC-Gould_Troch._pl._161

The Marvelous (also Marvellous) Spatuletail (hummingbird), Loddigesia mirabilis, is a medium-sized (up to 5.9 in/15 cm long) white, green and bronze hummingbird adorned with blue crest feathers, a brilliant turquoise gorget, and a black line on its white underparts. It is the only member of the monotypic genus Loddigesia.

A Peruvian endemic, this species is found in the forest edge of the Río Utcubamba region. It was first reported in 1835 by the bird collector Andrew Matthews for George Loddiges. The Marvellous Spatuletail is unique among birds, for it has just four feathers in its tail. Its most remarkable feature is the male’s two long racquet-shaped outer tail feathers that cross each other and end in large violet-blue discs or “spatules”. He can move them independently.

Information gathered from Creation Moments, Wikipedia, and YouTube.

Wordless Birds



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ANCIENT HUMMINGBIRDS WERE QUITE MODERN – Repost

Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Ray's Wildlife

Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Ray’s Wildlife

ANCIENT HUMMINGBIRDS WERE QUITE MODERN from Creation Moments

“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.” (Genesis 1:20)

Today, hummingbirds are found only in North, Central and South America. Of course, since Noah’s Ark landed in the mountains of Ararat, they had to cross Europe and the Atlantic or Asia to get there. However, until now, there was no evidence for this migration.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis) by Raymond Barlow

Fiery-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis) by Raymond Barlow

Ancient Hummingbirds Were Quite Modern Scientists have now discovered two hummingbird fossils in a clay pit in southwestern Germany. These tiny fossils are remarkable in many ways. Until now, evolutionists claimed the earliest hummingbird fossils to be one million years old. The new fossils are said to be 30 to 34 million years old. While we would not agree with the evolutionary dating, we would expect the hummingbird fossils in Europe or Asia to predate those in the New World. Even more interesting is that the fossils suggest that these older birds are fully functional hummingbirds. Their wing bones are like those of modern hummingbirds, which suggest that they could hover and fly backward just like the hummingbirds we know today. Their beaks were twice as long as their skulls, suggesting that they drank nectar just like modern hummingbirds. In other words, there is no sign of any evolutionary development, another fact we would expect.

While the evidence for the history of hummingbirds is what we would expect, we do not need scientific evidence to uphold scriptural truth. We have God’s Word on it.

Prayer:
I thank You, Lord, for the beauty of Your creation, which remains beautiful, despite our sin. Amen.

Notes:
Science News, 5/8/04, p. 292, S. Perkins, “Ancient Buzzing.”
Creation Moments ©2016 (used with permission)

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More Creation Moment Articles

Copper-rumped Hummingbird (Amazilia tobaci) by Ian

Copper-rumped Hummingbird (Amazilia tobaci) by Ian

 

Busy Spectacles, Oblivious to Spectator Hummingbirds

Busy Spectacles, Oblivious to Spectator Hummingbirds

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

hummingbird-purple-throated-carib-wikipedia

Purple-throated Carib Hummingbird (Wikipedia image)

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.     (Psalm 90:12)

Two years ago the shoe was “on the other foot”, when I wrote about “Busy Hummingbirds, Oblivious to Spectators”. Yet during the Labor Day weekend, it was I who was the busy “spectacle”, “oblivious” to spectator hummingbirds in my own backyard!

It all started as just another half-day of clean-up in my backyard, in reaction to 4 stormy-weather-caused tree casualties, this year: serious branch tear-offs on 4 different Bradford pear trees. The aftermath involves a lot of branch debris clean-up, for packaging (in yard-trash bags, after my oldest grandson helped trim the arboreal wreckage with his chainsaw) required by the trash pickup service. One of the piles of yard trash was stacked under an oak tree, situated next to an iron rod fence that is heavily draped by a flourishing “thicket” of trumpet vine growth.

trumpetvine-wall

Trumpet Vine “wall” (acultivatednest.com image)

In fact, the iron rod fence itself is so enveloped, in the greenery and blossoms of trumpet vines, that the combination of fences and vine-growth resembles a “wall” or curtain of vine growth, green leaves, and bright orange “trumpet” flowers. Next to that fence is a tall and sturdy oak tree, loaded with green leaves.  Then I noticed what initially looked like a thick brownish-green insect buzzing about the fence’s trumpet vine blossoms – but it was no dragonfly or damselfly or moth or butterfly – it was a busy hummingbird! (Later I saw another hummer buzz by the same area, collecting nectar from blossom after blossom of the same thicket of trumpet vine flowers.)

hummingbird-at-trumpetvine-mikelentz

Hummingbird at Trumpet Vine blossom   (Mike Lentz image)

Why had I not noticed that our trumpet vine “patch” was hosting hummingbirds?

Unlike two years ago, this time I was the “oblivious” one – I had busily ignored those hummingbirds (for months, at least), because I was so busy bagging yard rubbish. So, being a true birder, I promptly went inside our house, to fetch my binoculars, so I could observe the hummingbird activities more closely.

Trumpet Vine in backyard by tree (image credit: WhatGrowsHere.com)

The hummers were obtaining nectar, again and again — then they would flit away into the foliage of the nearby oak tree. On closer investigation I was that the trumpet vine had grown out form the fence — and had traveled up the trunk of the oak tree, entwining itself around various oak branches, so that the orange flowers peeked out of the top of the oak tree! Try to imagine a large oak tree, covered in bright green leaves – yet sporting some orange trumpet-shaped flowers near the top of the leaves! (Now I need to research whether the trumpet vine is parasitically detrimental to the oak tree – or whether it will be okay to leave it as it is.)

So much for being a careful spectator of my own backyard! As the serial crises of summer storms recently ravaged our Bradford pear trees, consuming many weekend hours (and a lot of my attention) I had neglected to monitor other developments in my own backyard.  Yet what should I have expected?  After all, hummingbirds — if any were to be found in my backyard — would surely be attracted to the vermillion-red blossoms of the Trumpet Vine.  “All hummingbirds are drawn to the color red, whether in the form of a flower bearing the nectar that accounts for more than half of their dietary intake or in the colorful plastic petals of a sugar-water feeder.”  [Quoting “Hummingbirds and Feeding”, in BIRDS IN YOUR BACKYARD: A BIRD LOVER’S GUIDE TO CREATING A GARDEN SANCTUARY (Birds & Blooms, edited by Robert J. Dolezal, 2009 Readers Digest edition), page 108.]   For video footage of a hummer defending his trumpet vine from bee competitors see  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZfryKJxRd8 .

Maybe that can happen in other aspects of life, too. (Some call this the problem of the “tyranny of the urgent” – where only priorities with hard deadlines get serious attention.)  Maybe getting distracted by the various “in-your-face” crises of life, which frequently crash down here-and-there, in one storm after another, can pull our gaze away from other parts of our own “backyards” — such that this of that vine can silently creep up into a nearby tree (a little bit at a time, week after week, month after month), and we don’t notice it.

trumpet-18489_960_720

Trumpet Vine  (a/k/a Trumpet Creeper) climbing up tree 

Could this habit of being repeatedly distracted (by whatever makes the loudest “noise”) apply to personal Bible study, or personal prayer life, or the forgotten/postponed need for getaway time with one’s husband or wife, or the need to be a vocal witness to an non-Christian friend (or coworker, or relative, or neighbor)?  Sometimes it is important to step back, look up, and regain a big-picture perspective. Life continues to flow quickly by, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year. How quickly our lives, like money, are spent!

If you love someone, if you care for someone, tell (and/or show) him or her so – do it today! Don’t wait for a “hard deadline”, because the “tyranny of the urgent” may distract you (or me) from doing those important things that have no exact deadline. Don’t be oblivious (like me) to what is happening (or not happening) right next to you!

hummingbird-trumpetvine-haroldadavis

Hummingbird at Trumpet Vine (image credit: Harold A. Davis)

Notice the hummingbirds in your own backyard, and treasure the beauty that God is sharing in the process. Notice also when vine are sneaking form one place to another – if they are harmful, take action!

So here is my takeaway prayer:  may I be less oblivious to what is happening in my own backyard – and may I appreciate the beauty that God provides (such as those colorful and quick little hummingbirds, that I didn’t even know were living in my oak tree, enjoying the trumpet vines that drape my fence), each day, as I live out whatever day son earth that I have left to live (before it’s time to go Home).

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

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Busy Hummingbirds, Oblivious to Spectators

More post by James J. S. Johnson

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Continue reading

Be Thankful for Pollinators!

Be Thankful for Pollinators!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Purple-throated Hummingbird (Carib) ©WikiC

Purple-throated Hummingbird (Carib) ©WikiC

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (Matthew 6:26)

Imagine the mathematics of a nectarivorous hummingbirds’ metabolism, as it busily accumulates food energy form flower nectar, as it visits one flower after another. The flowers are benefiting the high-energy hummingbird – yet the hummingbird itself, by pollinating one flower from another, is also benefiting the flowers, helping them to successfully reproduce. There is a balance in all of this.

“The rate at which such a flower supplies its nectar has to be carefully controlled [i.e., fine-tuned by God]. If the plant is miserly and produces very little [nectar], a bird [such as a hummingbird] will not find it worthwhile calling.  If it is too generous, then the bird might be so satisfied after its visit that it will not hurry to seek more nectar elsewhere and so fail to deliver the pollen swiftly.  Many [flowering] plants have arrived [i.e., have been made by God to arrive] at such a perfect compromise [i.e., mutualistic equilibrium] between these two extremes that the hummingbirds pollinating them are compelled to keep continuously active, rushing from one flower to another, getting just enough each time to fuel their high-energy flying equipment with just sufficient calories left over to make the trip [metabolically] profitable.  At night, when they cannot see to fly and the flowers have closed, the birds have no alternative but to shut down all their systems [“torpor”], lower their body temperature and, in effect, hibernate until dawn.”  [Quoting David Attenborough, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF PLANTS (Princeton University Press1995), page 119.]

Firey-throated and Volcano Hummingbird ©Raymond Barlow

Firey-throated and Volcano Hummingbird ©Raymond Barlow

In a recent article of the CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, wildlife biologist Kathy Reshetiloff stresses the importance of animals that pollinate plants:  “Pollinators are nearly as important as sunlight, soil and water to the reproductive success of more than 75 percent of the world’s flowering plants.  They are crucial to the production of most fruits, nuts and berries that people and wildlife depend on.  More than 150 food crops in the United States depend on pollinators, including blueberries, apples, oranges, squash, tomatoes and almonds.  Worldwide, there are more than 100,000 different animal species that pollinate plants.  Insects [like bees] are the most common pollinators, but as many as 1,500 species of vertebrates [like bats] also help pollinate plants.”(1)

And truly, the role of pollinators is critically valuable for flowering plants to successfully produce the next generation.

Allen's Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) at flower ©WikiC

Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) at flower ©WikiC

Yet not all pollinators serve the same flowering plants, so pollination is another one of the countless examples of God’s variety. “Different types and colors of flowers attract specific pollinators.  Hummingbirds are attracted to scarlet, orange, red or white tubular-shaped flowers with no distinct odors.  Bats are attracted to dull white, green or purple flowers that emit strong, musty odors at night.  Bees are attracted to bright white, yellow or blue flowers[,] and flowers with contrasting ultraviolet patterns that have fresh, mild or pleasant odors.  Flies are attracted to green, white or cream flowers with little odor[,] or dark brown or purple flowers that have putrid odors.  Butterflies are attracted to bright red and purple flowers with a faint but fresh odor. …  Beetles are attracted to white or green flowers with odors ranging from none to strongly fruity or foul.” [Quoting biologist Kathy Reshetiloff.(1)]  In other words, the “courier service” of pollination may be provided by bugs, bats, birds, or other beasts.(1),(2)

But what is “pollination” and how does it facilitate reproduction of flowering plants? “Pollination occurs when pollen grains [male gamete-bearing particles] from a flower’s male parts (anther) are moved to the female part (stigma) of the same species.  Once on the stigma the pollen grain grows [i.e., extends] a tube that runs down the style of the [plant’s] ovary, where fertilization [i.e., joining of male and female gametes] occurs, producing [fertilized] seeds.  Most plants depend on pollinators to move the pollen from one flower to the next, while others [i.e., other types of plants] rely on wind or water to move pollen.” [Quoting biologist Kathy Reshetiloff.(1),(3)]

Bee - On a Flower ©WikiC

Bee – On a Flower ©WikiC

All of this is wonderful information, but the obvious question remains – how does that fascinating process – that occurs daily around the world – fit the journal article’s title, “If You Like Plants, Bee Grateful for Pollinators This Month”?  The information surely proves that we should appreciate the genius of the pollination process, as well as the variety of details that accompany it in its multitudinous applications, — but word “thankful” presumes that someone is due our gratitude, i.e., that we should express our appreciation for pollination to that someone who deserves to be thanked for arranging pollination to work, worldwide, as it does.

Yet Kathy Reshetiloff’s CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL article never mentions who should receive our thanksgiving, for the many magnificent and beneficial services that these pollinators provide.  But are we really expected to “thank” the pollinators themselves – the hummingbirds, bats, bees, and beetles?  (Doing that would be like ancient polytheism, although the pagan animism mythology of today’s anti-creationists usually goes by the Darwinist mantra “natural selection”.)

Obviously, we should be thankful for pollinators – especially if we like to eat on a regular basis!  But the One Who is rightly due our gratitude should be rightly identified.  Accordingly, there is “something wrong” with the “picture” portrayed in the above-quoted CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL article, because something most important is missing – in fact, it is the Someone Who is not mentioned, but Who should be: God, the author and sustainer of all pollination arrangements.

It is God Who feeds the birds (Matthew 6:26) —  sometimes using the pollination process to do so,  —  and it is that same God Who feeds us, both physically and spiritually (Acts 14:17; Matthew 4:4).

><> JJSJ

References

  1. Kathy Reshetiloff, “If You Like Plants, Bee Grateful for Pollinators This Month”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 26(4):40 (June 2016).
  2. “Most insects have a highly developed sense of smell, so they can be attracted by perfume. Many also have excellent vision. Their eyes, however, are very different from ours, being made up of a mosaic of several hundred tiny elements. Each of these receives a narrow beam of light and registers no more of it than its intensity, but all together they produce a complete if somewhat granular picture. And there is a further difference – in the perception of colour. At the red end of the spectrum, the insect eye is not as sensitive as ours. Most insects are unable to distinguish between red and black as we can. At the other end [of the spectrum], the blue end, they are very much more sensitive than we are and can detect ultra-violet colours that are totally invisible to us.” [Quoting David Attenborough, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF PLANTS (Princeton University Press, 1995), page 98.] Besides bugs, other pollinators include mammals, especially bats, — yet pollination is performed even by pygmy possums, lemurs, rock mice, and shrews [Attenborough, pages 121-124], and birds, such as hummingbirds, sunbirds, and honey-eaters [Attenborough, pages 114-121], and even reptiles, such as gecko lizards [Attenborough, pages 112-113].
  3. “Wind is a very efficient transporter. It can take the tiny dray grains as high as 19,000 feet and carry them for three thousand miles or so away from their [plant] parents.” [Quoting David Attenborough, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF PLANTS (Princeton University Press, 1995), page 98.]

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Orni-theology

James J. S. Johnson

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Calliope Hummingbirds – North America’s Smallest

Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope) Full Gorget ©WikiC

“He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.” (Psalms 115:13 KJV)

Just finished reading an article in this month’s Bird Watcher’s Digest the “Calliope Hummingbird: Tiny Muse”, (July/August ’16). They are so tiny,

“a mere 2.75 to 3 inches in lenght and weighing less than a penny — and it is also the smallest long-distant avian migrant in the world. Some travel up to 5,600 miles anually.”

Can you image something that small flying that far?

Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope) ©Wiki

Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope) ©Wiki

Thought you might like to see another one of the Lord’s amazing avian wonders.

“This is the smallest breeding bird found in Canada and the United States. The only smaller species ever found in the U.S. is the bumblebee hummingbird, an accidental vagrant from Mexico. An adult calliope hummingbird can measure 7–10 cm (2.8–3.9 in) in length, span 11 cm (4.3 in) across the wings and weigh 2 to 3 g (0.071 to 0.106 oz). These birds have glossy green on the back and crown with white underparts. Their bill and tail are relatively short. The adult male has wine-red streaks on the throat, green flanks and a dark tail. Females and immatures have a pinkish wash on the flanks, dark streaks on the throat and a dark tail with white tips. The only similar birds are the rufous hummingbird and the Allen’s hummingbird, but these birds are larger with more distinct and contrasting rufous markings on tail and flanks, and longer central tail feathers.” (Wikipedia)

“And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.” (Revelation 19:5 KJV)

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Trochilidae – Hummingbirds Family

Calliope Hummingbird – All About Birds

Calliope Hummingbird – What Bird

Calliope Hummingbird – Bird Web

Calliope Hummingbird – Audubon

Calliope Hummingbird – Wikipedia

Wordless Birds – With Hummingbirds
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Hummingbird and a Dog

Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) ©WikiC

Black-chinned Hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) ©WikiC

“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 65:25 KJV) (emphasis mine)

Here are two very interesting videos about a hummingbird and a dog getting along very well. It reminded me of these verses.

“And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.” (Genesis 2:19-20 KJV)

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.” (Isaiah 11:6-8 NKJV)

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Wordless Birds – With Hummingbirds

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HUMMING BIRD

Firey-throated and Volcano Hummingbird ©Raymond Barlow

HUMMING BIRD

The humming bird flits it’s

wings, poor humming bird

can’t even sing, it flits to

flowers here and there, so

fast it’s flitting everywhere.

~

They are so tiny, so sublime,

you hardly see them there so

fine. I love to see them tweet

the flowers, I could watch

the humming bird for hours.

Jeanie Boyette 10/22/12

Coppery-headed Emerald ©Raymond Barlow

Coppery-headed Emerald ©Raymond Barlow

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. (Isaiah 40:8 KJV)

This poem was written by Jeanie Boyette several years ago. She recently joined our church and found out she likes to write poetry. When I asked if she had ever written about birds, this is the one she showed me. So, in the future maybe we can get her to write some more about our beautifully created avian wonders.

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Guest Authors

The Amazing Butterfly

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Need Help With Some Identifications

Western Kingbird Maybe - - California

Western Kingbird Maybe – California

Now that I am trying to put names with the photos of some of the avian creations from our vacation, I have some that I have no idea what they are. Help needed.

Some I have narrowed down to one or two (or three or four) possibilities. Since we live in Florida and these were taken out west, I am not certain of their IDs.

If you have seen these, could you leave me a comment. It sure would help.

Western Kingbird Maybe - California

Western Kingbird Maybe – California

Is this a Western Kingbird or one of the Flycatchers. Some of them are so similar it is hard to tell them apart.

Here’s another:

Costa's Hummingbird - I think - California

Costa’s Hummingbird – I think – California

Pretty certain of this, but not sure. Been checking on-line and in the books.

Here are the last two, for now. Still going through the photos.

Verdin Maybe - California

Verdin – Maybe – California

Same bird:

Verdin Maybe - California

Verdin – Maybe – California

The last one.

Dusky-capped Flycatcher - Maybe - California Cropped

Dusky-capped Flycatcher – Maybe – California Cropped

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (Matthew 7:7 KJV)

Thanks again for any help with the IDs.

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