Love’s Feathered Examples




dsc_0056eddsc_0035edLove’s Feathered Examples


They look like bandits. But, these bandits have crowns. Their eyes are masked in black feathered bandanas. They stick together, stronger in numbers. If your eyes see one, expect a dozen more. They swoop down on peaceful trees laden with fruit and often stay until every berry is picked clean. Out of necessity, they restrict their thievery in cold weather to fruit. These bandits are frugivorous; fruit eaters. They are gregarious too. They find the companionship of other fruit bandits always preferable to solitary life. They break the bandit mold. Not dirty, scruffy, unkempt, they are sleek, brilliant in contrasting colors, with exquisite details. Waxy red colors the tips of some wing feathers. Remember they even have a crown on their heads?


Bandits almost never are covered entirely with feathers. Nor are bandits birds. Our “bandits” are Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). Cedar waxwings are not thieves either. The rich black mask which covers both eyes does give them a bandit look. Like professional baseball players who add eye black to reduce the glare of sunlight to enhance the vision. The Cedar Waxwing mask is built in always ready and permanent. No thieves, their function in the North American habitats where they are found is specialized. Their role is eating fruit and dispersing seeds. Robins are also frugivorous. But only half (54%) of a Robin’s diet is fruit. A Cedar Waxwing ingests fruit 8 of the 10 times it eats, or about 84%! The remainder of its diet is 12% insects and 4% flowers. (see endnote 1) This incredibly imbalanced diet is humanly impossible. A Cedar Waxwing fruit diet is largely sugar with little fat. How does it thrive on such a focused menu? Amazing is my response.


We can stack amazing on amazing. Besides a highly-concentrated sugar diet, there are details about this exquisitely beautiful bird that are not present any other place. The Cedar Waxwing has red waxy tips on the ends of its secondary feathers. These are flight feathers growing on the second joint of the wing. These little red waxy tips are the Waxwing’s trademark. In our culture today we often believe that science has discovered and can explain almost everything about the world we live in. The purpose of the waxy red tips on the Cedar Waxwing is unknown. (see endnote 2) That’s ok with me, unknown things add enjoyable mysteries to nature. They certainly add surprising beauty.


Another amazing and delightful aspect of the Cedar waxwing is a common observable behavior. Remember the gregarious nature of this bird? My earlier comment was if you see one expect a dozen. Another writer has expressed this more fully stating that they travel in flocks of more than 40 birds. They always are found in the company of other Cedar Waxwings. (see endnote 3) This provides them with some opportunity for the display of a delightful behavior. Cedar Waxwings share food, not only with their young, with their neighbors. They have been observed lined up on a branch passing a berry along the line up until one bird eats it. What a sight that would be. (see endnote 4)


One more amazing aspect of this bird. It is not territorial. The male only defends a small area near its nest. (see end note 5) Small colonies of Cedar Waxwings nest in close proximity. Because the Waxwing is not territorial, it does not sing. (see end note 6) Because it does not defend a territory or claim one, it does not need to sing. Its call is a beautiful and unmistakable zeeeee, zeeeee.


There is something else about the Cedar Waxwing that appeals to me. This creamy tannish brown and yellow bird provides us with a living testimony of how we are to live with one another. They stick together. They appear to enjoy the company of others. They are not territorial claiming things they do not need. They share. We can learn from creatures in nature. The Cedar Waxwing leads us to something God calls us to. We are called to love one another. John, a disciple of Jesus, clearly reminds us to “love one another”.  I know Cedar Waxwings do not love one another in the sense humans do, but they give us a model. We need examples, the chance to see how it works. What is love?


Paul clearly explained love in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7:  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.


I have an assignment for you. Go outside. Search for Cedar Waxwings. Find them where the berries are! Watch them. See how they live together. No bickering, no arguments, patiently together, undemanding, always the same. Then an assignment from Jesus Himself, “Go and do likewise”.  (Luke 10:37) I know I cannot love my neighbor as myself-it’s not possible with my heart of sin. Love comes from Jesus. Ask Him to enable you to love your neighbor. You will be surprised.


This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11 NLT