The Greatest Mystery

DSC_0178sigIt is not a “want to be” eagle. Besides being too small, it has the wrong physical equipment. No, it is a female House Finch with a white head. Her head should be tan brown with light streaks. Not so for this one. There are streaks in its head, but the overall look is white.

The House Finch is an introduced bird. It origins are the North American continent. It’s Latin name Carpodacus mexicanus suggests its origins. It was originally, a native bird to the western United States and Mexico. In 1940 an entrepreneur brought some to New York with the plan to sell them as “Hollywood Finches” It did not succeed. The humane but unwise in the balance of nature bird peddler released (introduced) them on Long Island, New York. The prolific House Finch took full advantage of the reward of life. By 2000, this pocket-sized bird had spread over all of the eastern United States and into southern Canada. Today biologists estimate there are somewhere between 267 million to 1.4 billion of these highly prolific immigrants!

The House Finch is amply efficient at increasing its numbers. A female House Finch lays her eggs in a cavity similar to bluebirds but will nest in eaves of buildings and even nests of other birds. She will lay between 2-6 bluish, finely speckled eggs. She builds the nest usually within two days. Incubation lasts between 12-14 days and the young are ready to fly from the nest in as few as 11 days later. She will, in good nesting conditions, then lay another clutch of eggs.  Within a few days more than two months a pair of house finches could produce a dozen more of their kind. Effective and efficient describe this bird.

Bearing a resemblance to a thin House Sparrow, the House Finch is similar to the House Sparrow in many ways. It is one of the few birds that is able to fight off House Sparrows and keep them from a nest takeover. House Finches have a similar to Sparrows reproductive rate.  The spread of the House Finch is reminiscent of the continental spread of the House Sparrow. Like the House Sparrow in yet one more way, House Finches are comfortable living around people. The human activity of keeping bird feeders is highly suitable to the House Finch.

Rarely, a bird or animal has all white feathers or fur. This is not normal for most species. Different from the case of an albino which lacks pigment in body, feathers or fur, leucistic specimens lack color in feather or fur. The House Finch in the photo is a rare bird. If she were an albino, her eyes would lack the pigment melanin. They would be pink. Hers are not. She would be all white. She is not. While a biologist would explain that the feathers on her head lack the animal fur and feather coloring pigment melanin, there is no understood explanation for why melanin is absent. Science has determined that in mice there are 100 different genes that effect melanin. In humans 1 in 20,000 people have genes that cause albinism.

This is truly a rare, infrequent event in nature. We witnessed this rarity four days ago. Since then my eyes have searched for her every day. She has not reappeared. She may be in the neighborhood. Perhaps she was migrating. She remains a delightful, once in my lifetime mystery. The significant amount of things unknown about this bird brings fascination to me.

The mystery of the white-headed House Finch points us to another mystery. Just like the bird, much is known about this “Mystery” The mystery is Jesus Christ. We know he lived as a man on earth. Tacitus, one of Rome’s best historians confirms the life of Jesus separate from the Bible authors of the New Testament. New Testament author Timothy wrote about Jesus as a mystery. He said, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16 Timothy was referring to Jesus. It is true, ordinary humans cannot understand the infinite nature of God. How could God become man is incomprehensible to the human mind. That God would be willing to die for all people is an even greater mystery. But it is not a 1 in 20, 000 mystery. Jesus is the One and Only Son of God. There is no other. There is no other person in world history to die for the sins of all people.


While the absence of melanin creates an animal or bird mystery. The greatest mystery the world has ever known-or will know is Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God who died for your sins and mine. Oh, and there is great news-no mystery. Jesus clearly said He would come again. The Bible tells us that those who are alive and believe in Him will be caught up with Him in the clouds. This is mystery, but this is truth. A white-headed House Finch can remind us of the greatest mystery of all: Jesus, Son of God who died to take away our sins. This is inscrutable, unexplainable wonder: God so loves the world. He gave us a Mystery. His name is Jesus.

(And He made the white-headed House Finch.)DSC_0168sig

Author: davidwellis

What does a grandfather, husband, former public school teacher and Education Specialist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service with many life experiences in nature do with them? A naturalist with a camera-makes outside a daily destination. My confidence is that God will guide my words, and photos. We live in a magnificent world, come and look at it with me through eyes, lens and words. To God be the glory. Current Profile Photo- Prickly Ash, the name summarizes this brushy undergrowth well. It fascinates me with its thorny branches. Seeing a vine wrapped around the trunk called for a photo.