They fly over our house at speeds of 45 to 50 miles per hour. My ears hear their whistling wing feathers before they can be seen. On water they swim in a tight flotilla. Occasionally a male will raise his bill in the air in salute to a female. This courting behavior occurs regularly as spring nears. Perhaps he is practicing now. Their golden eyes give us a strong tipoff about the name of this stunning duck. Contrasting black and white, blended with black and white stripes with gold accents equals beautiful. The Goldeneyes are in town.
They feed by diving-they even dive in sync to maximize they effectiveness of their catch. They nest in tree cavities, sometimes 40 feet above ground. Many of the nest cavities are made by the Pileated Woodpecker. This creates a commensalistic relationship between these bird species.
Goldeneyes are Holarctic birds. This means they can be found around the Arctic in North America and Eurasia. But, since they nest in trees they are found below the tree line in far north regions. Male Goldeneyes do have rich a golden iris, but when the duckling is born their eye color is a purple-blue. At five months of age the male Goldeneye has a green yellow eye color which becomes a “goldeneye” when the bird reaches maturity.
Eyes, flight speed, courting behavior, far north nesting, all are spectacular. Perhaps it is the feathers that make this bird so fascinating. While the swan has more than 25,000 feathers on its large body, about one-sixth of a Goldeneye’s weight is from feathers. The Goldeneye has many types of feathers from flight, contour and the all important down which during subzero temperatures keeps it alive. Most of the feathers on a bird can be moved by an attached muscle. It is estimated that waterfowl like the Goldeneye have as many as 12,000 separate skin muscles for feather control.
Feathers, they are true miracles. They are colorful. They enable flight speeds equal to a car on an interstate highway. The allow normal flight to elevations of 200 to 4,000 feet. But ducks have been found flying at altitudes only occupied by jet aircraft. One high-flying mallard collided with a jet at 21,000 feet. (over 4 miles up!) And how is it that the Goldeneye’s wings create the magnificent “whistling” sound as they fly?
Now we have come to the place of application. The Goldeneye is one of 60 species of waterfowl found in North America. Every one has similar life facts. Every specie of the 60 has unique to only the specie behaviors and characteristics. Where do these astonishing bird characteristics come from? Job answered this question while speaking to his friends, he said, “Just ask the animals, and they will teach you. Ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you.” A few sentences later he added these words, “But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his.” (Job 12:7 &13)
Together let’s consider these questions,
- What must God be like to be able to create the Common Goldeneye to be distinct, but similar to 60 other species of North American waterfowl?
- What do we have to lose when we observe the “birds of the sky?”
- What will God teach us as we do?
- How could understanding the wisdom and power of God affect us during the year to come?
We have nothing to lose and an eternity to gain.