THE ANIMAL KINGDOM contains many marvels that modern science has yet to fully explain. One example concerns the migration flight of the golden plover.
The Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) is a small shorebird, about the size of a dove. It lives from northern Siberia to western Alaska. Every year, these birds leave their young and fly south to spend the winter in South Asia, Southeast Asia, Australasia, or on various Pacific islands.
Of the Alaska-dwelling members of this species, almost all (including those stopping en route to more distant destinations) make a migratory flight to Hawaii, where the bird is known as the kolea. Alaska to Hawaii means an 88-hour, non-stop flight across more than 4,500 km (2,800 miles) of open ocean. The birds are unable to swim, and there is no land between these locations for them to stop and rest. Amazingly, for an individual plover to fly this distance would require more energy than is stored in its body.
Before departure, they put on additional weight, mostly in the form of fat reserves to sustain their long flight. On average, they gain enough to give each bird about 70 grams (2.4 oz) of consumable energy. Here is the dilemma, though; these birds in flight burn approximately 1 gram of energy per hour, so they should consume all their stored energy in about 70 hours, which is 18 hours short of Hawaii. However, each year the golden plovers make it to Hawaii. How is this possible?
As do some other kinds of birds, the plovers fly in a V-formation. This is so they can ‘draft’ off each other, which reduces the energy required to fly. This saves each bird, on average, 23% of the energy that would be used if flying unaccompanied. This is, however, not the case for the bird at the lead position, but the plovers take turns in that position and thus ‘share the load’.3 These golden plovers arrive in Hawaii every year with 6.8 g (0.24 oz), on average, left over from what they had ready for the flight. This provides insurance in case of non-advantageous winds encountered on the flight route.4
It is not uncommon for the plovers to lose 50% of their total body weight during this epic flight spanning less than four days. This is amazing. Imagine a 60 kg human losing 30 kg (65 lb) while jogging non-stop for this entire period, neither eating nor drinking—without any ill effects!
The plovers’ innate abilities enabling them to perform this amazing migratory feat have all the hallmarks of design, engineered into their systems for migration purposes. Consider the following instinctive abilities, all of which are pre-programmed within the bird’s DNA, thus already in the fertilized egg:
- Timing their substantial fat gain. Each bird needs to have this extra fuel already on board when the time comes for them to depart, together, on their astonishing odyssey.
- Ensuring in advance the correct amount of fat for the distance needed. Too little, and the bird would plunge into the ocean and perish, its fuel all spent, before reaching its destination. Extra weight adds to the effort of flying this incredible distance, so with no possibility to rest, too much fat risks the bird again falling short of Hawaii, in this case from exhaustion.
- Drafting off each other in flight. Without such a clever aeronautic strategy, even the extra fat they carry would not last the distance. Consider, too, the built-in ingenuity that causes them to alternate the ‘lead pilot’ position so that all of them share this energy-saving benefit equally.
All of this reflects a Designer with intelligence and ability beyond all human understanding. In His omniscience, He can say, “I know all the birds of the hills” (Psalm 50:11). This Designer, the Lord Jesus Christ, created all the original populations (kinds) of living things ex nihilo. He deserves our awe and praise:
“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:24
The article is taken from Creation Magazine Volume 45, Issue 2, 2023. Make sure you subscribe http://www.creation.com