Photo and Commentary ©2017 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

There’s much that could be said about the Lark Bunting, a common sparrow found in the short-grass prairies of Mid-America. First of all, it’s the only sparrow that changes its bright breeding plumage for a rather drab sparrow-like winter coat which resembles the female’s. Though considered abundant, their numbers change widely from year to year. But even this is difficult to determine since there is little breeding site loyalty. They could have a large breeding colony in an area one year and be virtually absent the next. Especially in winter when they are highly gregarious, they feed in large flocks which to some are reminiscent of Ezekiel’s wheel within a wheel. (Ezekiel 10:9-13) This parallel comes about when the birds are feeding in mass, and the ones at the rear of the flock flutter forward past those in the front to begin feeding there. The resulting image is similar to a large wheel rolling across the prairie.

Another rather interesting parallel might be seen in the process of mate selection. In this species the males usually outnumber the females. As a result, the females have many possible suitors to choose from. Their selection seems to be based upon such variables as the males’ blackness, or the size of the wing patch, or even the size of the beak. But for some reason, what was in vogue one year may be totally out of style the next. Biologists refer to this as temporal selection which supposedly helps maintain genetic variation.

The Message’s paraphrase of Christ’s parable of the sower, specifically the account of the seed that fell on stony ground, provides what might be considered analogous. “The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep. It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone.” (Luke 8:13) It may work for the bunting, but for us Christians, most would look for something more enduring.