Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

If you’ve ever spent much time on the internet, you’ve likely seen where an untruth, once told, is perpetuated by the retelling. It’s almost like it becomes gospel once it makes its way onto the screen. Perhaps the most extensive work on North American birds was written by Arthur Cleveland Bent in his multivolume work Life Histories of North American Birds. Unfortunately, he falls into the same trap of relying upon what may be less than credible authorities. In his discourse on the American Avocet he quotes the well-known British author Sir Julian Huxley who was an evolutionary biologist and eugenicist. He won the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society along with numerous other awards and was knighted in 1958, one hundred years after Darwin and Russel announced the theory of evolution by natural selection. Huxley made a study of the European Avocet which is closely related to its American counterpart and made this comment which is quoted by Bent: “The avocet has no courtship. There are no songs or aerial displays; no posturing by the male, no mutual ceremonies…of courtship in any accepted sense, none whatever.”

Bent seems to draw a parallel between the two species but adds: “However that may be, our bird does indulge in actions and posturings which look very much like courtship.” Really? First-hand observers describe the courtship display as “elaborate”. After copulation takes place, the male dismounts but leaves one of his wings stretched out over the female’s back. Then both birds run a few steps with their bills crossed. Almost reminds one of an elaborate military wedding with the couple leaving between a row of crossed swords.

Jesus, speaking of the Jewish nation, quotes the words of Isaiah 42. “You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.” (Matthew 13:14-15 RSV) We must always pray for open eyes, eyes that act upon truth when it is found.