Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Should you look up the term “euphonia” in a medical dictionary you would find it defined as “the condition of having a normal, clear voice.” That would also adequately describe the song of the Olive-backed Euphonia, a resident from southern Mexico to the western part of Panama. These small finch-like birds are usually seen in small groups or in pairs. Both the male and the female are distinctive in their plumage with the male sporting a yellow forehead and a rufous belly. The adult female’s forehead is chestnut in color and the underparts yellow with a small rufous belly patch. At one time they were known as Olive-backed Tanager, but that name was dropped when it was acknowledged they were more closely related to the finches than the tanagers.

Even though their stubby beaks are shaped like a finch’s which is used for cracking open the hard coverings of seeds, euphonias live primarily on soft fruit, especially the seeds of the mistletoe plant. Strangely, these seeds are poisonous to most creatures, but the euphonia’s gut is adapted to deal with these toxins. The seeds pass through their digestive system and new plants are established when their droppings land on branches which serve as host plants.

Unfortunately, mankind has reversed the process and has taken that which is good and twisted it into something harmful. The prophet Amos used poetic words to describe how the nation of Israel had distorted the truth for their own selfish gain. “Do horses run on the rocky crags? Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness—” (Amos 6:12 NIV) Amos found it incomprehensible that his own people would intentionally manipulate the gifts of God into that which would harm others. And this same warning is equally applicable to us today.