Photo and Commentary ©2022 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Maybe you were one of those who played a euphonium in your high school band, or had the misfortune to sit next to someone who tried to do so. You don’t see these instruments around much anymore, perhaps because those blowing into them didn’t produce the notes the name promised, “of good sound.”

However, a bird with a similar name is doing just fine throughout much of Central America. That bird is the Yellow-throated Euphonia. This colorful, rather chubby-looking bird with the short tail and stubby beak has a number of characteristics which set it apart from other birds, and so doing, it provides us with an exception to the rule. Among birds which live primarily on seeds and fruit, even they include animal life, such as insects in their diet. This is especially true in the feeding of young.

But here’s where euphonias are the exception, for while most frugivorous birds must complement their diet to meet their protein requirements, euphonias do not. Even the young are fed regurgitated fruit beginning the first day they hatch. About 20% of this diet is composed of mistletoe berries. They are a favorite among birders at feeding stations for they come readily to bananas placed there for their benefit. And unlike other birds they have no gizzard, for apparently this grinding organ is not needed by the digestive tract when a diet of fruit is all that is eaten.

For those seeking to live a vegan lifestyle, the Yellow-throated Euphonia could be placed on your coat of arms. While we might all benefit from following an Edenic diet, the common sense advice offered by Solomon many years later should hold an even higher priority in our thinking. “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.” (Proverbs 15:17 NIV) Even in this area the euphonias offer us a good example, for while they maintain pair relationships throughout the year, they do not maintain or defend any territories.