Birds: Flawless Flying Machines

The theory of evolution, which claims that birds are descendants of reptiles, is not able to explain the colossal differences between these two classes of beings. A close examination of birds reveals that they are designed specifically for flying, writes HARUN YAHYA.

Because they believe that the birds must have somehow evolved, evolutionists assert that birds are descendants of reptiles. However, the progressive model of evolution cannot explain any of the body mechanisms of birds, which have a completely different structure from land dwelling animals. First, the primary feature of birds, i.e. wings, is a great obstacle for the theory of evolution to explain. One evolutionist makes the following confession in reference to the impossibility of the evolution of wings:

The common trait of eyes and the wings is that they can only function of they are fully developed. In other words, a halfway-developed eye cannot see and a bird with half-formed wings cannot fly. How these organs came into being is one of those mysteries of nature that has still to be accounted for. The question of how the flawless structure of wings might have been formed through a series of consecutive random mutations remains completely unanswered. The process in which the front leg of a reptile could transform into a flawless wing seems to be as inexplicable as ever.

Furthermore, the existence of wings is not the only prerequisite for a land creature to become a bird. Landdwelling animals totally lack a number of mechanisms that are used by birds in flying. For example, the bones of birds are considerably lighter than those of land-dwelling animals. Their lungs are of a different structure and function as well as are their skeletal and muscular structures. Their circulatory systems are much more specialised than those of land animals.

All of these mechanisms could not possibly come into existence over time through an “accumulative process”. Assertions of the transformation of land-dwelling animals into birds are, therefore, only nonsensical claims.

Structure of Bird Feathers

The theory of evolution, which claims that birds are descendants of reptiles, is not able to explain the colossal differences between these two classes of beings. Birds display properties distinct from reptiles in having a skeletal structure composed of hollow, extremely lightweight  bones, and a unique respiratory system and in being warm-blooded creatures. Another structure unique to birds, which places an unbridgeable gap between birds and reptiles, is the feather. Feathers are the most important of the interesting aesthetical aspects of birds. The phrase “light as a feather” depicts the perfection in the intricate structure of a feather.

Feathers are constructed of a protein substance called keratin. Keratin is a hard and durable material that is formed by the old cells that migrate away from the nutrient and oxygen sources in the deeper layers of the skin and die in order to give way to new cells. The design in bird feathers is so complex that the process of evolution simply cannot explain it. Scientist Alan Feduccia says feathers “have an almost magical structural complexity” which “allows a mechanical aerodynamic refinement never achieved by other means”. Although he is an evolutionist, Feduccia also admits that “feathers are a near-perfect adaptation for flight” because they are lightweight, strong, aerodynamically shaped, and have an intricate structure of barbs and hooks.

The design of feathers also compelled Charles Darwin ponder them. Moreover, the perfect aesthetic s of the peacock’s feathers had made him “sick” (his own words). In a letter he wrote to Asa Gray on April 3, 1860, he said: “I remember well the time when the thought of the eye made me cold all over, but I have got over this stage of complaint…” And then continued: “… and now trifling particulars of structure often make me very uncomfortable. The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!”

Small Barbs and Hooklets

One encounters an incredible design if the feather of a bird is examined under the microscope. As we all know, there is a shaft that runs up the centre of the feather. Hundreds of small barbs grow on either side of this shaft. Barbs of varying softness and size give the bird its aerodynamic nature. Furthermore, each barb has thousands of even smaller strands attached to them called barbules, which cannot be observed with the naked eye. These barbules are locked together with hooklike hamuli. The barbules hold on to one another like a zip with the help of these hooklets. For example, just one crane feather has about 650 barbs on each side of the shaft. About 600 barbules branch off each of the barbs. Each one of these barbules are locked together with 390 hooklets. The hooks latch together as do the teeth on both sides of a zip. These barbules interlock so tightly that even smoke blown at the feather cannot penetrate through it. If the hooklets come apart for any reason, the bird can easily restore the feathers to their original form by either shaking itself or by straightening its feathers out with its beak.

In order to survive, birds have to keep their feathers clean, well groomed and always ready for flight. They use an oil-gland located at the base of their tails for the maintenance of their feathers. They clean and polish their feathers by means of this oil, which also provides water proofing when they are swimming, diving or walking and flying in rain. In addition, in cold weather the feathers prevent the body temperature of birds from falling. The feathers are pressed closer to the body in hot weather in order to keep it cool.

Types of Feather

Feathers take on different functions depending on where on the body they are located. The feathers on a bird’s body have different properties from those on the wings or tail. The full-feathered tail functions to steer and brake. On the other hand, wing feathers have a distinct structure that enables the surface area to expand during beating in order to increase forces of up-lift. When the wing is flapped downward, the feathers come closer together, preventing the through passage of air. When the wing is in an upward movement the feathers open up, to give way to the passage of air. Birds shed their feathers during certain periods in order to maintain their abilities to fly. Worn or damaged large feathers are renewed immediately.

Features of the Flying Machines

A close examination of birds reveals that they are designed specifically for flying. The body has been created with air-sacs and hollow bones in order to reduce body mass and overall weight. The fluid nature of their wastes ensures that excess water in the body is disposed of. Feathers are extremely light structures in comparison to their volume. Let us examine these special structures of birds one by one:

1- The skeleton: The strength of a bird’s skeleton is more than adequate even though the bones are hollow. For example, a hawfinch 7 inches long (18 cm) exerts about 151 lbs. (68.5 kg) pressure in order to crack open an olive seed. Better “organised” than land animals, the shoulder, hip and chest bones of birds are fused together. This design improves the strength of the bird’s structure. Another feature of the skeleton of birds, as mentioned previously, is that it is lighter than in all other land-dwelling animals. For instance, the skeleton of the dove weighs only about 4.4% of its total body weight. The bones of the frigate bird weigh 118 gr, which is less than the total weight of its feathers.

2- Respiratory System: The respiratory system of land animals and birds operate on completely different principles, primarily because birds need oxygen in much greater quantities than do land animals. For example, a certain bird could require up to twenty times the amount of oxygen necessary for humans. Therefore, the lungs of land animals cannot provide oxygen in the quantities required by birds. This is why the lungs of birds are created upon a much different design. In land animals, air flow is bidirectional: air travels through a network of channels, and stops at the small air sacs. Oxygen carbon dioxide exchange takes place here. Used air follows a reverse course in leaving the lung and is discharged through the windpipe.

On contrary, in birds, air flow is unidirectional. New air comes in one end, and the used air goes out the other end. This provides an uninterrupted supply of oxygen for birds, which satisfies their need for high levels of energy. Michael Denton, an Australian biochemist and a well-known critic of Darwinism, explains the avian lung in this way:

In the case of birds, the major bronchi break down into tiny tubes which permeate the lung tissue. These socalled parabronchi eventually join up together again, forming a true circulatory system so that air flows in one direction through the lungs…. Although air sacs occur in certain reptilian groups, the structure of the lung in birds and the overall functioning of the respiratory system is quite unique. No lung in any other vertebrate species is known which in any way approaches the avian system. Moreover, it is identical in all essential details in birds…

In his book A Theory in Crisis, Michael Denton also points out to the impossibility of formation of such a perfect system through progressive evolution:

Just how such an utterly different respiratory system could have evolved gradually from the standard vertebrate design is fantastically difficult to envisage, especially bearing in mind that the maintenance of respiratory function is absolutely vital to the life of an organism to the extent that the slightest malfunction leads to death within minutes. Just as the feather cannot function as an organ of flight until the hooks and barbules are co adapted to fit together perfectly, so the avian lung cannot function as an organ of respiration until the Para bronchi system which permeates it and the air sac system which guarantees the Para bronchi  their air supply are both highly developed and able to function together in a perfectly integrated manner.

In short, the transition from terrestrial lung to avian lung is impossible due to the fact that the lung that would be in a transitional developmental stage would have no functionality. No creature without lungs can live for even a few minutes. Therefore,  the creature simply would not have millions of years to wait for random mutations to save its life. The unique structure of the avian lung demonstrates the presence of a    perfect design that supplies the high levels of oxygen required for flight. It only takes a little bit of a  common sense to see that the unparalleled anatomy of birds is not an arbitrary result of unconscious  mutations. It is clear that the lungs of a bird are another of the countless evidences that all creatures have been created by God.

3-The System of Balance: God has created birds without flaw just as He has the rest of the creation. This fact is manifest in every detail. The bodies of birds have been created to a special design that removes any possible imbalance in flight. The bird’s head has been deliberately created light in weight so that the animal does not lean forward during flight: on average, a bird’s head weight is about 1% of its body weight. The  Aerodynamic structure of the feathers is another property of the system of balance in birds. The feathers, especially in the wing and tail, provide a very effective system of balance for the bird.

Creatures in nature have extremely complex body systems. These features ensure that a falcon maintains  obsolute balance while diving for its prey at a speed of 240 mph (384 km/h). 

4- The Power and Energy Problem of a bird, the sonar system of a bat: Every process in the form of a sequence of events, i.e. in biology, chemistry or physics, conforms to the “Principle of the Conservation of Energy”. In short, one can summarise this as “it takes a certain amount of energy to get a certain work done”.

A significant example of this conservation can be observed in flight of birds. Migrating birds have to store enough energy to take them through their trip. On the other hand, another necessity in flight is being as light as possible. No matter what the results, extra weight has to be done away with. In the meantime, the fuel has also to be as efficient as possible. In other words, while the weight of fuel has to be at a minimum, the energy output from it has to be at a maximum. All of these problems have been solved for bird.

The first step is to determine the optimum speed for flight. If the bird is to fly very slowly, then a lot of energy has to be spent to remain aloft in the air. If the bird is to fly very fast, then fuel will be spent in overcoming air resistance. It is therefore obvious that an ideal speed has to be maintained in order to spend the least amount of fuel. Depending on the aerodynamic structure of the skeleton and wings, a different speed is ideal for each kind of bird.

Let us examine this energy problem as it relates to the Pacific golden plover (Pluvialis dominica fulva): this bird migrates from Alaska to Hawaii to spend its winters there. There are no islands on its route. Therefore, it has no possibility for rest. The flight is 2500 miles (4000 km) from start to finish and this roughly means 250,000 wing beats without break. The trip takes more than 88 hours. The bird weighs 7 ounces (200g) at the start of the journey, 2,5 ounces (70g) of which is fat to be used as fuel. However, scientists, after calculating the amount of energy the bird needs for an hour of flight, determined that the bird needed 3 ounces (82g) of fuel for this flight. That is, there is a shortage of 0.4 ounce (12g) of fuel and the bird would have to run out of energy hundreds of miles before reaching Hawaii. In spite of these calculations, the  golden rain birds unfailingly reach Hawaii every year. What could the secret of these creatures be?

The Creator of these birds, God, inspires them with a method to make their flight easy and efficient. The birds do not fly haphazardly but in a flock. They follow a certain order and form a “V” shape in the air. This V formation reduces the air resistance that they encounter. This flight formation is so efficient that they save about 23% of their energy. This is how they still have 0.2 ounces (6-7g) of fat when they land.

The extra fat is not a miscalculation but a cushion to be used in case of encountering reverse air currents.

This extraordinary situation brings the following questions to mind: How could the bird know how much fat is needed?

How could the bird manage to acquire all this fat before flight?

How could it calculate the distance and the amount of fuel it needs to burn?

How could the bird know that conditions in Hawaii are better than Alaska?

It is impossible for birds to reach this knowledge, to make these calculations, or to make group flights according to these calculations. This is an indication that the birds are “inspired” and directed by a superior power.

5. Digestion System: Flight requires a great deal of power. For this reason birds have the largest muscle-tissue/ body-mass ratio of all creatures. Their metabolism is also in tune with high levels of muscle power. On average, a creature’s metabolism doubles as the body temperature increases by 500F (100C). The sparrow’s 1080F (420C) body temperature and a fieldfare’s 109.40F (43.50C) body temperature indicate how quickly their metabolism functions.

Such a high body temperature, which would kill a land creature, is vitally important for a bird’s survival by increasing energy consumption and, therefore, power. Due to their need for a lot of energy, birds also have a body that digests the food they eat in an optimum fashion. Birds’ digestive systems enable them to make the best use of the food they eat. For example, a baby stork puts on 2.2 lbs (1 kg) body mass for every 6.6 lbs (3 kg) food. In land animals with similar food choices, this ratio is about 2.2 lbs (1 kg) to 22 lbs. (10 kgs). The circulatory system of birds has also been created in harmony with their high energy requirements. While a human’s heart beats 78 times a minute, this rate is 460 for a sparrow and 615 for a humming bird. Similarly, blood circulation in birds is very fast. The oxygen that supplies all of these fast working systems is provided by special avian lungs.

Birds also use their energy very efficiently. They demonstrate significantly higher efficiency in energy consumption than do land animals. For instance, a migrating swallow burns four kilocalories per mile (2.5 per kilometre) whereas a small land animal would burn 41 kilocalories.

Mutation cannot explain the differences between birds and land animals. Even if we assume one of these features to occur through random mutation, which is not a possibility, a single feature by itself does not make any sense. The formation of a high energyproducing metabolism has no meaning without specialized avian lungs. Moreover, this would cause the animal to choke from insufficient oxygen intake. If the respiratory system were to mutate before the other systems then the creature would inhale more oxygen than it needs, and would be harmed just the same. Another impossibility relates to the skeletal structure: even if the bird somehow obtained the avian lungs and metabolic adaptations it still could not fly. No   matter how powerful, no land creature can take off from the ground due to its heavy and relatively segmented skeletal structure. The formation of wings also requires a distinct and flawless “design”.

All of these facts take us to one result: it is simply impossible to explain the origin of birds through accidental growth or a theory of evolution. Thousands of different species of birds have been created with all their current physical features in “a moment”. In other words, God has created them individually.

Perfect Flight Techniques

From albatrosses to vultures, all birds have been created equipped with flying techniques that make use of winds. Since flying consumes a lot of energy, birds have been created with powerful breast muscles, large hearts and light skeletons. The evidence of superior creation in birds does not end with their bodies. Many birds have been inspired to use methods that decrease the energy required.

The kestrel is a wild bird that is well-known in Europe, Asia and Africa. It has a special ability: it can maintain its head in a perfectly still position in the air by facing the wind. Though its body may sway in the wind, its head remains motionless, which increases the excellence of its vision in spite of all the motion. A gyroscope, which is used to stabilize the weaponry of battleships at sea, works very similarly. This is why scientists usually labelthe bird’s head “a gyro-stabilised head”.

Timing Techniques

Birds regulate their hunting schedules for optimum efficiency. Kestrels like to feed on rats. Rats typically live underground and surface every two hours to feed. Kestrels’ feeding coincides with the rats’. They hunt during the day but eat their kill at night. Therefore, during the day, they fly on empty stomachs withless weight. This method cuts down the energy required. It has been calculated that the bird saves about 7% energy this way.

Soaring in the Wind

Birds further reduce the energy consumed by utilising winds. They soar by increasing airflow on their wings and they can remain “suspended” in sufficiently powerful air currents. Up-drafts are an added advantage to them. Making use of air currents in order to save energy in flight is called “soaring”. The kestrel is one of the birds with this capability. The ability to soar is a sign of birds’ superiority in the air. Soaring has two major benefits. Firstly, it conserves energy needed to stay in the air while searching for food or defending the feeding ground. Secondly, it enables the bird to significantly increase its flight distances. A seagull can save up to 70% of its energy while soaring.

Energy from Air Currents

Birds use air streams in different ways: A kestrel gliding down a hillside or a seagull diving along coastal cliffs make use of airstreams, and this is called “slope soaring”. When a strong wind passes over a hilltop, it forms waves of motionless air. Birds can soar on these waves as well. The gannet and many other seabirds make use of these motionless waves created by islands. Sometimes they use the currents generated by  smaller obstacles such as ships, over which seagulls soar. Fronts generally create the currents providing uplift for birds.

Fronts are interfaces between air masses of different temperatures or densities. The soaring of birds on these interfaces is referred to as “gust gliding”. These fronts, which are especially formed at coasts by air currents coming from the sea, have been discovered by means of radar, through the observation of sea birds in flocks gliding in them. Two other kinds of soaring are known as thermal soaring and dynamic soaring.

Design In Nature

Thermal soaring is a phenomenon observed especially in warm inland areas of the globe. As the sun heats the ground, the ground in turn heats the air above it. As the air gets warmer, it gets lighter and starts to rise. This event can also be observed in dust storms or other wind whirls. The Soaring Technique of Vultures utilise a special method in order to scan the earth below from an appropriate height riding rising columns of warm air, called the thermals. They can continuously make use of different thermals to sustain their soaring over very large areas for very long times. At dawn, airwaves start rising. First, smaller vultures take off, riding weaker currents. As currents become stronger, larger birds take off as well. Vultures almost float upward in these ascending currents. The fastest rising air is located in the middle of the current. They fly in tight circles in order to balance uplift with gravitational forces. When they want to ascend, they draw closer to the centre of the currents.

Other hunting birds use thermals as well. Storks make use of these warm air currents, especially when migrating. The white stork lives in central Europe and migrates to Africa for winters on a journey of about 4350 miles (7000 kilometres). If they were to fly solely by flapping their wings, they would have to rest at least four times. Instead, the white storks complete their flights in three weeks by utilizing warm air currents for up to 6-7 hours a day, which translates into big energy savings. Since the waters warm up much later than the land, warm air currents are not formed over the seas, which is why birds that migrate over long distances do not choose to travel over water. Storks and other wild birds migrating from Europe to Africa choose to travel either over the Balkans and the Bosphorus, or over the Iberian Peninsula over theGibraltar.

The albatross, gannets, seagulls and other sea birds, on the other hand, use the air currents that are created by high waves. These birds take advantage of the uplift of air directed upwards on the tips of waves. While soaring on the air currents, the albatross frequently turns and heads into the wind and swiftly rises higher. After ascending 30-45 feet (10-15 metres) into the air, it changes direction again and continues soaring. The bird gains energy from changes in wind directions. The air currents lose speed when they hit the surface of the sea. This is why the albatross encounters stronger currents at higher altitudes. After attaining adequate speed, it returns to gliding close to the surface of the sea. Many other birds such as the shearwater use similar techniques while soaring on the sea.