Friday, August 12, 2011

Falling Feathers

It's that time of year when our peafowl are molting. This morning I filled a wheelbarrow with feathers, mostly from the male, Manley Pointer. He looks pretty scraggly right now with his remaining feathers jutting out from his body at odd angles. On Wednesday while I was at the dentist's office, I happened to pick up a National Geographic (Feb. 2011) that featured a story on birds and their plumage. Accompanying this story was a picture of a peacock in full feather. The caption said that the peacock was the one bird that confounded British naturalist, Charles Darwin (pictured at right). He couldn't understand for the life of him how the bird evolved the way it did. What could possibly be the purpose of something so impractical as the long train of feathers on the male of the species? Darwin could see no utilitarian purpose. In fact, they are less than useless in that they inhibit quick flight from predators. If Darwin's theory of natural selection is true, the peacock's showy feathers should have disappeared eons ago or else the species would have disappeared. Perhaps unwilling to consider the possibility that the Creator made the species simply out of sheer delight in its beauty, Darwin appeased his curiosity with the rather pedestrian conclusion that the male has kept his plumage over time as a way of propagating the species. From my personal observation of our birds at Andalusia, I think Darwin is pushing it a little bit. Many times have I seen Manly with his shimmering feathers fanned the width of the aviary and the females pay him absolutely no attention.
- Mark

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