The Miraculous Journey
Islam Online-Istanbul, Turkey
In the Qur'an, Allah calls us to give attention to birds with His verse, "Do they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in? None can uphold them except (Allah) Most Gracious. Verily, He is the all-Seer of everything (Surat al-Mulk: 19)." Herewith, we will particularly review migratory birds; we will describe how perfect balances they establish travelling in the skies and the systems their bodies are endowed with, and focus on the wonder of Allah's upholding them "in the sky."
How do Birds Determine the Time of Migration?
Why and how birds started to migrate and what made them take the "decision of migration" has long been a topic of interest. Some scientists hold the reason of migration to be seasonal changes while some others believe the reason to be a search for food. How these animals have no protection, technical outfit, and security but only their bodies can make these very long distance flights is what deserves consideration. Migration requires some special skills like finding direction, food storage, and ability to fly long periods of time. It is impossible for an animal not possessing these characteristics to transform into a migratory animal.
One of the experiments made to address this issue is as follows: Garden nightingales were subjected to experiments in a lab where internal conditions such as temperature and light could be varied. Internal conditions were arranged differently from the external conditions. For instance, if there is winter outside, spring climate was composed in the laboratory according to which birds arranged their bodies. Just as they do when time for migration approaches, they have stored fat for fuel. Although birds organized themselves according to the artificial season, and got prepared as if they were going to migrate, they did not set out to migrate before it was time. They observed the season outside. This was evidence that birds do not take the decision to start migrating according to seasonal conditions.
How, then, do birds determine the time of migration? Scientists still have not found an answer to this question. They believe that living things have "body clocks" that help them do timing in a closed environment and differentiate seasonal changes. However, the answer that "birds have body clocks with which they understand the time of migration" is an unscientific one. What kind of a clock is it, which organ of the body does it work with, and how did it come into being? What would happen if this clock was out of order or stay behind?
Considering that the same system holds true not only for a single migrating bird but also for all migrating animals, more importance will be attributed to these questions.
As known, migratory birds do not start migration from the same place, as each one of them is not at the same place. Most species first meet in a particular location and then start migrating altogether. How do they do such timing? How come these "body-clocks", that birds allegedly have, are so harmonious? Is it possible that such a systematic order could have come into being spontaneously?
It is impossible for a planned action to take place spontaneously. In addition, neither in birds nor in other migratory animals exists a clock of whatsoever kind. All migrating living things do this every year at times determined by them, but they do not do it by observing a body clock. What some people call body clock is Allah's control over these living beings.
Migratory animals observe the orders of Allah just as everything in the universe does.
Usage of Energy
Birds consume great energy to fly. For this reason, they need more fuel than all sea-dwelling and land-dwelling animals. For instance, in order to fly across a 3000 km. distance between Hawaii and Alaska, a small bird weighing a few grams has to beat its wings 2.5 million times. Despite this, it can remain in the air as long as 36 hours. Its average speed during this trip is approximately 80 km. an hour. During an arduous flight like that, the acid quantity in the bird's blood exceedingly increases and the bird faces the danger of fainting because of its rising body temperature. Some birds deal with this danger by landing. How, then, would those migrating over multitudinous seas save themselves? Ornithologists have observed that under such circumstances, birds spread their wings as wide as possible and cool down by resting so.
Metabolisms of migratory birds are strong enough to put up with this task. For instance, the metabolism activity in the body of a hummingbird, the smallest bird of passage, is 20 times more than that of an elephant's. The body temperature of the bird reaches up to 620 C.
In addition to having been created in compliance with such arduous flights, birds are also endowed with skills that enable to them to make use of favorable winds.
For instance, storks go up as high as 2.000 m. with increasing warm air currents, and then glide along swiftly to the next warm air current without beating its wings.
Another flight technique used by bird flocks is "V" type flight. In this technique, the largest and strongest birds are put at the front of the formation. They function as a shield against counter air currents and lead the way for the weaker. Plane engineer Dietrich Hummel has proved that with such an organization, 23% saving is achieved in the flock in general.
Flight at High Altitude
Some migrating birds fly at very high altitudes. For instance, geese can fly at an 8.000 meters altitude. This is an incredible altitude, considering the fact that even at 5.000 meters the atmosphere is 63% less dense than the sea level. Flying at such a height where atmosphere is so scarce, the bird has to beat its wings faster and hence has to find more oxygen.
However, lungs of these animals are created in a way to benefit from the oxygen available at these heights at maximum level. Lungs that function differently than those of mammals help them obtain higher levels of energy from scarce air.
Perfect Sense of Hearing
During migration, birds also take atmospheric phenomena into consideration. For instance, they change their direction to avoid a coming storm. Melvin L. Kreithen, an ornithologist, who made research on birds' sense of hearing, observed that some birds could hear sounds at extremely small frequencies that are diffused to very far distances in the atmosphere. A migrating bird can therefore hear a storm breaking out over a mountain very far away or thunder over an ocean at hundreds of kilometers ahead. Besides, it is a known fact that birds are careful to set their migration routes away from regions where atmospheric conditions are risky.
Perception of Direction
How do birds find their direction without the help of maps, compasses or similar direction finders during their long flights?
The first theory put forward regarding this question was that birds memorize the characteristics of the earth and thus reach their destination without being confused. Yet, the experiments have shown that this theory is incorrect.
In an experiment made on pigeons regarding the subject, visions of pigeons were blurred with opaque lenses. Being debarred from the characteristics of earth, the pigeons could still find their way even if they were left a few kilometers away from their flocks.
Subsequent research has shown that the magnetic field of the earth is especially effectual on bird species. Various studies have shown that birds have quite an advanced magnetic receptor system enabling them to find their direction by making use of the magnetic field of the earth. This system helps birds determine their direction by sensing the changing magnetic field of the earth during their migration. Experiments reveal that migratory birds can perceive even a 2 % variation in the magnetic field of the earth.
Some think that they can explain away the subject by saying that birds have a sort of compass in their bodies. The main question, however, lies just here.
The question is, "How come are the birds equipped with a natural compass?" We are aware that compass is an "invented" tool and a work of human intelligence. So how come a compass, an apparatus produced by man with his compiled knowledge, have come to exist in the bodies of birds? Is it likely that some years ago, a bird species, while finding direction, thought about the use of making use of the magnetic field of the earth and invented a magnetic receptor for its own body? Or again years ago, was a bird species "coincidentally" equipped with such a mechanism? Definitely not…
Neither the bird itself nor a coincidence can add an extremely advanced compass to the body. The bird's body structure, lungs, wings, digestive system and its ability to find direction are the examples of the perfect creation of Allah:
"He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or colors). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, declares His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise (Surat al-Hashr: 24)."
This article was written by Harun Yahya. In order to contact the writer of this article, go to www.harunyahya.org/Eng/homeeng.html