What is the connection between the size of birds and their molting?

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All features in the bodies of birds are created especially for flight. Birds need to be light enough to lift off the ground and fly, strong enough to fly over long distances and also some species need to be strong enough to easily carry their prey when they catch it. Therefore, both their feather structures and bone structures need to be light and their size needs to be limited.

·         How are birds’ size limited?

·         What is the connection between birds’ size and molting?

Birds need to molt their feathers at certain intervals in order to preserve the aerodynamic structure required for flight. This is because feathers get corroded as they are exposed to ultraviolet lights and bacteria. However, a certain time is needed for the feathers, which are of vital importance for flight, to molt. Therefore, Almighty Allah created a very important detail, and limited the size of birds so they do not have difficulty in molting. If birds were too big, their feathers would get corroded before they are at the size birds need and would not let the bird fly. But as birds grow, the size of the primary flight feathers increase by 1/3 in comparison to the weight. When this weight increases by 10 times, the feathers’ length almost doubles in size.

As their body size increases, the speed of the increase in a feathers size rises by 1/6 with respect to its weight. When this weight increases by 10 times, it means that the molting time increases by 1.5 times and a bird of 10 kilos in size needs 56 days to renew even a single feather; and this is a very long time for birds that need to fly continuously.

However, our Lord’s mercy and compassion manifests itself over the relationship between the renewal of feathers and the size of birds in the best way:

àSmall birds molt 9-10 flight feathers one or two times a year respectively and by spending three weeks for each one of them.

àIf they are bigger, they use a different method:

·         The feather molting period takes 2 or even 3 years.

·         They molt two feathers in two different spots at the same time.

·         They molt all of their feathers if they do not need to fly for food or to flee from hunters (like ducks and goose).

It is of course an illogical claim that birds think and design these intelligent  behaviors and plan their physical characteristics on their own. The truth is that Allah created birds and all other living beings out of nothing, and that all things move by His command. Allah, the All-powerful, reveals that He is the Owner of all beings in one verse of the Qur’an as such:

"Everyone in the heavens and earth belongs to Him. All are submissive to Him."(Surat ar-Rum, 26)

Almighty Allah is the One Who Determines Birds’ Molting Periods

Bird feathers, which have a very complicated structure and complex aerodynamic characteristics, are created especially for these living things. Even a single bird feather is enough to prove the existence of Allah and the fact of creation.

-          How did birds gain the ability to molt their feathers, which is of vital importance for flight, over time?

-          Who taught them the precautions they need to take in order not to lose their flight abilities in this period?

-          How could a bird take the decisions that will limit the size of its body by making a decision like “I need to change in the shortest time possible and by taking some precautions and thus I need to adjust my body size accordingly”?

There is no doubt that all of the arrangements in the bodies of these beings are the work of Almighty Allah, Who knows what they need to live and fly, grants them all of their needs and Who has superior intelligence and power. Birds change their bodily structures, ways of living and molting times when Allah wills them to do so. Allah created all of these beings and bestowed the necessary abilities on them. All of their functions are an evidence of Allah’s Existence and Might. Therefore, every task they do is an act of praising Allah. Allah reveals in one verse of the Qur’an as follows:

"Do you not see that everyone in the heavens and earth glorifies Allah, as do the birds with their outspread wings? Each one knows its prayer and glorification. Allah knows what they do."(Surat an-Nur, 41)

Every single one of a bird's feathers has a different task. The feathers on the bird’s abdomen, the wing and tail feathers have different characteristics than one another. Tail feathers, which are made up of large feathers, act as steering and braking mechanisms . Wing feathers, on the hand, have a structure that will broaden the surface during flapping and increase levitation force. When the bird is flapping its wings down, the feathers get close to one another and prevent the air from dissipating  in between. During the moment when the bird is raising its wings up, the feathers open up as much as possible and create a position suitable for easy air passage.

Birds cast aside their feathers in order to protect their flight abilities. Large feathers, which are ruptured or torn, are renewed quickly as they cannot carry out their tasks fully.

The functions of bird feathers are very varied. The quills in the feathers help the bird fly. The tail quills that form the tail acts like a steering mechanism and makes it easier for the bird to “apply the brakes “when it lands. All of these are possible by the will of Allah Who is the Owner of superior creation and infinite mercy and by His control over His creations.

Have they not looked at the birds above them, with wings outspread and folded back? Nothing holds them up but the All-Merciful. He sees all things." (Surat al-Mulk, 19)

Some Interesting Characteristics of Birds:

  • The male hummingbird that lives in Cuba is 6.3 centimeters in size and only 1.95 grams in weight. The heart of the hummingbird beats 500 to 1,200 times per second every day. Its heart slows down so much at night that it is as if it has no pulse and does not breathe. Porcupines also apply this during  winter. This is their winter hibernation. The hummingbird has to hibernate 365 times every year.
  • Parrots known as  “Micropsitta pusio” that live in Papua New Guinea are the smallest parrots in the world. This parrot, which is as big as a grown man’s finger and even smaller than some of the insects in the same region, is approximately 9 centimeters in length and 11.5 grams in weighht.
  • The Albatross is a   sea bird with a very large -3.5 meter- wingspan. They spend 92% of their lives on the  open seas and they almost never land. The most important characteristic of this bird species is that they can fly for a very long time without rest. The albatross manages this difficult task by means of its special flight style. The albatross only needs to hold its wings open against the wind in order to hang in the air. The bird does this by opening up its wings as much as it can, and during this time the width of the wings reaches to 3.5 meters and this is the largest known wing length among birds. There is a locking system in the wings of the albatross that helps them keep their wings open. In this way, they can fly for weeks and even months by using a minimum amount of energy. The albatross uses the rising tides and the winds and moves along their direction and flies over one tide to another by weaving through the wind. In this way, the albatross can fly over water for hours on end without flapping its wings even once.
  • Eagles need to be light enough to lift off the ground and fly, but also strong enough to carry their prey with them. A bald eagle has more than seven thousand feathers; but when you put all of them together, the weight of all these feathers is only 500 grams. In addition, the inside of the bones are empty for a light body weight. There is nothing other than air inside many of these bones. The weight of a bald eagle’s skeleton is only a little more than 272 grams.
  • There is an extra membrane in the eyes of all predatory bird species called the “nictitating membrane”. The function of this lid is to clean and protect the eyes. For example, when eagles feed their offspring, they generally close their eyelids. This prevents the offspring from harming the eyes of their family members.

2011-10-27 11:38:47
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