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Discovery Magazine 5/1/1998

A Bird with a Thermometer?

You’ve had your temperature taken, right? But, have you ever heard of a bird with a built-in thermometer? There is a bird living in Australia that has one—and its thermometer is far more accurate than the one used to measure your temperature! It is called the mallee fowl and it is yet another example of God’s wisdom.

When the time arrives for the female to lay her eggs, she doesn’t fly to the top of a tree. Instead, the male bird digs a pit in the ground and piles a large mound of sticks and leaves in the pit. He covers the leaves and sticks with sand. When he’s finished, the mound may be as high as four feet! With the sand on top, the leaves begin to rot, which produces heat. The male makes a hole in the top of the mound into which the female lays an egg. The male covers the egg. About a week later, the male will make another hole and the female will lay another egg. They will do this until there are about 18 eggs in the nest.

The female stays away from the nest except to lay eggs. The male does most of the work. Several times a day, he pokes his beak into the mixture of leaves and sand. He sticks out his tongue, which is such a good thermometer that it can measure temperature changes of as little as 1/10th of a degree! If the temperature is too low, he adds more sand. If the temperature is too high (which would kill the baby birds growing in the eggs), he scratches away some of the leaves and sand with his feet.

Finally, after about seven weeks, the young birds begin to hatch and dig their way out of the sand and leaves. The parents don’t help, or care for, their baby birds. The newborn babies are designed to care for themselves!

How does the mallee fowl know to prepare the right mixture of sand and leaves? And how does the male know exactly the right temperature for the eggs? And who gave him the "thermometer" tongue that measures temperatures so accurately? Some people want you to believe that these things happened by accident through the process called evolution. But this is not a good answer. Instead, we should give God the credit for such wonderful things. After all, the Bible says that He even takes care of the small sparrows on the Earth (Matthew 10:29). The mallee fowl of Australia is just one more example of God’s wonderful creation!

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