Coots Can Count
“If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.”
Researchers spent every day of four breeding seasons in a Canadian marsh watching the behavior of nesting American coots – a bird that looks very much like a duck. They concluded that coots can count.
The researchers found that 41 percent of the nests were victims of “stealth egg layers.” Stealth egg laying takes place when a female coot sneaks into an unattended nest and lays an egg for another couple to raise. This is a problem because the extra mouth to feed increases the likelihood that some of that couple’s own hatchlings will starve. It was observed that the mother coot protects her young by rolling the “stealth” egg out of the nest or burying it in the nesting material. The “stealth” eggs are usually a slightly different color, and the mother coot can discriminate between these eggs and her own on the basis of this color difference. However, researchers wanted to know if the coots were actually counting their eggs. Reviewing their data on each nest, researchers discovered the coots who accepted foreign eggs usually laid fewer of their own eggs, presumably to prevent starvation of their own young. From this, they concluded that coots can count.
The Psalmist says that God’s thoughts are beyond counting. However, His most important thought toward us is one of love because of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Father, I thank You for revealing that Your thoughts toward us are loving for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Ref: Science News, 4/5/03, p. 212, S. Milius, “Careful Coots.” Photo: American Coots (PD)
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