Oilbirds are nocturnal forest birds native to northern South America from Trinidad south to Bolivia. They are related to the nightjars (nocturnal birds which include the Whip-poor-will) and are usually placed in the same order as they, but recent evidence suggests that they deserve to be placed in their own order, as they are sufficiently distinct from the nightjars. Unlike the nightjars, which are insectivores, Oilbirds are vegetarians, feeding mainly on the fruits of the Oil Palm and tropical laurels. They will also eat a wide variety of other fruits. They are the only nocturnal fruit eating bird in the world and have extremely powerful night vision, thanks to about one million light receptors packed into every square millimeter of their retinas. They will travel long distances in search of food and have been known to travel up to 93 miles in a night, but normally travel around 25 miles a night. 

The most unusual thing about Oilbirds is that they nest deep in caves in total darkness. As good as their eyesight is, their eyes are useless in this total darkness. To navigate, Oilbirds echolocate, similar to bats, by producing a series of sharp audible clicks at a frequency of 7,000 cycles per second. They also produce a variety of harsh screams while in the caves. With their three foot wingspans, Oilbirds are capable of a hovering and twisting type flight which helps in navigating through the restricted areas of their caves. The birds are social and prefer to nest in large colonies on ledges over water where they lay two to four glossy white eggs. The naked young are fed a rich diet of Oil Palm fruits and become grotesquely fat, weighing up to half again as much as the adult birds. Local Indians and settlers used to harvest these fat young birds for their high oil content, hence the name Oilbird. They lose this baby fat when their feathers begin to grow in. 

Just as the young Oilbirds feast on and store up the oil from the Palm Oil fruits that their parents feed them, so should we Christians feed on and store up the oil that our Heavenly Father has provided for us. “By the holy beings surrounding his throne, the Lord keeps up a constant communication with the inhabitants of the earth. The golden oil represents the grace with which God keeps the lamps of believers supplied. Were it not that this holy oil is poured from heaven in the message of God’s Spirit, the agencies of evil would have entire control over men.” The Southern Watchman, May 21, 1907. 

“The capacity for receiving the holy oil from the two olive trees which empty themselves, is by the receiver emptying that holy oil out of himself in word and in action to supply the necessities of other souls. Work, precious, satisfying work—to be constantly receiving and constantly imparting! The capacity for receiving is only kept up by imparting.” sda   Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1180.  

“When the call shall come, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him’ [Matthew 25:6], those who have not received the holy oil, who have not cherished the grace of Christ in their hearts, will find, like the foolish virgins, that they are not ready to meet their Lord. They have not in themselves the power to obtain the oil, and their lives are wrecked. But if God’s Spirit is asked for, if we plead, as did Moses, ‘Show me thy glory’ [Exodus 33:18], the love of God will be shed abroad in our hearts. The golden oil will be given to us.” The Southern Watchman, May 21, 1907.

David Arbour