Today is January 5, and I apologize for not providing advance notice that it is Bird Day. Honestly, I had no idea until my buddy and fellow bird enthusiast Keith Collins shared a link on Facebook. So I'm making up for it by posting here, as well as sharing amazing bird photographs on Twitter via the #BirdDay hashtag. Follow along and I'll keep the pix coming for as long as I'm at my computer today.
Here's a recent illustration of me very own, of one of my favorite extant avian theropods, the Short-Eared Owl.
The Short-Eared Owl is one of the few owls that hunts in fields. Steve Gifford, one of my favorite bird photographers and a fellow Hoosier, has taken some absolutely stunning photos of them at abandoned strip mines, where they congeregate to hunt around dusk.
Photograph by Steve Gifford, via Flickr.
Maybe you're new to this blog, and you're thinking "why in the heck is he posting about birds on a dinosaur blog? What's next, a lemon curd recipe?" Well, no. I'm not going to be posting about lemon curd (unless there's a lemon curd manufacturer who uses a dinosaur as a mascot or something like that). The reason I post about birds here is because birds are the dinosaurs who were lucky / resourceful / adaptable enough survive the end-Cretaceous extinction event. They are the standard-bearers for the proud archosaurian lineage that ruled the planet for hundreds of millions of years.
I've said this before here, and so has Marc. The bird-dinosaur link is one of those things I've begun to take for granted, among other bits of paleontological knowledge, such as "marine reptiles and pterosaurs weren't dinosaurs" and "Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus were separated my as much time as Tyrannosaurus and humans." But this is because I spend so much of my time on-line reading paleontology blogs and perusing paleoart, all made by fellow enthusiasts who make up the tiny percentage of folks who pay attention to this science and retain the knowledge of it. In truth, we can't afford to take any of this for granted.
That last bit sounds a bit dramatic, but I think it's true. The most important aspect of dinosaur paleontology, with the most potential for public education, is arguably the bird-dinosaur link. I recently had a conversation with a fellow student, a really sharp and with it person, about my still-incomplete (sadly) printing project dealing with the fossil record of feathers. I touched on the evidence for the theropod origin of birds, and she said with a nod something like "I've heard about that. Like pterodactyls, right?" This is an isolated incident, but I know for a fact that she's closer to the general knowledge level about paleontology than I am. Next time I see her, I'll try to figure out if she retained any of our conversation. Or if I should just cry into my pillow.
Anyhow. Go hug a bird, or at least look at it admiringly. Donate some money to a bird cause of some sort, for instance the Indiana Raptor Center. Read a bit about dinosaur to bird evolution (here's a great, brief summary from DinoBuzz). Make excruciating use of "making a flap" and "ruffling feathers" in your conversations today. Or come up with your own ways to celebrate birds. I've got more photos to tweet!
Tweet! Get it?