Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bird Day!

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.

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.

Short-eared Owl by Steve Gifford
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?


  1. Nice to see Charley Harper's influence living on.

  2. I meant to remark about the Charley Harper influence in your work some time ago too (I hope you don't mind the parallels being drawn; I know such comparisons can be double-edged; but I mean it as a genuine compliment and mark of respect). Awesome owl and hooray for Bird Day!

    I was reminded of the bird-dinosaur link as a knowledge taken for granted only yesterday during a brief exchange online with a friend who likes birds, but 'has an aversion to reptiles'.

  3. Yeah, I own the fact that I rip him off shamelessly. I've noted it from time to time, but not sure where.

  4. But it's not a rip-off. :D It's still you, displaying one facet of your 'schooling'.

  5. Bummer, I've been looking for a great lemon curd recipe...

    Great post. Birds are often some of the only wildlife that people regularly experience, especially in cities. I really like to believe that raising awareness and appreciation of birds will cultivate deeper connections with nature and natural history. I try to be optimistic about that. South Dakota's state bird, the Ring-Necked Pheasant, is a non-native species that folks come from miles around to gun down for sport. I think that says it all about the general attitude here (and probably many other places). In addition to your suggestions above, I think we all should take a couple minutes in honor of Bird Day to collectively cry into our pillows.

  6. "Here's a recent illustration of me very own, of one of my favorite extant avian theropods, the Short-Eared Owl."

    I prefer diurnal raptors (especially eagles), but owls are cool too.

    "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)."

    You should if you can. Lemon curd's good.

    "Donate some money to a bird cause of some sort, for instance the Indiana Raptor Center."

    Do "Friends of Rogers", "Mass Audubon", "The Nature Conservancy" or "The Trustees of Reservations" count? I ask b/c I donated $ to them going into New Year's, but I'm not sure if they're bird-specific enough to count.

  7. Of course they count!

    I just googled the terms dinosaur "lemon curd" and LITC is the number one result. Accomplishment!

  8. Ha, for sure! I didn't even know lemon curd existed before today.

  9. Ugh, did I miss Bird Day again?

    That said, I did get to watch a Snowy Owl getting mobbed by gulls near Nubble Lighthouse this morning. T'was kickass.

  10. @trish - they don't publicize it well, do they? Also THAT SOUNDS AWESOME. Desperately hoping to see a snowy in my parts this year. Every time I see a white plastic bag in a field, I get excited for a split second.


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