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New Orleans, LA
USA

(504) 517-4844

Blog

field notes: on bird evolution

Emily Degan

As some of you know, I’m in training to become a Certified Master Naturalist for the greater New Orleans area. I hoped that by gaining a better understanding of the plants and animals I encounter in the field, I would get more out of my outdoor experiences. So far, the program has not disappointed.

 One of Grand Isle's beautiful bird trails. 

One of Grand Isle's beautiful bird trails. 

My class spent last weekend in Grand Isle, Louisiana, which was celebrating its annual Migratory Bird Festival. Before bird-watching, Erik Johnson, Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon Louisiana, gave a presentation, which covered (among other things) bird evolutionary biology. I found this topic fascinating, so I thought I’d share a few quick facts:

  • Birds did not evolve from flighted dinosaurs, as is commonly assumed, but instead from the non-flighted tetanurans.
  • This means that over the course of natural history, flight has evolved more than once!
  • Birds’ closest living relatives are actually crocodiles.
  • The earliest birds came into existence about 150 million years ago, but 65 million years ago, today’s continents split apart, and birds on different continents evolved in isolation. But they all ended up with mostly the same features and capabilities!

The more I learn, the more surprised and amazed I am by nature - maybe you feel the same.  

Happy learning!
Emily