Alert! There’s A Dinosaur at Your Birdfeeder!
Can you believe this? That Townsend’s warbler feasting at your backyard feeder is a direct descendants of dinosaurs. Really.
Our thoughts sometimes turn to birds and nature this time of year because San Luis Obispo County is the destination for lots of migratory species. They like our winter weather as much as we do. It means that birders can see over 200 species in the various habitats in the county in the space of two or three days – that’s what the birders who go to the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival do every year.
The sort of weird dinosaur connection has emerged from years of uncovering fossils and doing all those science-y tests on them. The January 2015 issue of Audubon Magazine has a story about some of the more startling findings about birds and dinosaurs. Here’s some interesting ones:
- Scientists now believe that many, if not most, dinosaurs were covered in feathers. Imagine a red-breasted Rex.
- Dinosaurs’ feathers functioned to help the dinos regulate their temperature. Why? Because they weren’t cold-blooded after all, like we (or some of us, anyway) always thought. They weren’t just big frogs.
- The fossil record shows that dinosaurs laid eggs and hatched them just the way our current birds do. That is, birds do it like dinosaurs did.
- Some dinosaurs developed wing-like structures, and maybe even got a little jumping boost from them. Think of a fat, flightless turkey flapping its wings as it tries to run away.
- When the big extinction happened 65 million years ago, some dinosaurs found that flying helps you avoid being a meal. These are the ancestors of birds.
Reports like this always make me wonder how they know these things. The fossils do exist, of course, but it takes a certain amount of imagination to draw conclusions like these. Still, as time passes, they find more fossils and the story fills in.
What we do know for sure is
that the birds are here again this winter. San Luis Obispo County is blessed to have a wide variety of habitats that support different kinds of birds. Everyone thinks of our ocean and beaches, but we also have low mountain ranges, the dry inland grassland of the Carrizo Plain, coastal cliffs, mixed groves in creek valleys and oak along hillsides, fresh water lakes, coastal dunes with shrubs, and the verge of the dunes.
You don’t have to be an avid birder to enjoy exploring one or more of those habitats in our County, and watch the different birds you find in them. You can contact the Morro Coast Audubon Society for information about birding in the County, and see a lot about the birds at San Luis Obispo County Birds.
If you prefer to sit on the beach, you can find hundreds of great photos of our local birds at these sites.
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