This part of my Paleobirding series will trigger you in one of two ways: either by giving away the entire plot of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom if you haven't seen it yet (I am posting this a month after the film was released to give people time to see it), or by ruining your childhood movie monsters for the 65 millionth time. If you haven't seen FK yet and don't want to know about major parts of the story-line, then don't read this post. I was originally going to give an entire summary of the plot, but due to some people saying that my post on feathers was too long, I've decided only to break down the inaccuracies of the major scenes that have specific inaccuracies I need to point out. At the end, I will rate the movie based on my honest opinion, not on rating the level of accuracy (which might be a factor). I may continue this format whenever I review movies on this site. Now that you've been warned, let's begin.
I had low expectations for Fallen Kingdom ever since I saw the first trailer back in December, and I was unfortunately right. Acting and cast was subpar (out of the cast, I was only familiar with Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and B.D. Wong who were in the previous film, and Wong played Dr. Wu in the first film). That's not what I'm here to review, I'm going to talk about the science of Jurassic World II, or more accurately, the pseudoscience of it. Hang on to your butts.
Fallen Kingdom takes place three years after the demise of the Jurassic World theme park on Isla Nublar, the dinosaurs roam freely and try to fight to survive on the island until a volcanic eruption from Mount Sibo threatens their existence. On Isla Nublar, a group of mercenaries are sent to recover the bones of the Indominus rex from the Jurassic World lagoon for at the time unspecified purposes. A submersible is sent down to retrieve the bones, and it sends them up on a buoy before it is attacked by the Mosasaurus. The people on land who opened the gate to the lagoon lose contact with the submarine pilots. The surface team has their own problems as well, as when Isla Nublar's veteran Tyrannosaurus rex attacks the group, they have to grab the I. rex fragment and get out as soon as possible. One man is left on the ground and their helicopter lets down a rope ladder. They escape the Tyrannosaurus but the man on the rope ladder is swallowed by the Mosasaurus after it jumps into the air, and the Mosasaurus escapes into the open ocean. I will address the anatomical problems with Rexy later, so for now, I will focus on the inaccuracies of the Mosasaurus. While commonly labeled “aquatic dinosaurs” by pop culture, mosasaurs are not dinosaurs, their taxonomic alignment is within Squamata, which includes lizards and snakes, more spefically, monitor lizards. In this model of the Mosasaurus, there are several problems with its anatomy: first being the the tail is wrong, a Prognathodon specimen had an impression that resembles a tail fluke like in other marine vertebrates. A tail fluke would allow a mosasaur to swim faster to catch prey, which includes whatever animals can fit in its massive jaws or cannot swim away. Second, because of their close relationship with monitor lizards (which have forked tongues to taste the air for traces of prey), Mosasaurus should also have a forked tongue for the same reasons. Third, melanosomes (pigment cells) in the scales on a Platecarpus specimen indicate that mosasaurs had countershading, which is a coloration pattern with darker color on top, and lighter on the bottom, making it harder for prey (and predators for smaller mosasaurs like Globidens and Cliadestes) to see them. Sharks, cetaceans, pelagic fishes, penguins, and Leatherback Turtles also have this coloration. The last anatomical inaccuracy I have to point out are the osteoderm ridges, which no living or extinct squamate has, the scales overlap.
The last inaccuracy about the Mosasaurus I have to point out is its size: while it’s common for pop culture to exaggerate the size of extinct animals, with common examples being Velociraptor (which I will discuss in this post), the Carnotaurus in Disney’s Dinosaur, the mammoths, saber-toothed cat, and possibly the terror bird in 10,000 BC, many of the “extinct*” animals in 1 Million Years BC, possibly Megalodon in The Meg (which comes out this summer, I may see this for fun), and most famously Ornithecheirus (now Tropegnathus) and Liopleurodon in the Walking With... series, among others. The largest species of mosasaur, Mosasaurus hoffmannii, has been estimated to be 60 feet long based on fossil remains. This mosasaur’s size exaggeration, however, is in a category of its own; one might call it a “kaiju,” or giant monster. Estimates given by other paleo-enthusiasts who’ve tried to fact check Jurassic World vary due to inconsistencies with the scaling when compared to the underwater viewing area seen during feeding sessions and when it drags the Indominus to its death (which is roughly the same size as the T. rex and would’ve grown to 50 feet when fully grown according to Dr. Wu), but one I’ve heard places it around 80-100 feet, roughly the size of a blue whale at the higher end and about the same size as the Liopleurodon from Walking With series at the lower end. In the few scenes where we see more of the Mosasaurus’s body, it appears to have gotten bigger. Unlike theropods and synapsids, which reach a maximum size upon achieving sexual maturity, fish and reptiles grow throughout their lives provided there is enough food and space to do so. This is why some of the biggest fish caught are estimated to have lived considerably long lives by the time they are caught, and how Walking With Dinosaurs justified the massive size of the Liopleurodon (plus estimates made based on Pliosaurus funkei aka “Predator X”. The Mosasaurus lagoon on Isla Nublar is nowhere as big as the Tethys or Western interior seaways, and without regular feeding from park staff, the Mosasaurus should not be able to have achieved its current size. In figure 6, I posted a comparison of scenes from the two most recent movies where the Mosasaurus’s head is seen in comparison to the monorail.
*most of the extinct animals in this movie were modern animals that were made to look bigger using camera angles and scaling issues, the "Tyrannosaurus" was actually smaller than it was in real life
"I need your team to bring me back this specific dinosaur
for shady reasons i'm not going to tell you about"
This has prompted a campaign to save them, because, gosh dang it, we can’t let the poor dears go extinct all over again. Genetically engineered abominations have feelings too. Claire (you know – high heels) is involved in the Dinosaur Protection Group, which is lobbying the US Congress to go and spirit the dinosaurs away to safety.After listening to a brief speech by Ian Malcolm, Congress rejects this idea as totally bonkers, and Claire goes into a sulk. InGen/Masrani’s creations are all consumed by lava, and everyone gets on with their lives. The end? Claire then meets Benjamin Lockwood, an old business partner of John Hammond, who agrees to fund the rescue mission and bring the dinosaurs to a new sanctuary island where they will be left to live on their own, safe from human interference (or so we think). Lockwood's assistant, Eli Mills, asks Claire to recruit Owen Grady, a former raptor trainer who worked at the park, to find and capture Blue, the last surviving Velociraptor. Mills doesn't give too many details on why he needs Blue, but Claire recruits Owen to help her rescue the remaining dinosaurs from the island. At first, Owen declines this offer, but he eventually agrees to go.
Claire and Owen then set off on a charter plane with Zia Rodriguez, a paleo-veterinarian, and Franklin Webb, an IT expert, both from the Dinosaur Protection Group. Once their plane lands, the group is surprised to find a large base camp has already been set up, and they are met by Ken Wheatley, a big game and trophy hunter (greaaat). They all set off along with a group of mercenaries to reactivate an abandoned radio communications tower that they will use to find the dinosaurs via their RFID chip implants. Along the way while passing through the Jurassic World main street, they encounter a Brachiosaurus. While this dinosaur's depiction has aged relatively well, I have a few nitpicks, the first being that the dinosaur InGen's brachiosaur has been reclassified as Giraffatitan, which used to be a species of Brachiosaurus named B. brancai (the only accepted species in Brachiosaurus is B. altithorax, as B. atalaiensis has been reassigned to Lusotitan). The other is that brachiosaurs would've held their necks at a 45-60 degree angle, not straight up. Sauropods had long necks to act as a counterbalance for their long tails. Lastly, I think it might be too skinny: It's common for paleoartists to go easy on sof tissue when reconstructing dinosaurs, and sauropods are no exception. Brachiosaurus might have had a nasal pouch on its head, however, this is all speculation.
Owen, Zia, Wheatley and some of the mercenaries go to find Blue. Owen suggests that he set out on his own to find Blue, and the others stay behind at the truck. When Owen comes upon the fallen Explorer 04 near the old Tyrannosaur Paddock from the first Jurassic Park, Blue jumps out and Owen tries to bond with her before she is tranquilized by Wheatley and his mercenaries. Angry, Blue tackles a mercenary before he draws his sidearm and shoots up at Blue, much to Wheatley's and Owen's dismay. Owen tries to attack Wheatley but Wheatley tranquilizes him and threatens to shoot Zia. Zia says that she is the only one who can keep Blue alive and Wheatley puts his weapons down. I know, it seems like I can't talk about Jurassic Park without complaining about how the Velociraptors are not even Velociraptors and that they should have feathers and inward facing hands, even though I devoted the first post in my paleontology to what feathers are and which groups of dinosaurs had them (seriously, if you haven't read it by this point, I suggest you do so NOW), so in the interest of not beating a dead Humminghorse, I will reiterate that from the incredibly well preserved fossil of Zhenyuanlong, we know that dromaeosaurs had a full tail fan of pennaceous feathers, contour feathers covering the body, and most importantly, pennaceous feathers on the arms to form wings.
Mt. Sibo erupts, causing the mercenaries protecting Claire and Franklin to panic and drive off, locking them inside the old communications center. A Baryonyx surprises them by crawling through an old tunnel, but is temporarily held at bay by falling lava. Franklin and Claire narrowly escape through an emergency ladder and lock the Baryonyx inside the communications center. On one hand, the inclusion of Baryonyx in the fifth film is in my opinion long overdue for the Jurassic Park series because of how prominently it appeared in companion books, websites, and games. On the other, the producers did NOT do this spinosaur justice. The first problem is in the hands, not only are they pronated incorrectly as is standard with Jurassic Park theropod reconstructions, it's missing the hook-like claw on the second finger which most spinosaurids would've used to spear fish with. On top of that, the name Baryonyx means "heavy claw," so you would thing it would have this feature. Another inconsistency with spinosaur anatomy is the jaws on this Baryonyx: they're too broad, like a caiman; all spinosaurids had long narrow jaws with a hook at the end to aid in catching fish, Baryonyx was the first spinosaur discovered to have this feature. Third is it's missing the raised neural spines on the back that are also common to spinosaurs. Lastly, it did NOT have crocodile-like osteoderms running down the back.
Hours after the DPG has darted Owen and taken Blue and Zia, we see that Owen awakes from his unconsciousness, but is still mostly immobile. He is surprised by a Sinoceratops, which plays with him for a little while before running away. Lava crawls toward him and he escapes just before he is burnt. He sees Claire and Franklin and the three run away from the lava and falling debris, while being chased by stampeding dinosaurs. I was honestly surprised to see Sinoceratops in this film, as it is a relatively new genus, when most taxa in the Jurassic Park series were described before 1993 (Sino received its name in 2010). It's also a fairly decent depiction of the genus with only one problem: the holes in its frill. It's clearly a reference to Patchi in Walking With Dinosaurs 3D, a Pachyrhinosaurus who survived an attack by the as yet undescribed Alaskan troodontid as a baby, escaping with an hole in his frill. All centrosaurids have two openings in their frill that would most likely have been covered up by soft tissue, but Jurassic World's Sinoceratops took the injury to a greater extent by having the holes present over both openings. The scene when the Sinoceratops licks Owen is actually more accurate than you would think. A study examining the hyoid bones (which anchor the tongue to the mouth) of 330 fossil specimens of extinct taxa, as well as the hyoid muscles and bones of 15 modern animals related to dinosaurs, found that most of the dinosaurs had short and simple tongues similar to crocodilians. Birds, by contrast, have very diverse and complex tongues. The researchers found that bird-like dinosaurs and pterosaurs also had complicated tongue bones, which led them to posit that the evolution of diversity and mobility in tongues might be connected to flight. When ancient creatures’ hands evolved into wings, they needed mobile tongues so they could better manipulate food. flight may have also allowed dinosaurs to access different kinds of food, which required specialized tongues and mouths. Ornithischians like ceratopsians also had complex hyoids because they needed to chew their food more than large carnivores, who could easily tear off large chunks of food to swallow whole.
Having survived the Baryonyx encounter, causing the island’s dinosaurs to stampede to flee the pyroclastic flow. The biggest problem I have with this scene is that in an attempt to escape the flow, we see multi-ton dinosaurs like Apatosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus galloping. Multi-ton dinosaurs GALLOPING! While we don’t have any living dinosaurs to use as a model to estimate speed, one way paleontologists estimate how fast dinosaurs could move is by using equations based on the distance between footfalls and the size of the feet as well as estimates based on the morphology of an animal. Using the trackway method, the fastest speed of a dinosaur is about 12 meters per second or 27 mph. Paleontologists make predictions about functional morphology from anatomical features such as muscle scars. There are at least two ways to estimate speed after looking at morphology: one is to simply compare dinosaurs with living animals whose motion we understand better, and make assumptions based on the similarities and differences between the two. This can be called the morphological paradigm. Many hadrosaurs and theropods had skeletal structure that was similar to that of some modern cursors (animals that are good runners, like horses and ostriches): long legs, digitigrade stance (walking on one's toes), etc. So we might think that some of those dinosaurs were “cursorial,” or specialized for locomotion, but because their locomotory features are not as specialized as those of many of the faster extant runners, we think that it is unlikely that any non-avian dinosaurs ran incredibly fast. Similarly, many sauropods, thyreophorans (armored dinosaurs), and ceratopsians were similar to modern graviportal (non-cursorial, heavily-built) animals like elephants, so paleontologists think that such large dinosaurs were less speedy. In general, big land animals use less strenous activities than their smaller relatives. Therefore, those galloping herbivores is unfortunately inaccurate. A pyroclastic flow (the cloud of gas and volcanic matter emitted from a volcano during an eruption), on the other hand, can reach speeds of 700 km/hr (430 mph) and temperatures of 1,000 C (1,830 F), so if this movie was to be accurate, it would’ve ended here because anything on the island would have been cooked alive with the possible exception of the Pteranodons that could fly away, and even they can't fly with the way their wing membranes are attached to their tail and pointed wings
Owen, Claire, and Franklin take shelter behind a broken gyrosphere (the orbs ridden in Jurassic World to get a better look at the dinosaurs) when they are approached by a Carnotaurus, an abelisaurid that many fans have wanted to see in the JP series (including myself). Surprisingly, the Carnotaurus actually looks fairly accurate for a change. Only one relatively complete specimen of Carnotaurus has been found, and from that specimen, we know this was a medium size theropod with two horns on the skull, long legs for sprinting, tiny backward-facing arms like all abelisaurs, and mostly scaly skin with osteoderms (one of the few dinosaurs we have extensive scale impressions from). Jurassic World’s Carnotaurus has all of these features, so it passes my accuracy test (although they could’ve given it less spikes). Another Sinoceratops (or possibly the same one from before) appears and challenges the Carnotaurus to a fight. The centrosaurine wins, causing to turn the attention of the Carnotaurus back to humans. Just as it is about to attack, Isla Nublar's Tyrannosaurus appears and chomps down on the smaller carnivore's neck, killing it.
Rexy's intrusion gives the DPG enough time to make their escape. Owen is slowed down a bit by the ash, but Claire and Franklin fall off the edge with several other dinosaurs. The magma bombs break the Gyrosphere, and Claire and Franklin almost drown, but are able to survive when Owen opens one of the doors
It was all a lie!"
Crawling up on the beach, they see how several of the dinosaurs, such as the Baryonyx and T. rex are all being captured. The ship begins caging all of the captured dinos, Owen, Claire, and Franklin use a truck to drive on the ship, which is leaving the island, they only barely make it, and watch the island burn up in the background. A trapped Brachiosaurus calls out to the departing ship before being engulfed by the ash and dying.
Back at Lockwood Estate, we learn that Eli and Gunnar Eversol plan to sell the dinosaurs for money. Eli takes Gunnar to a lab, where he reveals that they are creating a new dinosaur, called the Indoraptor. With the current one being a prototype, and their plan to use it for militaristic purposes. Lockwood's apparent granddaughter Maisie overhears their conversation and learns of their plan, who attempts to tell Benjamin, but he seemingly believes she misheard them and sends her to bed.
Zia believes they need Blue for something, so in order to save Blue’s life, Zia informs Claire and Owen that they need to give her a blood transfusion. The only problem is that Blue was the only member of Owen’s raptor pack to survive the battle with the Indominus rex, so Zia suggests they take blood from another tetanuran on board the ship, specifically the T. rex. They find the rex and successfully get her blood but are locked in by some of the guards as she wakes up. As the agitated animal begins to thrash violently, Claire escapes through the top and opens the main doors of the cage. Could you actually give a dromaeosaur blood from a tyrannosaur? Surprisingly, you can, but it can only be done once. Cross-species transfusions, or xenotransfusions, are possible, but they’re incredibly risky because the immune system of the animal your giving blood will recognize the blood for the transfusion as foreign and protect the body from invasion. According to Dr Katherine Queensbury, an exotic animal veterinarian who has performed about 50 xenotransfusions in birds, “Whenever you go across species, the red blood cells are destroyed, and it varies how long they last. It can be as short as half a day, or five to six days, but what that gives you is time to stabilize the animal and provide other life-supportive measures. Once the foreign matter is introduced into the body, it produces antibodies to reject that. When you use the same species, you might not get that reaction, but when you do dog to cat or pigeon to parrot, their bodies recognize those blood cells as foreign, and the next time you transfuse the animal will go into shock.” The second time you attempt a xenotransfusion, there is a 60% chance the patient will die because “you would expect more complications, like the red blood cells breaking apart or severe allergic reaction,” according to veterinarian Lauren Witter. Zia is correct by referring to T. rex and Velociraptor as tetanurans, but Blue and Rexy are much more closely related than that. Tetanurae is the clade that includes carnosaurs, tyrannosaurs, maniraptorans, and megalosauroids. A further division of Tetanurae is Avetheropoda, a branch that can be divided into carnosaurs (allosaurs, carcharodontosaurs, neovenatorids, and megaraptorans) and ceolorusaurians (tyrannosauroids, compsognathids, and maniraptoriforms). As I mentioned in my blog post on feathers, maniraptoriforms include ornithomimids, alvarezasaurs, therizinosaurs, oviraptorids, scansoriopterygids, dromaeosaurs, troodontids, and avialans. Claire and Owen could’ve taken blood from one of the Gallimimus Wheatley's team had captured or even better, from a bird if one happened to land on the ship to save Blue, but there would still be the same risk of an allergic reaction if the procedure was repeated.
Franklin is caught is forced to help transfer the dinosaurs to Lockwood Manor. Owen and Claire sneak into a truck, but are discovered by Wheatley and imprisoned in the basement of Lockwood Manor.
Maisie, having observed Mills entering the entrance code for the mansion's elevator the previous day, secretly enters the laboratory and watches several clips of Owen training the Velociraptors on Isla Nublar. This is where we see the famous scene from the first trailer of Owen and Blue bonding. Even as a baby, Blue has all the anatomical problems that are standard for Jurassic Park raptors such as pronated hands and the lack of feathers, but that's not my main problem with Blue: she has too many teeth in this scene! Her teeth extend all the way back to a bone in the skull called the lacrimal, which no dinosaur, or any vertebrate for that matter, has teeth on.
Another thing is all the babies have adult skull anatomy. Vertebrates do not start out life resembling the adult form in miniature, and dinosaurs are no exception. Theropods would've started out with gracile skulls with large craniums and gracile jaws that eventually strengthen to give the animal more strength. An interesting if drastic example of how an animal's ontogeny changes throughout its life stges is Tyrannosaurus, which started out with thin crocodile-like jaws and long legs for pursuing fast prey that eventually develops into thicker legs and bone-crushing jaws perfect for hunting large ornithischians. I will talk about another example of unique dinosaur ontogeny when I get to the auction
Maisie's exploration is interrupted by Mills and Dr. Henry Wu; the latter is extremely stressed about Blue's condition. Maisie, in an attempt to escape the two men, backs into a corridor and encounters the Indoraptor, who startles Maisie, alerting the attention of Mills, who angrily escorts her upstairs and locks her in her bedroom.
Lockwood confronts Mills about the latter's true intention of selling the dinosaurs in an auction, angered that Mills has crossed him and used his own mansion as the auction's venue. Ordered by Lockwood to call the police himself, Mills instead murders Lockwood by smothering him with a pillow. Bidders soon arrive for a dinosaur auction and place their bids on various species of dinosaurs captured by the team on the island, including an Ankylosaurus, a juvenile Allosaurus, a Baryonyx, and multiple others. The final dinosaur Eversol and Mills show the crowd the prototype Indoraptor, emphasizing that the animal is not for sale.
After being captured by Wheatley, Owen attracts the attention of a Stygimoloch, causing her to break through the wall and eventually break through the doors of Owen and Claire's cell allowing them to escape. While the Stygimoloch looks decent anatomy-wise, there is one big thing about this dinosaur I have to criticize Jurassic World on: it doesn’t exist. I’m not saying it was a fictional genus like Indominus or Indoraptor, it’s really a subadult Pachycephalosaurus. Jack Horner, the scientific advisor for the entire Jurassic Park franchise, determined in 2009 that both Dracorex and Stygimoloch were not mature adults by examining the internal bone structure of skulls of each pachycephalosaur; both exhibit bone texture and composition consistent with juvenile and subadult age, respectively. They further found that pachycephalosaurs "employed metasplasia to rapidly grow and change the size and shape of their horns, cranial ornaments and frontoparietal domes, resulting in extreme cranial alterations during late stages of growth." Other paleontologists found that other known "domeless" pachycephalosaurs are juvenile individuals which develop domes as they reach adulthood, and can likely be synonymized with previously named taxa. In 2016, Goodwin & Evans described remains of juvenile Pachycephalosaurus significantly smaller than "Dracorex", and also confirmed that the characteristic horns or studs at the rear of the skull were present even at a very young age. Goodwin & Evans also give us a term (originally coined by Dr. Denver Fowler and adopted by Horner and others) to describe the very distinct growth stages that many ornithischians and some theropods exhibit over their lifetimes: ontigimorphs. To add to this, Horner advised director J. A. Bayonna against putting Stygimoloch in Fallen Kingdom, but the latter unfortunately ignored Horner.
Owen and Claire encounter Maisie, who has escaped her room and discovered her dead grandfather, and the three enter the auction room as the Indoraptor is being displayed. Understanding that the Indoraptor is far too dangerous to be sold, Owen disrupts the auction's proceedings with the aid of the subadult Pachycephalosaurus and wreaks havoc among the spectators, causing Mills and Eversol to end the auction.
A creature of the future, made from pieces of the past! Ladies and gentlemen, please be warned! This is the perfect hybrid of the two most dangerous creatures that ever walked the Earth! We call it...the Indoraptor!"
I know what you're going to say when I reveal I'm going to try and break down the inaccuracies of the Indoraptor: "Josh, the Indoraptor is not a real genus, so it gets a pass for being inaccurate. Shut up." My response is that I will be examining it as if paleontologists have discovered the remains of a theropod and described the new genus as Indoraptor, similar to how I examined Mosasaurus, Giraffatitan, Baryonyx, Sinoceratops, Carnotaurus, and Pachycephalosaurus/Stygimoloch. In doing so, I will speculate other creatures that are included in the Indoraptor's genome. We already because since it is a modification of the Indominus rex that Indoraptor has the DNA of Tyrannosaurus, "Velociraptor," Giganotosaurus, Majungasaurus, Carnotaurus, Rugops, various anurans (frogs and toads), an unidentified pit viper, and cuttlefish, but anything else is open for wild speculation.
Overlapping scales on the back: I already stated when I talked about the Mosasaurus that archosaurs didn't have overlapping scales. This has to be a product of squamate DNA. These could also be enlarged osteoderms like those on the back of a notosuchian called Armadillosuchus, but any crocodilian could be used to explain the osteoderms.
Dentition: I'm guessing the tusklike teeth of Indoraptor are a holdover from Indominus rex, and since no dinosaur had teeth like that, I'm guessing it's an artistic liberty. An alternative explanation is it could have pliosaur DNA, but since that was not in the genome of Indominus, it's very unlikely and a fringe theory at best.
Quills: Since Bayonna and Trevorrow are pretty much anti-feather, I wouldn't be surprised if the feathers were just miniscule quills (the Mononykus diorama in Lockwood's personal museum also had a few quills on the tail) like the male raptors in Jurassic Park ///. This is not enough in my opinion, you either need give the dinosaur correct feathers (tail fan, wings, full coat of feathers stopping at the mouth and feet), or don't give it feathers at all. It could be the result of DNA from an ornithischian called Tianyulong, which I talked about in my feather post (read it, it's worth it)
Quadrupedal stance: Now this is my main problem with the Indoraptor: no theropod has any adaptations for walking on four legs. There is precedent for this however, as when Megalosaurus, the first dinosaur ever known to science, was first discovered, it was initially depicted as a gigantic lizard walking on four legs. Flash forward to late 2014, after most intellectual people have accepted that dinosaurs had feathers, a paper was released that proposed Spinosaurus had short legs adapted for a semiaquatic lifestyle. The researchers concluded that Spinosaurus would have to walk on its knuckles like a gorilla (insert fanboy backlash here). There was a problem with this reconstruction, as Spinosaurus, like other theropods, could not rotate their wrists like primates can, ruling it out as a source of DNA. The only other possible source of this DNA is from an ornithopod, which could walk on four legs and run on two when they need to, but I have an even crazier hypothesis that I'll reveal after I continue the plot summary.
Lastly, this thing is skinny as hell, I was wondering why nobody fed it before its debut at the auction.
Later in the evening, Wheatley enters the deserted auction room and notices the Indoraptor. Having never seen the creature before and wanting one of its teeth for his necklace, Wheatley shoots the Indoraptor with two tranquilizer darts and enters the cage after the Indoraptor appears to be sedated. In reality, the Indoraptor is unaffected by the tranquilizer darts; he smiles and distracts Wheatley by waving his tail in the air before severing Wheatley's arm and devouring him. Another nitpick is the shock and loss of blood from the Indoraptor ripping Wheatley's arm should have killed him immediately though. The Indoraptor then exits his cage and pursues Eversol and other executives taking refuge in an elevator. Eversol successfully closes the elevator before the Indoraptor reaches them; however, the hybrid uses its tail to cut off power supply to the auction room, which automatically reopens the elevator door. The Indoraptor then devours Eversol and the other executives. Owen reunites with Claire and Maisie and the three encounter Mills and two security guards in the mansion's basement. After unsuccessfully coaxing Maisie to come with him, Mills angrily reveals that Maisie is actually a clone of Lockwood's beloved daughter who had perished in a car accident many years prior. As Owen, Claire and Maisie process this revelation, the Indoraptor suddenly appears and kills the two security guards, prompting the others to flee. Owen, Claire and Maisie take refuge on the main floor of Lockwood's mansion, in the skeleton and replica display room. They notice a human corpse on the ground near a Triceratops skull; as they approach it, the Indoraptor reveals himself and pulls the corpse farther behind the skull. The three protagonists take refuge against one of the walls of the skull's casing, but the Indoraptor successfully locates their vantage point by tracking their scent and climbing on top of the Triceratops skull. The Indoraptor chases Owen, Claire and Maisie up a spiraling staircase before the three escape into a power supply room, where Owen turns off the entire mansion's power. Zia and Franklin discover a hydrogen cyanide leak near the laboratory, which will kill all of the dinosaurs if it spreads to the encaging area. Franklin resets the control system in order to restore power to the mansion. At this time, Owen, Claire and Maisie are hiding behind a diorama of a Velociraptor and Dilophosaurus engaged in battle near a glass wall. Maisie soon realizes that she is staring into the face of the Indoraptor through the glass wall and shrieks in terror; the Indoraptor breaks the wall and pursues the group once again, injuring Claire's leg with his toe claw in the process. The Indoraptor chases Maisie up another staircase and down a hallway until Maisie escapes up to her bedroom, where she takes refuge in her bed. Owen is urged to take care of Maisie by the injured Claire; the two share a passionate kiss before Owen leaves to search for Maisie. The Indoraptor, who by this point has ascended to the mansion's roof, lets out a demonic screech and descends the building until he reaches the windows leading to Maisie's room. Hanging upside down, the Indoraptor opens one of the windows and enters Maisie's room, slowly approaching her bed as she begins to shiver and cry (for those who saw the trailer that premiered during the Super Bowl this year, this is the scene where we only see the hand and mouth of the Indoraptor that I saw on YouTube the next day during the events of Chapter 5). Basically, a hand position like that is impossible for any theropod. All theropods have special bones in their wrists that keep the hands pointing inward like the dinosaur is clapping. In order for the Indoraptor to move its arm in this positon, it would either have to dislocate its shoulder or the arm would have to be in its mouth. Another possible, but crazy idea (hey, if we've got streaker dromaeosaurs, kaiju Mosasaurus, Harryhausen ripoffs, living dinosaur toys, escaping pyroclastic flows, and GMO monsters, I might as well go all out with crazy ideas) is that the Indoraptor has human DNA in its genome, which would also support its hyper intelligence.
The Indoraptor fends off Blue and traps Owen and Maisie on the glass roof of the display room. Just before the Indoraptor pounces, Claire appears and coaxes him into attacking Owen with the laser and acoustic signal on the same gun used in the auction demonstration. The Indoraptor charges towards Owen and falls through the glass roof; however, he manages to grab ahold of a rafter connecting the glass panes together and pulls himself back atop the roof. Blue suddenly appears and jumps onto the Indoraptor, causing both to fall down into the display room. The Indoraptor falls directly onto the Triceratops skull, which impales and kills him, while Blue lands on top of the hybrid's corpse and escapes. Franklin and Zia enter and reunite with Owen, Claire and Maisie, and the five protagonists escape the battleground.
However, a new issue looms; the dinosaurs are trapped in a room that is flooded by noxious hydrogen cyanide. Earlier, while Zia and Franklin were tending to Blue in Wu's laboratory. Zia revealed to Wu that she had given Blue a transfusion of T. rex blood, infuriating Wu, as it would now be impossible to create an Indoraptor with Blue's pure genome. As Zia and Franklin flee to safety, Blue kills the two gunmen and escapes the laboratory before a massive explosion occurs - the brief battle had caused damage to several tanks of hydrogen gas within the laboratory. Claire releases all of the dinosaurs’ cages one by one. Claire puts her hand on the red button that would release all of them from the entire building, but Owen discourages Claire to do so, thus making Claire resist because she does not want the dinosaurs to destroy the world. However, Maisie pushes the button anyway, allowing the dinosaurs to escape to the mainland. As Mills is about to put the Indominus rex fragment into the car, a stampede sound can be heard. As one of the men goes to investigate, a Pteranodon snatches and drops him onto Mills’ car, killing him. The now free dinosaurs begin to stampede out of the mansion, trampling another guard. Mills immediately takes refuge under the car, which is quickly destroyed in the stampede. As Mills gets up from his wrecked car and picks up the I. rex fragment, the T. rex approaches and bites him, brutally shredding him before splitting the meal with a Carnotaurus. The T. rex then knocks over the Carnotaurus with her head and the Carnotaurus gets up and runs off. The T. rex roars and walks away, crushing the I. rex fragment in the process and ensuring that no carnivorous hybrid can ever wreak havoc upon the world again. Owen, Claire, Franklin, Zia, and Maisie all exit through the entrance of the Lockwood Manor, where Blue reunites with Owen, and even touches Owen’s hand. Owen instructs for Blue to accompany him; however, Blue denies him, as she would rather run free on her own than be kept in a cage again. Ian sums up his speech, as a sequence of shots are displayed such as the Mosasaurus attacking surfers, the T. rex roaring at a lion in a zoo, Owen, Claire and Maisie are seen driving down the highway to an unknown destination, and Blue climbing onto top of a cliff with a suburban setting below and calling out into the sunset. While Malcom makes it seem like the humans are the ones in danger, more people think its actually the dinosaurs. Paleontologist Dr. Thomas Holtz thinks the animals that escaped are in for a bad time, claiming that humans are very dangerous when threatened on their own territory. I guess we'll have to wait for Jurassic World 3 to find out what will happen to the dinosaurs...
These creatures were here before us and, if we're not careful, they're gonna be here after. Life cannot be contained. Life breaks free. Life... finds a way. We've entered a new era. Welcome to Jurassic World."
As always with the Jurassic Park series, there are lots of sloppy mistakes with the animal designs such as that the Pteranodons should not be able to fly with the way their wing membrane is attached to the body or how one picks up Lockwood's business partner with its feet like a reptilian eagle (I will cover pterosaurs as a whole in my next paleontology post), all the theropods having wrists that are broken, T. rex roaring all the time when it probably would've sounded similar to modern ratites (I've heard captive rheas boom, that sound goes right through you), incredibly boring color schemes, the absence of a "boss" on Apatosaurus, and, of course, the blatant lack of feathers when many of the dinosaurs in the movie have relatives with direct evidence of feathers. So yeah, JW2 completely butchered paleontological knowledge as always. Anyway, I'm going to wrap it up here, because I don't want to anger too many fanboys. I really want to review The Big Year in this fashion, but I'm not sure what I'll do about movies after that, and will probably check the results of the survey I linked to in Chapter 14. I'm definitely going to talk about The Big Year, though, you can't change that.
This is where I will give my opinion of the movie without any of the scientific talk, then give my final verdict on the movie by adding up the number of gold stars and divide by the number of criteria
Plot consistency: ⭐⭐✰✰✰
Taxa represented: ⭐⭐⭐✰✰
Scientific accuracy: ✰✰✰✰✰
Computer graphics/practical effects: ⭐✰✰✰✰
Jeff Goldblum screen time*: ⭐⭐✰✰✰
Final score: ⭐✰✰✰✰. Low. VERY low.
*this criteria is exclusive to the Jurassic Park series. I may use a different category if I review other movies in this fashion.
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Like many birders, I am fascinated with the many advances made by the scientific community, and advances in bird taxonomy are no different. Since the American Ornithological Society released the 59th supplement to the AOS Check-list on Thursday, I might as well cover some of the most notable changes as they effect North and Middle America.
White-collared Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola, sensu lato) has been split into two species: Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater (Sporophila torqueola, sensu stricto) and Morelet’s Seedeater (Sporophila morelleti). The latter is now the only species of tanager which regularly breeds in the continental United States. It reaches the northern end of its range along the Rio Grande in southern Texas; from there, its range extends south along the Gulf and Caribbean coasts to the southern end of its range in western Panama. It is also found on the Pacific slope from there north to Oaxaca. The former is endemic to the Pacific slope and interior of Mexico, from Oaxaca north to southern Sonora and disjunctly in southern Baja California Sur. There is at least one unaccepted record of Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater from the ABA Area, in San Diego, California, on 30 August 2015. As a pretty bird which happily eats seeds and produces a beautiful song, it’s a “good” caged bird, so a conservative approach is probably warranted. I only have Morelet's Seedeater for both ABA and world, so not too exciting.
The English name of Perisoreus canadensis has changed from Gray Jay to Canada Jay. This reverses a committee action from 1957 and is also a nod toward the possible adoption of the species as the official bird of Canada. The committee went against precedent with this decision: its often-voiced opinion that, unless there’s a species-level change, it’s not wise to tinker with long-established English names, didn’t win out this time (a similar proposal was made last year to change the English name of Aythya collaris from Ring-necked Duck to Ring-billed, but that did not pass). While changing the name from Gray to Canada is appropriate to keep with the English names of other Perisoreus jays (Siberian for P. infaustus and Sichuan for P. internigrans) and I approve of it, this might take a while for me to get used to so don't send me bck to the car if I slip up and say "Gray" instead of "Canada," I'm still adjusting.
Ammodramus was split to form Centronyx and Ammospiza, leaving Grasshopper as the only North American member of this genus, with an additional two in South America
The woodpecker genus Picoides has been split. North American species are now in Picoides, Dryobates, and Dendrocopos. Black-backed and American Three-toed will stay in Picoides, Great Spotted will be moved to Dendrocopos, and the rest will be moved to Dryobates
The Old World chat genus Luscinia has been split. ABA Area species are now in Larvivora, Cyanecula, and Calliope. I currently have none of these for ABA and probably won't unless I go to western Alaska
Gray Nightjar has been split. The scientific name of the species which has been found in the ABA Area changes from Caprimulgus indicus to Caprimulgus jotaka.
Asian bush-warblers were transferred from Cettia to Horornis. In North America, the only member of this genus is the Japanese Bush-Warbler, an introduced species in Hawaii
Just a few weeks ago, the birding world was shocked again when less than 24 hours after birders at Tadoussac Bird Observtory in Quebec had a record-breaking high count of 700,000+ warblers, Brian Patterson and Kate Sutherland reported a Tahiti Petrel on a Seabirding trip out of North Carolina. This was not only a first record for the state, but also a first for the Continental ABA Area and the Atlantic Ocean as a whole.
This was a species that, while common in captivity, has had a few valid records in the ABA Area in the past few years, most notably one last year in New Hampshire. Interestingly, prior to this supplement, the closely related Ruddy Shelduck was on the AOS Check-list but not the ABA Checklist
Storm-petrels in Fregetta, Oceanites, and Pelagodroma were elevated to a new family: Oceanitidae. Since my only ABA Storm-Petrel at the time of this writing is Wilson's, I have no members of the original family on my ABA list. I have Wedge-rumped and possibly Band-rumped from the Galapagos in my pre-birding years, which I will have to review my records for when I get the chance.
The subspecies of Buff-throated Foliage Gleaner found on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica gained full species status: Autolomus exsertus
Tyrannoidea has been replaced with Tyranni, which includes Cotingidae, Tityridae, Pipridae, Oxyruncidae, and Tyrannidae. Sequences in Tyrannidae have also been changed as well.
Coopman's Elaenia has been split from Lesser Elaenia as well as Chivi from Red-eyed, Olive from Tufted, Black-backed Water-Tyrant from Pied, and Hermit Wood-Wren from Gray-breasted.
Passerini's and Cherrie's Tanagers were lumped to form Scarlet-rumped Tanager
This was not a species change, but rather a subspecies change: Chiriqui Yellowthroat was found to be closer related to Masked Yellowthroat than to Olive-crowned Yellowthroat
Unfortunately, a lot of exciting proposals from a North American perspective were rejected this year, including those to lump Taiga and Tundra Bean-Geese, split Mexican Duck, change of the English name of Rock Pigeon back to Rock Dove, separation of Fork-tailed Swift into four species, change of the English names of Common Gallinule and Common Moorhen, recognition of the genus Catharacta, split Scopoli's Shearwater from Cory’s, split Boyd's Shearwater from Audubon’s, split Barn Owl into three species, elevate Platyrinchinae and Rhynchocyclinae to family level, rearrange the linear sequence of tyrant flycatcchers, change of the treatment of Piprites by creating the new family Pipritidae, transfer of Lesser Whitethroat from Sylvia to Curruca, separation of Toxostoma arenicola from LeConte’s Thrasher, separation of Melozone occipitalis from White-eared Ground-Sparrow, and split Yellow Warbler into two species.
I don't usually like to bring my opinions into scientific discussions, but t
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Lifers indicated in bold
Stopping at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge (the same place I saw Short-eared Owls this spring, read more about it here) on the way back up to Syracuse was not just about adding a bird to my list, this was also to settle a score. The last time I tried for Henslow's Sparrow at this spot, I had waited for two hours with no luck, only getting a Dickcissel (a lifer at the time) and the sparrow reappearing after I had left. My mom and I got there around 3:00 in the afternoon, when it was blazing hot and nothing around. FWS has managed Shawangunk Grasslands in the past few years in hopes of attracting grassland breeding birds, with sparrows such as Henslow's are a particular target; finally succeeding in 2017. Skip ahead to now, and there is a pair of Henslow's Sparrows at the refuge that had built a nest on a trail that had been roped off to avoid disturbances to the nest. Since getting a close look was out of the question, this would be a waiting game like last year... Fortunately, another birder who had brought a scope was also on lookout.
As time passed, a male American Kestrel hovered over the grassland, a Bobolink sang from a perch near the nest site, and even a Black Bear foraged at the edge of the forest, but the sparrow didn't make itself known until another half hour, when I finally heard a repeated “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” coming from the nest spot. While I have no problem counting heard only birds under normal circumstances, this would be my 300th bird on my NY life list, so I wanted a special look at it, so we continued to wait. Another half hour passed before I heard another series of the “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” song. I focused my scope in on the bush and saw the male Henslow's Sparrow perched, singing his “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick” “tsi-lick”. I got pics through the scope before it dropped back down. We waited another half hour before finally moving on to Syracuse...
We didn't get to Montezuma until later in the afternoon on Tuesday. I was hoping to see either Black Tern or Least Bittern from the Wildlife Drive, but neither was present; instead mostly waterbirds, songbirds, and one Bald Eagle. I think the most notable bird I saw here was a Trumpeter Swan, and that wasn't even new for this year.
The next bird I would try for was Sandhill Cranes at Knox-Marsellus Marsh. There were several large wading birds there, but all turned out to be Great Blue Herons, not what I was looking for.
We were running out of time to find my remaining target species: Least Bittern, Black Tern, and Yellow-throated Vireo, so in a last ditch effort for new birds, we went to Van Dyne Spoor Road, where I had seen all three last spring. I heard the vireo singing from the forest and saw several Black Terns flying around, but came up empty with the bittern. Having gotten only two of my targets, we went home...
The next day, after trying again at East road for Sandhill Cranes with no success, we made the long drive home in silence. My birding marathon of the summer had unofficially ended, but would my checklist streak stay alive?
The following two days were spent trying to get into summer courses at LIU Post, so I couldn't bird unless I submitted incidental lists. Just as I thought my streak was about to die, as luck would have it, two days after the less than exciting 2018 AOS Check-list supplement came out, a pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks was seen at Nissequogue River state park in Suffolk county while we were out to lunch with some friends of my father who were in town for a wedding. While I had already seen Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in Florida this year, an opportunity for another state lifer was too good for me to pass up. I accompanied my dad in dropping him off at the hotel, then we went after the ducks. Shortly upon arrival, we saw the ducks perched on a floating log.
My 46 day eBirding marathon came to a grinding halt when I saw Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the day before summer classes started. My streak had held up even when I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story and Avengers: Infinity War, but not through a movie I was pressured into seeing, which you can read about what inaccuracies I have to criticize Universal on in Paleobirding #2: Breaking Down the Fallen Kingdom.
To be continued...
The day before, a male Wilson's Phalarope had been reported at the same spot in Heckscher State Park that I saw the male Ruff in the last chapter. If I was to go to Arizona this summer, this would've been a rarity I could afford to pass since I planned to be in Arizona around the time western shorebirds like Wilson's Phalarope and Baird's Sandpiper started to move south. However, due to unforseen circumstances at ESF, I would not be able to bird in the southwest this summer; forcing me to have to chase any western birds that appear on Long Island. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the spot the phalarope was seen, it had left. Wilson's Phalarope is more likely to appear at Jamaica Bay later in the summer anyway, so I would hopefully have another chance.
Another bird I shouldn't have had to chase this year was Arctic Tern, which I was hoping to get in Maine at the Acadia Birding Festival along with Atlantic Puffin. Once again, because I had to cancel the majority of my summer travel plans at the last minute, I would not be able to get either species in their breeding range. While there is a slim chance for puffins in northeastern waters in winter, early June happened to be the best time for Arctic Terns in New York, usually at Nickerson Beach in Nassau County and Cupsogue Beach in Suffolk. With about two hours to kill before I had a driving lesson, I took an Uber to Nickerson to try and refind an Arctic Tern. Because getting too close to a Common Tern nest is basically asking for the parents to attack you, I focused most of my efforts on the roped off area on the west side of the beach. Amidst all the Common Terns, I found a Roseate Tern (which I had also come to Nickerson to look for) and a good candidate for Arctic. I also went back to the main colony to see if the Gull-billed Tern was still there, which it was, but not without facing the wrath of the angry Common Tern soon-to-be parents.
On visit 2, I returned to Nickerson to try for better Arctic Tern pics and a Black Tern that had been reported there as well. This time, the only terns at the beach were Common, Least, and Forster's.
Later that week, I had convinced my parents to let me look for Eastern Whip-poor-wills at Edgewood Preserve after we all went out for dinner. My plan was to get there around dusk in the hopes of hearing one sing. After a half hour walking arounnd the main field my dad and I went deeper into the forest where, upon reaching a sandy area, heard a repeated "whip-poor-will." I knew it was an Eastern Whip-poor-will, and also this happened to be #300 on my New York state list! After getting a recording, we headed home.
To be continued...
Lifers indicated in bold
A failed search for Blue Grosbeak at EPCAL yielded very little in terms of new birds, with the exception of Grasshopper Sparrow and Eastern Meadowlark for Suffolk County.
90 species of shorebirds have been recorded in North America. While I don't need to get them all for my big year, I do need to get a substantial percentage of that number in order to get to 500. One species I made getting for this year a priority was a Ruff. Fortunately, a male in breeding plumage had been reported at the puddle in Field 7 of Heckscher State Park the day before and was still around. Upon arriving at the puddle, my mother and I saw several birders there photographing the Ruff, which could easily be distinguished from the nearby Short-billed Dowitcher and both yellowlegs. We stayed at the spot for 15 minutes photographing it before leaving
The next day, I went to Nickerson Beach again to look for rare terns, the only one of which I got was Gull-billed
My birding for the rest of the week consisted of a shorebird count, backyard checklists to keep my eBird streak alive, a Great Egret seen on the way to a condolence call for a family member and a Red-shouldered Hawk right outside their house as we were leaving. Otherwise, no real notable birds
We didn't bird until we got to Cape May county, not the island itself; where we stopped at Tarkiln Pond to look for Kentucky Warbler with no success. Later, when we got to the hotel we were staying at, I spotted a Parasitic Jaeger flying over the beach
Part of my birding plans at Cape May was to meet up with Jerald Reb, a young birder whom I was friends with online and was working as a morning flight counter at Coral Ave. He texted me saying that he and Daniel Irons, another young birder, had a Brown-headed Nuthatch and a Eurasian Collared-Dove on his flight count. We raced over there and while Jerald and Daniel were still there, the nuthatch unfortunately was not. The most interesting thing I saw at this spot was not a bird, but a shark caught by several fishermen on the beach. Around 9:00, Jerald and Daniel left to bird Cape May, and we went towards the Meadows.
On the way to the Meadows, we stopped on Coral Ave to listen for the continuing Swainson's Warbler, which we heard within a few minutes of arriving there. At the meadows, there was very few species of interest, the only new one I got was Orchard Oriole
Next we birded around the main pond at Cape May Point State Park, which, similar to the Meadows, was void of migrants other than a few Forster's Terns and a Field Sparrow. The one new bird I was able to get from this spot was a Blue Grosbeak.
The next spot we went to was Cook's Beach, farther up the coast, for Seaside Sparrows, which I saw quickly upon arrival. Even if I didn't need the sparrow, I had planned to go to this spot anyway for the number of Red Knots that stop on Delaware Bay coasts on migration. The rufa subspecies of Red Knot I had seen is facing declines as climate change destroys stopover sites due to rising sea levels and alters the egg-laying cycle of Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs, which also declined when fishermen harvested their eggs as bait. In addition to the hordes of knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, dowitchers, peeps, and Laughing Gulls, I managed to pick a lone White-rumped Sandpiper in the flock
The last spot of the day was the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor. Like many of the other spots I visited, it was unfortunately void of any new birds
Later that night, we went to Jake's Landing to try for Black Rails, also known in my opinion as "the bird that shall not be seen" because of their elusiveness. This was not a bird I could just chance upon, I had to stay in one area and play a recording to have a remote chance of seeing one. After waiting a half hour with no success, we gave up and went to Woodbine Airport for Chuck-will's-widows, a much more cooperative target before finally calling it a night.
That afternoon, after a fruitless search at the Meadows and magnesite plant for any new birds, we went on a whale watch boat in Delaware Bay, which turned out to be less worth it than I anticipated, since the only birds of interest was a flock of six Brown Pelicans which tripped the filter on eBird and the other two birds that would've been new were both misidentified.
Later that afternoon I went back to the spot where the Black-necked Stilt was seen and also to look for Yellow-breasted Chat, this time actually making it past the construction gate. It took me a while to find my way into the marsh where the stilt was (Jerald said he could see me from where he was birding), but by the time I got in, Daniel had found an additional two stilts. On my way out, I finally heard the song fragments of a Yellow-breasted Chat.
On the way back from Cape May, we stopped at the Mississippi Kite nest in Waretown, but there were no birds there. (except a Fish Crow, not very exciting)
To be continued...
What? No bird-related stuff? I know this is mostly a birding, bird conservation, ornithology blog, but occasionally I like to discuss other science topics as they relate to birds. Since Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom will be released a month from today, I've decided to write a blog post on one of its most blatant inaccuracies: featherless dinosaurs. Yup, I'm going to mantle the big question of which dinosaurs had feathers. This will be the first in a series on the connection between birds and non-avian dinosaurs: this one on feathers, several on the evolution of avialans throughout the Jurassic, Cretaceous (including on how they survived the mass extinction), Paleogene, and Neogene periods; one on lesser-known bird families that are now extinct, one on my thoughts on Fallen Kingdom if I ever see it (this most likely will happen), and possibly more. I'm not sure what I will call this mini-series, but I'm pretty sure I might go with "Paleobirding." This wasn't an easy decision to make, as I felt I've had to write this because unlike with most fictional creatures depicted in movies, dinosaurs are real and the general public often accepts inaccurate movie versions as fact without looking at the evidence. I'm writing this to stop those misconceptions from spreading and give an accurate view of how dinosaurs lived.
Before starting, I have one simple request: PLEASE keep discussions in the comments sections civil, I don't want to have to constantly deal with fanboys who don't like to see their childhood movie monsters ruined by science. If the comments get out of hand, I will have to shut this down. Science does not care about your opinions, so just admire the beauty of it. If you don't want to learn about the possibility of all dinosaurs having feathers, then don't read this blog post, or much of this series on dinosaurs in general. For those who don't think feathered dinosaurs are scary, I know many people who vehemently disagree, especially those who have seen cassowaries
Let's start with the big question: what are feathers?
In short, "feathers" are filament-like projections that first evolved from scales. C.M. Kosemen thinks feathers first evolved as sensory organs like whiskers and then diversified. It's unknown when feathers first evolved, but they may have been present in the earliest dinosauriformes. To appease the diehard Jurassic Park fanboys lurking on the internet, I will mention that feathers are actually a highly derived type of scale. The scutes on crocodylians, feathers in dinosaurs, and pycnofibres (the hairlike filaments in pterosaurs) all evolved from the same skin covering. It was originally thought that feathers and scales were made of two different forms of keratin, however, it is now known that the keratin that forms feathers is present in crocodilian embryos. The evolution of feathers is depicted in five stages, based on an analysis of feather evolution in a 1999 paper by Richard Prum. Each of these stages in feather evolution has been found on dinosaur fossils except for stage 3, which is known from cretaceous amber.
Feathers can be broken down into seven different structures:
Numerous speculative theories have been proposed on the purpose of feathers: The first one is that down and semiplume feathers (the feathers present in ratites) were used to regulate temperature (feathers are more efficient at trapping and shedding heat than hair is, according to a study on Red Kangaroos and Emus); which would most benefit dinosaurs living polar and alpine regions (see figure 2) or in deserts (Madagascar, Negmet). Wing and tail feathers were then likely used for courtship displays similar to ratites, pheasants, and birds of paradise, although most evidence of sexual dimorphism in non-avian dinosaurs is not conclusive (see the clip from Dinosaur Revolution featuring a pair of courting Gigantoraptor I attached as a speculative example). Pennaceous feathers would have been used on avialans and small dromaeosaurs like Microraptor and Sinornithosaurus to glide from branches, but this was not powered flight as they could not flap their wings. Powered flight would later evolve in enatiornith birds with the appearance of a breastbone or keel for flight muscles to attach to and give birds more lift when flying.
Now, let's talk about the direct evidence of feathers in each of the dinosaur groups, but before we dig in, it's worth mentioning that the traditional phylogeny of dinosaurs lists two branches: Saurischia (sauropodomorphs, herrerasaurids, and theropods) meaning "lizard-hipped" and Ornithischia (ornithopods) or "bird-hipped." However, in 2017, Matthew Baron, David Norman and Paul Barrett proposed that theropods were more closely related to ornithischans than to sauropods and herrerasaurs, leading to the formation of a new clade called Ornithoscelida.
Lastly, despite what many clickbait articles and videos on dinosaurs would say, pterosaurs are NOT dinosaurs. I will devote a full section of Paleobirding to the differences between birds and pterosaurs.
Part of the rationale of Baron et al for transferring theropods out of Saurischia and into the new Ornithoscelida is that herrerasaurids and sauropodomorphs noticably lacked any preservation of feathers at all. Quite the opposite was found on sauropods, in fact, since many scale impressions have been found that have been attributed to sauropod species. In other words: no feathers on sauropods
While most of the dinosaur groups (aside from sauropods) will be handled individually, I will address Ornithischia as a whole. The first ornithischian to be found with feathers was Psittacosaurus in 2002 (the genus has been known since 1923, for anyone who was wondering), which preserved bristle-like filaments on the tail. Then in 2009, a heterodontosaurid called Tianyulong which had long filaments on the back, tail, and neck of the animal. Originally, these two species led scientists to think feathers evolved in the (at the time of this discovery) two dinosaur groups independently. Then, in 2014, the discovery of a basal neornithischian found in Siberia was announced. Kulindadromeus, as the dinosaur would be called, suggested that the common ancestor of dinosaurs was feathered (except for sauropods and herrerasaurs, which may not be dinosaurs if you define a dinosaur by the presence of feathers).
When it comes to feather preservation, non-coelorusaurian theropods, which include coelophysids, allosaurs, megalosauroids, and ceratosaurs, are not as well studied. The arms of the carnosaur Concavenator had structures resembling quill knobs, but these may be attachment points for ligaments and not related to feathers at all. Sciurumimus is another interesting species, as the classification is not decided on. If it is a megalosauroid, that would support the hypothesis that this group of dinosaurs had feathers.
Tyrannosaurs were a family of theropods that first appeared in the Jurassic as medium-sized carnivores, and later evolved into the apex predators of Asian and North American formations during the late Cretaceous. Big tyrannosaurs like Tyrannosaurus and Tarbosaurus don't need an introduction, but some of their earlier relatives do. Two tyrannosaurids have been discovered with direct evidence of feathers: Dilong and Yutyrannus, both of which lived in China during the lower Cretaceous. These two species are important because Dilong provided evidence that tyrannosaurs had feathers in the first place, and Yutyrannus confirmed that even large tyrannosaurs likely had feathers. Another thing to note about Yutyrannus is that the Yixian formation, where it and many other feathered dinosaurs lived, would have been very cold during the Early Cretaceous when these animals lived
What about Tyrannosaurus rex? Once the discovery of Yutyrannus was announced in 2012, many people were scared that not even T. rex was safe from getting the feather treatment, leading to the "science ruined dinosaurs" movement. These fears were alleviated when a paper examining several tiny (the largest is 30 square centimeters across) scale impressions on the back of the neck, pelvic region, and tail of the well-preserved BHI 6230 specimen or Wyrex, claimed to have found conflicting patterns between gigantism in dinosaurs and feather integument and concluding that Tyrannosaurus was mostly scaly. When popular media outlets reported about the paper, they sensationalized the study by claiming it marks a return to the T. rex of Jurassic Park and that they were "still lizards" after people had "gotten used to the idea of giant fluffy killer birds." While it is true that rex would have been mostly scaly, these scales would give the animal a leathery appearance because of how small the scales are. Bell et al interpreted this find by suggesting more derived tyrannosaurs likely lost or did not have the filaments of their basal Asian relatives. The distribution of these scales lends support to the position that these animals were mostly scaly or featherless as adults, but does not mean they were featherless at all growth stages. The paper suggests that they might have possessed a feather cape or mohawk on the upper part of their body. These scales might actually be feathers, as the paper notes the scaly feet of modern birds are actually feathers that secondarily evolved back into scales. The authors suggest that this might have been the case with Tyrannosaurus, and as Mark Witton notes, everyone wins the scaly vs feathered debate. This opens up a variety of possibilities: Witton notes that avian skin is more dynamic than reptilian skin, and allows for tons of variations based on the animals life stages and time of year, changing between feathers and scales with the seasons. This could mean T. rex was born with feathers but lost them as it got older, or it could have grown a coat of feathers as an adult in fall and molted this coat in spring. In conclusion, the Bell paper concludes that T. rex would have been largely filamentless in life and would have possessed a leathery or smooth appearance, and does not disprove that it was completely featherless in all stages in life.
Before you accuse me in the comments of ruining your childhood hero (which I will probably delete), I will add that in the unlikely event of T. rex and Spinosaurus meeting, T. rex would likely win in a fight, either crushing Spino's neck with those bone-crushing jaws that deliver the highest bite force of any known animal or scaring the fish eater back into the water.
Sometimes known as "ostrich dinosaurs" for their resemblance to modern ratites, ornithomimids are a group of omnivorous theropods that lived during the Cretaceous and were prey for many large predators. To add to their resemblance to modern ostriches, we have found two ornithomimids with preservation of feathers: Ornithomimus and a pygostyle on the extremely large and unusual Deinocheirus.
Compsognathids, or "compies" as they are sometimes known, are small theropods that lived from the late Jurassic to the early Cretaceous and were small predators of insects, lizards, and early mammals. One species of compy, Sinosauropteryx, had preserved feathers so well, we even know what color it was! Microscopic pigment cells called melanosomes on the fossil of Sinosauropteryx was analyzed to find it had a reddish brown coloration like a fox or Red Panda, as well as a banded tail like many procyonids (raccoons, coatis, ringtail) or a Ring-tailed Lemur. To add to the resemblance to raccoons, analysis of the fossil found that Sinosauropteryx had a bandit mask over its eyes.
Therizinosaurs were large theropods that were most likely herbivorous, and used their long claws to hold branches closer to their mouths like pandas or sloths rather than to disembowel prey with. We know from many therizinosaur species that they had filamentous intigument covering their entire bodies, even the biggest ones. One of these, Beipiaosaurus, is one of the largest dinosaurs with direct evidence of feathers second only to Yutyrannus.
Oviraptorosaurs (or "chickenparrots" as paleontology fans sometimes call them) are dinosaurs that take the bird-like appearance of the ornithomimids a step further; looking like a chimera of a parrot, a galliform, and a non-avian dinosaur. Many species of oviraptorids have been found with direct evidence of feathers preserved such as wings and pygostyles. This means that all oviraptorids definitely had feathers, even the biggest ones like Gigantoraptor, although it can be argued from Bell 2017 that like Therizinosaurus, Gigantoraptor would have considerably reduced feathers, but not completely lost them.
Alvarezasaurs are small insect-eating theropods that due to their close relationship to other maniraptorans, we know definitely had feathers.
Scansoriopterygids are a testament to the amazing ability non-avian dinosaurs had to evolve and fill every niche imaginable, as many members of this group had a long finger used to probe trees for insects like that of an Aye-aye or the tongue of a woodpecker. All scansoriopterygids had four long feathers on the tail, composed of a central rachis and vanes. However, unlike in modern-style tail feathers, the vanes were not branched into individual filaments but made up of a single ribbon-like sheet. They also had simple feathers covering the body like many dinosaurs.
More famously known as "raptors," dromaeosaurids are birdlike theropods that lived during the Cretaceous period. Numerous species of dromaeosaur have been found with direct evidence of feathers, including complete feather preservation in Microraptor, Zhenyuanlong, and Sinornithosaurus, as well as quill knobs on Velociraptor, Rahonavis, and Dakotaraptor. In short, all dromaeosaurs regardless of how big they are had feathers preserved
What about Velociraptor, the antagonist of the first three films and semi protagonist of Jurassic World? Things are not looking good for this "walking medieval torture machine," as the JPlegacy website called the movie versions of this species, which are closer in size to Utahraptor and Achillobator than an actual Velociraptor, which was the length of a mountain lion and weighed as much as a turkey (in Michael Crichton's defense, he followed Gregory S. Paul's dromaeosaur taxonomy, which lumped Deinonychus, Saurornitholestes, and others into Velociraptor). Basically the fossils of many dromaeosaurs, as well as quill knobs on Velociraptor itself, mean this genus was undeniably feathered. As Brian Switek says, "A Velociraptor without feathers isn't a Velociraptor."
Troodontids are more closely related to birds than their cousins the dromaeosaurs. We know from the remains of Jinfengopteryx that troodontids had filamentous feathers covering their body and pennaceous feathers on the wings and tail
Lastly, we get to modern birds, which all are undisputedly feathered.
To summarize, heterodontosaurids, basal neornithischians, ceratopsians, and most ceolorusaurian theropods likely had feathers, while ceratosaurs (a group of theropods), sauropods, ornithopods, thyreophorans, and pachycephalosaurs did not. Coelophysids and carnosaurs are uncertain in their feather preservation, but would most likely have had quill knobs. Basal ceratopsians like Psittacosaurus most likely had elongate cylindrical integument analagous to feathers, which larger ceratopsians would have lost. Heterodontosaurids, basal neornithischians, early tyrannosaurs, comsognathids, and early tyrannosaurs had filamentous integument covering their entire bodies. Oviraptorosaurs and scansoriopterygids had complex feathers of multiple stages following the Prum model. Lastly, deinonychosaurs and avialans all had multiple stages of feathers including asymetrical flight feathers.
This post was inspired by a presentation given by Garret Van Gelder at the NYSYBC 2018 Kickoff Meeting, as well as the work of Nick Turinetti and Tom Parker for Saurian, a open-world video game where you play as a dinosaur and try to survive, and Trey the Explainer's "Which Dinosaurs Had Feathers?" and "Did T. rex have feathers?"
All copyrighted images belong to their respected owners. Please notify me if I neglected to credit your work. All copyrighted images in this post are protected under FAIR USE for reasons of Commentary, Education, Criticism, Parody, and Social Satire.
All About Feathers, academy.allaboutbirds.org/features/all-about-feathers/.
Bell, Phil R., et al. “Tyrannosauroid Integument Reveals Conflicting Patterns of Gigantism and Feather Evolution.” Biology Letters, vol. 13, no. 6, 2017, p. 20170092., doi:10.1098/rsbl.2017.0092.
Caspermeyer, Joseph. “Finding Their Inner Bird: Using Modern Genomics to Turn Alligator Scales into Birdlike Feathers.” Molecular Biology and Evolution, vol. 35, no. 2, Nov. 2018, pp. 523–524., doi:10.1093/molbev/msx330.
“Everything You Need To Know About Feathers.” Bird Academy • The Cornell Lab, academy.allaboutbirds.org/feathers-article/.
“FAQ.” Saurian, sauriangame.squarespace.com/2/.
“Kulindadromeus Zabaikalicus: Feathered Herbivorous Dinosaur Discovered | Paleontology.” Breaking Science News | Sci-News.com, www.sci-news.com/paleontology/science-kulindadromeus-zabaikalicus-feathered-herbivorous-dinosaur-02079.html.
“List of Dinosaur Species Preserved with Evidence of Feathers.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Mar. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dinosaur_species_preserved_with_evidence_of_feathers.
Naish, Darren. “Ornithoscelida Rises: A New Family Tree for Dinosaurs.” Scientific American Blog Network, 22 Mar. 2017, blogs.scientificamerican.com/tetrapod-zoology/ornithoscelida-rises-a-new-family-tree-for-dinosaurs/.
Panciroli, Elsa. “Scientists Reveal Most Accurate Depiction of a Dinosaur Ever Created | Elsa Panciroli.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 Sept. 2016, www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/14/scientists-reveal-most-accurate-depiction-of-a-dinosaur-ever-created.
Persons, Walter S., and Philip J. Currie. “Bristles before down: A New Perspective on the Functional Origin of Feathers.” Evolution, vol. 69, no. 4, 2015, pp. 857–862., doi:10.1111/evo.12634.
Swenton, Trey. “Did T.rex Have Feathers?” YouTube, YouTube, 12 Mar. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM5JN__15-g
Swenton, Trey. “Which Dinosaurs Had Feathers?” YouTube, YouTube, 15 June 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGAixpQcqdU.
Switek, Brian. “Tianyulong: An Unexpectedly Fuzzy Dinosaur.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 20 Mar. 2009, www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/tianyulong-an-unexpectedly-fuzzy-dinosaur-41045210/.
“They Had Feathers: Is the World Ready to See Dinosaurs as They Really Were?” All About Birds, 22 Nov. 2017, www.allaboutbirds.org/they-had-feathers-is-the-world-ready-to-see-dinosaurs-as-they-really-were-2/.
Witton, Mark. “Revenge of the Scaly Tyrannosaurus.” Mark Witton.com Blog, markwitton-com.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/revenge-of-scaly-tyrannosaurus.html.
Xu, Xing, et al. “A Gigantic Feathered Dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of China.” Nature, vol. 484, no. 7392, Apr. 2012, pp. 92–95., doi:10.1038/nature10906.
“Yutyrannus, a Giant Tyrannosaur with Feathers.” Not Exactly Rocket Science, 4 Apr. 2012, blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2012/04/04/yutyrannus-a-giant-tyrannosaur-with-feathers
Lifers denoted in bold
Remember how Max, Ryan, and I could not solve the ID of a mystery Catharus thrush in Central Park seen in the same area as a Bicknell's Thrush? We concluded our first day in Manhattan more determined than ever to find the Bicknell's while it was still in the area.
The plan was to look for the Bicknell's Thrush if it was still around in the morning then take the ferry to Governor's Island, and later in the afternoon meet up with Ryan again to get more warblers and if he wanted, to find the Bicknell's. Max and I were checking every thrush (and I was having trouble getting my camera to focus), so when we came across several other birders that claimed to hear a Bicknell's song, we joined the group to hopefully confirm this. Several of us followed the thrush around in an effort to get it to sing again and thus confirm it's id. We trailed it for a while and heard it call several times. James Muchmore was in this group, and got pictures that he would ask me what I thought about the bird. I replied: "I think we got it." Satisfied with both of us having Bicknell's Thrush as a lifer, we headed back to prepare for more adventures.
On the way down to Governor's Island, we stopped at Madison Square Park in search of Prothonotary and Kentucky Warblers reported hopping around the lawn in the center. I had gotten Prothonotary the day before I left ESF, but Max still needed Prothonotary and we both needed Kentucky for life. Unfortunately, neither was in the area, but we did find a female Hooded Warbler on the lawn with several yellowthroats and many other warblers in the surrounding trees.
When we got to Governor's Island, there were not too many birds around (well, not too many birds we haven't seen in Central Park or elsewhere in NY this week). However, there were some surprises, one being a flyover Solitary Sandpiper identified by call and a Common Nighthawk which both Max and I heard, but did not see.
After lunch, Ryan met us at the entrance of the park and we headed towards The Ramble to look for the Bicknell's Thrush again, which he needed for his county list. We were checking all the thrushes we saw, as usual, when we heard the Bicknell's type song. Later we saw the bird in a tree and got a recording of the song. The bird flew past us and we alerted Deborah Allen, who was also in the area, of its presence. On the ground, it was just as cooperative and allowed us to get many pictures. Also in the area were White-crowned and Lincoln's Sparrows.
We then set out for the Pinetum, an area with lots of warbler activity. Max needed Blackburnian Warbler for life and both of us needed Cape May as well. There were several Yellow and Magnolias, a Canada, and a Blackpoll. Then Ryan picked out a Cape May Warbler, which Max and I quickly got on (though it took me a minute to get it). Also in the Pinetum was an empid, which after hearing it call, we confirmed as a Willow Flycatcher. Ryan also found a Blackburnian Warbler. Moving on to the Reservoir, our next target were Bank and Cliff Swallows before Ryan had to leave. We got one of the Cliff Swallows, but not the Bank Swallow. Also, a large brown bird flew across the path that we were not able to safely identify.
The first spot we went to in Brooklyn was Prospect Park. Many of the birds we saw were similar to those we had seen in Central Park so far, with the addition of a Prairie Warbler that Max saw but I didn't, a Wood Duck in a Tree, and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher which we both saw, but could not get pictures of (many empids are flagged in Kings County).
The last spot in Brooklyn we went to was the entrance to Green-wood Cemetery, which has become famous for an unusual reason: parakeets. As absurd as the idea of looking for parakeets in New York sounds, it is not that farfetched. In the 1970s, a shipping crate at JFK airport containing Monk Parakeets, a native of South America, was damaged and broken giving the birds a chance at freedom. They managed to survive, and have persisted enough to be countable on the ABA Checklist (I had seen them in Florida this year as well). It didn't take us long to spot them on top of the entrance.
Back in Manhattan, Max and I took the subway all the way up to Inwood Hill Park to find one of the two Eastern Screech-Owls in the park. Ryan was giving us directions remotely to the spot (he was in class), so while we were able to locate the spot it usually hangs out in, we could not actually see the owl.
Ryan couldn't join us in Central Park this time (more on why later), so Max and I set out for the Pinetum on our own where we had a Tennessee Warbler and several Black-throated Greens. Our main destination was the North Woods area, where an Acadian Flycatcher was recently seen. Along the way we stopped at the reservoir where all the swallows were reported from and managed to get pictures of the Bank. In the Ravine, we got the Acadian, as well as another Yellow-bellied, and a Black-billed Cuckoo singing which we heard at the top. On our way out of the park, we stopped at an area of high warbler activity near the playgrounds, including several Ovenbirds, a male Cape May, and a Prairie Warbler, this time I was able to get on quickly enough to add to my state list.
The next morning, Ryan and my father met us outside the hotel we were staying at to head to Doodletown (this is why Ryan couldn't bird with us the day before). Upon getting there we immediately saw a Black-billed Cuckoo (only one we saw this week) before setting out on the trail. Heading up, we saw a Worm-eating Warbler (one of two) close to us on the trail. In the forest, we saw a female Cape May Warbler and a male Scarlet Tanager. At the dam, we went down to check for Louisiana Waterthrushes, with no luck. As we were descending the trail, we saw a Cerulean Warbler perched in a tree providing excellent looks. In total, we got two Worm-eating Warblers, three Hoodeds, and four(!) Ceruleans as well as Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Blue-headed Vireo.
The next spot we went to was Ironwood Drive in Sterling State Forest, a known spot for both Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers, as well as their hybrids. After a short hike through the shrubby envarea of a powerline cut, we heard a Blue-wing type song, but to our surprise, it came from a Golden-winged Warbler! We then saw a Blue-wing and Golden-wing (one of four at the spot) chasing each other. We also saw and heard more Blue-wings, a Prairie Warbler, a Cerulean Warbler, an Eastern Bluebird, and a Blue-winged x Golden-winged hybrid.
The last spot we went to was Croton Point Park in Westchester where Max, Ryan, and I saw several Purple Martins, Bobolinks, and Willow Flycatchers before headed back to Manhattan to drop Ryan off then back home to Long Island. In total, Max and I saw 147 species and 9 other taxa.
I originally planned to look for a Tricolored Heron at Marine Nature Study Area again after dropping Max off at the airport, and was even en route to the spot, when I got an alert about an American Golden-Plover at Lido Beach Passive Nature Area. Golden-Plovers are typically pass through New York in fall, so a spring sighting is one definitely worth chasing. Fortunately, my grandmother and I were able to change my route and after scanning a distant flock of Black-bellied Plovers, I identified what I determined to be a solid candidate for the American Golden-Plover. While I was there, a breeding plumaged Tricolored Heron flew by as well, making this a win-win situation.
Satisfied with this chase, we then went back to Nickerson in the hopes of seeing any rare terns, with no success.
To be continued...
Lifers indicated in bold. Also, I have a few announcements:
After the chaos of nonstop birding in the last chapter, you would think I would give my parents a break on Mother’s Day. However, you would be wrong. The day before my club's big day, a Kirtland's Warbler was reported in Central Park (we even got it for the big day). My mom and I took a train into the city just to chase this bird, and unfortunately, we missed it. By an hour. It wasn't all bad, as I got my lifer Bay-breasted Warbler and four additional birds for my year list: Olive-sided Flycatcher, American Redstart, and Magnolia and Blackburnian Warblers; all of which were in pretty much the same tree (except the flycatcher). I also ended up meeting two fans of The Young Birder Odyssey as well: Tyler Connell and James Muchmore, the latter of the two re-found the Kirtland's Warbler this morning.
The next morning, we started by birding around my yard, which, thanks to Max's help, gets a lot of good migrants in the spring. One of the best birds we found was a Mourning Warbler we both heard sing, but could not locate. Other species we had included a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak below our feeders and a Swainson's Thrush.
The first spot we went to was Jamaica Bay. It was high tide, so shorebird numbers were lower than we were hoping for, but nevertheless we saw some good birds. Some highlights from the West Pond were a late staying Snow Goose, possibly injured and couldn't make it north, close looks at Magnolia Warblers, Carolina Wrens, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and hatchling terrapins. Outside of the visitor center, we heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo song, but our main target was a Black-billed Cuckoo at the East Pond. After a few minutes, we heard the call but could not locate it visually.
The next spot we went to was a small park in Nassau County, where we didn't see many notable species, but afterwards, we went back to the coast guard station where I had to do a shorebird count. Other than the regular species, three Red Knots were the main highlight.
Originally, I suggested that we go to Fuchs Pond to look for an Alder Flycatcher reported there, a scarce migrant on Long Island in spring (I've only seen them upstate). This would've also been a lifer for Max, but my mom suggested we go to Caumsett State Park instead. Among the highlights were several interesting butterflies and Max got his lifer Scarlet Tanager.
Later that afternoon, we went to Fuchs pond preserve to search for the aforementioned Alder Flycatcher. Unfortunately, we did not see the Alder, so as a consolation, we went to a known Bald Eagle nest in Centerport.
Before we headed out, Ryan Zucker notified us about a Bicknell's Thrush in Central Park that was actively singing. We would get to that, but first, we were headed to Marine Nature Study Area, a known spot for Saltmarsh Sparrow and Tricolored Heron. We didn't see the Tricolored Heron, but we found two Saltmarsh Sparrows and a Clapper Rail.
Afterwards, we went to Nickerson Beach. While there were no rare terns or any nesting behavior seen from the expected species, we did find a Lesser Black-backed Gull loafing with several Great Black-backs. In typical birding fashion, neither of us had our camera when a rare bird was found, this time because of the rain.
After we set up "base camp" (a hotel one block away from Central Park), we set out for the Bicknell's Thrush in Central Park and to find Ryan. We got lost at first by accidentally taking the main road through the park, then backtracked. Eventually, Ryan found us in the Ramble area, and we all tried to find the Thrush. We saw several of all the normal thrushes, Ovenbirds, and several other birders, including Kevin Topping, the birder who found the Kirtland's Warbler earlier this week. We found an interesting Catharus which we figured out to be a Gray-cheeked/Bicknell's type, but despite many attempts to get it to sing, we decided to move on because without hearing it singing, it was best to leave the mystery bird unidentified. Other notable birds included Max's lifer Canada Warbler and Chimney Swifts headed to their roost.
Ryan had to leave around 7, so by then Max and I went back to the hotel to see if we could figure out which thrushes we got... We decided that we would go back to the Ramble the next morning to see if we could refind the Bicknell's after all. Will we ever get it before it leaves for its breeding grounds in the Adirondacks? Find out next time
To be continued...
In the interest of replicating the rapid style of birding on a big day, I will be giving a brief overview of the birding at each spot I birded on the NYSYBC big day. I don't have any photos, unfortunately, so this might be my shortest chapter yet
Time spent here: 48 minutes
Distance covered: 1.34 miles
Highlights: Blackpoll Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Nashville Warbler, Veery
Time spent here: 44 minutes
Distance covered: 1.15 miles
Highlights: Breeding adult Black-bellied Plovers, Clapper Rail, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Time spent here: 18 minutes
Distance covered: 0.62 miles
Highlights: Large numbers of Brant
Time spent here: about 20 minutes
Distance covered: 12(?) miles
Highlights: 3 Common Loons, Piping Plover, Black Skimmers, Ruddy Turnstone
Time spent here: 23 minutes
Distance covered: 1.19 miles
Highlights: White-crowned Sparrow, flyover Common Loon
Time spent here: 31 minutes
Distance covered: 1.24 miles
Highlights: Chestnut-sided Warbler
Time spent here: 6 minutes
Distance covered: NA
Highlights: Breeding plumage Dunlins
En route to the next spot after a break at home, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo flew right over our car!
Time spent here: 19 minutes
Distance covered: .5 miles
Highlights: Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-throated Warbler
Time spent here: 2 minutes
Distance covered: N/A
Highlights: Bald Eagle nest
Time spent here: 3 minutes
Distance covered: N/A
Highlights: Spotted Sandpiper, Bank Swallow
Global Big Day fell right in the middle of finals for me at school, so I couldn't go birding for too long or travel too far from my apartment. Otherwise, I saw nothing really notable.
The first spot my mom and I went to was the Wildlife Drive at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. A Ruff had been seen there a few days earlier and I wanted to see if it would still be around. Unfortunately, it was not there (not like a male in breeding plumage would be mistaken for anything. There was a good number of shorebirds there, however, as I was able to identify both species of Yellowlegs, Pectoral, Spotted, Least, and Solitary Sandpipers in good numbers. Other good birds were Eastern Kingbird and both Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos
The next spot we tried was at Armitage Road on the border of Seneca and Wayne counties. This is a known spot for Prothonotary Warblers, and I was hoping to get them here instead of tracking down ones that stray into southern NY every spring. First we walked along the road, which yielded Pileated Woodpecker, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Wood Ducks, a Lincoln's sparrow, and many warblers (including Cerulean), but no Prothonotary. We drove further up to the exact location of a nest box set up to attract Prothonotaries (Prothonotary and Lucy's Warblers are the only species of wood-warbler to nest in cavities). I first heard the "sweet, sweet, sweet" song and then after it repeated a few times, a male Prothonotary Warbler flew over our car before disappearing, not without me getting a photo first. On to the net spot...
The last spot we went to was the Martens tract, where we heard Virginia Rails and American Bitterns calling as the sun set.
On the way home, we stopped at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, where several Bobolinks had arrived and were displaying
The next day, my mom and I went to Upland Farm on what wasn't supposed to be for birding, but I still got Blue-winged and Chestnut-sided Warblers for the year
To be continued...
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