Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Aves
Order Confuciusornithiformes
Family Confuciusornithidae
Genus Confuciusornis
1st Species Confuciusornis sanctus
2nd Species Confuciusornis dui
3rd Species Confuciusornis feducciai
4th Species Confuciusornis jianchangensis
Other attributes
Time Range 124.6–120 mya
Location China
Name Meaning Confucius' bird
Physical Dimensions 70 centimeter wingspan
Dietary Classification Carnivore

Confuciusornis is a confuciusornithid confuciusornithiform bird from the Early Cretaceous of China. It was named in 1995 by Hou Lianhai and his crew. It was one of the most unique Mesozoic birds to exist, as, in spite of its basal (primitive) affinities, it shared many traits in common with modern birds.


Confuciusornis looked a lot like modern birds, even more so than Iberomesornis. It had a small, sleek body, moderately long legs, a short tail, long wings, and an elongated head with a toothless beak. However, it still retained some primitive traits (such as claws on its wings); as well as this, it had two long, ribbon-like feathers branching off of its tail. Most of its body (excluding its beak and legs) would have been covered in long, vaned feathers; its body would have been dark grey or black in color, with white wingtips.


Confuciusornis was a predator, feeding on insects and other small arthropods, and possibly subsisting on lizards as well. Its large beak was used to get a hold of insect prey, right before it was processed at the back of the mouth and swallowed.


Confuciusornis was once thought to be a very competent flier, based on its long wings, long flight feathers, short tail, bony sternum, and well-developed wing muscles; however, its sternum was very small, it lacked an alula (flight feathers that grow off the first finger and provide extra lift when landing), its thin tail feathers were not very useful for providing lift, and, similarly to Archaeopteryx, its arms couldn't raise themselves above horizontal position, meaning that it was not as good as flying as modern birds. However, many Confuciusornis individuals are found in large lake bottom sediments with no evidence of post-mortem transport, meaning that the birds would have been capable of powered flight to some degree (even being capable of flying over the lake surfaces like modern birds); with the highest angle they could raise their wings up to, they would have took to the air with a few flaps before transitioning into gliding. As well as this, Confuciusornis was once thought to be a piscivore that nabbed fish from the surface of the water, based on the discovery of stomach contents in one specimen; however, based on the fact that only one specimen has been found with fish (compared to the many other specimens found in the history of the genus), this is unlikely, and evidence of a bony rim just behind its eye sockets indicates that Confuciusornis may have been a more land-based predator, watching its prey from a perch before swooping down to the ground and grabbing it in its large beak (similarly to birds such as frogmouths and kingfishers). A comparison of its sclerotic rings to those of modern reptiles and birds indicates that it was diurnal.

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