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Art by Barry Kent MacKay
This is the generic name of a series of bird species that lived, and because extinct, in the late Cretaceous period, some 83 to 78 million years ago. So they were contemporaneous with many species of dinosaur.
All that we know of them, we know from the study of their fossilized
remains. They were quite large, flightless waterbirds, who had large
feet and, unlike any modern bird species, still had teeth…that is, they had
not evolved far enough from their reptilian ancestors to lose the teeth.
are that colour combination, and the “rules” of countershading tend to
dictate that birds are generally lighter below than above. But grey is
another colour that occurs, in various shades, in modern waterbirds, so I
kind of compromised by giving the bird white underparts, a grey body, but
with a blackish back. It’s all guess work. We also don’t
know how much, if any, of their faces were bare, but again that would be in
keeping with a bird living in a tropical climate. Bright primary (red,
blue, yellow) and secondary (green, orange and purple) colours don’t tend to
occur in the feathers of waterbirds (especially if you exclude ducks) but
often do occur in the unfeathered portions, so I chose a pinkish colour,
reflecting a skin colour common where blood influences the final appearance.
I thought of painting an elliptical pupil in the eye, to emphasize the
reptilian heritage, but round really does work better and is more likely to
be “selected for” through the evolutionary process, I thought, in a species
that has to see above and below water. I gave the bird a deep “gape line”
and the suggestion of an early form of gular pouch, to accommodate a diet of
fishes and probably baby marine reptiles.
I based this restoration on images of skulls and skeletons.
Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
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