Liaoningornis (Greek for "Liaoning bird"); pronounced lee-ow-ning-OR-niss
Woodlands of Asia
Early Cretaceous (130 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 8 inches long and 2 ounces
Small size; perching feet
The Liaoning fossil beds in China have yielded a rich array of dino-birds, small, feathered theropods that appear to have represented intermediate stages in the slow evolution of dinosaurs into birds. Surprisingly, this same location has yielded the only known specimen of Liaoningornis, a tiny prehistoric bird from the early Cretaceous period that looked more like a modern sparrow or pigeon than any of its more famous feathered cousins. Driving home its avian bona fides, the feet of Liaoningornis show evidence of the "locking" mechanism (or at least the long claws) that helps modern birds perch securely in the high branches of trees.