My husband has made our two-acre property a haven for feathered friends, with a long row of pine trees and a consistently refilled pile of seed in the driveway. Looking out the window at cardinals, mourning doves, sparrows, and chickadees feeding, it’s hard to believe that these delicate birds are descended from dinosaurs. But that’s what scientists tell us.
I know that dinosaurs weren’t all Tyrannosaurus Rex and I can certainly see similarity in winged species. After all, Archeopteryx had feathers. So, I’ll take their word for it.
Sixty-five million years ago, dinosaurs were the dominant class of animals on earth, much the way mammals are today. While our yard is dominated by birds, coyotes cry from the surrounding fields at night. We have had colonies of ground squirrels, field mice and, the bane of all gardeners, rabbits. My husband hasn’t quite become Mr. McGregor, but he’s tried fences, noisemakers, planting marigolds and a bb gun. Generally, I’d say the rabbits were winning.
Besides the songbirds, we see seasonal flocks of grackles that swoop in, lay eggs and periodically clean out their nests by dumping the debris on any concrete they can find. Robins hunt for worms in spring. A red tail hawk frequently perches on a high branch of a honey locust and sometimes leaves the gray feathered remains of the poor slow mourning doves around the yard.
A fairly recent arrival is a pair of great horned owls that hoot to each other in the night. I’ve yet to see them, but twice a bird with widespread wings has swooped precariously close to my husband when he takes our tiny dog out at night.
A typical winter for our old house in the country includes four to eight mice that have to be trapped or hunted down by our dog. Since the arrival of the owls, this winter has been mostly mouse-free. It’s much easier to see the owls as dinosaur descendants, carnivores at the top of a food chain.
Last week, my husband found scattered rabbit fluff. No bones. In the days that followed, the fur tufts have blown in the wind, then disappeared one by one as the little birds fly bits up to line their nests.
Score one for the dinosaurs.