Darren’s Opinion of Feathered Dinos…

Darren’s opinion on feathered dinos is at LEAST as strong as mine, and better informed– but I didn’t do a T- Shirt. I don’t usually wear one, but I have ordered his, in a kind of dayglo golden orange at that…

Darren’s blog(s)– his has had several versions and sponsors– have been what I thought of as my siblings, though his have always seemed more specifically “naturalist” in subject than mine. We have both been writing blogs for about ten years– he has theoretically fewer posts, though I would say far more substantial ones– I do a lot of light stuff, not to mention Magdalena and NM rural views. But we started linking, and talking about those great predators, Golden eagles, in his first post. This led to his appearance in my Eternity of Eagles ,  and mine in his first Tet Zoo collection.

I think the common subjects extend far further than a non- scientist, or perhaps a non- artist, might assume– ask my friend Carlos Martinez del Rio, who runs the Berry Center for Biodiversity at the University of Wyoming in Laramie (unfortunately,  often confused in the popular mind with the godawful Southwest Biodiversity Center down here, which mostly sues ranchers and puts them out of business (it is an open secret in the Southwest that one of the biggest real estate developers  down here is a big supporter, picking up the deeded private portions of the ranches when the Center gets them thrown off their public land leases). There is an unwritten book about one of the best arguments for public land ranching, AKA “welfare ranching” in certain circles. The deeded land is riparian and private; the leases are the dry uplands. Once the ranchers lose the leases, they must sell the home place, which usually has the springs and such, to developers, which as far as I can see DECREASES biodiversity. That it was founded by a failed graduate student in literature at Stony Brook, with a penchant for literary “theory”, rather than a naturalist or conservation biologist, is adequately documented in this story in the New Yorker, where you get the distinct impression that the writer went in as a fan and changed his mind.

Whereas the Center at Laramie, founded by a wealthy heir to a Main Line Philadelphia fortune who was also one of the four founders of the Peregrine Fund, exists only to study, promote, and celebrate the earth’s creatures in all their splendid diversity.

More soon– lots more to unpack here. But read Darren!

Early update: I would say these nice little figures of a Velociraptor mongoliensis and an Oviraptorid are nice, but not “birdy” enough– they are still “feathered lizards”.

This might be more like it:

Watch for my swan song in the next Living Bird, my last scheduled assignment, called “They had FEATHERS!”

Links I: Feathers and Carriage Horses

…which I have been neglecting. With a book deadline and one for a big article not too far away, the impending operation, and things like four- hour “Neurological Psychology” tests, these more than one hundred miles away– I won’t burden you further, but I can be distracted.


I an a bit disappointed that not one “Mainstream” reviewer of the new “Jurassic” film has remarked on its featherless lizards. Not even my favorite and most erudite reviewer, Anthony Lane at the New Yorker- he is no scientist, and DID write the funniest one, but I unfairly expect him to know everything.

You all know what I am going to say next: FEATHERS. As Brian Switek blogged, ” A Velociraptor without feathers isn’t a Velociraptor!” Perhaps the paradigm has not shifted yet. Continue to spread the meme with such portraits as John Conway’s, above…

Don’t forget the New York Carriage horses either; their struggle against Animal Rights activists and New York’s remarkably obtuse (stupid?) mayor deBlasio  is symbolic of the one everywhere that pits owners of working animals against those who want to end all human- animal work and relations. Jon Katz at Bedlam Farm does a good job on this and much else,  but I am surprised this isn’t a constant national story. The statistics are revealing; all the city’s papers are in favor of keeping the horses, as are 70% of the people. I don’t know why this ridiculous and heartbreaking controversy wasn’t settled in favor of the horse drivers long ago.

Jon: “I have assembled some quotes from just a handful of the people who have,
unlike the mayor and a single member of any animal rights group in New
York City, come to New York to see the horses and examine them and their
lives. The mayor has never talked to any of these highly regarded and
experienced people, never considered a word they have said, never called
them up or invited them to visit. Every week, animal rights activists
and real estate developers seeking to ban the carriage trade hold their
press conferences, march in the streets, shout at the carriage drives,
taunt the horses, parade into City Hall to meet with the mayor and his
aides to plan their campaign to banish the horses….

“The Central Park Conservancy, credited with restoring the park after decades of neglect, opposes the
mayor’s plan to replace the carriage horses with electric cars, saying
the plan is “unsafe” and will increase congestion in the park, already
struggling to accommodate 40 million visitors a year. The horses, says
the conservancy, are a natural part of the park’s history.

“Buck  Brannaman, one of the world’s most respected horses
trainers, author of “The Faraway Horses” and the inspiration for the
movie “The Horse Whisperer”:

“Pulling carriages on rubber-rimmed wheels on paved streets
is a low-stress job, and the horses are calm and relaxed, not anxiously
laying their ears back or wringing their tails. Plus, these horses get
lots of attention and affection from passersby. And horses love
attention and affection as much as we do.

“Famed biologist Jared Diamond:

“Draft horses are “the most domesticable
animals in the world for life in urban areas.” They tolerate noise and
disruption, other species they are gentle, they stay close to one
another, they attach to people, they are genetically extraordinarily
well suited to work with people in urban environments.


“None of these people or organizations have been questioned by the
mayor, or been invited to participate in the discussion on the future of
the carriage horses. The debate there is harsh, dishonest and
unknowing, shaped by unfounded accusations and unsupported prejudices.
The leaders of our greatest city – and many journalists there –  have
lost any understanding of the real world of real animals, the debate
over the carriage horses could not possible be lower, more corrupt or

“Virtually none of the people seeking to ban the horses – garage
builder Steven Nislick, head of NYClass, the animal rights group
spearheading the ban effort; mayor deBlasio, who has never owned a dog;
the president of the New York City Council, who has two rescue cats; or
the leaders of any of the animal rights organizations involved has any
training or qualifications in equine medicine, training or behavior. Yet
they have dominated the discussion in the city, and shaped the media
coverage of the issue, so important to the future of animals in our

We owe it to the earth to keep animals in our every day lives,
especially when they are fortunate enough to be needed, loved, and so
well cared for. We have a shared responsibility for the people and the
animals in the world. If you are so moved, please write the mayor and
tell him so: Mayor Bill deBlasio, New York City Hall, City Hall Park, N.Y., N.Y., 10007.

Paradigm SHIFTED

… decisively: not the “Cover of the Rolling Stone” as I have been calling it but, of course, that of Scientific American. I thought at first they were a bit late to the party, as it was the late John Ostrom who started the ball rolling with his discovery of Deinonychus, which he reported in SA in an article which suggested warm bloodedness but did not QUITE say feathers. That must have been (a lot?) more than thirty years ago. Robert Bakker soon called T rex the “20,000 pound Roadrunner from Hell”, but as far as I can see it was my old friend John McLoughlin who first dressed raptors in feathers in the popular press– 1979? I’m sure he’ll tell me.

Now proud Tyrannosaurs have them, in mainstream publications. On second thought, SA deserves great credit. It may be slow compared to the avant garde, but it is the FIRST popular magazine to portray a feathered tyrant, as well as the first to broach the ideas that led to it.

Two more thoughts. I counted only four sentences in- text that said “feather”– after paradigms shift, they seem “normal”.

Second, what do readers think about those poor naked chickens coming in the new Jurassic Park thing? And what about the less sophisticated public?