When it comes to looking for birds that are closely related to dinosaurs, look no further than your backyard. Researchers have concluded that birds are descendants of dinosaurs! In particular, it seems likely that they’re descended from theropod dinosaurs.
Some birds hold a little more in common with their ancestors than others regarding physicality or possible behavior. You might be surprised by some of the birds that are like dinosaurs on our list!
1. Great Tinamou
Scientific name: Tinamus Major
Length: 15 to 18in (38 to 46cm)
Weight: Up to 2.4lbs (1.1kg)
Wingspan: 17 n (43.18cm)
The Great Tinamou is a ground-dwelling bird native to Central and South America. It looks innocent enough on the surface, but it closely resembles the shape of its ancestors, the theropod dinosaurs. Birds like the Great Tinamou have powerful legs used for running along the ground, much like their predatory ancestors.
There are several other birds in the same family (Tinamidae) as the Great Tinamou, and they are closely related to Ratites, which also appear on this list.
Scientific name: Apteryx
Length: 14 to 18in (35 to 45cm)
Weight: 5 to 7lbs (2.26 to 3.17kg)
Wingspan: 1in (2.54cm)
The Kiwi is the national icon of New Zealand and has the smallest wingspan of all the species listed here at just one inch. It resides entirely on the ground, has loose fluffy feathers, and no tails.
It resembles dinosaurs due to its strong legs used for scurrying around on the ground and its lack of flight, much like the ancient reptiles it descended from. Unfortunately, almost all species of Kiwi are in danger due to several reasons, including environmental factors.
3. Southern Cassowary
Scientific name: Casuarius casuarius
Length: 3.3 to 5.6ft (1.00 to 1.70m)
Weight: 97lbs (43.9kg)
Wingspan: 4.9 to 6.5ft (1.5 to 2m)
The Southern Cassowary has the strong legs that others on this list have, along with a distinctly prehistoric look. This species can stand up to 5.6ft in height and weigh nearly 100 lbs.
With bright blue feathers around the neck and head, a prominent crest, an intimidating beak, and sharp, perceptive eyes, this bird looks like it walked straight out of a history textbook. In a movie about dinosaurs, the bird’s shrill call wouldn’t be out of place.
Scientific name: Gallus gallus domesticus
Length: Up to 27in (70cm)
Weight: 5.5 to 8.8lbs (2.5 to 4kg)
Wingspan: 17 to 23in (45 to 60cm)
A standard chicken might seem like an unusual addition to this list. But according to published research, chickens share DNA with T. Rex! It needs to be noted the study isn’t particular; the chicken was in the running against other animals like mice and human beings.
However, chickens and Ratites scored the closest to the notorious prehistoric predator, next to alligators. Like other ground-dwelling birds, the chicken sports those extra-long legs meant for running along the ground.
Scientific name: Struthio camelus
Length: 6.2 to 9ft (1.88 to 2.74m)
Weight: 198 to 287lbs (89.8 to 130kg)
Wingspan: 6.6ft (2m)
The Ostrich turned up in the same study as the chicken, with DNA linking it to the T. Rex. But that’s not the only dinosaur they might be similar to. Ornithomimosaurs once roamed where Mississippi is today and resembled giant Ostriches.
This flightless bird is an already immense bird at close to 300 lbs, but the Ornithomimosaurs weighed over 1,700 lbs (800kg). With small heads, long arms, and strong legs, it’s no wonder it’s been compared to the modern-day Ostrich.
Scientific name: Balaeniceps rex
Length: 3.5 to 5ft (1.07 to 1.5m)
Weight: 12.3lb (5.6kg)
Wingspan: 7.7 (2.33 m)
Of all the birds that are like dinosaurs, the Shoebill is one that’s gradually gained media attention. This unique bird has distinct prehistoric features with a seven-inch beak that it can use to tear through fish. That same beak can be clacked together to make a noise similar to a machine gun.
The bird has an unnerving appearance that almost seems unreal. And make no mistake, the Shoebill is a predator like its ancestors and can tear apart fish and other animals with its beak.
Scientific name: Opisthocomus hoazin
Length: 24 to 26in (60.96 to 66.04cm)
Weight: 1.78 to 2.2lbs (0.8 to 1kg)
Wingspan: 26in (65cm)
The Hoatzin is a colorful and prehistoric bird living in the Amazon. Its plumage is similar to what we might imagine of dinosaurs.
But this bird might be more directly related to those great predators. Indeed, the Hoatzin is similar to the Archaeopteryx; a dinosaur believed to be one of the first birds.
Scientific name: Pelecanus
Length: 4.1 to 4.3ft (1.25 to 1.32m)
Weight: 8 to 26lbs (3.6 to 12kg)
Wingspan: 6 to 12ft (1.8 to 3.6m)
With their unique pouches, Pelicans are well-known for swooping over waterways and catching their prey in their throat. It turns out that they aren’t the first iteration of this hunting skill and that they share it with the Ikrandraco avatar, a pterosaur with a similar skill set.
Despite that, they’re not descended from the Ikandraco and still carry a stronger connection to theropods, like other birds.
9. Helmeted Hornbill
Scientific name: Rhinoplax vigil
Length: 43 to 47in (110 to 120cm)
Weight: 6.61lbs (3kg)
Wingspan: 35in (90cm)
The Helmeted Hornbill is known for the unique crest on the top of its beak, which is red and yellow. Fanciful crests and horns were common among dinosaurs, and this increasingly rare bird has carried this trait through many years of evolution.
Unfortunately, its population is in decline due to poachers hunting the bird for its bill.
10. Red-Legged Seriema
Scientific name: Cariama cristata
Length: 30 to 35in (75 to 90cm)
Weight: 3.3 to 4.9lbs (1.5 to 2.2kg)
Wingspan: 29.5 to 35.4 (75 to 90cm)
The Red-Legged Seriema is an elegant, ground-dwelling bird with strong legs and keen eyes that uses its deadly claws to kill its prey. It might be the closest relevant to the Dromaeosaur.
This species picks its prey up with its beak and toss it onto the ground until it’s dead. While it would prefer to run rather than fly, it can coast for short distances when needed.
11. Canadian Goose
Scientific name: Branta canadensis
Length: 2.5 to 3.6ft (.76 to 1.09m)
Weight: 5.5 to 12lbs (2.4 to 5.44kg)
Wingspan: 4.2 to 6.1ft (1.28 to 1.85m)
You might be surprised to see the Canadian Goose ending up on this list. But the tenacious waterfowl have something in common with their dinosaur ancestors.
Quaking and cooing noises! Yes, that’s right. Paleontologist Julia Clarke has stated that it’s unlikely dinosaurs roared as they did in the movies. Instead, they may have made noises more like today’s birds, including the Canadian Goose.
Frequently Asked Questions
People often have a ton of questions about birds and their relations to dinosaurs, and we have the answers to two of the most commonly asked.
What is a bird that looks like a dinosaur?
Of the birds on this list, the Ostrich is the one that most closely resembles a dinosaur physically. They have the right shape with a small head, strong legs, and long arms (wings), and they are entirely ground-based.
What kind of bird looks like a pterodactyl?
There are many prehistoric-looking birds, but many believe the Frigate bird is the one that resembles a pterodactyl. A large, sea-faring bird, it has a deeply forked tail and an extra long beak that leads to that perception.
The Frigate bird spends most of its time in the sky because it doesn’t have waterproof feathers. So, if you want to see this one, you’ll have to have your eyes turned skywards.
Spotting Dinosaurs Everywhere
With all birds distant relatives of theropods, you can see birds that are like dinosaurs just about everywhere you look. Some bear a much closer resemblance to their ancient relatives than others, but that doesn’t make their continued survival in a changing world anything less than remarkable.
The next time you’re bird watching, look closely and see if you can spot that little bit of dinosaur in them.