Picture a bird not in flight. Did you imagine it sitting on a branch? Today the majority of avian species perch. This is called “passerines,” and it is a fairly new trait in the evolution of birds. What is important about this fossil found in Wyoming is it is the oldest record of a bird with the ability to perch. Add to the fact the animal is fully intact with feathers this is a truly historic find.

The Field Museum published a press release about this exciting discovery. Lance Grande, the Field Museum Neguanee Distinguished Service Curator, unearthed the fossil at Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming.

It’s fascinating because passerines today make up most of all bird species, but they were extremely rare back then - Lance Grande

The bird is 52-million-years-old and has a beak like a sparrow or a finch. This tells scientists that it fed on seeds similar to what are in our bird feeders of today. Until this discovery, birds of that era were thought to be scavengers or eat small lizards or fruit. This discovery is an eye-opener to those who study ancient avian birds.

Knowing what happened in the past gives us a better understanding of the present and may help us figure out where we are going for the future - Lance Grande.