Temporal range: Early Cretaceous
Life reconstruction of Confuciusornis
A restoration of Confuciusornis sanctus based on studies of its feather colouration
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Confuciusornithiformes
Family: Confuciusornithidae
Genus: Confuciusornis
Hou, 1995
Type species
Confuciusornis sanctus
Hou, 1995
Referred species
  • Confuciusornis dui (Hou, 1999)
  • Confuciusornis feducciai (Zhang, 2009)
  • Confuciusornis jianchangensis (Li, Wang & Hou, 2010)
  • Confuciusornis sanctus (Hou, 1995)

Confuciusornis is an extinct genus of small birds. 5 species are known, all of them from the Cretaceous and from the Yixian Formation and the Jiufotang Formation in China.


Confuciusornis was similar in size to that of a modern crow, with a wingspan of about 0.7 meters (2.3 ft) and a weight of up to 0.5 kilograms.[3] Confuciusornis had an exceptionally large humerus. Like modern birds, Confuciusornis was toothless and had a short tail. Unlike modern birds, Confuciusornis has visible digits on its wings similar to Archaeopteryx.


Based on fossilized rings around the eyes, it is believed that Confuciusornis would have been active during the day. Many specimens have preserved a pair of elongated tail feathers, however since specimens have been found that lack them, showing that this trait may be a red of Sexual dimorphism.

Classification and species[]

5 species of Confuciusornis have been named; C. sanctus, C. dui, C. feducciai,C. jianchangensis, and C. shifan.

In popular culture[]




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  7. ^ Bleiwess, Robert "Development and evolution of avian racket plumes: Fine structure and serial homology of the wire" Journal of Morphology 194:1 pp. 23–39 DOI 5370610.1002/jmor.1051940103
  8. ^ Zhang, F., X. Xu, M.J. Benton, Stuart L. Kearns et al. (2010). "Fossilized melanosomes and the colour of Cretaceous dinosaurs and birds", Nature,463: 1075–1078. See the article online.
  9. ^ e!Science News: The color of dinosaur feathers discovered.
  10. ^ ScienceNOW: The Lost World, Now in Colors by Sverker Lundin. January, 27 2010.
  11. ^ Clarke,,Julia. A. , Norell, Mark. A. (2002) "The Morphology and Phylogenetic Position of Apsaravis ukhaana from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia" American Museum Novitates, No. 3387, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024.
  12. ^ Li, D., Sulliven, C., Zhou, Z. and Zhang, Z. (2010). "Basal birds from China: a brief review." Chinese Birds, 1(2): 83–96 doi:10.5122/cbirds.2010.0002
  13. ^ Clarke, Julia A., Zhou, Zhonghe, Zhang, Fucheng. (2006) "Insight into the evolution of avian flight from a new clade of Early Cretaceous ornithurines from China and the morphology of Yixianornis grabaui" "Journal of Anatomy" 208:287–308.
  14. ^ Jingmai K. O’connor, Xuri Wang, Luis M. Chiappe, Chunling Gao, Qingjin Meng,Xiaodong Cheng, And Jinyuan Liu (2009). "Phylogenetic support for a specialized clade of Cretaceous enantiornithine birds with information from a new species" Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29(1):188–204, March 2009# 2009 by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology


  • Dalsätt, J; Zhou, Z; Zhang, F. & Ericson, Per G. P. (2006). Food remains in Confuciusornis sanctus suggest a fish diet. Naturwissenschaften 93(9): 444–446.doi:10.1007/s00114-006-0125-y (HTML abstract)
  • Hou, L; Zhou, Z; Gu, Y. & Zhang, H. (1995). [Description of Confuciusornis sanctus]. Chinese Science Bulletin 10: 61–63.
  • Hou, L.-H; Zhou, Z; Martin, L.D. & Feduccia, A. (1995): A beaked bird from the Jurassic of China. Nature 377: 616–618. doi:10.1038/377616a0 (HTML abstract)
  • de Ricqlès, A.J; Padian, K; Horner, J.R; Lamm, E.-T. & Myhrvold, N. (2003): Osteohistology of Confuciusornis sanctus (Theropoda: Aves). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 23(2): 373–386. DOI:10.1671/0272–4634(2003)023[0373:OOCSTA]2.0.CO;2 HTML abstract
  • Mayr, G; Pohl, B. & Peters, D. S. (2005). A well-preserved Archaeopteryx specimen with theropod features. Science 310(5753): 1483–1486.doi:10.1126/science.1120331 (HTML abstract) Supporting Online Material
  • Senter, Phil (2006): Scapular orientation in theropods and basal birds, and the origin of flapping flight. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 51(2): 305–313. PDF fulltext
  • Zhou, Z. & Zhang, F. (2003): Jeholornis compared to Archaeopteryx, with a new understanding of the earliest avian evolution. Naturwissenschaften 90: 220–225. PDF fulltext