Enantiornithine Bird (e-NAN-tee-or-NITH-een)

Artist's reconstruction of a Cretaceous bird.  It has black feathers, a toothed mouth, and a clawed hand at the upper fold of each wing.

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This bird had teeth and clawed hands, common features of early birds, which modern birds have lost. Although no bird fossils have been found yet in the Cretaceous rocks and clays near Washington, D.C., it is very likely that birds frequented the trees and swampy habitats here. Enantiornithine birds are evolutionary "cousins," rather than direct ancestors, of today's birds. They died out at the end of the Cretaceous along with dinosaurs and some other types of early birds.

We know a lot about what these birds looked like because ancient lake deposits of similar age located in China have produced thousands of bird fossils, many with exquisitely preserved feathers. They allow researchers to study the origin and evolution of feathers and flight, the habits of early birds, and the ancestry of modern birds.