The oldest bird was known as an Archaeopteryx and lived about 150 million years ago. It was the size of a raven, was covered with feathers, and had wings.
Amazingly detailed Archaeopteryx fossils have been found in fine-grained Jurassic limestone in southern Germany. Paleontologists view Archaeopteryx as a transitional fossil between dinosaurs and modern birds. With its blend of avian and reptilian features, it was long viewed as the earliest known bird. Discovered in 1860 in Germany, it’s sometimes referred to as Urvogel, the German word for “original bird” or “first bird.” Recent discoveries, however, have displaced Archaeopteryx from its lofty title.Various specimens of Archaeopteryx showed that it had flight and tail feathers, and the well-preserved “Berlin Specimen” showed the animal also had body plumage that included well-developed “trouser” feathers on the legs. Archaeopteryx is considered by many to be the first bird, being of about 150 million years of age. It is actually intermediate between the birds that we see flying around in our backyards and the predatory dinosaurs like Deinonychus. In fact, one skeleton of Archaeopteryx that had poorly preserved feathers was originally described as a skeleton of a small bipedal dinosaur, Compsognathus. A total of seven specimens of the bird are known at this time. It has long been accepted that Archaeopteryx was a transitional form between birds and reptiles, and that it is the earliest known bird. Lately, scientists have realized that it bears even more resemblance to its ancestors, the Maniraptora, than to modern birds; providing a strong phylogenetic link between the two groups. It is one of the most important fossils ever discovered. Paleontological studies revealed a mosaic of reptilian and bird characteristics, including an isolated feather, leading scientists to conclude that Archaeopteryx, “ancient wing”, is the missing link between non-avian dinosaurs and birds, providing conclusive proof that modern birds are direct descendants of small-carnivorous dinosaurs. Archaeopteryx has proven to be rich inspiration for a wide range of studies and literature on the origin of birds, though, up until a study published two years ago, little was known about the colour and nature of the isolated Archaeopteryx feather.