Bird nerds get this question a lot. What is your favorite bird? I think I might be able to answer that one for all of us. I have spent years working on an algorithm and I'm happy to say that I can finally answer that question for bird lovers everywhere.
Just kidding, my algorithm only works for mammal-lovers. The correct answer for those folks is: African Brush-tailed Porcupine.
The real answer is that no one will ever be able to choose a single bird as their favorite. And if one can choose, they are the most resolute human in existence. Still, my money is on the tumultuous inner dialogue of those resolute humans five minutes after leaving the bird conversation. GAH! I forgot about pheasants! I should've said pheasant.
*shakes head, disappointed face, kicks rock haphazardly*
As if indecision on the favorite bird front wasn't enough salt in the wound, get this. Birds aren't my favorite animal. They never have been. I started off as a dinosaur girl. My love for dinosaurs was so great that I had what I like to call a Harry Potter Meltdown. You want Harry Potter to be real so much that you basically lose it.
I found a way to make dinosaurs real again though. Well, I didn't actually find a way. I won't take credit for evolution. The solution to my pangs of dinosaur emotion was, and is, the American Alligator. It's basically a dinosaur, folks. Let's head back to Marsh Trail where dreams came true for me.
If you're not caught up on the glory of Marsh Trail, give these posts a once-over: Roseate Spoonbills in The Everglades, Rivers of Grass on Marsh Trail, Common vs. Boat-tailed Grackle.
From the lookout on this trail, I first spotted Roseate Spoonbills because they are large and bright pink. The very next thing I spotted was the baby gator in the photo above. Friends, I had never been this close to a wild alligator. It still baffles me that I drove up to a trailhead, hiked for a few minutes, and then there were 20 gators within petting distance. Whoa.
Now I know you're all a bunch of nature enthusiasts so I won't bore you with the cold-blooded/warm-blooded bit. Let's talk about just how long the genetic blueprint for this animal has remained virtually unchanged. Think hundreds of millions of years. Most of the anatomical changes seen in crocodilians were subtle changes in the shape of the jaw to accommodate different food sources in different areas. The body armor was also adapted for changes in the environment, ever so slightly. Other than that, it is nearly the same animal that shared the earth with the dinosaurs.
Let's bring it full circle. Roughly 240 million years ago, birds and crocodilians shared a common ancestor. After the mass extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs, birds evolved quickly and diversified at a rapid pace. Thousands of little feathered dinosaurs came to fruition. Crocodilians, as mentioned before, pretty much stayed the same. If you think about it, I have surrounded myself with quasi-dinosaurs.
Here's to creating a world where you can breathe a little easier about the dinosaurs being [almost] gone. Now, what to do about this Harry Potter business...