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Avians-The Dinosaurs Among Us

Owner:  Mohawk
Last Modified:  12/4/2018
Set Description
Few animals have inspired the fascination and awe in us that dinosaurs have. For centuries, even before it was understood what they were, humans have been fascinated by the occasional fossil bones that they found. They incorporated them into their cultural mythologies, with ancient Chinese interpreting fossil dinosaur bones as the bones of dragons to be used in traditional Chinese medicine and Europeans interpreting them as the remains of biblical giants. It was only in the 19th Century that scientists began to understand that these bones were the remains of prehistoric animals that were no longer on the earth. With this understanding, the scientific study of dinosaurs was born.

In the nearly 200 years that have passed since those first realizations about those fossil bones, our understanding of dinosaurs has increased massively. Scientists have gone from viewing dinosaurs as uniformly huge, cold-blooded animals that were similar to traditional reptiles to understanding that dinosaurs are a hugely diverse group of animals with a massive variety of features and forms……yes, that’s right. I said are, not were.

The reason I said are and not were is that in 2014, scientists reported what is arguably the most massive discovery in the whole area of dinosaur research. They reported that dinosaurs are not extinct. They are still here, and there are over 10,000 species of dinosaur still living among us. You probably saw a dinosaur today. Maybe you or a neighbor has one as a pet. Maybe a neighbor has a feeder for wild dinosaurs outside of their house. Likely, at some point, a dinosaur has used your vehicle as a toilet as it sat in your driveway or a parking lot. We call these living dinosaurs “birds”.

Yes, it’s true. Birds are living dinosaurs. Specifically, they are Coelurosaurian Theropod dinosaurs that belong to the clade Maniraptora, a clade of feathered dinosaurs which includes therizinosaurs, dromaeosaurs, alvarezsaurs, oviraptorosaurs and avialans. Birds are members of this last family, the avialans, which were and are all small, feathered theropods who had evolved to take flight and take over the skies. The first fossil avialan discovered was the Archaeopteryx in 1861, which was also the first dinosaur fossil found with preserved feather imprints.

Since the 1960’s, a wealth of new fossils of theropod dinosaurs has increased our understanding of their true nature. While all dinosaurs are considered reptiles, theropod dinosaurs were not and are not animals one would look at and think traditional reptile. Theropods were and are warm-blooded, active creatures and many of them had feathers on at least parts of their bodies. A Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the most famous prehistoric coelurosaurian theropods, would not have made one think reptile if a human could see a living one. The reaction would likely have been “That is a huge, terrifying bird!” Which is essentially the truth. It’s better to think of Tyrannosaurus as a huge eagle (or maybe as a huge vulture as of 7/23/17-See Peregrine Falcon for details!) rather than something like a huge crocodile or lizard.

As more and more fossils of feathered theropods, small theropods and flying theropods have been discovered, scientists have found over 100 distinctive characteristics which birds share with other theropod dinosaurs, allowing us to discover the true evolutionary heritage of our feathered friends. The interesting thing is how little birds are changed from other theropods. One of the previous scientific views was that birds were a different animal that had evolved from dinosaurs, similar to the way amphibians evolved from fish by acquiring new and novel traits and amniotes (mammals, reptiles and their extinct ancestors) evolved from amphibians by a similar process. But this isn't true for avians. On the dinosaur family tree, birds are positioned right in the middle of the theropod branch, not near the outside. For theropods as we understand them now, avians are rather typical coelurosaurs. They didn't evolve any features that were not seen in other dinosaurs, they just use those features in different ways. Most paleontologists and ornithologists now feel that there is no missing link between birds and other dinosaurs. The only difference is that one group survived to the present day and the others did not.

Avians, the proper scientific name for the living dinosaurs, are arguably the most amazing group of dinosaurs. Aside from being on the earth as a distinct family of theropods for over 120 million years, they are some of nature’s ultimate survivors. 66 million years ago, a 6.2-mile-wide asteroid hit the Earth, releasing an amount of energy equal to 10 billion Hiroshima bombs, causing the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event that destroyed 75% of all life that existed at the time. In an instant, the lush, fertile and life-filled Earth was turned into a burned out sphere of death. The sun was blocked by vaporized particles of the Earth's crust and mantle, killing most of the plants and photosynthetic plankton and causing an impact winter which lasted for years. Just imagine it, one minute, everything around you is alive. The fertile, green world is full of the sights and sounds of dinosaurs, insects, crocodilians and small mammals and then, in an instant, there is this huge explosion, followed by a firestorm, then a rapid drop in temperature. All of the sounds and life are just......gone. What is left is a dark, cold, silent and nearly dead world. With the exception of a few large aquatic ectotherms, such as crocodilians and sea turtles, everything over 55 pounds is either dead in the initial impact and firestorm or is now starving to death in the post-impact wasteland. I have heard several scientists refer to the last day of the Cretaceous as the single worst day in the history of our planet. It was the worst catastrophe life on Earth has ever faced. An all out nuclear war wouldn't even match up to what happened after this asteroid hit.

In this horrible environment every dinosaur died, probably in a matter of months, except for four avian lineages: the Paleognathae (Ratites and Kin), the Anseriformes (Ducks and Relatives), the Galliformes (Fowl) and the Neoaves (The ancestors of all other extant avians outside of the previous families). We'll likely never know exactly why these four dinosaur lineages survived when every other lineage died but the current theory is that it was only these dinosaurs that had the right combination of features to survive in the post-meteor holocaust. This combination was small size, the ability to fly to search for food and beaks, so that they could adapt their feeding strategies easier than toothed dinosaurs could. This allowed the surviving avians to move from herbivory and predatory carnivory to eating seeds and scavenging. This, combined with the lower food needs of the surviving avians compared to many other dinosaurs due to their small size, allowed them to survive until the Earth began to recover. Filling ecological niches left behind by the extinction of the other dinosaurs and the pterosaurs ensured the survival of the four avian lineages into the Paleogene, where they explosively radiated into new forms to fill these empty niches.

Avians have survived the four extinction events that have happened since the end Cretaceous event as well, and many of them seem well-poised to endure the currently occurring Holocene Extinction Event, which is being caused by us, humans. Many avians have actually used our changing of the environment to their advantage, using our buildings for nesting grounds and shelter while using our garbage, bird feeders and other animals which have adapted to life in our settlements as sources of food.

The discovery that birds are living theropod dinosaurs was something of a miracle for me. I’ve been into dinosaurs since I was a child, and I always suspected there was a connection there but I had it backwards. I thought theropod dinosaurs were birds, rather than birds are dinosaurs. Since reading the initial paper in 2014, I find myself staring at chickadees when walking outside and seeing their prehistoric ancestors in an animal that is already severely cool on its own. I got to achieve a dream I’ve had since childhood that I never thought I’d achieve: to see a living dinosaur. It’s been amazing to realize that I see them every day.

I have to close with a warning. Many Theropod dinosaurs were and are some of the most efficient predators this world has ever seen. As this set discusses the behaviors of the animals on the coins, there is violent content pertaining to hunting and defense behaviors. If descriptions of natural violence disturb you, you may not want to check out this set or just look at the coins.

Set Goals
This set is my home for coins featuring modern dinosaurs, which are actually one of the most
numerous animals on coins. The rules for this set are that it will mostly include avian dinosaurs including extinct birds, but coins featuring non-avian dinosaurs may be included if they help tell the story of how avians evolved and how similar they are to their theropod kin. I’m also going to mostly use modern coins as it is a set for modern dinosaurs. There is another reason for using modern coins as well. The goal of this set is to use coins that display naturalistic depictions of the animals and there are simply very few classic era coins that depict birds realistically and accurately. They are usually depicted in heraldic positions that would break a bird's wings in real life. Even one of the best bird depictions on a classic coin, that on the reverse of the U.S. Peace Silver Dollar, is inaccurate in two important details, namely that the head is shaped incorrectly and the pattern of feathering on the legs is like that found among the eagles of the Aquila genus, not like the leg feathering pattern found on the eagles of the Haliaeetus genus, to which the Bald Eagle belongs. Modern depictions tend to be much better and more accurate. The goal of the set is to acquire as many different species as I can, and to use the coins to talk about the species the coin depicts. I hope this set will be fun and educational.

January 2018-I was shocked, awed and thrilled that my currently little set won the Most Creative Award for 2017!! Now, birds (and NGC) have enabled me to achieve another major goal in my life, to win one of the major awards here on the NGC Registry. Birds and other dinosaurs have given me so much happiness in my life and it seems right that it would be a collection about them that would allow me to reach this major goal in my collecting life. My goals are much the same and I have some great things planned going forward which will make this set even more fun and educational. Hopefully, someday I can win the Most Informative Award as well and maybe, just maybe, have the most comprehensive collection of coins featuring theropod dinosaurs on the Registry!

Slot Name
Item Description
Full Grade
Owner Comments
View Coin What Birds Mean To Me CANADA - 1968 TO DATE S$15 2018 Scallop Blessings of Harmony Gilt NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO Since I started this set, I wanted to find a coin that I could include where I tell everyone what birds mean to me to provide some insight into myself and my reasons for building this set of coins. It absolutely was not some random idea I had one day. There has been a lot of thought, time and emotion that has gone into this project.

This coin is entitled “Blessings of Harmony” and that is very fitting for one of the main things that birds mean to me. I’m not a religious person at all, and I do not believe in any gods or any higher powers aside from one. However, this does not mean that I am not a spiritual person as the one higher power I do revere is nature itself, the one higher power that is absolutely proven to exist. Nature gives me feelings of awe, respect, harmony, wonder and love. And of all of the elements of nature that I am privileged to experience every day that I live, birds are some of the most amazing to me. As superbly evolved living dinosaurs, birds are the most numerous and visible remains of the Mesozoic Era that are left on our planet. As such, they are also the most visible and numerous representatives left of the Earth from the time before we humans were on it. They are one of the last pieces of an Earth that disappeared 66 million years ago, a planet that would be alien to us in many ways and one that has left us a few tantalizing clues, both living and dead, that inspire and fascinate us. Simply put, birds are ambassadors of an amazing chapter of our planet’s distinct history that is over and no longer exists.

To me, the true history of the Earth and the story of this beautiful blue sphere we call home is far more amazing and inspiring than any fable or theology that has been created by humans. When I need harmony in my life, chapters of this true and amazing epic tale are always where I turn and they always deliver. Of all of the players of Earth’s history, dinosaurs have always been the most captivating to me, even from the time I was a child. As I stated in the introduction to this set, one of my dreams from my childhood was to see a living dinosaur. Of course, as a child, I thought that I would never achieve this dream. However, with advances in scientific knowledge, birds have allowed me to achieve this dream simply by existing. Realizing that birds were legitimate, living theropod dinosaurs was an absolute miracle for me, one that continues to fill me with awe and wonder over four years after the initial scientific papers that announced this discovery were published.

So, what do birds mean to me? Simply put, they mean everything to me. They are a huge part of my life. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about or go look at some birds. I love almost all living things (there are a few species of mammal that I dislike, most notably dogs, rodents and opossums.), but birds are magical. These flying dinosaurs represent so many different things to so many different people. They are national emblems, they represent freedom and mobility, they inspire awe, respect and tranquility and they remind us that there was a life filled Earth before us, and there will be one after us. They represent resilience and overcoming massive adversity as they survived the holocaust that was the first years of the Paleogene. More importantly, they not only survived, they thrived to the point where dinosaurs are still the most numerous and successful group of tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates, basically all vertebrates aside from fish) on the planet. Through the very fact of their existence, birds tell us that even in the worst of times, life goes on and things will get better.

I hope that this essay has shown you what birds mean to me and has shown you the depth of my love and respect for them. I hope that by viewing this collection, I impart some of what I feel every time I see a bird to you and that it shows how amazing and precious all life forms are. We never know the next secret that life on Earth will reveal to us. We on this planet are all interconnected and we are all a part of nature. We are all related, even though those relations may be very distant and buried in the primordial past, and we are all needed. We humans have a unique ability among all extant animals. We can reason. We can observe nature and hopefully revere it. We can discern the true history of our planet and hopefully use this true history to replace archaic folk tales and superstition, which not only benefits the Earth but also benefits us as well. We alone can take steps to care for the Earth and all of the other life forms that we share it with.
View Coin Dove Family S1P AH1400//1979 EGYPT MOHAMMED'S FLIGHT 1400TH ANNIVERSARY NGC MS 64 When one thinks about theropod dinosaurs, typically a vicious predator comes to mind, but this coin shows a different side to modern dinosaurs. I'm not certain of the exact species of dove represented on this coin, but a little about doves anyhow.

Doves have long been a symbol of peace and tranquility. The dove and pigeon family is the Columbidae, and includes over 300 species so this coin is going to be tough to get specific with. The name dove tends to refer to the smaller members of the family, while pigeons are the larger members. All members of this family have relatively small heads and bills with short legs on a robust body with large wings, giving them a unique profile and appearance among modern dinosaurs. The fossil record for this group goes back to the Miocene, which lasted from 23.3 to 15.97 million years ago.

Members of this family vary greatly in size. The largest member is the turkey-sized Crowned Pigeon and the smallest are the ground doves, which are the size of the House Sparrow. The Columbidae also have a unique feature in that they lack gall bladders, but secrete gall directly in the gut. They have a near global distribution, living in all areas aside from the Sahara Desert, the high Arctic and the Antarctic. This wide range of habitats as well as high adaptability have led feral pigeons, descendants of domesticated doves and pigeons, to becoming a major avian pest in many urban areas.

This coin shows a mated pair in a nest with eggs. Many species in this family, as with many other species of avians, mate for life and have complex child rearing behaviors. These same types of complex child-rearing and nesting behaviors seem to have been the norm with many non-avian theropods during the Mesozoic Era as well. One interesting feature of this family is the use of crop milk to feed their young. Crop milk is a protein rich secretion made in the bird's crop, an enlargement of the upper esophagus otherwise used to store food. This crop milk bears little resemblance to mammalian milk, being much thicker. Caring for the young, known as squabs in this family, is a job undertaken by both parents. Depending on the species, the young leave the nest in 7 to 28 days.

I love this coin, which was a gift from my girlfriend, because it shows modern dinosaurs exhibiting nesting behavior, which is a distinctive trait among all theropod families, and is one of the major behavioral links which allowed scientists to determine that our feathered friends are actually modern dinosaurs.

View Coin Marabou Stork GERMANY - MODERN 2 S10M 1984A E. ALFRED BREHM NGC PF 65 ULTRA CAMEO This coin depicts one of the most formidable and powerful of all modern dinosaurs, the Marabou Stork, species name Leptoptilos crumenifer.

When I first bought this coin, I thought the stork on the coin actually looked cute. I was wrong, oh so very wrong. The Marabou Stork is not cute. Rather, it is a mind-numbing horror of a dinosaur with a height of 5 feet, a 12 foot wingspan, a maximum weight of up to 20 pounds and a head like a spear. They are black and white in coloration with a bald, pink head. There is no sexual dimorphism among Marabous. Both sexes look exactly the same and one would have to watch their breeding behavior or genetically test them to determine gender. Their heads are bald because they are frequently covered in blood, entrails and other pieces of animals. Adding to its intimidation factor, it is extremely ill tempered and quick to attack. While it is often viewed as a scavenger, the Marabou Stork is also a highly efficient and extremely vicious predator. Marabou Storks will destroy and consume any animal that they can overpower and impale with their spear-like beak, from other birds to crocodile hatchlings and juveniles and anything made of meat in between. They have even been noted killing and eating full grown pelicans and flamingos.

And onto Marabous raising young....These modern dinosaurs live up to all of the terror inducing power of their ancestors when raising young. As parents, they move from ill-tempered to a level of extreme aggression bordering on emotional and psychological disturbance. If a Marabou Stork parent thinks you are a threat to its young, it will do its very best to destroy you. And with its size and that huge, razor sharp beak, it can make a very good attempt. These guys can actually kill you if you threaten them or their young. Do not doubt this. Marabou Storks are one of the most dangerous living dinosaurs. A Marabou Stork can fight off, seriously injure or kill most animals in its ecosystem, really only having to fear full grown Nile Crocodiles and Hippopotami. They can be fought off by Shoebills, another large and powerful modern dinosaur that rightly views Marabous as a threat. Typically, these fights between Shoebills and Marabous end without injury to either combatant as Marabous are, for some reason, fairly quick to retreat from an encounter with a Shoebill. Adding to the already nightmarish Marabou scenario is the fact that though Marabou Storks are monogamous animals that keep the same mate for their whole lives, they nest communally and they protect their young the same way. If you want to have the Jurassic Park experience, go mess with a baby Marabou Stork. You'll have a pack of very large, angry and violent modern theropods running after you with murderous intent in no time. Marabou Storks can live for between 25 and 41 years.

Adding to the horror is what Marabou Storks do to the nests of other modern dinosaurs. They will fly up into trees as a group and just destroy whole nesting colonies, first killing and ingesting the parents before moving on to devour all of the nestlings and eggs. I saw a video of this recently and it was honestly the first time I saw an animal exhibit a natural behavior that disturbed me.

Marabou Storks are one of the modern dinosaurs that have actually benefitted from human habitation and have evolved behaviors to take advantage of these benefits. Marabou Storks heavily colonize human landfills all across the African continent, eating all sorts of putrid refuse. They also walk through towns and villages, looking for garbage, vermin and any house pets unlucky enough to get in their way. There have been cases of people feeding Marabous. This is extremely stupid to do. If a Marabou Stork comes to associate a person with food and that person doesn't have any, the stork will likely attack them. This is definitely a modern dinosaur that needs to be experienced and respected from a safe distance.

While the Marabou Stork is nothing short of a living, walking and flying Mesozoic nightmare, it is also a vital member of its ecosystem. Nicknamed the Undertaker Stork due to its scavenging and killing habits, Marabous clean up many carcasses across the African wilderness. Marabou Storks, with their large size and immense strength, can often open carcasses that other scavengers cannot, so these ghoulish storks which deal out so much death and destruction also provide opportunities for life for other scavengers. However, these other scavengers have to wait until the Marabous are done feeding to reap this benefit if they don't want to end up as a part of the Marabou's dinner along with the carrion.

The Marabou Stork has also found its way into the lore of many African cultures, typically as either a harbinger of death or, in many cases, the embodiment of death itself. In some of these cultures, a Marabou Stork, in the role of the embodiment of death, is the final judge of a deceased person's actions and life and decides the fate of their essence or soul. It's interesting to contemplate that in some cultures, the Marabou's relative the White Stork is the bringer of new life in the form of infants while the Marabou ends life and is the final judge of the deceased. In a way, these mythical roles taken by these two storks mirror nature itself, with life and death being parts of the same family and cycle.

In closing, I think a small handicraft I saw online sums up this formidable theropod best.......this stork doesn't deliver babies. It delivers nightmares. Horrible, scarring nightmares.
View Coin Golden Eagle GERMANY - STATES 3 3M 1913A PRUSSIA - NAPOLEON DEFEAT NGC MS 63 In the Golden Eagle (species name Aquila chrysaetos), we once again have a formidable predator among modern theropods. These dark brown eagles can grow to over 3 feet in length with a wingspan of almost 8 feet and a weight between 8 and 20 pounds. They are one of the most familiar, common and best known raptors in the Northern Hemisphere. This eagle ranges across most of the Holarctic if visiting and breeding ranges are considered.

In all ecosystems the Golden Eagle calls home, it is a formidable and preeminent apex predator. It is a generalist feeder, generally consuming any animal that it can bring down. Its prey can range in size and content from hares and squirrels up to deer, wolves and other hoofed mammals and canids. As far as animals that prey upon it, there really are none, though in parts of its Asian range, Golden Eagles often fight with Steller's Sea Eagles over prey and territory. Rarely, these fights can be fatal for one or both combatants. While the coin pictures a decent depiction of a Golden Eagle, that depiction is out of scale as most snakes would be tiny compared to the size of the bird. Further, the Golden Eagle is a Northern Hemisphere animal. The possibility of it meeting a snake that would make the coin's depiction in scale, such as a python or boa constrictor, is very unlikely. Most snakes that a Golden Eagle would encounter wouldn't make much of a meal for it and it's unlikely that one would waste its time hunting such a snake unless food was very scarce. Though it is a generalist predator, mammals are the Golden Eagle's preferred prey.

The Golden Eagle's hunting technique is quite amazing and has taught us much about how its closest extinct theropod relatives may have hunted. It also shows their high intelligence. Golden Eagles soar and scan the ground, seeking potential prey animals. Once the eagle finds a good potential prey item, it swoops down at the animal, often herding the animal using strategic advances and retreats so that the prey animal thinks it has a real chance to escape the eagle. The eagle uses this technique to move the prey animal to an ideal spot for the eagle to make the final death blow.....a strike on the neck and shoulder region of the prey animal with its massively strong feet, which each have four talons which can be up to two and a half inches long. Smaller prey animals, such as hares and squirrels, die almost instantly from one strike. Large prey items require a slightly different approach. When taking down a prey animal like a deer or a wolf, the Golden Eagle does what is called prey-riding. The eagle literally rides the prey animal, flapping its wings for stability, while continuing to dig its talons deeper into the prey until it causes paralysis by breaking the spine or death due to blood loss or organ failure. Smaller prey are typically swallowed whole while the eagle (or eagles if it is a mated pair or a pair cooperatively hunting) will strip the flesh from larger prey, leaving little aside from a bloody skeleton. Golden Eagles are also very adaptable when it comes to hunting strategies. They have been observed hunting in pairs or groups to tackle larger prey and herding larger prey animals toward cliffs, allowing the fall to do much of the work for them. They have even been videotaped dragging mountain goats off of cliffs directly and killing them that way.

The hunting technique of Golden Eagles has changed the way that paleontologists hypothesize that dromaeosaurs and extinct avialans hunted. Most of the extinct dinosaurs in those groups had large retractable talons on the second toes, which were assumed to be slashing weapons for many years. The realization that birds are dinosaurs has changed that view. The view now held is that these extinct dinosaurs hunted in a similar way to Golden Eagles, swooping on the prey if they could fly and jumping on it if they were flightless, and the large claw was used to prey-ride the prey animal in a manner similar to that still used by the Golden Eagle while flapping their wings for stability. It is further theorized that this prey-riding by early feathered theropods who could not fly may have been an essential step in the evolution of flight among dinosaurs.

The Golden Eagle isn't all blood-soaked genius dinosaur inflicted animal murder. It has a complex family life. Golden Eagles mate for life, with a matriarchal social structure. Upon reaching maturity at about 5 years, golden eagles choose their mates. Males undertake courtship displays and are either accepted or rejected by the female. If there are no other interested females, there is no violence involved. If there is a dispute between females over a male, there can be violent battles. This is the time of greatest mortality risk for female golden eagles. Golden Eagles typically have one or two chicks and are devoted parents. They see to their chicks' every need and defend them ferociously from any and all threats. Typically, two chicks can and do co-exist with one another, but there are incidences of siblicide if the older chick is female, though it is rare compared to siblicide in other bird species. Male chicks are rarely siblicidal. The young are born white, fuzzy and helpless. They begin to fledge at about 25 days old, with brown and white feathers replacing the down, this process is completed at around 75 days old. The white feathers are slowly replaced by more brown feathers as Golden Eagles mature. At around 80 days after completing fledging, young golden eagles begin hunting their own prey, though they may stay near their parents for a considerable time after this, up to the full five years it takes to reach full maturity. Golden Eagles can live for up to 60 years.

The Golden Eagle is one of my favorite modern dinosaurs. The fact that they are becoming quite common in my area in the summers and that they are essentially a flying dromaeosaur is absolutely amazing to me. Because of the Golden Eagle, the ecosystem where I live still has a dinosaur as the apex predator. They are also extremely beautiful and intelligent animals that, if you live in the right area, are easy to see and observe. This is an animal that deserves admiration and respect.

View Coin Red Junglefowl TUVALU S50C 2017P YEAR OF THE ROOSTER COLORIZED-EARLY RELEASES NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO After the ferocity of the Marabou Stork and the Golden Eagle, it's a nice time to change direction and take a look at a gentler modern dinosaur. The Red Junglefowl (Species name Gallus gallus) brings us to what is and is likely to remain the most adorable dinosaur coin ever made and my favorite dinosaur coin in my whole collection.

The Red Junglefowl is a tropical fowl, native to Southeast Asia. There are 6 different subspecies of the Red Junglefowl, five of which range wild across their Southeast Asian range. As for the sixth...that's covered at the end of this essay. Unlike some other species, the Red Junglefowl is a very vocal bird, with different vocalizations for food, attracting a mate, and warning other Red Junglefowl to the appearance of predators. Red Junglefowl are gregarious animals that live together in flocks with a distinct "pecking order" with some members of the flock dominating the others. These dominant fowl get first access to food, water and other resources. Adding members to a flock of Red Junglefowl disrupts this established order and often leads to violence in the flock as the pecking order is re-established.

Red Junglefowl also exhibit sexual dimorphism. Males are usually larger and have longer tail feathers along with larger combs and wattles. Males are also more vibrantly and brightly colored than females as well. Males also have spurs on their legs, which they use for fighting other males over females and in defending their territory.

Unlike the previous dinosaurs in this collection, who are altricial and have young who are born helpless, Red Junglefowl are precocial, where the chicks are born ready to walk and interact with the environment on their own in a manner of hours. Though they are precocial, the chicks still require parental care and guidance for several weeks after hatching. And, as you can see from the coin, they are still all fuzzy and absolutely adorable! In contrast to the Golden Eagle, who are highly monogamous, Red Junglefowl are polygynous, with one or two males mating with several females in the flock. This strategy leads to high genetic diversity among the flocks.

Dietwise, Red Junglefowl are omnivorous, eating plant material, seeds, insects and small vertebrates such as mice and lizards. Their predators include birds of prey, large snakes and crocodilians and mammalian predators, including humans.

The coin itself is a departure from the other coins in that it shows a baby Red Junglefowl rather than a full grown example. Isn't he adorable? I think it's important to try to show dinosaur depictions from all life stages in this set as it is all part of the story......and fuzzy baby dinosaurs are just so cute!!!

The Red Junglefowl also holds an important place in human life and history. It is the wild ancestor of a very common modern dinosaur....the domestic chicken. The fact that this sweet little baby rooster appears on this coin is a testament to the place that the Red Junglefowl's domesticated descendant has played in human history. It found its way into the Chinese Zodiac as one of the most noble signs. However, it is important to note that the chicken exhibits some very different behaviors and is much less intelligent than the Red Junglefowl due to inbreeding by humans during the domestication process. For the purposes of this set, I decided that the Red Junglefowl is the right bird to discuss with this sweet baby rooster coin as it is the original model that nature and evolution intended and not the one that we ruined to serve our own purposes.....and in case you were wondering, no, I do not eat chicken :)
View Coin Bald Eagle United States 50C 2008 S BALD EAGLE NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO With the Bald Eagle (Species name Haliaeetus leucocephalus), we have another raptor and another baby dinosaur coin, keeping in theme with the two previous coins, but the Bald Eagle is a much different type of a predator than the Golden Eagle.

For starters, the Bald Eagle is a member of the Haliaeetus genus, which are the Sea Eagles. The Golden Eagle is an Aquila, or a true eagle. The Bald Eagle is, like most eagles, a rather large raptor with a wingspan that ranges from 5.9 to 7.5 feet, a length range from 28 to 40 inches and a weight range between 6.6 to 13.9 pounds. The "bald" in the Bald Eagle's name is from an archaic definition of the word meaning white headed rather than bare of integument, and was so named because of the striking white head found on adult specimens of the bird. The tail of adults is also bright white, while the body feathers are brown. Young Bald Eagles have what is sometimes described as a "messy" look to their plumage, being predominately brown with white streaking, gaining the white head and tail at maturity, at the age of five years. Though they can be confused for young Golden Eagles at a distance, young Bald Eagles have distinctive differences such as a legs which aren't fully feathered down to the feet, a stiffer wingbeat when flying and a black beak with a yellow tip, which turns yellow at maturity. The Bald Eagle has wide range within North America, the only continent it naturally inhabits. The Bald Eagle's habitat is along waterways with plenty of fish for prey and old growth trees for nesting.

As with most Sea Eagles, the majority of the Bald Eagle's diet is fish of various species. Fish comprises between 90 and 56 percent of the Bald Eagle's diet depending on the location of individual birds. Other prey items taken by Bald Eagles include waterbirds and aquatic mammals. The Bald Eagle is also a notorious kleptoparasite, always ready and willing to steal prey from other predators. The Bald Eagle, with its large size and ferocious nature, is capable of stealing kills from foxes, coyotes, bobcats, red-tailed hawks and peregrine falcons. They are also noted as being able to drive Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures away from carrion.

When the Bald Eagle is engaged in kleptoparasitism, it attacks the victim much more viciously than it would attack prey that it hunted and killed on its own and is typically very successful in driving the initial predator or predators away. Given that this behavior is a large part of Bald Eagle feeding strategy, it is nearly impossible to make a list of the various kinds of animals they may consume by stealing kills. On the other hand, Bald Eagles are dominated by Golden Eagles and bears in scavenging situations. Bald Eagles rarely try to steal kills from Golden Eagles as the Golden Eagle has a much stronger beak, is stronger on the ground and more aggressive than the Bald Eagle and can easily fight off a Bald Eagle attempting to steal a kill. Such a conflict would have a real chance of ending fatally for the Bald Eagle. However, bears are a different situation and Bald Eagles can steal food from bears occasionally if they're quick and catch the bear off-guard.

What they lack in size, ferocity and hunting prowess compared to the Golden Eagle is made up for by amazing flying strength. A Bald Eagle was sighted flying with a 15 pound deer fawn, the heaviest flying load ever verified for a flying bird of any species and an amazing feat, especially when the maximum weight of 13.9 pounds for a Bald Eagle is considered.

Like most raptors, Bald Eagles mate for life. They engage in spectacular aerobatic courtship displays, the most spectacular of which involves the mating pair locking talons and free-falling, separating right before hitting the ground. The Bald Eagle is female dominant like the Golden Eagle, but Golden Eagle female dominance is much more strict and violent. Bald Eagle mate selection rarely, if ever, results in violence between individuals. Bald Eagles also mate and nest earlier than all other North American raptors, with nest building or reinforcing taking place in February and egg laying taking place later in that same month. Most other raptors lay eggs in April or May, by comparison. Bald Eagles make huge nests which they use for many years. These nests can be 13 feet deep and weigh a metric ton, the largest tree nests known for any animal. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the young. At least one parent is present at the nest almost 100% of the time.

Bald Eagles have 1 to 3 chicks a year. They typically have two chicks, which can usually coexist but there are rare instances of the older chick killing the younger one. This is typically if the older chick is female as male chicks rarely, if ever, engage in siblicidal behavior. Like the Golden Eagle, and as the coin shows, the young are born fuzzy and helpless but Bald Eagle babies are grey rather than white. Typically, two chicks survive to fledge at between 8 and 14 weeks of age and they leave their parents about 6 weeks after fledging is completed. An interesting thing about Bald Eagles is that they will occasionally adopt the fledglings of other raptor species into their nests and raise them alongside their own chicks. The reasons for this fascinating behavior are, at the present time, unknown. But if my inspiration for this modern dinosaur set has taught me anything, it's that we never know what amazing answers are waiting just around the corner. Bald Eagles typically live for between 20 and 38 years in the wild. The oldest known Bald Eagle was a captive who made it to 50 years of age.

This coin in the modern dinosaur collection also has a unique distinction in depicting an actual, living animal and not just a general depiction of a member of the species. This eagle is Challenger, who is depicted in profile ( and looking very theropod-y by the way) on the reverse of this great coin. Challenger is a non-releasable male Bald Eagle in the care of the American Eagle Foundation who is also the first Bald Eagle trained to free fly at events.

And, stating the obvious, the Bald Eagle is the national bird (or national dinosaur as I prefer to think of it) of the United States. But if Benjamin Franklin had gotten his way, it would not have been. Franklin had real issues with the kleptoparasitic nature of this modern theropod and favored the Wild Turkey instead. I can see how Franklin would find this behavior less than noble, but nature is nature and living beings evolve behaviors for a reason. I personally feel that this dinosaur is doing what it evolved to do, and it exhibits the rather charming and endearing behavior of adopting chicks of other species and raising them as their own. One cannot apply morality to nature. No matter how one feels about its behavior, there is no doubt that the Bald Eagle is a fascinating and beautiful example of a living dinosaur.
View Coin Great Blue Heron United States 25C 2015 S SILVER BOMBAY HOOK NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO With our next modern dinosaur, we’re going to get semi-aquatic! It’s time to splash around with the Great Blue Heron, species name Ardea herodias.

The Great Blue Heron is the third largest extant heron, after the Goliath Heron and the White Bellied Heron. The Great Blue Heron has a head to tail length range from 3 to 4.5 feet, a wingspan from 5.5 to 6.6 feet, a height from 3.75 to 4.5 feet and a weight from 4 to 7.9 pounds. The Great Blue Heron gets its name from its bluish-grey flight feathers. The grey part of the coloration is pigment derived, but the bluish hints are due to structural pigmentation. Our eyes see the bluish hints due to the way light refracts through the feathers. No theropod dinosaur, either known only from fossils or extant, has been discovered that can produce blue pigments.

Other coloration on Great Blue Herons includes red-brown thighs, a paired red-brown and black stripe up the flanks, a rusty grey neck with black and white streaking down the front and a nearly white face. Mature herons also have long plumes on the lower neck with additional plumes on the lower back during their breeding season. There is also an all-white population of Great Blue Herons in Florida and the Caribbean that is so strikingly different in appearance than other Great Blue Heron populations that these individuals were considered a separate species for years. There is currently an ongoing scientific debate whether this is true or not.

Great Blue Herons range across North America, though some populations may overwinter in northern South America as well. The northernmost and some eastern populations are migratory in the winter but not all populations migrate. It is actually not how the temperature affects the birds that spurs migration as Great Blue Herons are extremely hardy and cold resistant. It’s whether or not they have unfrozen flowing bodies of water to hunt in or not over the winter. Great Blue Herons can call almost any body of water home, provided they have prey and nesting grounds.

Great Blue Herons are predatory. They mainly prey on small fish, though they will also consume invertebrates, small amphibians, small mammals and small birds and other small reptiles. They mainly hunt by wading in the water, finding prey by sight and spearing it with their long, pointed and very sharp beak. Since they eat small prey, they typically swallow their prey whole. Great Blue Herons are typically solitary hunters, but they will occasionally hunt in groups when there is a large school of fish or some other gathering of a large group of prey animals. Great Blue Herons also exhibit considerable adaptability in their hunting strategy, with behaviors ranging from floating on the surface of the water and spearing prey, jumping in the water to ambush prey, hovering over the water and capturing prey and diving head first into the water to ambush prey
Like the Marabou Stork, Great Blue Herons breed in colonies but these colonies are far less terrifying. These colonies, called heronies, are established in are that are difficult to reach on foot in order to protect the eggs and young from mammalian predators. Other waterbirds and even some raptors will also breed in these heronies for the protection they offer. While most raptors can easily fight off any mammalian predators threatening their young, the herony offers an environment where they don’t even have to worry about it. This symbiotic community makes the eggs and chicks of all involved quite safe. Unlike raptors, which mate for life, Great Blue Heron pairs are only monogamous for a single breeding season. They almost always choose different mates each season.

Great Blue Herons lay between three to six eggs asynchronously at two-day intervals and hatch asynchronously after being incubated for around 27 days each. Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young. The young are fed by the parents by regurgitating food and there is some aggression and competition among the chicks, which can end in siblicidal behavior, though it is more common that all chicks survive but the oldest grows more quickly. Great Blue Herons grow quickly; by the time they are 45 days old, they weigh 86% of their adult weight. At the age of between 55 and 80 days, Great Blue Herons take their first flights. They stay with their parents for around 3 more weeks after this and then disperse on their own by the following winter. Great Blue Herons live for around 15 years.

Given its large size, strength and very long and sharp beak, a full grown Great Blue Heron has few predators. The only predators a full grown Great Blue Heron really has to worry about are Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles over the course of most of their range and American Alligators and American Crocodiles in the southern portion of their range. Young herons may be preyed upon by Red-Tailed Hawks and Harris Hawks as well. Raccoons, Turkey Vultures, Common Ravens and Black Bears will consume heron eggs when the opportunity presents itself, which is pretty rare. Full grown Great Blue Herons are very strong and will defend themselves ferociously if they are in danger. The Great Blue Heron is one of the few animals that has been seen successfully fighting off a full grown Golden Eagle, which is absolutely amazing when you think about the power and hunting prowess of the Golden Eagle.

The Great Blue Heron has a special place in my heart. Last year, I was having a somewhat bad time with things. One day, I came home and I went to get the mail out of our mailbox and I saw one of these guys standing in a creek near our house. He just stood there while I watched him and glanced at me but he didn’t fly away. He seemed to know that I meant him no harm and that I just wanted to watch him. He just kept looking for fish for a bit while I watched him. After a few minutes, there apparently weren’t any fish in the creek to his liking, so he glanced at me again and flew off to better hunting grounds. This heron immediately snapped me out of my bad mood and put a smile on my face. This interaction has always stuck with me and is a constant reminder of how amazing all living things are and how they deserve our admiration, care and respect.
View Coin Peregrine Falcon United States 25C 2007 S SILVER IDAHO NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO Yesterday (7/23/2017), I read a new study that announced that biomechanical studies done on Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons have determined that Tyrannosaurus was something of a slowpoke, with a maximum speed of 17 MPH (To put this in perspective, the fastest humans max out at 28 MPH, and we’re certainly not hunters of large but fleet footed Ornithischian dinosaurs). This casts some doubt into the predatory abilities of this famous theropod. It’s looking like the dromaeosaurs and avialans were the true hunters of the Northern Hemisphere during the Cretaceous. I figured, in light of this new study, it was a good time to examine a modern dinosaur that is definitely a proficient hunter and lives life in the fast lane: The Peregrine Falcon, species name Falco peregrinus

The Peregrine Falcon is a strong contrast to its extinct slowpoke cousin. It is actually the fastest animal known to have ever existed, reaching speeds of up to 242 MPH when performing its hunting stoop, a high-speed aerial dive. It is also the world’s most widespread raptor, inhabiting all ice-free landmasses aside from New Zealand.

Peregrine Falcons are small but mighty. They range in length from 13-23 inches with a wingspan between 2.4 to 3.9 feet. As with most raptors, females are considerably larger than the males, with females weighing up to 50% more than the males. Males average less than 1.5 pounds while females average over 1.8 pounds. The back and the wings of the Peregrine Falcon are a bluish black to slate grey with a white to rusty underside that is barred with dark brown or black. They have a yellow cere (the part of the bill with the nostrils) and feet with a black beak and claws. There are 19 different subspecies of the Peregrine Falcon, which vary in coloration and size.

Peregrine Falcons differ from the two eagles discussed previously in some important feeding behaviors. The first is in prey selection. While the Golden Eagle primarily preys on mammals and the Bald Eagle preys on fish and whatever it can steal, the Peregrine Falcon is similar to prehistoric predatory dinosaurs in that it primarily preys on other dinosaurs. Common prey items for the Peregrine Falcon include pigeons, waterbirds, songbirds, waders and other small to medium size birds. It will even prey on some of the smaller falcons and hawks.

The hunting technique of the Peregrine Falcon is also different than those of the eagles and larger raptors. Peregrine Falcons search for prey by soaring or from a high perch. Once a suitable prey animal is sighted, the Peregrine Falcon pursues the prey animal until it gets in a good position to enter its stoop. Then it dives at the prey animal, hitting it mid-air at speeds of up to 242 MPH. The force behind this blow is absolutely devastating and is often fatal in and of itself. The Peregrine then grabs the prey animal in its talons. If the prey is dead, they will land and begin to eat. If the prey is not dead, they will drop the prey from the air and land, finishing the prey off with its beak, which has special “pseudo-teeth” on the sides for this purpose, allowing the Peregrine to sever the spinal cord and kill the prey. This killing with the beak rather than the feet is one of the differences that set falcons apart from other raptors.

The high-speed dive of the Peregrine Falcon has called for the evolution of traits to help the falcon itself deal with the stresses of moving at such a high speed. Notably, they have special nostril tubercules to protect their lungs from the air pressure encountered when making an aerial dive at over 200 MPH. Their nictitating membranes, a kind of third eyelid that most reptiles (as birds are a kind of dinosaur, they are classified as reptiles as well) have as do sharks, are also strengthened to protect the Peregrine’s eyes when making these dives. The Peregrine Falcon is superbly evolved for its role as a high-speed, aerial predator.

Peregrine Falcons mature at between two and three years of age. Like other raptors, Peregrine Falcons mate for life and they too have an elaborate courtship ritual. The male courts the female with a mix of aerial aerobatics, spirals and dives. When a female accepts a male as her mate, the male passes a prey animal he has caught and killed to the female in mid-air. She actually flies upside down for a bit in order to make this catch. While they are normally not territorial against members of their own species, Peregrine Falcons become territorial while nesting and raising young. Due to this, Peregrine nests are always at least a kilometer apart from one another, usually much more if the space is available.

Peregrine Falcons nest on cliffs, buildings and bridges. They are yet another example of an avian dinosaur that has used our changing of the environment to their advantage and many Peregrine Falcons live in our cities and towns. They will also occasionally ground nest. Both parents incubate the eggs, but the male only incubates during the day. Females are the only ones that incubate at night, and the reason for this behavior is presently unknown. Peregrine Falcons are capable of vicious defense when their nests, eggs or young are threatened. Ground-nesting parents have to defend eggs from mammalian threats including foxes, wolverines, felids, bears, wolves, and mountain lions. These mammalian predators typically do not cause much of a problem for Peregrine parents.

However, avian predators are a more serious threat. Herons, gulls and ravens will try to eat Peregrine eggs while other raptors, such as Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, Snowy Owls and Great Horned Owls will attempt to eat young Peregrines. The small but mighty Peregrine is capable of holding its own against these larger raptors. Bald Eagles and Snowy Owls have both been confirmed to have been killed outright, at the nest, by Peregrine Falcon pairs in defense of their eggs and young. Golden Eagles, the raptor that is actually the least likely to prey on Peregrines and their young due to its mammal preference, have also been successfully fought off and they often come away with injuries from encounters with Peregrines. Some of these injuries have been found later to have been fatal to the Golden Eagle, an animal that can be from 8 to almost 10 times the weight of the Peregrine Falcon that is also a formidable predator of some very large animals such as deer and canids.

Peregrine pairs typically have one or two chicks after an incubation period of around 33 days. The young are born tiny, fuzzy, white and helpless with endearingly large feet. Both parents hunt and feed the chicks, which fledge between 42 and 46 days after hatching. They then remain with their parents for two more months before leaving on their own. Given the huge geographic range and large numbers of subspecies, breeding takes place at many different times of the year. Peregrine Falcons live for around 15.5 years.

The coin used to represent the Peregrine Falcon is my absolute favorite State Quarter. I’d also like to point out how dinosaur-like the Peregrine Falcon on the coin looks in profile in this depiction. This is a great coin to help make the connection between birds and their dinosaur kin and to, sadly, continue the dethronement of the Tyrannosaurus Rex (sorry Rexy, but I still love you even if you were slow!!)

View Coin Anhinga and Roseate Spoonbill United States 25C 2014 S SILVER EVERGLADES NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO With our next coin, we have two different modern dinosaurs to discuss: The Roseate Spoonbill (species name Platalea ajaja) and The Anhinga (species name Anhinga anhinga). I was unable to find the breadth of the information on these guys that I’ve been able to find on some of the other species, but that works to my advantage on this coin as I can comfortably cover two birds with one coin.

Both the Anhinga and the Roseate Spoonbill are water birds, living a semi-aquatic lifestyle much like the Great Blue Heron covered earlier. Both of these birds also share a similar range, ranging from the Gulf Coast of North America, the Caribbean and into South America. The Roseate Spoonbill is a decently sized modern theropod, with a length of 2.3 to 2.8 feet, a wingspan of 3.9 to 4.3 feet and a weight between 2.6 to 4 pounds. The Anhinga is sized in a similar range to the Roseate Spoonbill, with a length of around 3 feet, a wingspan of 3.7 feet and a weight between 2.3 to 3 pounds. The Anhinga is a glossy black green in coloration, with a black-blue tail that is also glossy. The Roseate Spoonbill is a pink color similar to flamingos and like flamingos, this pink coloration is derived from the carotenoid pigment canthaxanthin, which they derive from their diets. Without this diet derived pigment, Roseate Spoonbills are white in coloration.

Both the Anhinga and the Roseate Spoonbill are predatory, with the Anhinga preying upon fish and amphibians. The Roseate Spoonbill preys upon crustaceans, aquatic insects, frogs, newts and very small fish. The hunting strategies are different as well. The Anhinga is a diver, diving after prey head first and staying submerged for some length of time depending on the difficulty of their hunt. The Roseate Spoonbill hunts by moving its distinctive, spoon-shaped bill back and forth through the water and filtering out their small prey items. An interesting fact about the Anhinga is that, unlike most other water birds, its feathers are not waterproof. This feature evolved to aid the Anhinga in making its dives and staying submerged but it also means that an Anhinga cannot fly when wet. It has to wait for its feathers to dry in order to take flight. The Roseate Spoonbill, on the other hand, has waterproof feathers like most other water birds.

As of right now, I was unable to locate any breeding behavior information on either of these guys, but I’m going to keep researching. If I find it, I will add it here. However, both the Anhinga and the Roseate Spoonbill live for around 16 years. Information on predators of these birds was also lacking, but it is thought that they face predation from large avian predators like Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles and possibly Harpy Eagles in the South American part of their overlapped ranges.

On the coin, the Anhinga is the bird in the foreground and the Roseate Spoonbill is the bird in the background. Water birds are cool because they are one of the oldest families of dinosaurs still in existence. The oldest known dinosaur from the Euornithe group, which is the dinosaur group within the larger Avialae clade that modern birds belong to, is a water bird. Archaeornithura meemannae, which lived 130.7 million years ago in what is now northeastern China, looked similar to the Anhinga, though it was much smaller at 6 inches tall with shorter legs and a shorter beak. While the information I was able to locate on the Roseate Spoonbill and Anhinga was sparse compared to some of the other dinosaurs featured in this set, they still make excellent and fascinating additions to this collection of modern dinosaurs.
View Coin Puerto Rican Amazon United States 25C 2012 S CLAD EL YUNQUE EARLY RELEASES NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO Our next modern dinosaur is both the first parrot and the first entry in the set that is, sadly, endangered. Say hello to the Puerto Rican Amazon.

The Puerto Rican Amazon is a small parrot, with a length of 11 to 11.8 inches and a weight of between 8.8 to 10.6 ounces. Unlike many other theropod dinosaurs, both extant and those known from fossils, the Puerto Rican Amazon does not exhibit any sexual dimorphism. Males and females are the same size and both sexes are predominately green, with a yellow-green tail and structurally pigmented dark blue flight feathers and covert feathers. The only way to tell the difference between the sexes in this species is with a DNA test or by observing their behaviors during their breeding seasons, where males and females exhibit different behaviors. Even young Puerto Rican Amazons exhibit very similar coloration to the adults.

The Puerto Rican Amazon is also different from many of the modern dinosaurs in the set so far in that it is not a predator. These parrots are herbivores, feeding on fruits, flowers, bark, leaves and nectar obtained from plants in the canopy of the Puerto Rican Amazon’s old-growth forest habitat. They tend to select food items directly in front of them and they hold their food with one foot and consume it rather slowly. Puerto Rican Amazons are moderately fast fliers, with their top speed being 19 MPH.

In the time before European colonization, the Puerto Rican Amazon had a widespread distribution across the islands of Puerto Rico and an estimated population of between 100,000 and 1 million individuals. European colonization changed everything. As the human population of Puerto Rico increased, the old-growth forest habitat of the Puerto Rican Amazon was cleared to make room for human settlements and human crops. As suitable habitat for the Puerto Rican Amazon declined, its food sources declined as well. In an attempt to survive, Puerto Rican Amazons began feeding on human crops which led to humans killing them to protect their crops. The population was further harmed by humans taking young Puerto Rican Amazons as pets, which reduced the breeding population. By the 1950’s, there were only 200 Puerto Rican Amazons left in the wild and they were only found in the El Yunque National Forest. In 1968, conservation attempts were finally made. The Puerto Rican Amazon is recovering in captivity, but the recovery is proving to be slow. By 2012, there were over 300 individuals in captivity but only around 80 are left in the wild.

In spite of being very different in most areas from raptors, Puerto Rican Amazons share an important trait with them in that they mate for life. It is thought that they probably exhibit some complex pairing behaviors when forming a pair bond, but at the present time these behaviors are largely a mystery outside of pair dancing undertaken by new pairings as Puerto Rican Amazons are very secretive about their mating behaviors.

Puerto Rican Amazons reach maturity at four years of age. Most pairs breed once a year between January and July, the dry season in Puerto Rico. Actual mating seems to be spurred by food transfers between the mated pairs. The female then lays between two and four eggs which she incubates exclusively. The male feeds her via regurgitation while she is incubating the eggs. During this time, females only leave the nest rarely, such as an instance where both parents need to fight off a predator. Incubation typically lasts 24 to 28 days, after which the chicks hatch. After hatching, the chicks are fed by both parents until they leave the nest 60 to 65 days after hatching. After leaving the nest, Puerto Rican Amazons stay with their parents and travel with them until the next breeding season.

While Puerto Rican Amazons are normally social animals, as are most parrots, they become territorial about their nests during the breeding season. Also, while they are not typically aggressive, they are very aggressive when it comes to defending their nests and young. They are quite capable of damaging other Puerto Rican Amazon pairs and any predators when they are in the breeding season. Many herbivorous theropods retain the powerful jaws, claws and defense instincts of their predatory ancestors and kin and the Puerto Rican Amazon is one that does. Puerto Rican Amazons are mainly threatened by human activity but raptors will prey upon them as well. Their natural predators include the Red-Tailed Hawk, the Broad-Winged Hawk, the Peregrine Falcon and the Pearly-Eyed Thrasher. As the population in the wild is already so low, natural disasters such as hurricanes can be a major threat to this species as well.

I really like this coin. Not only does it have a depiction of an amazing modern dinosaur, there is also a Common Coqui, a tree frog that shares part of its range with the Puerto Rican Amazon but is not endangered. Along with many other types of animals, I also absolutely adore amphibians so I love having this cute little frog here as well. The Puerto Rican Amazon is a fascinating modern dinosaur that comes with a warning to us, humans, to consider what we are doing to the planet and the other beings forced to share it with us. If we aren’t careful and respectful of other life forms, they may be gone forever and the whole world loses when that happens.
View Coin Common Loon CANADA - 1968 TO DATE S$10 2017 COMMON LOON EARLY RELEASES NGC PF 69 MATTE The next modern dinosaur in the collection is one that is both familiar and one that breaks many of the rules for theropod dinosaurs in general: The Common Loon, species name Gavia immer.

The Common Loon is a rather large loon, with a length range of 27 to 36 inches and a wingspan range of 50 to 58 inches. They can range in weight from 7 to 9 pounds. The bird on the coin depicts the Common Loon in its breeding plumage, which is the same for both genders. When they are not breeding, Common Loons of both sexes are a greyish brown color. The only sexual dimorphism in the Common Loon is with size, and this is one of the areas where Common Loons are an exception to the general rules of theropod dinosaurs in that it is the male which is the larger gender instead of the female. Another distinguishing feature of the Common Loon is its heavy, dagger like beak. This beak is both a powerful hunting and defense tool, used to spear both prey and attackers depending on the situation.

Geographically, Common Loons range across Canada, Alaska and the very northernmost portion of the continental United States as well as Greenland in their breeding season and they overwinter along the coasts of North America, ranging as far south as Mexico along with areas of Northern Europe, such as the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.
Common Loons are divers, and to aid in making dives they break another theropod rule in having many solid bones in their skeletons to aid in staying down during dives. Aside from Common Loons, the only theropod dinosaurs to share this feature are a few other waterbirds, penguins, ostriches, emus and two non-avian aquatic theropod groups: the hesperornithes and the spinosaurids. Most theropod dinosaurs have mostly hollow bones, and indeed, this is a determining trait of the group.

Common Loons are predators who mainly feed on various species of fish, the exact listing of which varies by geographic location. They also feed on crustaceans, insect larvae, mollusks and occasionally small amounts of plant matter and the young of other waterbirds. Common Loons hunt by locating prey by sight and diving after it, using its powerful legs to propel it after the prey. Most small prey is swallowed whole underwater, where and when it is caught. Larger prey is brought to the surface and consumed in pieces. A Common Loon typically dives to depths between 13 to 33 feet when hunting, but they have been recorded making dives as deep as 230 feet. They are also very fast fliers, with a maximum speed of 75 MPH. As a sight-based hunter, clear water is vitally important to the Common Loon and water pollution has been responsible for Common Loons abandoning parts of their range in the continental United States.

As for animals that prey on adult Common Loons, there are only two: the now familiar pair of the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle. Of these two, the Bald Eagle is much more likely to prey on Common Loons due to their shared wetland habitats. Eggs of the Common Loon are preyed upon by gulls, corvids, raccoons, skunks, minks and foxes. Young Common Loons are also preyed upon by Snapping Turtles in addition to the two avian predators that prey upon adults.

Common Loons are monogamous, and they reach sexual maturity at two years of age. After reaching maturity, Common Loons breed annually. Unlike many other theropods, Common Loons have a very simple courtship process, consisting of mutual bill-dipping and dives. Breeding for Common Loons begins in May, with both members of a breeding pair building a 22-inch-wide nest out of marsh grasses and other plant matter. The pair defends a breeding territory that ranges in size from 60 to 200 acres and they patrol it frequently and defend it viciously……that dagger like bill can really ruin a predator’s day when it’s buried in their abdomen or the back of their head.

In late May or early June, Common Loons lay one or two olive brown eggs with dark brown spots and both parents incubate them. Incubation takes around 24 to 25 days, after which the young hatch out. Common Loons are precocial, with the young walking and swimming within hours after birth. The parents will also carry the young on their backs, which affords them protection from Snapping Turtles looking for a quick meal. Young Common Loons typically fledge at between 70 and 77 days of age and they can fly at around the same age. If food is plentiful, both young will typically survive but in scarce times, one chick will often kill its sibling to ensure its own food supply. The young leave the nesting ground and their parents before the next winter after the breeding season when they hatched. Common Loons can live for over 20 years.

Common Loons are also noted for the wide range of distinctive vocalizations that they can produce. These vocalizations can sound like a laugh, a yodel or a shriek. On a personal note, these often-strange sounding vocalizations made by Common Loons are used as an excuse to give the vocalizations of the great demon of the North, the Wendigo, a rational explanation in one of my favorite novels, Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.

The Common Loon is an amazing and fascinating modern dinosaur which has found a prominent place in human culture. It has appeared on coins, in novels and in films and I’m so happy to finally have this beautiful rule-breaker here in my collection of modern dinosaurs…..another kudos must go out to my life partner for finding this excellent coin for this collection as it was a birthday gift from her.
View Coin Theories on the Origin of Flight Among Theropod Dinosaurs United States 25C 2016 W 24K GOLD 1/4oz NGC SP 70 In 2016, the U.S. Mint issued this amazing gold Standing Liberty Quarter, along with two other coins, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the designs of the coins. What drew me to this coin was that its reverse featured an image over 100 million years old, that of a theropod dinosaur in powerful flight.

The ability to fly is one of the most amazing traits that life on Earth has ever evolved. Over the entire history of the Earth, only four groups of animals are known that evolved members who had or have the ability to truly fly. These animals are insects, the extinct pterosaurs, theropod dinosaurs and bats.

However, with three of the four groups, we have absolutely no idea how the ability to fly evolved and what path it took. Flying insects, pterosaurs and bats all simply appear in the fossil record with their flight equipment and ability intact and fully evolved. This is because the fossil records for these groups are highly incomplete, especially regarding the transitional forms leading to the ability to fly. Theropod dinosaurs are different. Thankfully, they have left us much of the story of their path to the domination of the skies preserved in the rocks of the Earth. This coin is perfect to discuss the three dominant theories behind the evolution of flight in theropod dinosaurs (birds are not the only group of theropods to evolve the ability to fly) and a few of the interesting forms of flighted theropods that are different from today’s surviving birds.

There are three main models proposed for the evolution of flight in theropods. They are called the “Pouncing Proavis” model, the Cursorial model and the Arboreal model. The “Pouncing Proavis” model theorizes that flight evolved from wing flapping that feathered, non-flying theropods would use to stabilize themselves when performing a prey-riding technique similar to that used by the modern Golden Eagle and that this flapping eventually, over time, evolved into true flight. This theory has much to recommend it. It allows for a slow build and many different forms of flying dinosaurs, which matches the fossil record. It also accounts for an animal like Archaeopteryx, a theropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic period which was skeletally quite similar to terrestrial theropods but whose feathers were moving in a direction to allow for the evolution of flight. Archaeopteryx is considered by many to be one of the first birds, though it is not a true avian.

The Cursorial model, also known as the Running model or the Ground-up model, proposes that flight among theropods evolved from running leaping behavior which slowly evolved into flight. This theory is actually the least likely to be correct and is a poor match for the fossil record but it cannot be completely discounted due to a behavior known as Wing Assisted Incline Running (WAIR) which is exhibited by modern birds. WAIR is used by many precocial species of birds from the day they hatch to help them run up slopes and inclines. In this behavior, birds use their wings to make themselves more aerodynamic when moving up inclines. As many of the birds that use this behavior when young eventually learn how to fly, this one behavior allows for the Cursorial model to remain as a valid option.

The last model is the Arboreal model. This model states that flight among theropod dinosaurs has its origin in small arboreal theropods who glided from tree to tree and this behavior eventually led to true flight. As with the “Pouncing Proavis” model, there are examples from the fossil record which strengthen this theory. One of these is Microraptor, a small dromaeosaur who had feathered wings on all four limbs. It is uncertain if Microraptor could truly fly, but those four wings certainly allowed it to be a proficient glider. Some interpretations of Archaeopteryx find it to be a glider and not a true flier as well. Yet another four-winged theropod, Anchiornis, was thought to solely be a glider for years but a recent analysis found that juveniles of the species would have been able to generate enough lift to achieve true flight.

And then there are the bizarre Scansoriopterygids, which were availans from the Jurassic Period found in what is now China. These dinosaurs took a completely different route to gliding and flying than any other group of theropods. Instead of feathered limbs that formed wings, Scansoriopterygids had wings made of membranes of skin and enlarged fingers much like those found in bats and are a compelling example of convergent evolution, where two unrelated groups evolve similar features due to occupying a similar ecological niche. This kind of wing would be almost impossible to evolve from terrestrial prey-riding and flapping behavior. Though the Scansoriopterygids would prove to be an evolutionary dead-end, they did find their way to the skies in a novel way.

So what do I think is the correct theory? Actually, I think both the Arboreal model and the Pouncing Proavis model are correct. Flight evolved among several different theropod groups at different times. Many different Maniraptoran families had flying members; the Euornithes and Enantiornithes are just two of the avialan families confirmed to have members who flew and its strongly suspected that there were fliers among the Dromaeosaurs as well (Rahonavis and Microraptor are the main contenders here) and the aforementioned Anchiornis is suspected to be a Troodontid, though different researchers are debating this placement currently. And, of course, Avians, who are part of the Euornithe family, fly as well. I strongly believe that some theropods gained fight through prey-riding and others gained it through gliding. To me, this is the only way that the Scansoriopterygids could have evolved alongside the many other Avialans who flew. Also, in considering the incompleteness of the fossil record (it is estimated that only 1% of organisms ever fossilize and we only find 1% of those fossils), it is entirely possible that the Cursorial model is correct for some species of flying dinosaurs who either never left a fossil behind or have left fossils that we haven't found. WAIR among existing species makes this a very real possibility.

However it happened, the evolution of flight in theropod dinosaurs is amazing. Flight is the most difficult behavior that animals undertake, and the fact that theropods were largely able to take features that they already had and utilize them in different ways to take over the skies is absolutely fascinating. It speaks volumes to their intelligence and adaptability. And the next time you look at a Standing Liberty Quarter, please take the time to turn it over and look at an amazing rendition of an image which has graced the skies for over 100 million years.
View Coin Eastern Meadowlark CANADA - 1968 TO DATE 25C 2014 EASTERN MEADOWLARK COLORIZED NGC SP 69 With the next dinosaur in the collection, we have our first passerine or perching bird, which comprise over half of all living bird species. Say hi to the Eastern Meadowlark, species name Sturnella magna.

As the coin shows the bird in color (I love these Canadian coins that show colorized birds!), I don’t have to describe the Eastern Meadowlark’s coloration. It’s better to actually see it anyway, I think. Males and females share the same coloration, but males are larger than females. The Eastern Meadowlark is another theropod rule-breaker when it comes to the typical rule of females being larger than males. Eastern Meadowlarks range between 7.5 to 11 inches in length, with a wingspan between 14 and 16 inches and a weight range between 2.7 to 5.3 ounces. Geographically, Eastern Meadowlarks can be found in Southeastern Canada during their breeding season and from the eastern half of the continental United States down to the very northernmost part of eastern South America as year-long residents. In the central United States, they overlap with the related and similar looking Western Meadowlark.

Eastern Meadowlarks prefer a habitat of open grasslands, prairies and hayfields. Eastern Meadowlarks are omnivorous. They forage on the ground or in low vegetation for insects and arachnids, seeds and berries. Unlike many other theropod dinosaurs, Eastern Meadowlarks are not monogamous. In fact, many males mate with multiple females and protect all of their mates within their territory. Males protect and mark their territories by singing. These guys just love breaking the theropod dinosaur rules!

Eastern Meadowlarks have many predators. These include cats, foxes, snakes, coyotes, skunks, raccoons and some of the smaller falcons and hawks. If they don’t fall prey to one of these predators, Eastern Meadowlarks can live for between 5 and 9 years.

The Eastern Meadowlark is a great choice for the first passerine in this set. Passerines inhabit the largest geographic range of all birds. Based on the fossil record, they also have one of the widest geographic ranges of all known groups of dinosaurs period. This is amazing to contemplate and speaks to the adaptive abilities of this group of modern dinosaurs.

For this awesome coin, I have to give a shout out to my in-laws. This one was a birthday gift from them, and I absolutely adore it!
View Coin Haast's Eagle GABON S1000F 2013 HARPAGORNIS MOOREI COLORIZED NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO A common theme in many dinosaur movies like Jurassic Park is theropod dinosaurs hunting down, killing and eating human beings. The common reaction to this theme is that, even though the movie is entertaining, there is no way that this ever happened as most people still incorrectly think that dinosaurs are extinct and that they became extinct tens of millions of years before even the earliest human ancestors evolved during the Pliocene. However, this isn’t exactly true. There was one theropod dinosaur that existed which did hunt down, kill and eat modern humans and this is it: The Haast’s Eagle; species name Harpagornis Moorei, arguably the most terrifying animal modern humans ever met.

The Haast’s Eagle was the most horrifying and vicious aerial predator that the Earth has ever seen. Rather than get into listing numeric dimensions for the size of the Haast’s Eagle, I will use an apt comparison which will illustrate the horrifying size of this dinosaur. A full-grown Haast’s Eagle was the size of hang glider and it weighed up to 36 pounds. Yes, I just typed that. By comparison, a full grown Golden Eagle maxes out at 20 pounds for the largest females. As the Haast’s Eagle went extinct before scientists could observe them, they are only known to science from subfossil and fossil skeletal remains, so there is nothing known of their life appearance. However, they were likely a brown color, or a combination of brown and white based on the most common coloration of living eagles though some reconstructions give them a much bolder and vibrant coloration, this is likely incorrect.

The Haast’s Eagle was native to New Zealand and its huge size was a result of its evolution to prey on a very specific group of animals: the Moa, nine species of very, very large herbivorous flightless birds that could weigh up to 510 pounds and could be up to 12 feet tall. All nine species of the Moa are also extinct. The Haast’s Eagle was one of the most specialized raptors known to science as it was evolved to survive solely on Moa as prey. While New Zealand maintained its isolation, this was fine for the Haast’s Eagle as it was the sole predator of Moa. However, around 1280, everything changed with the arrival of the first humans to colonize New Zealand, the Maori.

The Moa were very large and powerful avian dinosaurs in their own right, but they don’t appear to have been especially intelligent nor were they aggressive in defending themselves. They were ill-equipped to deal with the arrival of a new predator, and the Maori hunted them heavily. At first, not much changed for the Haast’s Eagle. Already superbly evolved to cripple and kill two-legged prey, the Haast’s Eagle started hunting the Maori and it was quite successful at it.

In traditional Maori mythology, there is a creature known as the Pouakai or the Old Glutton. This creature is described as swooping silently upon people, grabbing them and crushing them with its massive talons before carrying them off to feed itself and its ravenous young. It is now known that the Pouakai was actually the Haast’s Eagle and that these behaviors exhibited by the Pouakai actually happened. Haast’s Eagles absolutely killed and ate people, and they apparently did it frequently. By contrast, no modern raptors pose any threat to humans if humans treat them with respect and don’t threaten them.

Meeting your end by Haast’s Eagle was likely one of the most horrifying deaths imaginable. While there are many predators in nature that are capable of taking humans, most of them aren’t as intelligent or successful in their hunting attempts as birds of prey are. And Haast’s Eagles were definitely highly intelligent. Based on endocranial scans done on Haast's Eagle skulls, their brains grew right along with them. I hypothesize that they hunted in a similar way to a Golden Eagle, another large and very brainy raptor, using herding techniques and possibly using natural features, such as cliffs, to their advantage. And they were just as relentless as modern raptors are. Most other reptilian predators or mammalian predators will give up on a hunt after one or two attempts to take a prey animal but raptors are different. They are relentless and will make attempts to kill a prey item until they either succeed or the prey animal gets to a place where the raptor has no chance of success and it realizes it. This relentlessness is a part of the Pouakai myth as well, which tells us that this was a trait of Haast’s Eagles in life.

Now, imagine walking through the heavy forests of prehistoric New Zealand. You are gathering fruits or helping carry Moa meat back to your settlement. Then, without warning, a gigantic winged shadow falls over you. Knowing of the Pouakai since your childhood, you know what this means and that you have little hope, but you run anyway. The Haast’s Eagle observes your terror and uses it to its advantage, pushing you into running into a clearing rather than deeper into the forest. Once you are in the clearing, the Haast’s Eagle swoops down rapidly and sinks its eight 4.3-inch talons into your neck and shoulders, instantly shattering your shoulder blades, collarbones, neck vertebrae and likely many of your ribs. Death is quick, but extremely painful. The Haast’s Eagle then tears your body apart, consuming some of it there and flying off with other pieces to take back to its nest. That is the very last of you. If you were near a cliff, this monstrous aerial theropod would likely have grabbed you with one of its massive feet and dragged you off of the cliff, saving strength and effort.

This, to me, is what makes the Haast’s Eagle the most frightening predator humans have ever faced. It’s not just the size and the power. It’s the adaptability, intelligence and relentlessness. This is an animal that could take a great shot at out-thinking a terrified human and that would be evolved to use its prey’s terror reactions to its hunting advantage. A large crocodile, a large cat or a large canid are not capable of these behaviors to the same degree that raptors are. While they have their own levels of intelligence and are very good at many predatory behaviors, raptors have almost all other predators out-brained. Being on the wrong end of a Haast’s Eagle would be absolutely chilling.

However, the Maori would end up taking down the Haast’s Eagle, though they did so indirectly. Around the year 1400, the Maori hunted the last of the Moa to extinction. When this happened, the Haast’s Eagle had to solely survive on hunting humans. However, unlike most of its still extant generalist relatives which can switch prey items easily, the Haast’s Eagle was extremely specialized to survive only on Moa, which led to it having very specific nutritional requirements. When they were hunting humans and moa together, Haast’s Eagles could survive because they were still getting Moa meat in their diets. However, with no Moa, Haast’s Eagles quickly succumbed to malnutrition and this ultimately led to their demise shortly after the extinction of the Moa. It didn’t matter how many humans a Haast’s Eagle could eat, they would never get the nutrients they needed from humans. To put this into a human perspective, think of what would happen if you tried to survive by only eating candy bars. Before humans arrived in New Zealand, the only mammals were three species of bat, which the Haast’s Eagle never preyed upon. They simply were not equipped to survive by consuming mammals.

The next time you’re watching Jurassic Park or something in that vein, take a moment to think about and remember the one theropod dinosaur that actually made a meal out of us and that we killed off with our un-nutritious mammal bodies. It’s ok if you breathe a sigh of relief that it's extinct when you do think of it.
View Coin Wedge-Tailed Eagle AUSTRALIA - COMMEMORATIVE S$1 2016P WEDGE-TAILED EAGLE NGC MS 69 Up to this point in this set, there has been a focus on modern dinosaurs from North America, though there have been some from other places. This is largely due to the sheer number of high quality modern coins featuring avians to come from North American nations, particularly Canada. Also, North America is where I live, and it’s a lot of fun to write about modern dinosaurs that I actually get a chance to observe in their natural habitats. However, I also want this set to showcase birds from all over the world so here’s our first entry from Australia: the formidable Wedge-Tailed Eagle, species name Aquila audax.

The Wedge-Tailed Eagle is the largest raptor in Australia, occurring all across the continent and also calling parts of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea home. Like its close relative the Golden Eagle, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle is a very large, brown raptor. Wedge-Tailed Eagles can be from 2.6 to 3.5 feet long, with a wingspan from 6.8 feet to a maximum of 9.4 feet in the very largest females and a weight range between 6.6 to 12.7 pounds, though some small males can weigh considerably less than this with 4.4 pounds reported. As with most raptors, the female is larger than the male though their plumage and overall appearance aside from size are the same. The Wedge-Tailed Eagle gets its name from its distinctive, wedge-shaped tail, making this bird instantly recognizable in flight. The Wedge-Tailed Eagle also has very long legs compared to most raptors, possibly an adaptation to hunting some very large prey animals.

In Australia’s ecosystem, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle is the very definition of an apex predator. There are only five land animals on the whole continent that the Wedge-Tailed Eagle does not prey upon: The Freshwater Crocodile, the Saltwater Crocodile, humans, the Southern Cassowary, which is the most dangerous living bird, and White-Bellied Sea Eagles, though Wedge-Tails will fight with White-Bellied Sea Eagles for territory, food and other resources. Even the hatchlings and juveniles of the two crocodiles are sometimes taken by Wedge-Tails. Like its cousin the Golden Eagle, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle prefers to consume mammals and it consumes a wide range of them, from koalas and wombats up to dingos and kangaroos. They have also been seen successfully hunting and killing emus, making them one of only three major predators of these large and powerful birds. Like other eagles, the Wedge-Tail is a sight based hunter who locates its prey by soaring and scanning the ground. Their keen eyesight allows Wedge-Tails to see into the ultraviolet spectrum.

Wedge-Tailed Eagles, pound for pound, take some of the largest prey animals in relation to themselves of any extant predator on Earth. Like other members of the Aquila genus, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle is extremely intelligent and adaptable in its hunting strategies. They will use herding behaviors to move prey where they want it to go, team up to take on large and dangerous prey items, like the aforementioned emu, and they will also use natural features like cliffs, which they will either run animals off of or drag them off of to make a kill. When making a kill, the Wedge-Tail is once again similar to the Golden Eagle. Wedge-Tails kill with their feet, driving their talons into the prey’s neck and shoulders. They also prey ride to take down larger prey, digging their talons deeper into the prey while actually riding it and flapping their wings for stability until the prey is either paralyzed or dies from blood loss or organ failure.

This adaptability in hunting techniques and prey selection has led to the Wedge-Tailed Eagle taking a very important place in protecting Australia’s delicate and unique ecosystem. Wedge-Tails are the primary predators of rabbits, hares, foxes and feral cats, some of the most potentially damaging invasive species in Australia. Through their adaptability and preference for mammalian prey, the Wedge-Tailed Eagle keeps the populations of these species under control. Wedge-Tails will also extensively scavenge, given the opportunity. Being such a formidable predator allows the Wedge-Tail to drive off almost any other scavenger from a carcass aside from the two crocodiles mentioned previously and some bolder White-Bellied Sea Eagles. Wedge-Tailed Eagles have no predators.

Like most other raptors, Wedge-Tailed Eagles mate for life. Their courtship rituals include aerial displays, such as high-speed dives and loop-the-loops, and grooming of one another near their nesting site, which is usually a tall tree or a cliff edge. Wedge-Tail pairs typically produce two eggs, which both parents incubate for about 45 days, after which the eggs hatch. At first, the female stays with the chicks while the male does all of the hunting to provide for the family. Once the chicks are a month old, the female joins the male in hunting. Young Wedge-Tails can fly and hunt for themselves at around 6 months of age and they stay with their parents until the next breeding season. There is little indication of siblicidal behavior among Wedge-Tail chicks and both young typically survive. When Wedge-Tail pairs have young, they are fiercely territorial and defensive. They have even been noted attacking hang gliders and aerial drones during their breeding season. Wedge-Tailed Eagles reach maturity at 5 years of age and can live for over 40 years.

The Wedge-Tailed Eagle is a distinctive and beloved member of Australia’s unique ecosystem and it is an emblem for the Australian Northern Territory, the Australian Defense Force and the New South Wales police force. It is also a great modern dinosaur to be my first entry from the fascinating and unique nation of Australia. This great coin was another awesome gift from my life partner. She knows well my love of dinosaurs (both avian and non-avian) and raptors in particular. I'm so happy to finally have this great coin with one of my all time favorite raptors here in this set!
View Coin Barn Owl CANADA - 1968 TO DATE 25C 2013 BARN OWL COLORIZED NGC SP 69 While this set has featured many raptors so far, sadly it has not had an owl until now. This has bothered me because I love owls and being of a nocturnal inclination myself, they are one of the modern dinosaurs that I relate to the most. Thankfully, this great coin that was a gift from my in-laws solves this problem with one of the coolest owls out there. This is the Barn Owl, species name Tyto alba.

As this is another one of those great colorized coins from Canada, you can see the Barn Owl’s coloration for yourself. This is always better than simply reading a description typed by me, and I will strive to use as many colorized coins as I can in this set for that reason. The Barn Owl is the most widely distributed species of owl, occurring in North and South America, Europe, all of Africa aside from the Sahara Desert, the Middle East, the southernmost part of Asia, Australia and parts of New Guinea. Due to this widespread distribution, there are between 20 and 30 subspecies of this owl, depending on which authority you speak to and they vary in coloration and size. On average, a Barn Owl is between 11 and 17 inches in length, with a wingspan between 27 to 41 inches and a weight between 7.9 to 25 ounces when all subspecies are included in the average. So, these guys aren’t huge, unlike some of the other raptors discussed here. As with most other raptors, the females are larger than the males. Males also have fewer spots and paler plumage than the females.

Another interesting fact is that even though the head of the Barn Owl (and all other owls) appears to be round, this is due to heavy feathering of the head. Underneath all of that plumage, owls have a head shaped like that of other theropod dinosaurs and the Barn Owl is no exception. Like other owls, Barn Owls also have large eyes and a head that can turn 270 degrees. This feature evolved because owls cannot move their eyes, so they needed to find another way to look around and expand their range of vision. Unlike other owls, the Barn Owl does not hoot. Instead, it produces what is described as an eerie shriek. Given that Barn Owls like to nest in empty buildings and other dark places, this dinosaur has probably been responsible for a large number of “paranormal” experiences that humans have reported over the ages.

Like most other owls, the Barn Owl is a nocturnal hunter, though some individuals living on islands in the Pacific and Great Britain have been seen hunting during the day as well. Instead of relying on eyesight to locate prey like diurnal raptors do, the Barn Owl uses its keen sense of hearing to locate its prey. The ears of the Barn Owl, and other owls, are placed asymmetrically on the head, allowing for better detection of sound position and sound distance. They prefer a habitat of open country, such as grasslands and farmlands, and they particularly like to hunt on the edge of forests of rough grasslands. Given that these habitat preferences are often features of cemeteries, there is another arena where the Barn Owl has likely caused some "paranormal" encounters with its eerie cry. Barn Owls, and other owls, fly completely silently. They are able to accomplish this due to a hair-like fringe on the flight feathers which reduces air turbulence.

As for prey, Barn Owls show a strong preference for rodents and other small mammals like bats but they also will eat small birds, lizards, amphibians and insects. Barn Owls hunt by flying slowly over places where prey may hide and listening for the prey to make a sound. Once prey is heard, the Barn Owl will maneuver quickly into a dive and kill the prey animal with its powerful feet and large talons. Since the Barn Owl mostly hunts small prey, most meals are swallowed whole. As with other raptors who swallow prey whole, the Barn Owl will produce pellets to rid itself of the indigestible parts of its meals, such as the bones and fur. Owl pellets are particularly easy to study because they are packed much more tightly than the pellets produced by other predatory dinosaurs, so they are much slower to biodegrade, making them ideal for collecting and studying. Many an elementary school student has had the fascinating experience of dissecting a Barn Owl pellet. I got to do it in third grade and you can probably imagine that I was absolutely thrilled! Barn Owls will also cache surplus food around their territory to provide for lean times. Unlike squirrels, who perform a similar behavior, Barn Owls actually remember where they hide all of this extra food. Squirrels often forget where they bury most of their cached food.

Given the wide range and large number of subspecies, Barn Owls breed at all different times of the year based on location and subspecies. Unlike most other raptors, Barn Owls aren’t particularly territorial, even when breeding. Instead, they have a territory of around 1 kilometer from their nesting site which they use for both home and hunting ground. As with other raptors, Barn Owls mate for life and they usually use the same nesting site within their territory every season. Females are ready to breed at 10 or 11 months of age but males often do not breed until they are over one year of age. Males attract females by perching on high points and emitting their eerie screech until a female expresses interest. Typically, once interest is expressed by a female, a pair bond is formed. The male will then forage and feed the female while she preens and waits for the male. This is an essential part of maintaining the pair bond.

Barn Owls are cavity nesters, preferring to nest in hollows in trees, cavities in cliff faces, and in buildings. They will also use nesting boxes placed out by bird lovers (I wish I could put one of these out myself, but I have so many larger diurnal raptors around my house that I think it would not be an ideal home for a pair of these cute little owls). They use no nesting materials aside from their own pellets, which the female shreds into a warm and soft bedding material for the eggs and young. Sometimes, other bird species will nest and live harmoniously with Barn Owls and benefit from the protection the Barn Owl pair provides from predators. Barn Owls typically lay a clutch of between two and five eggs, which the female incubates for around thirty days, during which she is completely provided for by her mate. Though they lay a large clutch of eggs, not all of them hatch. In a year with plentiful food, a typical hatching rate is 75%.

Baby Barn Owls are born covered in greyish-white down and are absolutely adorable! They grow quickly, being able to hold their heads up and move around the nest within a week of hatching. The male brings food to the nest, which the female tears into small pieces to feed they chicks. By two weeks of age, baby Barn Owls are already half of their adult weight and by three weeks, they begin to grow adult feathers. Once the chicks are four weeks old, the female joins the male in leaving the nest and hunting. By their sixth week, young Barn Owls have reached adult size and they are fully fledged by their ninth week. From their ninth week to their thirteenth week, they are taught to hunt by their mother while they are still fed by their parents. At thirteen weeks, the young are ready to leave their parents and live on their own.

Unlike the other raptors discussed in this set so far, the Barn Owl is not an apex predator as it actually has animals which prey upon it. The main predators of Barn Owls are other raptors, mostly other, larger owls such as the Great Horned Owl, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, the Verreaux's eagle-owl and the Cape Eagle-Owl. Red-Tailed Hawks, Northern Goshawks, Common Buzzards, Wedge-Tailed Eagles and Golden Eagles are the main non-owl predators of Barn Owls. Mammalian predators such as raccoons and opossums can be a risk to Barn Owl eggs and chicks. If they don’t fall prey to one of these predators or to starvation, a Barn Owl can live for 11 to 17 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity.

All in all, our first owl is an interesting addition to this collection of modern dinosaurs. I’m so happy to finally have an owl in the collection!!

View Coin Links to Other Dinosaurs-Nesting Behavior United States G$5 2011 W EAGLE NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO Given that what we know of dinosaurs other than extant avians comes from fossils, discovering behaviors in extinct non-avian dinosaurs to link to their still living relatives is a difficult task. A fossil is often skeletal remains or footprints, which can give rough ideas of how fast an animal moved, how it may have looked in life and its size in life along with a very rough idea of what it ate. Overall, fossils are poor things to deduce behaviors from. In considering this, we have to take what we can get as far as shared behaviors but we are fortunate that some amazing fossils have allowed us to make an important link to a behavior shared by birds and other dinosaurs: nesting, brooding of eggs and parental care of the young once they hatched.

Fossilized eggs have been found from all three major groups of dinosaurs: theropods, sauropods and ornithischians. Nests have been found for both theropods and ornithischians. The lack of sauropod nests and the way the fossil eggs are positioned and located seems to indicate that sauropods simply laid their eggs as they moved, buried them and moved on, similar to how most modern turtles handle the task of reproduction. Obviously, this behavior is very different from what we see in modern dinosaurs, which all exhibit complex parental care behaviors. Much of what is known about breeding behaviors in ornithischians comes from some remarkably preserved fossil material from the Late Cretaceous hadrosaur Maiasaura peeblesorum. These amazing fossils show that Maiasaura built nests of rotting vegetation similar to those made by extant crocodilians, which are close evolutionary relatives of dinosaurs. These fossils didn’t just include the nest and eggs, it included fossils of babies with underdeveloped legs and worn teeth. This indicates that the babies both required parental care and received it and the worn teeth show that the babies were fed food brought to them by the adults in this species.

However, with this set, it’s the theropods that are important as birds are theropods. In the early days of dinosaur research, theropods got a bad rap when it came to eggs. While dinosaur nests associated with Oviraptorosaurs and Dromaeosaurs were found rather early in the study of dinosaurs, the assumption was that these Maniraptoran theropods were stealing the eggs of another dinosaur to consume. In fact, the name Oviraptor means “Egg Thief”. However, as it became known that these theropods were related to birds, these fossils were reexamined. In particular, there are two fossils of named species associated with nests, the Oviraptorosaur Citipati osmolskae and the Dromaeosaur Deinonychus antirrhopus.

When these fossils were reexamined, it was found that in both cases the dinosaurs were sitting on their own eggs and that they had died on top of their nests, protecting their young to the very end of their lives. The positions of the skeletons of the parent in both cases show a very bird-like brooding position and are further proof that these dinosaurs had feathers and that their long wing feathers were used for protecting and brooding their eggs. Further fossils of nests, eggs and groups of theropods with individuals of different ages, have come to light and been subject to examination, leading most paleontologists to believe that all theropods brooded their eggs and exhibited complex and extended parental behaviors. This certainly would be expected when observing extant avian theropods and the great care and protection that they give their eggs and babies.

Of all dinosaurs, theropods have the most advanced brains and are the most intelligent group of dinosaurs. They also often have young born in a very undeveloped state, much like we humans do. This reproductive strategy requires a high level of parental care. Also, like many extant avians, non-avian theropods appear to have had more learned behaviors and fewer instinctual ones when compared with sauropods and ornithischians as a result of their more advanced brains. This seems to be particularly true of Coelurosaurs, which is the group that includes birds. Many theropods likely needed to be taught how to hunt and kill prey, how to preen and care for their feathers and how to fly in flighted species. This fits with the growth process that many birds of prey, corvids and parrots, three of the most intelligent living dinosaur groups, have to go through in growing up.

These breeding behaviors are some of the most important behavioral links we have between birds and other dinosaurs because they are some of the only ones that the fossil record can tell us. I think that this gorgeous little 1/10th ounce Gold Eagle is the perfect coin to tell this part of the story as it has an excellent depiction of Bald Eagles, one of my favorite modern theropods, engaging in nesting behaviors much like those of their extinct relatives. However, the meaning of the depiction has a slight inaccuracy. The four eagles on the coin are meant to represent the four different sized Gold Eagle coins and, from what I read, the male eagle is supposed to represent the largest coin, the 1 Ounce $50 piece. With raptors such as the Bald Eagle, the female is almost always considerably larger than the male and this is true with the Bald Eagle, so the 1 Ounce should be the female’s coin and the male should get the half ounce. My coin obviously gets the little tiny fuzzy baby eagle!
View Coin A Case of Mistaken Identity MEXICO - 1905 TO DATE 1 Onza 1982Mo Silver NGC MS 66 As many collectors of Mexican coins know, most of the absolutely lovely coins of this North American nation show a depiction of the national bird, the Golden Eagle, perched on a cactus and killing a snake with its beak. This depiction is based off of a sacred eagle depicted in several Aztec codices which were in turn interpreted by the European conquerors of the Aztec Empire. However, there are several problems with this interpretation of the Golden Eagle. First off, Golden Eagles are mainly mammal killers and they always kill their prey with their feet, not their beaks. Golden Eagles use their beaks for eating, preening and grooming. They never kill with them. Even in an unlikely hypothetical situation where a Golden Eagle did prey upon a snake, it would likely crush it with its talons, only bringing it to its beak when the snake was already dead. Secondly, there’s the size of the snake in relation to the Golden Eagle. A Golden Eagle is a very large raptor, and it would have to be wrangling with a python in order for the proportions of this depiction to be correct. The Mexican eagle also shows a distinct crest on the head, a feature Golden Eagles do not have. There’s also a geographic range problem. While Golden Eagles do range into northern Mexico on occasion, they are a very rare bird to actually sight in Mexico. So, the bird on the Mexican coat of arms is either a one in a billion-chance sighting of a Golden Eagle acting nothing like a Golden Eagle in a region where they are extremely rare or it’s a case of mistaken identity.

In the 1960’s, Mexican ornithologist Rafael Martín del Campo noted these problems with the Mexican “Golden Eagle” and determined that there was no way that the sacred Aztec eagle was actually a Golden Eagle, or even an eagle at all. So, who is this mysterious Mexican snake eating, beak killing, crested dinosaur? Del Campo’s excellent work gives us the answer: The Northern Crested Caracara, species name Caracara cheriway.

Northern Crested Caracaras are actually members of the Falcon family, but they are not fast-moving dinosaur killers like their Falcon cousins. Rather, they are slower moving predators of snakes and other reptiles along with being extensive scavengers. The Northern Crested Caracara ranges from 19 to 23 inches in length, with a wingspan of 3.5 to 4.25 feet and a weight range from 1.7 to 3 pounds. Clearly, these proportions would work well compared to the size of the rattlesnake in the depiction in the Mexican coat of arms. They have black bodies with white breasts with black bars, along with white patches on the wings and neck with yellow legs, faces that are yellow to orange red and a black crest that makes this modern dinosaur look like he’s wearing a little black toupee. Females are larger than males. Overall, the Northern Crested Caracara is actually very cute in real life. Geographically, Northern Crested Caracaras range from Mexico down to northern Brazil and Peru, preferring an arid and hot habitat that is open or semi open country. There is also a relict population of these birds left over from the last glacial period in parts of Florida.

Northern Crested Caracaras, and other Caracaras as well, feed largely on carrion but they do prey on small reptiles including snakes, lizards and small birds, small mammals and insects and other invertebrates. When they do hunt, Northern Crested Caracaras actually hunt on foot, kicking over branches and rocks to find prey animals. Like the Bald Eagle, Northern Crested Caracaras are notorious kleptoparasites, capable of stealing kills from other predatory birds including small hawks, pelicans, ibises and spoonbills. They can also drive vultures away from carrion with vicious attacks. For a smaller raptor, they pack a big punch when attacking to steal food.

Northern Crested Caracaras are gregarious raptors, with roosts sometimes containing up to a dozen individuals, though they are monogamous breeders. Breeding season for these modern dinosaurs is from December to May. Each pair produces from 1 to 3 pinkish-brown spotted eggs in a stick nest, which has been described by observers as “untidy” in appearance. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 28 to 32 days after which the eggs hatch. The babies are born fuzzy and completely helpless. They fledge after about two months and remain with their parents for several weeks after their first flight. Northern Crested Caracaras can live for over 21 years.

All in all, the Northern Crested Caracara is a very interesting modern dinosaur and it’s sad that it doesn’t get its rightful place as Mexico’s national bird. Hopefully, the Mexican government will reconsider the issue and reexamine this fascinating and unique modern theropod and give it its rightful place on the coins and flag of Mexico.

This coin has an interesting, very 1990's story about how it came into my possession as well. This 1982 Libertad was the very first Mexican coin I ever purchased and I purchased it from a coin shop in Fresno, CA when I was living there in 1999. This was during the Beanie Baby insanity during the late 1990's, and the coin shop I frequented then started carrying Beanie Babies because people would actually come into the coin shop and trade collectible coins and bullion for Beanie Babies. This 1982 Libertad came from a lot of almost a thousand of these coins that someone traded for Peanut, the Royal Blue Elephant, which was apparently the most valuable Beanie Baby then, with a value of almost $5000 at the's crazy to think about someone actually trading hundreds of ounces of silver for a royal blue stuffed elephant, but that's exactly what happened. I wonder how that individual feels about that trade today! As for myself, I'm thankful that this coin is the closest I ever got to the Beanie Baby fad.

View Coin Shared Features With Other Theropods-Albertosaurus CANADA - 1968 TO DATE S$20 2015 ALBERTOSAURUS NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO In pursuing this thematic collection of coins featuring dinosaurs, one thing that has become readily apparent is that while there are many coins available with excellent depictions of surviving avian dinosaurs, there are very, very few coins which depict non-avian dinosaurs accurately. While there have been huge scientific advances in what we know about dinosaurs in the past two decades, outdated, scaly, traditionally reptilian depictions sadly continue to dominate outside of scientific circles, where it is arguably the most important to have accurate, up-to-date depictions. These outdated depictions are the worst where theropods are concerned, making it very hard to show the shared features between birds and their closest extinct relatives. However, there are some coins that have been minted in recent years that feature accurate depictions of dinosaurs which have a place in this collection and this silver $20 coin from Canada is among the best of these.

This coin depicts Albertosaurus Sarcophagus, a Tyrannosaurid which is a Coelurosaurian Theropod that is a relatively distant relative of Avians as Tyrannosaurids are outside of the clade Maniraptora, though it should be noted that some paleontologists state that a case can be made to include any Coelurosaur within Maniraptora based on many shared features, which the Albertosaurus on this coin displays. Unlike the surviving avians, Albertosaurus was a very large dinosaur, reaching lengths of over 30 feet and with weight estimates of up to 1.9 tons. It was of a lighter build and, likely, higher speed than its close relative Tyrannosaurus and was likely the apex predator of its time and range, which appears to have been restricted to the current Canadian province of Alberta but this can never be stated conclusively due to the incompleteness of the fossil record. Timewise, Albertosaurus existed from 71 to 68 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period.

In looking at the Albertosaurus on the coin, several similarities to living birds become readily apparent. The first one that jumps out at me are the legs and feet. Though they are more robust, as would be needed for a very large animal, they are virtually identical to the legs of most modern birds, featuring three toes in the front, a digitigrade walking stance and a pattern of scalation that is identical to that seen in modern birds, though many modern birds have different patterns of toe arrangement and the fourth toe, on the back of the foot typically, is important for perching. Albertosaurus had this fourth toe too, but it was a reduced, vestigial dewclaw on the inside of the foot as an animal as large as Albertosaurus wasn't flying around or perching in trees. Secondly, the body shape of Albertosaurus exhibits the distinctive theropod body plan that is shared among all theropod dinosaurs, including modern birds. The stance seen in Albertosaurus and many other non-avian theropods is slightly more horizontal than that seen in modern dinosaurs because of the long tail that they have, which needed to be balanced. Modern birds no longer have this long tail, instead having a pygostyle, which is a shortened, fused and compacted tail which supports their tail feathers.

The next obvious shared feature between Albertosaurus and its modern avian cousins is plumage. In this depiction, a fluffy coat of feathers can be seen on the neck, back and tail of the Albertosaurus. While it is a virtual certainty that Albertosaurus and other Tyrannosaurids had feathers, currently the only Tyrannosaurs known from specimens with preserved with feathers are Dilong paradoxus and Yutyrannus huali, both of which are evolutionarily older than Albertosaurus, meaning that it can be implied that later Tyrannosaurs also had feathers. So, the exact coat of feathers on the Albertosaurus in the depiction is hypothetical. They could have had more plumage in life, though it’s unlikely that they had less. Some researchers argue that due to the large size of Tyrannosaurs, it’s likely that most of them were scaly rather than feathered based on the almost total hairlessness of very large mammals today. However, there are serious flaws in this theory. The first is that comparing mammals and their hair to dinosaurs and their feathers is an apples and oranges kind of comparison. Feathers are much more efficient regulators of heat than hair is. While an African Elephant covered in hair in its hot environment would likely overheat, a feathered dinosaur of a similar size would likely not face that problem as feathers allow for more efficient thermoregulation.

Also, though mammals and theropods are both endothermic, that endothermy is of a different nature in the two groups as their last common ancestor lived over 300 million years ago. Mammals and theropods, and their ancestors, have been following their own evolutionary paths for over 300 million years, meaning that they share very little in common. The higher metabolic rate and thinner skin of theropods tends to cause them to lose heat faster than mammals do, so their main problem would be keeping the heat in rather than radiating it out. The second problem with a “scaly” Albertosaurus is that the previously mentioned Yutyrannus was almost exactly the same size as Albertosaurus and it had feathers all over its body aside from its face, hands and feet. I’d say that Albertosaurus and the other large Tyrannosaurs likely were covered in feathers over most of their bodies as well, making this depiction a little scalier and balder than the animal likely was in life. But it still has feathers, so that’s a huge plus!

While it is uncertain is Albertosaurus exhibited this next behavior or not, another feature that birds, especially raptors, share with other theropods is the regurgitation of pellets to expel the non-digestible parts of prey swallowed whole or in large pieces, such as bones, fur and feathers. The reason that it is uncertain if Albertosaurus produced pellets or not is that fossil pellets are impossible to assign to a specific animal. However, fossil theropod pellets have played an important role in paleontology as there are species of pterosaurs, fish and small dinosaurs that are only known from fossilized theropod pellets.

The last shared feature that I’d like to discuss with this coin is one that isn’t as obvious, but it is one that all Coelurosaurs share. That is the way they carry their hands. All Coelurosaurs have hands that are held with the two palms facing each other with the fingers running parallel. The hands are also very immobile and inflexible at the wrist. To have their palms face the ground, any Coelurosaur would have to lift their whole arm up perpendicular to the body. Birds have these same kinds of hands, but they are not visible as the three fingers of modern birds are all fused together skeletally and covered in flesh and skin, making them invisible in living specimens. However, it should be noted that the hands in Tyrannosaurs like Albertosaurus were likely vestigial and nearly useless to them while the hands of modern birds are a vital portion of their wing anatomy.

For centuries, humans have tried to discern where birds fit in the evolutionary history of life. Because of several features that they have that are unique among animals that humans have encountered, this has been a difficult task. However, the reason that birds have appeared to fit nowhere is that all of the animals that have shared features with them are extinct and have been for at least 66 million years. Thankfully, now the fossil record and diligent and excellent research and scholarship has filled in the gaps and decisively shown us exactly where avians fit; with their theropod relatives as members of the Dinosauria.

View Coin Evolutionary Relatives-Archosaurs-Spectacled Caiman GUYANA $1 1980 ENDURANCE INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY NGC PF 68 ULTRA CAMEO At first glance, a coin featuring a Spectacled Caiman would appear out of place in a set such as this. After all, it’s a set about birds and other theropod dinosaurs, which are very different animals than crocodilians such as the Spectacled Caiman. However, the demise of all pterosaurs and dinosaurs aside from avians in the end-Cretaceous extinction 66 million years ago has resulted in crocodilians and avians being each other’s closest living relatives. This can be a rather surprising fact for many people, so I will explain this here.

Dinosaurs, pterosaurs and crocodilians are all members of a distinct order of reptiles known as Archosaurs. There are two distinct groups of Archosaurs: Avemetatarsalia, which is the dinosaur and pterosaur line and Psuedosuchia, which is the crocodilian line. In looking at Archosaurs as a whole, it is clear that they have evolved several traits in certain groups that set them apart from the other reptile orders; Testudines (turtles) and Squamates (lizards and snakes). The first trait is endothermy in the dinosaur and pterosaur groups. This has led Archosaurs to have very different circulatory systems than other reptiles, the most notable difference being that while turtles, lizards and snakes all have hearts that are functionally three-chambered, all Archosaurs have four-chambered hearts, similar to what is found in mammals, the other major endothermic animal group.

The three-chambered heart of turtles, lizards and snakes allows for the mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood, while the four-chambered heart of dinosaurs, and presumably those of the extinct pterosaurs as well, prevents this mixing from occurring. Crocodilians have an interesting mix of traits here. While their hearts are four-chambered like those of dinosaurs, they have unique valves in their heart that are cog-like, which can allow for the mixing of oxygenated and non-oxygenated blood when the animal needs it do so. This re-vamping of the Archosaurian circulatory system indicates that crocodilians evolved ectothermy secondarily, and that their ancestors were likely warm-blooded like dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

The reasons for the evolution of ectothermy in crocodilians is presently unknown, but it does give them some advantages over their endothermic cousins, particularly in the area of food requirements. Crocodilians need to eat much less for their body mass and much less often than their dinosaurian cousins, which gives them a distinct advantage over them in times of scarcity. This is likely one of the big reasons that crocodilians made it across the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary relatively unscathed while dinosaurs were nearly obliterated and the pterosaurs were fully obliterated. However, the endothermic dinosaurs have the advantage as far as geographic range as they can withstand much colder temperatures than the cold-blooded crocodilians.

Crocodilians and dinosaurs also share a unique respiratory system featuring highly efficient, unidirectional lungs though crocodilians do not have the system of air sacs throughout the body that dinosaurs do. This respiratory system is amazing in that it prepared different Archosaurs to adapt to very different lifestyles and environments. Scientists believe that this respiratory system was key in both the takeover of the skies by flying theropods and pterosaurs and the conquest of aquatic ecosystems by crocodilians.

Another interesting connection comes in the form of beta-keratin. It has been discovered that crocodilian embryos actually produce the exact same form of beta-keratin in the egg that is used by dinosaurs to produce feathers, but the gene is suppressed by the time the crocodilian hatches, producing the scaly hide found on crocodilians. Theropod dinosaurs and crocodilians are the only living animals to produce this unique form of beta-keratin. It is also interesting to note that the presence of this beta-keratin in crocodilians may indicate that the evolution of feathers goes back further in time than is presently thought, and that feathers may not have been unique to theropods back in the Mesozoic. Hair-like structures known as pycnofibers are known from some species of pterosaurs and at least two Ornithischian dinosaur fossils are known with what is currently termed "feather-like structures". It is unknown whether or not these structures are truly analogous to theropod feathers, but the presence of feather beta-keratin in crocodilians makes this a fascinating possibility.

Genetic studies have also backed up the close relationship between dinosaurs and crocodilians, finding many common genetic markers between the two groups though dinosaurs have evolved much more rapidly than crocodilians over the course of time. While both the Avemetatarsalia and the Pseudosuchia evolved in the Triassic, the Psuedosuchians evolved first, appearing in the fossil record 250 million years ago. The earliest Avemetatarsalians date to around 245 million years ago. Despite this, avian theropods are actually the older extant group, with the oldest avian dating to around 130 million years ago, in the early Cretaceous. Modern crocodilians do not appear in the fossil record until the late Cretaceous around 83.5 million years ago. In absolute terms, the two groups aren’t that closely related but the end Cretaceous event decimated all other Archosaurs, leaving these two families as the only Archosaurian survivors. Since that event, both avians and crocodilians have become vital members of a huge variety of ecosystems all over our planet.
View Coin Kookaburra AUSTRALIA - KOOKABURRA S$1 1996 KOOKABURRA - GERMANY NGC MS 69 When I purchased the coin as a birthday gift to myself this past August, I initially thought that I would be able to determine which species of Kookaburra was depicted on the coin. However, I quickly learned that the different Kookaburra species, of which there are five, mainly differ in appearance in coloration while sharing a broadly similar body shape. Therefore, as this coin is not colorized, I am going to have to use it to discuss the Kookaburra family as a whole.

Kookaburras are distinct members of the larger Kingfisher family which inhabit Australia, New Guinea and the Aru Islands. Unlike most other kingfishers, Kookaburras are terrestrial birds. Kookaburras range in size from 11 inches long and 5 ounces in weight for the smallest species, the Rufous-bellied kookaburra (Dacelo gaudichaud) to 18.1 inches in length and 11.8 ounces for the largest species, the Laughing kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae). Kookaburras are also sexually dimorphic, with males and females exhibiting color differences in their plumage. These color differences vary by species but the most striking are found in the Rufous-bellied kookaburra and the Blue-winged kookaburra, where the males have bright blue tails while the females have tails that are a dull reddish brown.

Kookaburras are carnivorous, preying upon rodents, snakes, insects, the young of other bird species and other small and young reptiles. When kept in zoos, Kookaburras are fed similar foods as raptors. Kookaburras are ambush predators, waiting patiently on a perch for prey to pass by. When prey does pass by, the Kookaburra then attacks, using its beak to capture and kill the prey animal. Kookaburras will also steal meat from barbecues and well-socialized kookaburras will accept handouts from humans. As far as predators, kookaburras are mainly preyed upon by smaller Australian raptors such as the Red Goshawk and the Rufous Owl. Snakes and monitor lizards also pose a threat to kookaburra eggs.

Like raptors, kookaburras mate for life. They breed in the Southern Hemisphere summer and they are cooperative breeders, meaning that young from earlier breeding seasons will stay with their parents for a couple of years and help them care for their younger siblings. Typically, three eggs are produced, and in years with plentiful food all three chicks will survive. In years where food is scarce, siblicidal behavior is common and only one or two chicks will survive depending on how scarce food is. One of the main reasons all of the chicks survive in seasons where food is plentiful is that in those years, one parent can always stay with the chicks and diffuse their fighting. Once kookaburra chicks mature, they stay with their family group for a couple of years to help raise their younger siblings before going off on their own to start their own families.

Kookaburras are a beloved and famous part of Australia’s distinctive native fauna. Their calls sound like human laughter and are famous for that reason. The Laughing kookaburra is particularly famous in that regard and its call is often used in films set in Australia or in a jungle in general to set a mood, even though kookaburra are not jungle animals. When I can find coins with identifiable kookaburra species on them, I will add them to the set in addition to this overview.

View Coin Major Mitchell's Cockatoo TUVALU S50C 2014P FOREVER LOVE COLORIZED NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO I love gift giving occasions with my life partner. She asks what I want, I say “dinosaur coin” and she comes through with something amazing that I didn’t even know existed. This year, for our tenth anniversary, she came though again with another great coin featuring an amazing modern dinosaur: The Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, species name Lophochroa leadbeateri.

As this is another of these amazing colorized coins featuring birds that have been coming out in recent years, you can see the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo’s pink coloration for yourself. This distinctive coloration gives this cockatoo its other common name: The Pink Cockatoo. Like most parrots, the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo exhibits very little sexual dimorphism. The only real difference between the sexes is that mature females have a wider stripe of yellow on their crest than males do and they have red eyes while males have black eyes. While red eyes sound fairly sinister, these medium size cockatoos are beautiful and cute enough to make it another endearing and beautiful feature. Sizewise, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos range in length from 15 to 20 inches with a wingspan of 32 inches and a weight of 12 to 14.9 oz. This is considered medium size for a cockatoo.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos call arid inland woodlands of Australia home. As far as feeding, they are omnivores, feeding on a wide variety of fruits, seeds, nuts, grasses, herbaceous plants, insects and insect larvae. They are aggressive feeders that will bite and attack if they are disturbed while feeding, likely an adaptation to their arid habitats where food can be scarce. In spite of this food based aggression, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos are gregarious birds which form large flocks in the wild. They are also rather nomadic, moving to different parts of their range seasonally in search of water and food supplies in their semi-arid and arid habitat.

Like most other parrots, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos mate for life. Pairs start nesting in August and September. They nest in shallow hollows of trees in their arid woodland habitat. Typically, between two and four eggs are produced and both parents take turns incubating the eggs. Once the chicks hatch, the female cares for and feeds the chicks at night and the male takes over during the day. The chicks first leave the nest cavity at around 57 days of age and they are independent at 6 months of age. Sexual maturity is reached between 3 and 4 years of age.

As far as life expectancy, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos are very long-lived, regularly attaining ages over 50 years. However, one Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo set a record for one of the oldest birds known. His name was Cookie and he was verified as hatching on June 30, 1933. In 1934, Cookie became a resident of the Brookfield Zoo, near Chicago, Illinois. Cookie was on display for the next 75 years, delighting zoo visitors of all ages from around the world with his intelligence, beauty, charisma and entertaining antics. After beginning to manifest some age-related health issues such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, Cookie was given a retirement from display in 2009, at an age of 76. After his retirement, Cookie enjoyed a low-stress life in the zoo keepers’ office of the Perching Bird House before finally succumbing to old age on August 27, 2016 at the age of 83. The zoo is planning a memorial for him. Aside from adding his species to this collection, this coin is also my memorial to Cookie as well. Though I never got to meet him, I've watched many videos of him and I feel like I got to know him a bit through that. He was a sweet and wonderful bird who will be missed by many, including myself.

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos are extremely intelligent animals, and this intelligence combined with their charismatic good looks and smaller size for a cockatoo has led to many members of this species becoming pets. However, a Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo is not a good pet for most people. In addition to the aggressive feeding already mentioned, these birds tend to bond to only one person to the point where they sometimes will bite and scratch other people who try to interact with their person out of jealousy.

Their high intelligence also means that they need constant mental stimulation and if you have other pets, this mental stimulation can come in the form of picking on the other pets. They are particularly bad about buzzing, biting and clawing dogs, which are animals most pet birds dislike even in the best of situations. It is thought that this is because, in the wild, canids are often one of only three things to a bird: prey, possible competitor for food or a threat to their young and eggs. None of those things endear dogs to birds. Different species of cockatoos have also been observed in Australia harassing koalas in trees. As there is no real reason for the birds to do this, it is thought that they do it out of sheer entertainment value. A cat or dog makes a good koala substitute in captivity. But for keepers with the right kind of home (i.e. single pet, no kids) and with the time to spend nurturing the bird and stimulating it mentally, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos make one of the most loving and interactive all pet birds. But for most people, I’d say that the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo is one of those modern dinosaurs that is best observed and enjoyed in its natural habitat or in a zoo or bird sanctuary.
View Coin Wooly Necked Stork LIBERIA $1 1995 STORKS NGC MS 67 When I first purchased this coin, it was something of a mystery and the bird on it still is. I knew that the coin depicted storks, and that I really liked the depiction. However, I wasn’t sure what exact species of stork the coin depicted. Since the coin is Liberian, it narrowed the possibilities down and I was able to determine with a little research that this coin depicts a pair of Woolly-Necked Storks, species name Ciconia episcopus.

Unlike many of the other modern dinosaurs depicted in this set, I wasn’t able to find much information on the Woolly-Necked Stork. However, I want to include it in this set, so I will simply share what information I was able to find on this bird, with the possibility of coming back to this essay later if I find more information.

The Woolly-Necked Stork is a medium sized stork that lives in wetlands in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia. The only size statistic I was able to find for this species was height range, which is 29.5 to 36.2 inches. Appearance-wise, these storks have a black cap on the tops of their heads, a white, woolly neck, with an overall coloration of black. The lower bellies and the undersides of the tail feathers are white and the feathers on the fore neck have an iridescent, coppery-purple hue. The legs of Woolly-Necked Storks are red and the beaks are usually black but some individuals of this species have dark red bills with only the last third of the beak being black. Woolly-Necked Storks also have a narrow band of very bright unfeathered skin on their forearms, which is visible when the stork is flying or displaying. The coloration of this skin ranges from a deep red-gold to a neon orange-red among different individuals. Woolly-Necked Storks also have a deeply forked tail, further enhancing their unique appearance. There is no sexual dimorphism among Woolly-Necked Storks. Both sexes look exactly the same.

Like most storks, the Woolly-Necked Stork is a predator. Prey animals include small reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects. Woolly-Necked Storks also use wildfires to their advantage, waiting on the edge of the fires to capture and consume small animals running from the fires.

Woolly-Necked Storks are largely solitary animals, staying only with their mates, but sometimes they will form flocks of 5 to 10 individuals. As far as breeding goes, Woolly-Necked Storks mate for life and the pairs always stay together. They nest in trees and on cliffs, where they make large stick nests. Typically, two white eggs are produced, but there are rare instances of large clutches of up to five eggs being laid. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the young by regurgitation. The altricial young are born covered in fuzzy grey down, which becomes a duller version of the adult’s plumage at fledging, which occurs at about 55 days of age. The young learn to fly around the same time and they stay with their parents for some weeks after this before striking out on their own. Woolly-Necked Storks can live for up to 30 years.

I was unable to find any information on animals which prey upon Woolly-Necked Storks but I would imagine that they are preyed upon by various crocodile species and Marabou Storks where their habitats overlap. If I can find anything definite, it will be added.

Well, I’m going to close this one by apologizing for the lack of detailed information on this beautiful modern theropod. It seems that there just hasn’t been much research and scholarship conducted on this species, so please forgive this brief essay. It will be updated as scholarship becomes available.
View Coin Emperor Penguin AUSTRALIA - COMMEMORATIVE S$1 2012P EMPEROR PENGUIN COLORIZED NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO One of the most amazing things about dinosaurs is the sheer degree of their astounding success as a group of animals. In both the Mesozoic Era and the current Cenozoic Era, dinosaurs have occupied almost every ecosystem on the planet, including those too harsh for most other forms of life, and have been able to find ecological niches in these inhospitable environments. Our next coin looks at one very famous modern dinosaur which calls Antarctica, one of the harshest ecosystems on our planet, home: The Emperor Penguin, species name Aptenodytes forsteri.

The Emperor Penguin is the largest living species of penguin, reaching up to 4 feet in height and with a weight range of 49 to 99 pounds. As for their coloration, you can see it on the coin, both for adults and babies. Emperor Penguins break two of the main rules of theropod dinosaurs; they have solid bones and males are heavier than females, but there are very good reasons for the breaking of these theropod rules among Emperor Penguins that we will come to later in this essay. Emperor Penguins also have some interesting adaptations which allow them to live in the coldest environment (sometimes -40 degrees Fahrenheit) of any known dinosaur species, both avian and non-avian. Most of the insulation is in the form of their dense feathers, which have muscles allowing the feathers to be held erect on land and flat against the bird’s body when swimming, allowing for efficient waterproofing and insulation. Emperor Penguins also have a layer of subdermal fat that can be up to 1.2 inches thick, allowing for another layer of insulation. It is this fat layer that gives penguins their characteristic and endearing waddle.

Emperor Penguins are also some of the most efficient thermoregulators in the animal kingdom and they can maintain their 102-degree Fahrenheit body temperature over a wide range of ambient temperatures without altering their metabolisms. This is one amazing and extreme example of how theropod dinosaurs are more efficient at thermoregulation than other endotherms like mammals. Emperor Penguins are also social dinosaurs, gathering in large flocks. These flocks form another defense against extreme cold as they will huddle closely together to share each other’s body heat and to protect all of the chicks.

Emperor Penguins are predators, feeding mostly on fish but they will also prey upon marine invertebrates such as krill and squid. When hunting, Emperor Penguins can make dives from between 160 to 3,000 feet deep and they can stay submerged for up to 18 minutes. The Emperor Penguin has further adaptations that allow it to deal with both extreme pressure and low oxygen levels. The solid bones give the penguin more heft when making these dives, allowing it to submerge and stay submerged. The solid skeleton of the Emperor Penguin also eliminates the possibility of mechanical barotrauma, which almost any other terrestrial vertebrate would suffer and likely die from if it dived to the depths that Emperor Penguins do when hunting.

Emperor Penguins can also reduce their heart rates to 15 to 20 beats per minute when diving and they can also shut down non-essential organs. These adaptations, along with highly efficient hemoglobin and myoglobin which can bind oxygen in extremely low concentrations, allow Emperor Penguins to keep functioning at oxygen levels that would cause unconsciousness and eventual death in almost any other animal.

Around three years of age, Emperor Penguins reach sexual maturity and begin breeding. Emperor Penguins are serially monogamous, meaning that they choose one mate per breeding season and stay faithful to that mate for that season only. They almost always choose a different mate each season. Males attract females with a courtship display which consists of them placing their heads on their chest and making their mating call for 1 or 2 seconds. Once a female shows interest, the male and female then stand face to face, with one extending its head and neck up and the other mirroring it; they both hold this posture for several minutes. Once in pairs, couples waddle around the colony together, with the female usually following the male. Once a bond is formed, the pair then bows to one another, solidifying the bond. Emperor Penguins begin the breeding process in the harsh Antarctic winter in the months of March and April.

By May or early June, the female has produced 1 egg. By this point, the female’s fat and energy reserves are almost exhausted and she returns to the sea to feed. The male then takes the egg, which is incubated by his brood pouch until the chick hatches 64 days later. Hatching can take up to three days. By the time the egg hatches, the male has not eaten for 115 days. This is the reason that it’s so important for the male to be larger than the female in this species and why they evolved this feature. Baby Emperor Penguins are semi-altricial and are born with only a thin layer of down. If the baby hatches before the mother returns, the father feeds it with crop milk like that produced by doves and flamingos. Once the female does return, she finds her mate by his distinct vocal call and takes over care of the baby so that he can return to the sea and feed. At between 45 and 50 days of age, a number of chicks form a group called a crèche, huddling together for warmth and protection while their parents depart for the sea to hunt. By early November, the chicks begin to fledge and begin feeding themselves by December or January.

The predator situation with Emperor Penguins is unusual for large theropods. Eggs, chicks and adults are preyed upon by the Southern Giant Petrel, a living nightmare of a polar dinosaur which bites holes in adult penguins and tears chunks of flesh out to feed on, leaving gaping, bloody wounds in the poor, still living penguin. Emperor Penguins are also preyed upon in more conventional ways by two mammals, which is unusual as mammals are usually not a major threat to large, predatory dinosaurs. These predators are the Leopard Seal and the Orca. If they make it to adulthood and they can avoid these predators, Emperor Penguins can live for up to 50 years.

Penguins are a fascinating modern dinosaur that have an important place in tracking the evolution of modern bird orders in the greater overall theropod family tree. As is mentioned earlier in this set, fossils are very rare in proportion to the amount of living things on the earth at any given time. It is estimated that only 1% of organisms ever fossilize and only 1% of those fossils are ever found. A long-standing debate in the study of dinosaurs is whether the huge evolutionary radiation of avians into modern orders began in the Cretaceous period or if it happened in the Paleogene, after the extinction of the other dinosaurs.

Waimanu is an extinct genus of Penguin from New Zealand that is from the early Paleocene with a temporal range between 60-58 million years ago. Waimanu shows that many of the unique adaptations found in modern penguins were present in the lineage as early as 6 million years after the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction. This tells us that the penguin lineage already existed as a differentiated and specialized family of theropods somewhere in the world in the Cretaceous period, and that the Penguin family was one of the theropod groups that made it across the boundary. These Cretaceous penguins were almost certainly not flightless yet as they did survive the extinction, but 6 million years is a blink of an eye in terms of evolution, so these Cretaceous penguins would have had to have exhibited many of the other distinct features of penguins to account for an animal like Waimanu so soon after the mass extinction.
View Coin Ringed Kingfisher BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS 10C 1973FM B.v.island RINGED KINGFISHER NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO One thing that has been interesting to observe as I’ve built this set is how lopsided the available information on the different animals discussed can be. Some species have an absolute wealth of available information available while others have very little information available. However, I still want to include these birds as they are interesting and our next bird is one of those that is a little sparse on available information. This is the Ringed Kingfisher, species name Megaceryle torquata.

The Ringed Kingfisher is a tropical kingfisher, ranging from southern Texas down to the very southernmost tip of South America living near waterways, especially those that are heavily wooded. Ringed Kingfishers are around 16 inches long, which is long for a kingfisher, with deep blue or bluish-gray plumage with white markings, a shaggy crest and a broad white collar around the neck and a reddish underside and a blackish bill. Sexual dimorphism exists as far as coloration goes; females are more brightly colored than the males, which is an interesting departure for the typical theropod formula, where the males is typically more vibrantly colored if there is any difference in coloration.

Like all kingfishers, the Ringed Kingfisher is a predator, preying mostly upon fish but it will also consume small amphibians, small reptiles and other small prey, such as aquatic insects. The Ringed Kingfisher is a sight-based hunter which locates prey by staring into the water and diving after the prey when sighted. The Ringed Kingfisher makes its kills underwater with its heavy, dagger like beak, and typically swallows its prey whole.

Ringed Kingfishers nest in burrows. They typically lay clutches of between 3 and 6 eggs, but 3 is the usual. The eggs are incubated by both parents and the incubation period is not well known. Both parents feed and care for the young, who leave the nest about 5 weeks after hatching but they often stay with their parents for some time after this, though the exact amount of time is unknown.

I apologize again for another shorter essay, but I can only construct what the information allows me to. I will keep looking for new scholarship on this bird, which I will add once I find it.
View Coin Pileated Woodpecker CANADA - 1968 TO DATE S$20 2016 PILEATED WOODPECKER COLORIZED NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO Another great colorized coin from Canada brings this collection its first woodpecker: The Pileated Woodpecker, species name Dryocopus pileatus.

The Pileated Woodpecker is either the largest North American woodpecker or the second largest, depending on if the critically endangered Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is actually extinct or not. Most conservation groups and ornithologists believe that the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is almost certainly extinct as the last verified sighting of one was in 1944 despite large scale searches over their historic range and reported but unconfirmed sightings in the years since 1944. The Pileated Woodpecker is very similar in appearance and behavior to the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, which is the source of the debate as the two birds can easily be mistaken for one another at a distance or in flight. Size-wise, the Pileated Woodpecker ranges from 16 to 19 inches in length, with a wingspan range of 26 to 30 inches and an average weight of 11 ounces. As this coin is colorized, you can see the coloration of this beautiful modern dinosaur for yourself.

The Pileated Woodpecker is an insectivore, and it pecks through trees and rotted wood seeking insects and their larvae. Pileated Woodpeckers also eat small amounts of plant matter, particularly fruits and berries. They also excavate nests in trees by pecking their distinctive, rectangular shaped crevasses in the trunks of the trees in question. While they are very self-assured and nimble when perching vertically on trees, these guys can be somewhat awkward on branches on vines, which they sometimes stand on to feed as well. Because of their feeding and nesting habits, Pileated Woodpeckers prefer woodlands in the eastern United States and southern Canada for habitat, but some are starting to move into suburban areas with trees, such as parks, woodlots and cemeteries all across its range. As far as predators, eggs are preyed upon by American Martens, weasels, snakes and Grey Foxes. Adults have few predators and all are avians. Pileated Woodpeckers are sometimes taken by Red-Tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Northern Goshawks and Barred Owls.

Like raptors and parrots, two groups already represented in this collection, Pileated Woodpeckers mate for life. The pair stays together all year on their chosen territory. Unlike many other birds, which will reuse nests, Pileated Woodpeckers never do. Each year, they excavate a new nest is a completely different tree, using only woodchips as nesting material within the cavity. In April, the pair will produce 3 to 5 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about 18 days, after which they hatch. Both parents feed the young through regurgitation. There is little indication of siblicidal behavior in this species. The young leave the nest at between 26 and 28 days of age and they often stay with their parents for 2 to 3 months after this, after which they leave to start their adult lives. Pileated Woodpeckers can live for up to 12 years.

The behavior of abandoning nesting cavities after only a single season’s use is vitally important for many other species that share a habitat with Pileated Woodpeckers. The abandoned nesting cavities can provide nests and homes for wrens, songbirds, owls and tree-nesting ducks who could never make such an excavation on their own. Even mammals such as raccoons may make use of abandoned Pileated Woodpecker nests. Pileated Woodpeckers are also important decomposers of dead trees. Overall, this species is of vital importance to all ecosystems it inhabits.

Aside from resembling the likely extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, the Pileated Woodpecker also bears a strong resemblance to a theropod that is definitely extinct: Anchiornis huxleyi. Anchiornis huxleyi, which lived 160 million years ago during the Late Jurassic in what is now China, was the first non-avian dinosaur to have its life appearance accurately determined by scientists. This was made possible by an exquisitely preserved fossil that included preserved melanosomes and extensive preserved feathers. It was found that Anchiornis looked pretty much like the Pileated Woodpecker. They both shared very similar coloration, and both dinosaurs have red crests of feathers on their heads. A living Anchiornis basically looked like a Pileated Woodpecker with teeth and unfused fingers, wings on both the forelimbs and the hindlimbs and a long tail. This makes the Pileated Woodpecker another excellent example of how similar living birds actually are to their extinct Mesozoic ancestors.
View Coin Rock Dove CANADA - 1968 TO DATE S1C 1967-2017 GILT NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO Our next modern dinosaur is represented by a version of one of the most iconic and well known dinosaur coins of all time: the 1967 Canadian Confederation Centennial Cent, first released as a bronze coin with commemorative versions released at various points in the 2010’s. The coin featured here is the 2017 50th Anniversary version of the coin, struck in gold-plated silver and, like all versions, features the Rock Dove, species name Columba livia.

The wild form of the Rock Dove is a pale grey bird with black bars each wing and orange, red or gold eyes. They have a grey-black beak with an off-white cere and purplish-red feet. Their domestic and feral descendants, known to many as pigeons, vary widely in color. Size wise, Rock Doves range from 11 to 15 inches long, with a wingspan of 24 to 28 inches and a weight range of 8.4 to 13.4 ounces. There is no real sexual dimorphism among Rock Doves aside from decreased iridescence of the feathers of females. Geographically, they naturally inhabit parts of Southern Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and Western Asia but they have been introduced into many parts of North and South America, Eastern Asia, Southern Africa and Australia. These introduced populations are largely feral descendants of the domesticated form of the bird. 12 subspecies of Rock Dove are generally accepted to exist by scientists, some of which are descended from feral stock.

Rock Doves are gregarious birds and they live and feed in large flocks. They feed largely on seeds and fruits, but they are adaptable and will scavenge from human garbage cans and other sources of nutrients. They will also take handouts from humans if they are conditioned to do so. Rock Doves are also adaptable as far as habitat is concerned. Rock Doves live in towns and cities in large numbers as our buildings actually provide this species with exactly the type of living and nesting grounds they require and our birdfeeders and garbage provide them with large and easily exploitable food sources. The natural habitat of the Rock Dove is cliffs and caves, which buildings approximate almost perfectly.

Though the large size of Rock Dove flocks and lack of visual differences among individuals make this hard to determine with certainty, but it is thought that Rock Doves mate for life. They can breed at anytime of the year, but breeding is most common in the spring and summer. Nests are a platform of straw and sticks positioned under ledges and other sources of shelter. The nests are constructed entirely by the female from material that is provided entirely by the male. Two eggs are produced and are incubated by both parents for 17-19 days until they hatch. Rock Doves are altricial and are born covered in yellow down and are helpless. Rock Doves feed their young with crop milk, which is a semisolid milk which is high in fats and proteins that is secreted by the crop lining in both parents. The young leave the nest at between 25 and 32 days of age, but this can be longer for young born in cold weather.

The adaptability of the Rock Dove has led to it being vitally important in the recovery of many previously endangered raptors by providing them a major source of food in a variety of habitats, allowing them to find new habitats to live in. The Peregrine Falcon has particularly benefitted from suburban and urban Rock Dove populations and is the major predator of this species in most habitats. Other predators of Rock Doves are mainly avian and they include Eurasian Sparrowhawks, Red-Tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, Eastern Screech Owls, American Kestrels and Golden Eagles. Ravens and Crows will also prey upon smaller Rock Doves along with chicks and eggs. Mammalian predators of Rock Doves include opossums, raccoons, bobcats and other small felids, including the domestic cat.

As is mentioned above, the Rock Dove has been domesticated into the pigeon, which is a bird that has been used for food, pets and as message carriers. The Rock Dove has a remarkable talent for both travelling long distances when needed and finding their way back to their point of origin after such a trip. Many domesticated Rock Doves used as carrier and homing pigeons during wars have earned military honors and decorations for their services. There is also a hobby around raising fancy pigeons and showing them, like there is for cats, dogs and aquarium fish. The domesticated pigeon is the form of the Rock Dove that has made the most inroads into new habitats.

In the form of the feral domestic pigeon, Rock Doves have gained a reputation for being dirty or being a pest. In fact, many people refer to them as “rats with wings”, but this reputation is unfair and unwarranted. In fact, there are only four diseases that pigeons can spread to humans. There is a minor risk for humans to contract histoplasmosis, cryptococcosis and psittacosis from prolonged contact to pigeon feces. The one disease that pigeons do pose a risk in spreading, however, is avian influenza but it should be noted that it is rare for influenza to jump directly from any bird to a human. Birds are reptiles and humans are mammals. Our bodies are very different, making microbe jumps difficult and relatively rare, but when jumps do occur they can be serious. But, the truth of the matter is that you are much more likely to contract a disease from a pet cat or dog than from any reptile, including a pigeon. I have had a box turtle for 26 years and I’ve never gotten sick from him, but my dad’s cat gave him a very nasty infection once from a bite.

As far as being a pest, well, I guess that one depends on your perspective. Feral Rock Doves are certainly numerous in many urban and suburban areas and they have to build nests and perform their excretory functions somewhere. However, I prefer to look at them as one of the key links in the amazing ecosystems and food chains that have arisen in our settlements. They provide food for more charismatic avian dinosaurs, such as urban Peregrine Falcon and Red-Tailed Hawk populations. They are also efficient consumers of discarded human foodstuffs, leading them to have a role in cleaning up after us. And they actually do not carry and spread diseases the same way mammalian pests like rodents and feral cats do. I definitely view this modern dinosaur in a fairly favorable light, even if they have used my little Volkswagen Beetle as a toilet when I’m at the grocery store 😊
View Coin North Island Brown Kiwi NEW ZEALAND 20C 1974 Newzealand NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO As has already been established in this collection with the absolutely nightmarish Haast’s Eagle, New Zealand has been home to some incredible modern dinosaurs. While many of them have gone extinct as part of the ongoing Holocene Extinction Event, others are still extant and are as unique and amazing as their extinct cousins. This next coin features one that is still around but far less horrifying than the Hasst’s Eagle: The North Island Brown Kiwi, species name Apteryx mantelli.

The North Island Brown Kiwi is the most widespread and most common of the existing five species of kiwi, ranging widely across the North Island of New Zealand. Ancestrally, the North Island Brown Kiwi preferred the dense sub-tropical and temperate forests of the North Island for habitat. But this little bird has shown remarkable resilience and adaptability compared to its relatives. North Island Brown Kiwis have adapted to live in scrub land, farm land and in pine plantations as well. This adaptability is probably why the North Island Brown Kiwi is now the most common kiwi, though it is still classed as Vulnerable by The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world's main authority on the conservation status of species.

In appearance, North Island Brown Kiwis are flightless ratites with streaky red-brown plumage that is spiky and very different from the feathers seen on flighted birds. As with many species of theropod dinosaurs, sexual dimorphism exists in size with the females being larger than the males. Female Northern Island Brown Kiwis stand about 16 inches high and weigh about 6.2 pounds. Males can reach similar heights, but they are of a much lighter build and average 4.9 pounds. Males and females also produce different vocalizations. Males produce a high-pitched whistle while females produce a lower, throatier call. North Island Brown Kiwis also have no tail and tiny, vestigial wings with a claw on them, a small trait that they share with their earlier theropod kin.

Foodwise, North Island Brown Kiwis are insectivores. Almost their entire diet is made up of insects, arachnids and the larvae and eggs of these two groups. They will also sometimes eat fruit and seeds if they find them, but this is relatively rare behavior for them.

Like many other theropods, North Island Brown Kiwis can mate for life but unlike others like parrots and birds of prey, “divorces” among North Island Brown Kiwis are fairly common. Mating and egg laying can take place at any time of the year, but is most common from June to November. The North Island Brown Kiwi holds the world record for laying the largest eggs in relation to its size of any known animal, not just among birds or dinosaurs as a whole. One or two white colored eggs are produced in a burrow and are incubated entirely by the male for 75 to 90 days. Once the eggs are laid, the female takes off and dad is on his own until the young go out on their own. North Island Brown Kiwis are never going to win any mother of the year awards. The young of the North Island Brown Kiwi are precocial and are up and walking around within a week of hatching and they leave to establish their own territories at between 4 and 6 weeks of age.

The main threat to the survival of the North Island Brown Kiwi is habitat loss. While they are more adaptable than other kiwi species, they still have very specific habitat needs for feeding and nesting. Invasive mammal species such as dogs, feral cats and stoats are a further threat to the eggs and young of this species. With the extinction of the Haast’s Eagle and the Eyles’ Harrier, New Zealand lost its only two large bodied, diurnal raptors. There are also no other large native predators. Because of this, New Zealand doesn’t have natural predators for these invasive mammals like Australia does in the form of the Wedge-Tailed Eagle, the Saltwater Crocodile and the Freshwater Crocodile. However, there are many programs in place to try to reduce the numbers of these invasive mammalian threats.

Kiwis, as a family, are also vitally important to paleontology. Studies have found that kiwis are actually the living bird family that are the most physiologically similar to extinct non-avian theropods. In particular, kiwis have plumage, respiratory systems and metabolisms that are very similar to those of extinct Paravians, the clade including Avialans and Deinonychosaurs. Kiwis often serve as stand-ins in studies on these groups of extinct dinosaurs, allowing us insights into these extinct species that we would never have otherwise.
View Coin Wild Turkey United States 25C 2015 S SILVER KISATCHIE EARLY RELEASES NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO This next modern dinosaur gets an unfair bad rap regarding its intelligence due to the diminished intellect of its domesticated descendent. With this coin, I’d like to rehabilitate the image of the Wild Turkey, species name Meleagris gallopavo

Wild Turkeys are large birds with blackish feathers which have a coppery sheen in males, reddish yellow to greyish green legs and bald heads that can range in color from red to almost black. There is strong sexual dimorphism among Wild Turkeys, with males being larger, more iridescent in coloring, and having wattles on the head and an additional growth over the nose called a snood. Males are typically 39-49 inches long and weigh from 11 to 24 pounds while females are 30 to 37 inches long and weigh from 5.5 to 11.9 pounds. Unlike domestic turkeys, Wild Turkeys are fully capable of flight, as the coin shows, and are strong fliers when the need arises, though they do most of their moving by walking.

As far as habitat goes, Wild Turkeys prefer forests with mixed hardwood and conifer trees and many openings such as pastures, clearings and fields. Wild Turkeys are common in the Eastern United States and the American Midwest, but they also rarely range farther west and into parts of Canada and Mexico where suitable habitat is located. Wild Turkeys are omnivores who find their meals through foraging. Though they are omnivores, most of a Wild Turkey’s diet is plant material including leaves, seeds, grains, berries, buds, grass blades, roots and bulbs. Animals taken by Wild Turkeys are mostly invertebrates such as insects, arachnids and worms but small amphibians and small reptiles are rarely taken as well.

Unlike most other theropods, Wild Turkeys are far from monogamous. Instead, they are polygynous with one male mating with several females. Breeding happens in the spring, with males making elaborate displays and gobbling to attract as many females as they can. Wild turkeys are ground nesters who excavate a shallow depression which they line with grasses and other plant materials that are located under shrubs or in tall grass when possible. Once the mating is done, so is the male. Incubation of the 10 to 14 eggs produced is left solely to the females. After 25-31 days, the eggs hatch. Wild Turkeys are precocial and they walk and leave the nest shortly after birth. While the female looks after them and incubates them at night, the young are essentially able to fend for themselves almost immediately. They forage for their own food and feed themselves. Young Wild Turkeys are able to fly in short bursts at between 1 and 2 weeks of age, but they take several more months to refine their flying ability and fully mature. Wild Turkeys live for an average of 10 years.

As far as predators go, young and eggs are preyed upon by raccoons, skunks, foxes, several species snakes and rodents. Adults have far fewer predators given their large size and, as I wanted to mention earlier, their intelligence. Most adult male Wild Turkeys only face real threats from two animals: Humans and Golden Eagles. For adult females, the Great Horned Owl must be added to this list. While other predators, including Grey Wolves, Red Foxes, Bobcats and Coyotes will try to take Wild Turkeys, these mammals only rarely able to succeed. This is because the Wild Turkey is usually able to outsmart these mammalian carnivores and evade them. Typically, Wild Turkey are usually able to detect these predatory mammals before the threat is aware that they’ve been spotted. The Wild Turkey will then either evade the predator by use of camouflage or hiding or simply flying up to a spot that is too high for the predator to access. In instances that these strategies do not work, Wild Turkeys will aggressively fight the predator off.

In a fight with one of the mammals listed, the Wild Turkey usually comes out the winner as they can be extremely aggressive in self-defense. However, Humans, Golden Eagles and Great Horned Owls all have the Wild Turkey out-brained and Humans and Golden Eagles are far more aggressive than the Wild Turkey, so these contests are more likely to end fatally for the Wild Turkey. As far as Great Horned Owls and Golden Eagles are concerned, they are actually the biggest threats to an adult Wild Turkeys as the Wild Turkey has to actually sight the predator from the air before it begins its assault, which is less likely for the ground dwelling Wild Turkey to accomplish in time, increasing the element of surprise. Also, moving to a higher spot does not work against these aerial predatory theropods. Humans, however, are evaded more often than you might think. I’ve read many researchers who are familiar with Wild Turkeys emphasize how intelligent and crafty they actually are and how successful they are at spotting and evading human hunters. And Wild Turkeys will fight for their lives against humans just as they do against the other mammals who attempt to prey on them. According to my research, turkey hunters go home empty handed far more often than hunters of other animals, such as deer.

I hope that this coin has shown that the Wild Turkey is an amazing modern dinosaur that does not deserve the reputation for being stupid that it has (if you want to experience a stupid animal, check out the koala. You’ll see how much damage having a smooth brain and living entirely on a nutrient poor, poisonous plant does.) and one that is an amazing and unique member of North America’s ecosystem. Also, if Benjamin Franklin had his way, the Wild Turkey would have been the United States’ national dinosaur. Franklin found the intelligent and resourceful Wild Turkey far more noble than the Bald Eagle, who is a notorious kleptoparasite. From a human’s perspective, Franklin was probably correct in his assessment but human values should not be applied to nature. Both the Wild Turkey and the Bald Eagle are just doing what they evolved to do in order to survive in their very different ecological niches, and both are valuable members of their respective ecosystems.
View Coin Carolina Wren United States 25C 2000 S CLAD SO.CAROLINA 2006 COLLECTORS' SOCIETY NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO This next coin not only portrays a fascinating modern dinosaur, it is also a piece of NGC history. It is a 2000-S Clad Proof South Carolina state quarter in a 2006 Collectors Society slab that I am excited to add to this set to introduce you to the Carolina Wren, species name Thryothorus ludovicianus.

The Carolina Wren is a small brown bird with white facial stripes, a lemon colored beak and flesh colored legs that ranges from 4.6 to 5.5 inches long, with an 11-inch wingspan and a weight range of .63 to .81 ounces. Believe it or not, this is pretty large for a wren. There is slight sexual dimorphism with males being slightly larger than the females, but otherwise the sexes are identical in appearance. Geographically, Carolina Wrens range across eastern North America from the very southernmost part of Canada down into parts of northeastern Mexico. The geographic range of this species varies seasonally, in years with mild winters, their range will expand farther northward and they will contract southward in years with harsh winters. Within that range, Carolina Wrens inhabit riparian forests, brushy edges, swamps, overgrown farmlands, and suburban yards with abundant thick shrubs and trees, and parks. They also have an affinity for abandoned buildings, which offer shelter, safety and nesting grounds for these little wrens. There are seven recognized subspecies of the Carolina Wren.

As far as feeding, Carolina Wrens are omnivores with a heavy leaning toward the carnivorous side of an omnivorous diet. Most of their food is invertebrates such as insects and arachnids, but they also sometimes eat other small reptiles and small amphibians. Plant matter such as seeds and fruit pulp make up the herbivorous part of their diets, which is the smaller part of their diets. Carolina Wrens are also frequent visitors to feeders, favoring suet feeders over seed only feeders. They are skittish and wary little guys who are often heard but not seen by humans, which makes feeders a great place to try to see them.

Carolina Wrens are fully monogamous and pairs mate for life, though one rare instance of possible polygamy has been observed. However, this could not be verified as a definite instance of polygamy. Breeding pairs defend territories with songs and attacks on enemies, though Carolina Wrens will size up an enemy before attacking to minimize the risk of injury to themselves. But it should be noted that not all other birds and animals in a Carolina Wren pair’s territory are viewed as threats. Carolina Wrens will coexist peacefully with many different species of animals. Carolina Wrens are very vocal birds with a variety of songs and calls for different occasions, such as warning calls, songs for communication and songs for territory defense.

Carolina Wrens nest in cavities, and they will build nests in cavities in trees including abandoned woodpecker nests, bird boxes, bird houses, and a variety of places in abandoned buildings such as mail boxes, lighting fixtures and many other man-made structures. Nests are arch shaped and they are built exclusively by the female with materials brought exclusively by the male. These materials can be almost anything, ranging from grasses and other plant matter to pieces of shed snake skins. Egg laying dates vary widely across the various subspecies and across geographic locations. Typically, 5 or 6 white eggs with reddish-brown spots are produced. Incubation is done entirely by the female for 12-16 days and the male brings food to feed her while she incubates the eggs. Once the chicks hatch, they are fed exclusively on invertebrates brought by both parents until they fledge at 12 to 14 days of age. Carolina Wrens can produce up to three broods a year.

The main predation that Carolina Wrens experience is actually brood parasitism from Brown-Headed Cowbirds. The female Brown-Headed Cowbird will remove one of the eggs from a Carolina Wren nest and lay one of her own eggs in its place. The Carolina Wren pairs will then raise the cowbird chick, which quickly grows to be much larger and more aggressive than the wren chicks and it will often kill them or starve them to death by taking all of the food brought by the Carolina Wren parents. Besides Brown-Headed Cowbirds, Carolina Wrens are more conventionally preyed upon by domestic cats, snakes and smaller raptors.

Another risk that Carolina Wrens face is mercury poisoning via biomagnification through feeding on spiders. By far, the largest threat faced by Carolina Wrens are harsh winters, which typically drop the population significantly through food scarcity. If a Carolina Wren can avoid all of these dangers, they can live from 6 to 10 years.

As far as I know, the NGC Collectors Society slabs were given out to new subscribers to NGC in past years. Though NGC doesn't appear to do this anymore, these slabs are interesting reminders and mementos of an earlier time in NGC history. As a proud member of this amazing society, I am pleased to have this piece of NGC history here in my award-winning set. So that’s our first wren, and an interesting and significant piece of NGC history, all brought to you by the same coin!!
View Coin Shoebill S2.5P AH1396//1976 SUDAN SHOEBILL STORK NGC MS 67 It is well known that the continent of Africa is home to some amazing and charismatic animals that capture the imagination and fill your heart with wonder. Our next coin introduces one of the most fascinating and charming African animals: The Shoebill, species name Balaeniceps rex.

The Shoebill is one of those birds that even people who still have no idea that birds are living dinosaurs look at and say things like “That bird looks like a dinosaur!”. Of course the Shoebill looks like a dinosaur because that’s exactly what it is. The Shoebill is a very large modern dinosaur, reaching heights of up to 5 feet with a 7 to 8’6” wingspan and a weight range of 12 to 16 pounds. Shoebills are covered in slaty-blue grey feathers with light yellow eyes and grey to brown legs. Males and females look exactly the same and have the same height and wingspan dimensions, though male Shoebills on average weigh about a half pound to a pound more than females. The most conspicuous feature of the Shoebill is its large, robust and unique beak. The beak of a Shoebill is kind of a tan or peach color with grey markings and it is the third largest beak among living birds. Despite their appearance and the now outdated name “Shoebill Stork”, Shoebills are not storks. Rather, they are relatives of Pelicans and are members of the Pelecaniformes. Like Pelicans and unlike Storks aside from the Marabou Stork and its relatives, Shoebills fly with their necks retracted. Geographically, Shoebills live in swamplands and other wetlands in eastern Africa from Sudan in the north to Zambia in the south.

As far as feeding goes, Shoebills are predators who mainly eat fish but they will also eat juvenile crocodiles, snakes, snails, turtles, worms, small mammals and smaller water birds if they can’t get fish. There are also reports of Shoebills preying on antelope calves. The Shoebill is a sight-based hunter who hunts by lurking and standing perfectly still until an unsuspecting fish swims near the surface. For this reason, Shoebills favor poorly oxygenated waters, where fish will have to surface to gulp oxygen from the air, increasing the Shoebill’s chance for success in capturing prey. Once a Shoebill sights a prey animal and the prey animal comes near the surface, the Shoebill will strike and get a mouthful of water, vegetation and, hopefully, its prey. Here’s where the Shoebill’s unique beak serves its evolutionary purpose. First, the bill allows the Shoebill to filter out the water and the vegetation, which is of no nutritional value and likely indigestible to the carnivorous Shoebill, while keeping the prey in the Shoebill’s mouth. Then the Shoebill will use its beak, which is immensely strong and razor sharp, to decapitate its prey to instantly kill it before the Shoebill swallows it whole. Shoebills can consume animals as long as 2 feet and of a weight of up to 2 pounds in a single gulp. Shoebills are some of the most successful predators in the world as over 66% of their attacks result in a kill and, thusly, a meal.

Like many other theropods, Shoebills mate for life. However, the Shoebill is a largely solitary bird and mated pairs will feed and live on opposite sides of their shared territories for most of the year. Shoebills are almost never found in groups. The pairs come together at the end of the wet season in order to begin nesting. The nest is constructed by both the male and female on a floating platform, which is also constructed by the Shoebill pair out of aquatic vegetation. A Shoebill pair will produce from one to three eggs, which both parents incubate for approximately 30 days. Shoebill chicks are highly siblicidal, so even if more than one egg is produced, only one chick typically survives. Shoebill parents will douse both the eggs and the chicks with mouthfuls of water to keep them cool and the young are fed entirely on fish brought to them by both parents. Young Shoebills fledge at 105 days of age and they are typically able to fly well at 112 days of age, though they will continue to be fed by the parents for about a month past this age. After that point, the young Shoebill goes out on its own to establish its own territory, and upon reaching sexual maturity at the age of 3 years, find a mate. Shoebills live for 36 years in the wild and up to 65 years in captivity, making them one of the longest lived of all birds.

Shoebills are large and powerful birds which have no real predators but they do have one natural enemy: the notoriously nasty Marabou Stork. Marabous and Shoebills share the same wetland habitats and Marabou Storks are the only real threat to the eggs and young of Shoebills, and Shoebills know this. The two species often show aggression toward one another, and fights between these two large and powerful modern theropods are quite a spectacle to witness. Oddly enough, these fights very rarely result in injury to either the Marabou Stork or the Shoebill as Shoebills are the one animal that Marabou Storks are relatively quick to flee from. This is likely because of the strength of the Shoebill and the sharpness and strength of the Shoebill’s beak. If pushed too far, there is a very real possibility that the Shoebill could break the Marabou Stork’s legs or beak, which would likely end up being fatal to the Marabou Stork as it would then be unable to feed itself. Marabou Storks are far from stupid, and they know that unless they can get the upper hand over a Shoebill quickly, they never will. But, being the highly vicious and opportunistic predators that Marabou Storks are, they still have to try.

Though Shoebills are vicious and efficient hunters and are aggressive toward Marabou Storks, they are largely gentle giants to most other life forms unlike the Marabou Stork. Once acclimated to humans, Shoebills will get to know their keepers and they do bond with them. They will also allow themselves to be petted and hand fed. There is one famous Shoebill named Sushi who is 30 years old and lives at the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre in the African nation of Uganda. He will allow any person who wants to interact with him and pet him to do so, provided they bow to him first. Sushi will then bow back and allow the person to interact with him. This bowing is a common greeting among Shoebills with members of their own species. Shoebills are very popular in zoos due to their prehistoric appearance and their gentle nature.

Sadly, though the Shoebill only has the Marabou Stork as a natural enemy, they are classified as Endangered by the IUCN. There are approximately 5,000 to 8,000 Shoebills in the wild and the main threat is, as is the case with most endangered birds, habitat loss. Thankfully, the Shoebill is an important member of Africa’s charismatic megafauna and they draw in large amounts of tourist money. The Shoebill is considered Africa’s most desirable bird and they are a major ecotourism draw. There are many programs in place in the countries that the Shoebill calls home to protect Shoebills and their habitats, which in turn helps all of the other animals that share that habitat. Thankfully, these measures are working and Shoebills are recovering as are many of their wetland habitat neighbors. The Shoebill is an excellent example of the following quote from Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, a Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University in action: “If you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the big problems in the world”. Words to remember and live by.

The coin that represents the Shoebill is an important one as well. This coin was in my girlfriend’s collection for several years, and I’ve always admired it, especially since Shoebills are a favorite of mine. I’ve tried to find one for this set, but this really is a tough coin to find nice as, for some reason, this issue is prone to milk spotting. Recently, she was going through her coins as she’s planning a new project and came upon this coin and decided it belonged with me and offered to give it to me. I told her I appreciated the gift and I loved the coin, but since it was a scarce coin in excellent grade, I couldn’t just take it. She let me pay her a fair price for the coin and I’m so pleased to have it here in the set!!
View Coin Canada Goose CANADA - 1968 TO DATE S$20 2014 CANADA GOOSE NGC SP 69 This next coin brings us our first goose, and it is a common and iconic one for many of us who live in North America and parts of Northern Europe. Say hello to the Canada Goose, Species name Branta canadensis.

The Canada Goose is a large bird, ranging from 2.5 feet to 3.6 feet in length and a wingspan range of 4.2 to 6 feet. While males and females of this species look identical and are similarly sized, males tend to be a little bit heavier, ranging between 5.7–14.3 pounds while females average between 5.3–12.1 pounds. Canada Geese have a very distinctive coloration. The body feathers are brownish with a white underside, a black head and neck with a distinctive white “chinstrap” and black legs and feet. Through hybridizing with Domestic Geese, some flocks of Canadian Geese contain members that are lighter in coloration and that are lacking some of the distinctive plumage features most Canadian Geese exhibit.

Canadian Geese are gregarious birds that form large flocks. They are herbivores who feed largely on grasses, seeds, berries, aquatic plants and grains. Occasionally, they will also eat small fish and invertebrates. Watching a group of these guys feeding on grasses in a field can transport one to the late Mesozoic Era, where herds of their herbivorous theropod cousins, such as the Therizinosaurs and Ornithomimosaurs, grazed across the land. Canada Geese give us a glimpse into a world that is gone and has been for 66 million years. Geographically, Canada Geese are naturally found in North America and Northern Europe, but they have been introduced to the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands.

Canada Geese reach sexual maturity at two years of age and they mate for life, though they will find other mates if their partners die. Given the wide geographic range of the Canada Goose and the fact that there are seven different subspecies, breeding takes place at many times of the year based on location and subspecies. Two to nine eggs are produced with the female incubating them for 24 to 28 days while the male stays nearby to protect the nest and his mate. Nests are constructed on high ground and they are a small depression lined with sticks and other plant matter and some of the down feathers of the parents. Baby Canada Geese are born covered in fuzzy yellow down and are precocial, being able to walk, swim and feed themselves right at birth. Even though the chicks are precocial, Canada Goose parents will protect their young viciously from any threats. Adult Canada Geese undergo their annual molt during the breeding season, and they regain their ability to fly around the same time the goslings start to learn to fly. Canada Geese fledge at between 6 and 9 weeks of age, and they stay with their parents until after the annual spring migration. Canada Geese live for about 24 years in the wild and up to 31 years in captivity.

Being large, powerful and aggressive avian dinosaurs, adult Canada Geese have few predators. Eggs and goslings are at risk from Coyotes, Raccoons, Arctic and Red Foxes, Grey Wolves, Gulls, Crows and Ravens and Bears. As far as predators of adult Canada Geese, there are four main ones: Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, Snowy Owls and Humans. Occasionally, Great Horned Owls and Peregrine Falcons will get lucky and manage to bring down an adult Canada Goose as well.

Canada Geese are famous for their migrations, which are southward in the late fall and northward in the spring. For many people in their range, the migrations of Canada Geese are an indicator of the changing seasons and can be a great sign that they have officially survived another winter.

Canada Geese are another modern dinosaur who have had great success in adapting to life in human settlements. However, they are sometimes viewed as a pest species for a couple of reasons. The first is that, like most geese, Canada Geese are highly territorial and they will defend their territories viciously and violently. Canada Geese can be dangerous as they are capable of injuring humans when they do attack them in defense, though this is a rare occurrence. The other pest behavior Canada Geese exhibit is taught to them by humans and that is begging for food. Like Marabou Storks, if Canada Geese become conditioned to associate humans with food and the humans in question do not feed them, Canada Geese can become aggressive, though this is much rarer in Canada Geese than it is in Marabou Storks and Canada Geese are nowhere near as dangerous to humans as Marabou Storks can be.

Populations of Canada Geese can be difficult to control as many of the natural predators of these birds will avoid attacking them if there is easier to handle prey available, and most prey available to Golden Eagles, Snowy Owls and Bald Eagles fall into the easier to handle category due to the size and aggressive nature of Canada Geese. Therefore, hunting by humans and addling of eggs have become important population checks for this species.

So, there’s our first goose, and it’s an interesting though common one. Next time you see a flock of these guys flying in their distinctive V formation, take a moment and appreciate these interesting descendants of an earlier era of Earth’s history.
View Coin Dodo MAURITIUS 10R 1971 CU-NI INDEPENDENCE NGC MS 66 Almost every story has sad chapters, and the story of modern dinosaurs is no exception. This next entry tells a sad tale with a warning. This is the tale of the Dodo, species name Raphus cucullatus.

A description of the Dodo is difficult because it is only known to modern science from fossil and subfossil remains along with a dried head and foot in the Oxford Museum of Natural history. This leaves us with written descriptions and drawings from the 17th Century, which vary considerably. What can be determined was that the Dodo was a large bird that was about 3 feet tall and a weight range of 23 to 39 pounds. It was certainly flightless. Most depictions of the Dodo illustrate individuals as having brownish-grey plumage, yellow feet, a tuft of tail feathers, a grey, naked head, and a black, yellow, and green beak. Sexual dimorphism existed in Dodos as males appear to have been larger than females. As for the hypothesized appearance of a living Dodo, the coin shows it quite well, though Dodos are now believed to be slimmer than this 46-year-old depiction shows. Though they were large birds, mechanical studies done on subfossil remains indicate that Dodos were actually quite fast runners. It is estimated that Dodos had a lifespan of around 21 years. It is thought that Dodos fed on fruits and other plant matter as it is known that they used gizzard stones to help digest their food. Dodos were members of the Columbiformes, which is the Pigeon and Dove family. Their main habitat was the coastal woodlands which existed in its era on the island of Mauritius, which was the only place in the world that Dodos were found.

We also know very little about the reproductive habits of Dodos. Since they were so large and that they evolved in the near total absence of predators, it is a virtual certainty that Dodos were ground nesters. Contemporary accounts state that Dodo pairs laid a single egg and had altricial young. It was originally thought that young Dodos took a long time to mature, but the total lack of infant and juvenile subfossils and fossils indicates that Dodos grew up rapidly.

Dodos are extinct because the most dangerous predator that the Earth has ever seen invaded their native Mauritius in the 16th Century. That predator is the human. Humans are the sole reason Dodos are extinct. While many people who have heard this story think that it was overhunting which killed off the Dodo, it now seems more likely that it was habitat loss that actually destroyed them. Before humans arrived, Mauritius was covered in woodlands, and the Dodo was a woodland animal. When humans arrived on Mauritius, they cleared almost all of the woodlands. Once the woodlands were gone, the Dodos had no food, no nesting grounds and no living space. Humans first colonized Mauritius in 1598. The last accepted sighing of a living Dodo was in 1662. In less than 100 years, humans had destroyed the entire species and an enchanting and distinct modern dinosaur was gone forever.

The Dodo has become an icon of human caused extinction, and it serves as a warning of what may happen to the Earth if we do not learn to live with nature instead of living against it. If we are not careful with our planet and the creatures that are forced to share it with us, the last extinction we may cause is our own. Let’s hope we learn the lesson of the Dodo before it’s too late.

View Coin Where The Story Begins-Archaeopteryx GERMANY - MODERN 2 S10E 2011A ARCHAEOPTERYX DISCOVERY NGC PF 66 ULTRA CAMEO Every story has a beginning, and the story being told with this set, that of the dinosaurian ancestry and identity of modern birds, is no exception. The first chapter of this story starts with the animal whose fossilized remains are shown on this coin: Archaeopteryx lithographica.

In 1859, Charles Darwin’s groundbreaking work, On the Origin of Species, was first published. This work was the first scientific work that worked to address the true origin of all of the various and varied life forms on Earth. The most important thing that Darwin’s work did was to propose the Theory of Evolution through natural selection. Until Darwin’s work, the origins of life and different life forms were explained by various non-scientific creation myths, which varied by population, society and religious affiliation. On the Origin of Species changed all of that by finding the real, scientific answer to the question of the origins of life and its various forms, which was that existing life forms evolved from earlier forms by evolving new and novel features, and that natural forces would either favor or disfavor different life forms. As we know today, Darwin was absolutely correct in his assessment. Evolution is indeed how different life forms arise and how the great diversity of life on our planet came to be and continues to change. But in 1859, one thing was lacking and that was a transitional fossil, a fossil of a life form showing characteristics of two different life forms. Then, in 1861, everything changed.

In 1861, a German quarry worker discovered the fossil of a single feather. Later that year, the first skeleton of an Archaeopteryx was discovered. Dinosaurs were known at the time, and this new skeleton showed just what Darwin stated would eventually be found: skeletally, it was virtually indistinguishable from several small theropods which had already been discovered and described but the fossil also preserved feather imprints, showing that this dinosaur had feathered wings, feathered legs and a long, feathered tail. In 1875, the specimen shown on the coin was discovered. Known as the Berlin Specimen, this fossil remains the most complete specimen of Archaeopteryx ever found.

To scientists in the 1860’s, who did not understand the nature of theropod dinosaurs as we do today, Archaeopteryx appeared to be a transitional form showing the emergence of birds from reptiles. Indeed, most of Archaeopteryx’s features match up to other small terrestrial theropods. It had jaws lined with razor sharp teeth, a long, bony tail and a sickle-shaped killing claw on its second toes……but then there were those feathers, forming wings. For many years, Archaeopteryx was considered to be the first known bird as it was the very first dinosaur fossil found with preserved feather imprints. Archaeopteryx, at the time, was seen as important proof of evolution and may still be the most scientifically significant dinosaur fossil ever found because of the proof of evolution it provided at a critical phase in the study of natural evolution. If it wasn’t for Archaeopteryx, those archaic and highly incorrect creation myths may have taken back over and crippled the studies of biology and Earth history for years, decades or centuries more.

Today, Archaeopteryx’s status is somewhat changed. First off, the feathers that Archaeopteryx shows are not transitional features in and of themselves. As more fossils of Theropods with preserved feathers and quill knobs have been discovered and even Ornithischian dinosaurs have been discovered with “feather-like structures”, it now appears that feathers were ancestral traits of at least the theropods, if not of the Dinosauria as a whole. Secondly, as birds are a kind of dinosaur and we now know it, birds did not actually “emerge” from reptiles as they still are reptiles. So, that begs the question: Is Archaeopteryx still considered a transitional fossil?

Actually, yes, it is. Archaeopteryx shows two important trends leading to the emergence of true birds within the theropod family which occurred in the Early Cretaceous. Archaeopteryx is from the Late Jurassic period, existing from 150.8–148.5 million years ago. The first important thing about Archaeopteryx in a modern transitional sense is that it was small. It was the size of a modern raven, and it was likely black in coloration so it probably looked a lot like one as well, long, bony tail aside. While Ornithischians and Sauropods, the other two types of dinosaurs, kept getting larger and larger over the course of the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods, Theropods went in the opposite direction. In spite of the presence of giant Theropods such as the Tyrannosaurs and Carnosaurs, most Theropods got continually smaller over the course of the Mesozoic. This decrease in size was key in the evolution of flight, which is only known among Theropods within the Dinosauria. Secondly, while Archaeopteryx’s feathers are not transitional in and of themselves, they are transitional in that they are more similar to the stiff, asymmetrical flight feathers found on modern birds and later dromaeosaurs than the “dinofluff” found on Tyrannosaurs and other, larger and more primitive Theropods.

Relating to this transition is the aforementioned long tail. While the tail structurally similar to many other dinosaur tails, the feathering on the tail was arranged in a palm frond like pattern. This was a key step in the evolution of the aerodynamically sound tail fans found in flighted Enantiornithes during the Cretaceous and flighted Euornithes from the Cretaceous up to the modern day. So, Archaeopteryx is still a transitional fossil in the evolution of flight among Theropods and is a key chapter in that larger overall story. Recently, scientists have determined that Archaeopteryx was capable of fully powered flight, but that its fight style was quite different than that seen in later, more advanced Mesozoic and Cenozoic flying dinosaurs.

About Archaeopteryx itself, we actually know little. Only 12 fossils of Archaeopteryx are currently known, and most of those are highly incomplete. We know that it was likely black in coloration and that it was definitely carnivorous and likely predatory animal of small prey. During its lifetime, Europe was a series of islands as the sea levels were much higher due to the lack of polar ice caps at that time. By comparing its scleral rings to modern reptiles, we can theorize that Archaeopteryx was likely diurnal. We also know that its brain was advanced and complex, but not as advanced as those found in later Cretaceous Coelurosaurs. So, we know that Archaeopteryx was an intelligent animal as well, but how it used that intelligence we do not know, nor will we likely ever know. Fossils tell us very little about behavior. However, what can be said for certain that in this chapter of the story of life on Earth, Archaeopteryx is one of the most important players and served to be the first silent storyteller of the true story of avians.
View Coin American Robin CANADA - 1968 TO DATE 25C 2013 AMERICAN ROBIN COLORIZED NGC SP 69 Well, it’s been a long time coming, but here at the beginning of May 2018, spring seems to have finally come to my little corner of New York State. As such, it’s a great time to present a modern dinosaur that is a harbinger of spring to many of us in North America: the American Robin, species name Turdus migratorius.

American Robins range from 9.1 to 11.0 inches in length with a wingspan of 12 to 16 inches and a weight range of 2.2 to 3.5 ounces. There is sexual dimorphism among American Robins. While males and females are virtually identical in size, females tend to be paler in color than males. As for that coloration, the coin itself shows a wonderful colorized image of a male American Robin. For a female, just picture that coloration, but paler. Geographically, American Robins are year-round residents of most of the continental United States, southern Canada and northern Mexico, with that range expanding into most of the rest of Canada during their breeding season and into southern Mexico during the winter. There are seven recognized subspecies of the American Robin.

American Robins face many predators and dangers. Eggs and nestlings are preyed upon by squirrels, snakes, Blue Jays, American Crows and Common Ravens. Adults are vulnerable to predation by cats and larger snakes but, by far, the most prolific predators of adult American Robins are raptors. American Robins may be taken by any North American raptor, from the small but mighty Peregrine Falcon up to the massive and powerful Golden Eagle.

Unlike many other theropods, American Robins do not mate for life. Instead, they choose a new mate every breeding season. Breeding season is one of the most dangerous time for adult American Robins as many of those that are killed by raptors are taken by surprise when distracted by breeding behaviors. American Robins are one of the first North American birds to begin breeding, with their breeding season lasting from April to July. The nest is mainly constructed by the female with materials brought to her by the male. These materials can include vegetation, feathers and paper which are often coated with mud. The nest is constructed from 4 to 15 feet above the ground, typically in a bush, the fork of a tree or a high platform. 3 to 5 light blue eggs are typically produced and they are incubated solely by the female. After about 14 days, the eggs hatch and the young are born naked and helpless. At this point, the male becomes involved again, working with the female to feed the young and keep the nest clean. Both parents will fiercely and violently defend the nest and young by diving at and attacking any potential predators. The young fledge about 14 days after hatching and are capable of sustained flight 14 days after that. Even after leaving the nest, the young Robins will beg their parents for food for a couple of weeks longer. The longest known lifespan for an American Robin was 14 years, but heavy predation typically lowers that life expectancy to between two and five years.

So, there’s the American Robin. Happy Spring Everyone!!!
View Coin Philippine Eagle PHILIPPINES 50S 1983 Philippine NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO Our next coin brings us our first entry from the Philippines and one of the most powerful extant dinosaurs in the world: The Philippine Eagle, species name Pithecophaga jefferyi.

In some measures, such as length and wingspan, the Philippine Eagle is the largest eagle in the world. Lengths average 3 ft 1 in for males and 3 ft 5 in for females. Wingspans range from 6 ft 0 in to 7 ft 3 in and weights average 9 pounds for males and 13 pounds for females. Even though the Philippine Eagle is the longest eagle in the world, other eagles often exceed them in weight, the most notable species being the Steller’s Sea Eagle, the Harpy Eagle and some larger female Golden Eagles. The Philippine Eagle is dark brown along its back and on its wings with a white colored underside, a bluish-grey beak and a shaggy mane of brown and white feathers along the back of its head and neck. Geographically, this species in only found in the Philippines and this is a key factor in the species being critically endangered.

The genus name of the Philippine Eagle, Pithecophaga, means “monkey eater” as it was once thought that the Philippine Eagle solely killed and ate monkeys. However, this has been found to be untrue. While they certainly do prey upon monkeys, they also prey upon a much wider range of animals including bats, rodents, smaller birds and other reptiles, canids, felids and even deer. Unlike many other eagles, which are active hunters, the Philippine Eagle is more of an ambush hunter, either hunting by sitting still on a perch or flying between a couple of perches and trying to catch potential prey off guard and dispatch them quickly. It seems to prefer smaller prey that it can kill with a single blow rather than larger prey that it has to fight and prey ride. This is probably because it is of a lighter build than noted prey-riders like the Golden Eagle and Harpy Eagle and it is more likely to be injured in such a struggle.

The breeding cycle of the Philippine Eagle is complex and takes two full years. Philippine Eagles reach maturity at five years of age for females and seven years of age for males. Like other eagles, Philippine Eagles mate for life. Elaborate displays are an important part of maintaining the pair bond and these can include soaring over a nesting territory, the male chasing the female in a diagonal dive, and mutual talon presentation, where the male presents his talons to the female's back and she flips over in midair to present her own talons. Willingness to breed is exhibited by the pair bringing nesting materials to the nesting site. The nests are huge and can be over 4.9 feet across and they are used for multiple years. Breeding season is in July and only one egg is typically produced, though pairs are rarely reported. Both parents incubate the egg for 58 to 68 days, though all of the incubation at night is done by the female. After this, the egg hatches. Both sexes care for the baby, who takes four or five months to fledge. The earliest a Philippine Eagle has been seen making a kill on its own is at 305 days of age. The parents care for the baby eagle for a total of 20 months. This long growth period means that Philippine Eagles can only reproduce every other year, which is making their recovery difficult. Philippine Eagles can live for 60 years and they have no predators.

As is the case with most endangered birds, the reason the Philippine Eagle is endangered is habitat loss. Philippine Eagles require a huge territory of old-growth woodlands to properly hunt and reproduce, and much of this forest habitat has been cleared in the Philippines. Its restricted range and long reproduction cycle also makes this bird sensitive to habitat disruptions. However, measures are being taken to aid this charming animal in its recovery. In 2010, there were an estimated 500 Philippine Eagles left in the wild. In 2016, this number was raised to 600, a step in the right direction. Captive breeding projects are also showing promise, so we hopefully will not lose this amazing and majestic modern dinosaur.
View Coin Mallard CANADA - 1968 TO DATE 25C 2013 MALLARD COLORIZED NGC SP 69 Our next modern dinosaur is one that is both familiar and rather cute and charming, but as is the case with many animals when they are examined in depth, it has a dark side. This is the Mallard, species name Anas platyrhynchos.

The Mallard is a dabbling duck which naturally ranges across most of North America, all of Europe along with large portions of Asia as well as New Zealand and portions of North Africa and Australia. As the Mallard is the wild ancestor of most breeds of domestic ducks, it has a global distribution if the domestic form is included. Mallards have a wingspan range of 32–39 inches, a length range of 20–26 inches and a weight range of 1.6–3.5 pounds. Both sexes are of similar size, but there is strong sexual dimorphism in the plumage during the breeding season, which the coin shows. The male is the bird with the green head and yellow bill while the female is the brown bird with the darker bill. Once the breeding season is completed, the male undergoes a molt and becomes similar to the female in appearance though the bill remains lighter in color than that of the female.

Mallards are omnivores who feed mainly on aquatic plants and invertebrates., but they have been observed preying on small migratory birds in rare instances. Mallards are noted for their adaptability regarding habitat, being able to colonize urban areas which most other water birds will abandon. The Mallard is also interesting and kind of dangerous in that it can interbreed with many other species in the Anas genus as well as with its domesticated descendent and produce fertile offspring, which can lead to genetic pollution in these species, which can eventually lead to extinction of species if this is not kept in check. This is because the Mallard evolved very rapidly and recently, at the end of the Pleistocene Period less than a million years ago, meaning that it is less diverged from other Anas species than is the case with species that evolved less recently or rapidly.

Unlike many other theropods, mallards do not mate for life. Rather, they form pairs at the beginning of the breeding season, which happens at different times of the year across the Mallard’s wide range. After mating, the males depart to undertake the molt from their breeding plumage aside from the males who did not form mated pairs. These males either standby and wait to father replacement clutches with females who have lost their original clutches or, rarely, these males will gang up and attack females and rape them once they have gotten them to submit. Nature is ugly sometimes, and this is one instance of this. Once the eggs are laid, incubation is done entirely by the female for 25 to 30 days. Mallards lay between 7 and 10 eggs and the young are precocial, being able to walk and swim shortly after hatching. The ducklings stay with their mother until they fledge at between 50 to 60 days of age. During this time, the ducklings learn many things from their mother, such as how to hunt and find food and how to fly. Once they are flighted juveniles, the ducklings learn the migratory routes and destinations from their mothers and other member of their flock. They remember all that they learn during this time for the rest of their lives.

Mallards face many predators, especially when they are young. Eggs and ducklings may be preyed upon by snapping turtles, raptors, skunks and other mustelids, opossums, foxes and other canids, felids and herons. Adults have fewer predators, the main ones being raptors and larger herons, red foxes and humans. Mallards are also at risk of being killed by swans in fights over territory. If they can avoid these threats, mallards can live for around 20 years, but 5 to 10 years is more typical for wild Mallards.

View Coin Barn Swallow CANADA - 1968 TO DATE 25C 2011 BARN SWALLOW COLORIZED NGC SP 69 While I love pretty much any coin with a dinosaur, avian or non-avian, on it, I especially love coins with cute little baby dinosaurs on them! A great coin from Canada brings us both more baby dinosaurs and a new dinosaur for the collection that is also the most widespread species of swallow in the world: The Barn Swallow, species name Hirundo rustica.

As the coin shows, the Barn Swallow is a stunningly beautiful modern dinosaur. Barn Swallows range from 17–19 cm (6.7–7.5 in) in length with a wingspan range of 32–34.5 cm (12.6–13.6 in) and a weight range of16–22 g (0.56–0.78 oz). Barn Swallows exhibit minor sexual dimorphism as females have shorter tail streamers, a paler underside and exhibits less gloss in their blue feathers than males. As with all theropod dinosaurs with blue coloration, the Barn Swallow’s blue coloration is due to structural coloration, where light refracting through the feathers appears blue to our eyes, rather than true pigmentation. Geographically, Barn Swallows are strongly migratory, breeding across North America, Europe and Central Asia and migrating to South America, Southern Asia and Africa in their non-breeding season. This huge geographic range has resulted in six different subspecies of Barn Swallow. Barn Swallows can live almost anywhere that is open country with large numbers of insects and nesting structures. This essentially means that the Barn Swallow can live almost anywhere due the changing of the environment by humans.

As is the case with most theropods both extant and extinct, the Barn Swallow is a predator. In this case, the prey is insects, which the Barn Swallow snaps out of the air while in flight. Barn Swallows will also take arachnids and snails while not in flight. Barn Swallows are strongly carnivorous, and they only rarely eat berries or other plant matter. As far as predators go, Barn Swallows actually have few predators in spite of their small size. The only real predators Barn Swallows have are smaller raptors, such as the Peregrine Falcon, Gulls, Corvids and some snakes in parts of their range. Domestic cats will also occasionally take a Barn Swallow, but this is rare compared to the success rates of the Barn Swallow’s reptilian predators.

Barn Swallow pairs typically produce between two and seven white eggs with brown spots. Both sexes incubate the eggs, but the female does most of the incubating. After about 14-19 days, the eggs hatch. The altricial chicks are the fed and cared for by both parents before fledging about 18-23 days after hatching. The chicks are then fed by the parents for an additional week before having to feed themselves. Barn Swallows typically produce two broods per breeding season, with the young from the first brood often helping their parents feed and protect their younger siblings. Though they are small, Barn Swallows are extremely vicious when it comes to protecting their young or their younger siblings when helping their parents. They can drive off many predators with the ferocity of their attacks as most predators would rather find easier prey to take if it is available. Interestingly, Barn Swallows will readily breed with other Swallow species, such as the Cliff Swallow, the Cave Swallow and the House Martin and these matches produce viable hybrids across the Barn Swallow’s shared range with these birds. Barn Swallows live for between 4 and 8 years.
View Coin Red-Billed Streamertail JAMAICA 25C 1975FM NGC PF 68 CAMEO Sadly, this is another beautiful coin featuring a bird that I was unable to find a lot of information on, so this will be another short write up pending the location of further information. This is the Red-Billed Streamertail, species name Trochilus polytmus.

The Red-Billed Streamertail is the national bird of Jamaica, where it is the most widespread member of the Hummingbird family. The Red-Billed Streamertail is 4.5 inches long if only the body is measured. If the streamers are included, the Red-Billed Streamertail is 10 inches long. Colorwise, the body is an iridescent green, with a red beak with a black tip, a black tail, brown wings and a white underside. Females are paler than the males of this species and they lack the tail streamers of the males.

Like most hummingbirds, the Red-Billed Streamertail feeds on nectar from flowers using its long, extendible tongue. Red-Billed Streamertails will also feed on insects as well.

Unfortunately, this is all of the information I could find on this species at present. If I find more information, I will update this entry with a longer write up reflecting the new information.
View Coin Northern Bald Ibis TURKEY S50KL (1994) BALD IBIS NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO Coins from Turkey have been a large part of what I collect for a long time, and this was especially true when I was a more active series collector. Now, I’m so pleased to finally add a Turkish coin to my collection of modern dinosaurs with the Northern Bald Ibis, species name Geronticus eremita.

The Northern Bald Ibis is a large, black bird ranging from 28-31 inches in length, with a wingspan range between 4 and 4.5 feet and a weight range of 2.1 to 2.8 pounds. The Northern Bald Ibis gets its name from its bald, pink head, which is a prominent feature. There is minor sexual dimorphism in this species as males are slightly larger than females and they also have longer beaks.

The Northern Bald Ibis is critically endangered, mostly because of where it lives: The Middle East. The near-constant wars and other social and political strife which have characterized the region since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th Century have led to most of the habitat for the Northern Bald Ibis becoming uninhabitable, which has caused the species to decline rapidly. Further losses have been caused by poisoning due to the continued usage of some very toxic pesticides which are now illegal in many other parts of the world, including the places where Northern Bald Ibis populations continue to exist. Truly wild populations only exist in Morocco with a very few still hanging on in Syria. There is a semi-wild population in southern Turkey, which lives in the wild most of the year until it comes time for them to migrate, at which point they are captured and kept in captivity until the migration season is over. This is done because the annual migration of the Turkish population causes the birds to fly into less stable parts of the Middle East, where they are almost certain to be killed. The Moroccan populations are resident, meaning that they do not migrate. There are also attempts being made to reintroduce the Northern Bald Ibis to Spain and Austria, where populations of these birds existed hundreds of years ago. The reasons for the loss of the Northern Bald Ibis from these European countries is currently unknown, but these reintroduction plans are showing promise. There are also captive breeding programs for this bird in zoos in Asia and North America as well.

As far as feeding goes, the Northern Bald Ibis is a predator, feeding upon lizards, insects and other small animals that it finds in its preferred arid steppe habitat. A further habitat requirement for the Northern Bald Ibis comes in the form of cliffs for nesting and breeding purposes. The Northern Bald Ibis reaches maturity at between 3 and 5 years of age, at which point they select a mate. Males attract females by choosing and cleaning a nest site and then making low, rumbling calls and displaying with their crests. Once a pair bond, it is lifelong and reinforced through bowing and preening. The pair makes a stick nest on a cliff and they produce between two and four blue-white eggs with brown spots, which turn brown as they are incubated. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 24-25 days, after which they hatch producing altricial young. The babies are fed by both parents and they fledge at about 45-50 days of age, with their first flight taking place at the age of two months. If they can survive the challenges that are placed before them by humans, the Northern Bald Ibis can live for 37 years.

The Northern Bald Ibis is a species that has been known to humans for a long time, appearing in both Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Roman mosaics. In the Ancient Egyptian religion, Thoth, the scribe of the gods, is often depicted with the head of an Ibis. Sadly, this long association with humans has been largely damaging to the Northern Bald Ibis and fighting among the successor religions to the benign ancient Roman and Egyptian religions, which revered the Ibis, is most of the reason why. Let’s hope that we can make this right and save this majestic and beautiful modern dinosaur so that they can be enjoyed and revered by future generations as they were by our ancestors in the Ancient World.
View Coin Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher United States 25C 2008 S SILVER OKLAHOMA NGC PF 69 ULTRA CAMEO Another nice silver proof State Quarter brings us another fascinating and beautiful modern dinosaur. This is the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, species name Tyrannus forficatus, the State Bird of Oklahoma.

Even though this guy is the State Bird of Oklahoma, I couldn’t find a ton of information on him, so this will be a shorter write up, as has been the case with some others in this set. The Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher is a member of a group called Kingbirds. Adults of this species have pale gray heads and upper parts, light underparts, salmon-pink flanks and dark grey wings with red patches on the undersides of the wings. The scissor-tail, this species most distinctive feature, is black on the top and white on the bottom. There is sexual dimorphism in this species as the tail streamers of males are up to 30% longer than those of the females. Juveniles of this species are duller in coloration and have shorter tails. Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers are about 15 inches long, with a wingspan of 5.9 inches and a weight of 1.5 ounces.

Range-wise, Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers can be found in open country in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, western Louisiana, western Arkansas, western Missouri, eastern New Mexico and northern Mexico. This species has also been seen as a vagrant in Florida, Georgia and southern Canada.

As their name implies, Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers are predators of a variety of insects, which they catch in mid-air while in flight. While they are mostly carnivorous, Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers will consume berries in the winter as their main prey becomes scarce.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers are monogamous only for a single breeding season. Males attract females through complex aerial displays. Once a pair bond is formed, the females begins to build a nest, escorted by the male. Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers will nest in bushes and shrubs, but they often use artificial, human made structures such as telephone poles and abandoned buildings. The nest is cup shaped and made of plant materials. Once the nest is constructed, between 3 and 6 eggs are produced. The eggs for this species are white or creamy with dark red, reddish brown, or purple blotches. The female incubates the eggs for between 13-23 days, after which they hatch. The babies are born helpless and naked aside from some sparse white down. Both parents feed and care for the babies until they leave the nest at between 14-16 days after hatching. Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers can live for between 10 and 15 years.

Despite their small size, Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers have little predation. This is where their Generic name, Tyrannus, which is so similar to their much larger and more famous extinct relative Tyrannosaurus Rex, comes from. Tyrannus means “Tyrant-like” and this name was given to their genus because of the extremely aggressive behaviors of this little dinosaur and its relatives. Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers can fight off almost any threat with their vicious attacks. They have been seen successfully fighting off corvids, owls, hawks and many other predators. This aggression is a large part of why Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers live so much longer than many other birds in their size range as predation is not really a concern for them. Most predators will choose to go after much easier to handle prey if it is available.
View Coin Andean Condor CHILE - REPUBLIC 10C 1978SO NGC MS 66 Our first coin from Chile in the set that is also the first aluminum coin in this set brings us the largest extant flying dinosaur in the world if both wingspan and weight are considered. This is the Andean Condor, species name Vultur gryphus, which is also Chile’s national bird.

The Andean Condor belongs to the New World Vulture family and it is truly enormous. They range in size from 3 ft 3 in to 4 ft 3 in in length, with a wingspan range of 8 ft 10 in to 10 ft 6 in and a weight range of 24 to 33 pounds for males and 18 to 24 pounds for females. Oddly among birds of prey, Andean Condor males are larger than females. Additional sexual dimorphism exists in the form of the red comb which mature males of this species have on their heads and which females lack. From this feature, we can actually determine that the animal depicted on the coin is a male. Coloration for both species is largely black, with a white ruff of feathers around the neck and white bars on the wings which are bolder and more pronounced in males. Both sexes have bald, black heads, which allows Andean Condors to keep their heads clean after feeding by dehydration and ultraviolet light to sterilize the bare skin. Male Andean Condors have brown eyes while females have red eyes, adding to the strong sexual dimorphism found in this species. Geographically, the Andean Condor is found throughout the Andes mountain range in South America, being most numerous in Chile and Argentina and scarcer in Peru and Bolivia and downright rare to sight in Colombia and Venezuela.

Like all vultures, the Andean Condor derives most of its food from carrion, the flesh of already dead animals. They prefer open, non-forested habitat in order to locate deceased animals as Andean Condors locate their food by sight rather than smell as smaller vultures do. Andean Condors can travel over 100 miles a day in order to locate enough food to sustain animals of their size. Unsurprisingly, Andean Condors prefer large carcasses over small ones and virtually any animal in their ecosystem that has died can be food for Andean Condors due to their nature as scavengers. Andean Condors also have a mutualistic relationship with smaller vultures such as the Turkey Vulture, the Lesser Yellow-Headed Vulture and the Greater Yellow-Headed Vulture. As these smaller vultures locate carcasses by smell, they will often lead Andean Condors to large carcasses that the condors would miss on their own. Once at the carcass in question, the Andean Condors can tear open larger carcasses that the smaller vultures would not be able to on their own. By helping each other, all of the vultures get a meal and everyone lives to fight another day. As obligate scavengers, Andean Condors perform a vital cleaning function by consuming carcasses that would otherwise sit around and rot, providing a breeding ground for disease causing microbes.

In breeding, the Andean Condor stops being such a rule-breaker and follows a more typical path for raptors. Andean Condors reach maturity at five or six years of age and they mate for life. Males attract potential mates by approaching the desired female with his neck outstretched, revealing the inflated neck and the chest patch, while hissing and then extending his wings and standing erect while clicking his tongue. Aerial displays are also an important part of initial courtship and later strengthening the pair bond. Andean Condors prefer to build their nests on cliffs at elevations of between 9,800 to 16,400 ft, and their nests are constructed of sticks. Andean Condor pairs only breed every other year during February and March, and they produce one or two bluish-white eggs which are incubated by both parents for 54 to 58 days. Baby Andean Condors are born helpless, fuzzy and grey. Andean Condors fledge and take flight at the age of six months and they stay with their parents until the age of two, when they go off on their own to seek territory and eventually mates. Unsurprisingly, these massive and strong modern dinosaurs have no natural predators and they can live for over 50 years.

Sadly, these gorgeous and amazing birds are classified as Near Threatened. The main causes are habitat loss and consuming carcasses that have been killed by man-made poisons, which secondarily poison Andean Condors. Thankfully, these majestic animals are getting a lot of help through conservation efforts, reduction of pest poisoning and captive breeding programs. These kinds of efforts have been quite successful with other raptors, and they seem to be working for the Andean Condor as well. It looks like this gorgeous modern theropod will be staying with us for a long time to come.

View Coin Snowy Egret United States 25C 2018 S Silver Cumberland Island Silver Reverse Proof Set NGC PF 70 REVERSE PROOF The 2018-S Silver Reverse Proof Set has brought both the first reverse proof coins to the set and a couple of new modern dinosaurs. The first one we will examine is the Snowy Egret, species name Egretta thula.

The Snowy Egret is a member of the Heron family and it is small for a member of that family. Snowy Egrets are typically 2 feet in length, with a wingspan of 39.4 inches and a weight of 13.1 ounces. The Snowy Egret’s name derives from its bright white plumage, which when paired with the black legs and beak, yellow feet and yellow upper bill makes for an overall distinctive and absolutely stunning appearance. In the breeding season, adults gain long plumes along their necks, backs and heads along with red upper bills, making them even more beautiful. There is no sexual dimorphism among Snowy Egrets and juveniles look much like the adults, but with paler beaks and greenish-black legs.

Snowy Egrets live in wetlands in the extreme Southeastern United States, Mexico and most of Central and South America. Some pairs also breed in the more northern parts of the American Southeast and the Pacific Northwest, though they are uncommon in these areas. Snowy Egrets tend to be migratory and will live in different locations almost every year. Like other herons, the Snowy Egret is a predator of aquatic animals. Its main prey items are fish, amphibians, invertebrates and small mammals and reptiles. The Snowy Egret is a stalker, which will paddle in the water and sift through the mud to startle and round up prey before striking with its long, sharp bill, impaling the unfortunate prey animal before swallowing it whole. Snowy Egrets will also sight prey by hovering over the water and then diving after sighted animals to hunt them down and impale them with their bill. Snowy Egrets are so efficient at scaring prey animals out into the open that many other foraging water birds will join with Snowy Egrets to benefit from their hunting behaviors.

As far as breeding goes, I was able to find that Snowy Egrets are monogamous, but I was unable to find if the pair bonds are lifelong or if they are monogamous only for a single breeding season. Snowy Egrets reach sexual maturity at between 1 and 2 years of age. Males return to breeding grounds before females to select a nest site and to perform elaborate displays to attract a mate. The male begins building the nest but once a pair bond is formed, the female takes over and she actually does most of the work in nest construction. The nest is built from sticks and other plant material. Snowy Egrets typically produce between 3 and 5 eggs, which both parents incubate for 20-24 days, after which the young hatch. Snowy Egrets are born white, fuzzy and helpless. Both parents feed the babies by regurgitation and work to keep the nest clean. Snowy Egret pairs have an elaborate greeting ritual that they perform for their mate when they return to the nest from foraging, with some pairs even “passing a baton”, using a stick. At around 20-25 days of age, the babies may first clamber out of the nest but they are unable to fly before 30 days of age. Once they can fly, the young leave the nest to begin their own adult life. Snowy Egrets nest communally and the communities often consist of many different species of birds, including Great Egrets, night-herons, Glossy Ibises, Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, Cattle Egrets, and Roseate Spoonbills.

Snowy Egrets have few predators. Nests can be raided by many species of corvids, snakes, owls and crocodilians as well as Common and Alligator Snapping Turtles. Snowy Egrets of all ages can be preyed upon by Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, Red-Tailed Hawks and American Alligators. If they can avoid these predators, Snowy Egrets can live for 17 years.

The Snowy Egret is also a conservation success story. These beautiful modern dinosaurs almost joined their ancestors in extinction in the late 19th Century due to hunting to get their breeding plumes as they were popular fashion accessories at that time. Legal protection helped them immensely, with their populations stabilizing in 1966 and they are now more numerous than ever before. The Snowy Egret shows that conservation laws work and that they are important to maintain.

The Snowy Egret is also a modern dinosaur which bears a strong resemblance to one of its Mesozoic ancestors, in this case Halszkaraptor escuilliei. Halszkaraptor was the only known semi-aquatic dromaeosaur and it lived in what is now Mongolia between 75-71 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period. In a compelling example of two related animals evolving to fill a similar ecological niche creating a similar appearance, Halszkaraptor basically looked like a Snowy Egret with a long tail, shorter wings with unfused fingers, a sickle claw on the inner toes and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Halszkaraptor and the Snowy Egret were even similar in size. While we do not know what color Halszkaraptor was, most scientific reconstructions hypothesize a white coloration, adding to the similarities. The Snowy Egret and Halskaraptor are another great pair which shows that if prehistoric theropods were seen by humans in life, they would simply appear to us as somewhat strange birds. Which, as we know now, is essentially the truth.

View Coin Black-Crowned Night Heron United States 25C 2018 S Silver Block Island Silver Reverse Proof Set NGC PF 69 REVERSE PROOF The next modern dinosaur which is brought to this collection by the 2018-S Silver Reverse Proof Set is another heron: The Black-Crowned Night Heron, species name Nycticorax nycticorax.

The Black-Crowned Night Heron is another small heron, with a length range between 22.8-26 inches, with a wingspan range of 45.3-46.5 inches and a weight range of 25.6-35.8 ounces. As far as appearance, the Black-Crowned Night Heron has a black crown, with the rest of the body being white and grey with red eyes and yellow legs. Juveniles are brown and streaky, with yellow eyes and they look markedly different from adults. Both sexes have long plumes on their heads as adults which are used in greeting and sexual displays. Overall, Black-Crowned Night Herons have a different build than most herons, having shorter legs, beaks and necks relative to their size than other herons and they also have an overall stockier build for their size than other herons. Sexual dimorphism in this species is very slight, with males sometimes being slightly larger than females. Black-Crowned Night Herons get the “Night” in their names by being nocturnal, which is unusual among herons. The Black-Crowned Night Heron has a wide geographical range, being found in parts of North America, much of South America, much of Africa and parts of Europe and Asia when breeding, non-breeding and migratory ranges are all considered.

Like other herons, the Black-Crowned Night Heron is a predator of aquatic animals, with its diet consisting of fish, invertebrates, amphibians and small mammals. Black-Crowned Night Herons are ambush hunters who locate prey by sight and, instead of impaling like other herons, grab prey animals with their beaks before devouring them whole. The Black-Crowned Night Heron is also an example of tool use among non-human animals as it will construct baits, both actually edible and non-edible, to lure prey to it. This behavior is an excellent modern example that illustrates the inherent intelligence of theropod dinosaurs in general. Theropod dinosaurs had some of the first complex brains in the history of life on Earth, and they were likely the first animals to exhibit behaviors like tool use.

As far as breeding goes, I was unable to find if Black-Crowned Night Herons mate for life or if they are only monogamous for a single breeding season. It is likely that this information is difficult to determine because Black-Crowned Night Herons breed in huge colonies made up largely of other Black-Crowned Night Herons and there is little difference in appearance among different individuals. Some of these breeding colonies can last for over 50 years. Males return first to select nesting sites, start building nests and display for females. Once a pair bond is formed, the females takes over the construction of the nest, which is made of sticks and other plant materials. 3-4 green eggs are produced and they are incubated by both parents for 21-26 days. Black-Crowned Night Herons are born covered in grey down and helpless. Both parents feed the babies by regurgitation and like their relative the Snowy Egret, they have an elaborate “passing the baton” ritual between the parents when one parent returns to the nest to take over the care of the babies.

The babies of this species have a highly effective, though rather disgusting, mode of defense. If a potential threat shows up at the nest, baby Black-Crowned Night Herons will unleash an extremely foul-smelling, sticky vomit at the threat. This vomit can be lethal as the extremely vile smell of it can seriously impede a predator’s ability to ambush prey and, with avians, it can damage their feathers and leave them unable to fly. This vomit defense is so effective (and absolutely vile) that it even makes it difficult for human researchers to study Black-Crowned Night Heron nestlings. At the age of 1 month, the babies can leave the nest and move around on foot. Baby Black-Crowned Herons fly at 6 weeks old, after which they disperse widely to start their adult lives. Considering the vomit defense of baby Black-Crowned Night Herons and the ferocity in physical defense that adults of the species exhibit, it is unsurprising that Black-Crowned Night Herons have little to no predation upon them and can look forward to a lifespan of around 21 years.
View Coin Animals That Are Not Dinosaurs #1-Mosasaurs CANADA - 1968 TO DATE 25C 2013 TYLOSAURUS PEMBINENSIS NGC SP 69 In constructing this set, which has strived to illustrate the amazing fact that birds are living dinosaurs, it has occurred to me that there are many types of prehistoric animals that people think are dinosaurs, which actually are not. To address this problem and to fill in the story even more, I have decided to include some coins featuring prehistoric animals which are thought to be dinosaurs by many people, but which are not dinosaurs. This coin is the first of my “What is not a dinosaur” mini-set within this set featuring Tylosaurus pembinensis.

First, a little about Tylosaurus. Tylosaurus was a horrifying and huge marine predator that lived from 86.5–75 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period. This aquatic monstrosity could reach up to 46 feet long and it was an undoubted apex predator in its ecosystem, the many seas and oceans of the late Mesozoic Era. Tylosaurus basically fed upon anything it could kill, including sharks and other fish, smaller mosasaurs, plesiosaurs and dinosaurs. It may not have been a dinosaur, but it definitely ate them. A skeleton of a Hesperornis was found in the abdominal region of one Tylosaurus fossil and a hadrosaur fossil shows evidence of scavenging by a Tylosaurus after it died and was washed out to sea. This thing was one of the most terrifying aquatic animals to ever live, and it was undoubtedly one of the most voracious and nasty predators of all time. It’s likely that Tylosaurus had no predators and that even large predatory Theropods such as Tyrannosaurs would try to stay out of its way when they were near the water.

So, if Tylosaurus isn’t a dinosaur, what is it? Tylosaurus is a mosasaur, which is actually a kind of lizard closely related to living monitor lizards and snakes. Skin impressions of Tylosaurus have been found which show scales very similar to these living reptiles. So, not only is Tylosaurus not a dinosaur, it’s not even a close relative of them. Tylosaurus was a Lepidosaur, which is the reptile clade that includes lizards, snakes and rhynchocephalians, a reptile order which was widespread in the Mesozoic but now only has one living group, the Tuatara of New Zealand. Dinosaurs are Archosaurs, the reptile group containing them, pterosaurs and crocodilians. Cladisitically speaking, a mosasaur is almost as far from being a dinosaur that an animal can be and still be considered a reptile. Only a rhynchocephalian is more distantly related to dinosaurs among the reptiles than lizards such as Tylosaurus are.

So, in spite of the fact that many people think that mosasaurs like Tylosaurus were aquatic dinosaurs, they were not. They were aquatic lizards. However, mosasaurs do have one thing in common with dinosaurs: they were likely endothermic as dinosaurs are. While there is no absolute proof of this, there is one thing that strongly suggests this was true: mosasaurs went extinct when that meteor hit 66 million years ago, and they did so rather quickly. Since some larger ectothermic reptiles survived such as crocodilians and sea turtles, there had to be some difference between them and the mosasaurs. The full annihilation of mosasaurs at the end of the Cretaceous indicates that the food shortages which caused the almost total extinction of the dinosaurs also took down the mosasaurs.

A 46-foot-long endothermic animal with a multi-ton weight requires a lot of food to keep going and unlike dinosaurs, mosasaurs do not appear to have evolved any small species. The surviving small dinosaurs could fly and had beaks, so they could change their feeding strategies quickly and look for scarce food resources over a large area. The surviving ectothermic crocodilians and sea turtles could go months without eating, regardless of their large sizes. Mosasaurs were toothy giants with flippers and flukes with huge food needs who were held prisoner in their marine habitats by their bodies. They were unable to undertake any of the survival strategies used by ectotherms and avian theropods to survive in the post-meteor holocaust that was the beginning of the Paleogene. Once superbly adapted for their ecological niche and some of the fiercest predators on Earth who had nothing to fear, mosasaurs were instantly doomed once the food chain fell apart. They likely were among the first animals to completely die off during the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event.

So, this one’s for you Tylosaurus. You may not be a dinosaur and I’m sorry your kind met such a rapid and bad end, but as I am already afraid of deep water, I think I’m happy that I never met you.
View Coin Animals That Are Not Dinosaurs #2-Pelycosaurs CANADA - 1968 TO DATE S$20 2013 BATHYGNATHUS BOREALIS NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO After a bit of a long wait, we finally have the next animal in our little “Animals that are not Dinosaurs” subset, where we look at animals that many people think are dinosaurs which are not. This time, we will look at Bathygnathus borealis. This animal was recently reclassified as Dimetrodon borealis, but we’ll use the old name here to avoid confusion as this is the name which appears on the coin.

As far as Bathygnathus borealis as an animal, we actually know very little as the only known fossil remains of this animal are a single partial upper jawbone found on Prince Edward Island in Canada. As there are some very sharp teeth in the jawbone, it can be determined that Bathygnathus borealis was carnivorous and for many years, that was it. When this jawbone was found in 1845 and described in 1854, it was thought that this bone was the lower jaw of a theropod dinosaur and was hailed as Canada’s first dinosaur. This classification was one of early paleontology’s biggest errors and one that would stand for almost 50 years. When this jawbone was reexamined in 1905, it was found to be something else entirely, but we have to look at some evolutionary history to see what a colossal error this early classification of Bathygnathus borealis truly was.

312 million years ago, during the Late Carboniferous, the first Amniotes (animals which could lay amniotic eggs on land instead of in the water like amphibians) evolved from earlier reptilomorph amphibians. In the blink of an eye evolutionarily (within a few million years), the ancestral Amniotes split into two groups. The first group were the Synapsids, characterized by a distinctive opening in the skull right behind the eyes. The second were the Sauropsids, which had either two skull openings behind the eyes, in the case of reptiles or none at all, in the case of what are known as parareptiles. Throughout the rest of the Paleozoic Era, the Synapsids would be the dominant land animals, evolving a huge number of forms, such as Bathygnathus borealis and many others while the Sauropsids continued to evolve into new forms in the shadow of the Synapsids.

The Paleozoic Era ended with a devastating mass extinction, the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event, which was the most numerically severe mass extinction in the history of the Earth, with over 92% of all species disappearing over the span of a few million years. The Synapsids were devastated by this event and they would never truly recover numerically from their Permian Era high point, though they would survive and they continue to do so in the present day in the form of mammals. Sauropsids took over and, in the form of dinosaurs, ruled the earth throughout the Mesozoic Era. While many people think that the end-Cretaceous event 66 million years ago was the end of dinosaur and, as a result, reptilian dominance, this is not truly the case. The surviving Synapsid lineage of mammals was also devastated by the end-Cretaceous event as well and they took longer to recover than many groups of Sauropsids did. As odd as this sounds to many of us who were in school before the true identity of birds was known, the dinosaurs actually weathered the end-Cretaceous extinction better than mammals did.

For much of the Cenozoic Era, dinosaurs still ruled as huge, predatory birds dominated the food chains in much of the Earth, including North and South America, Europe and New Zealand. Dinosaurs were also beginning to see success in Antarctica in the form of Penguins. Where dinosaurs didn't re-inherit the Earth, other large reptilian predators such as Crocodilians and Monitor Lizards filled apex predatory niches in places like Australia. In the oceans, where Sea Turtles were the only reptilian survivors, fish in the form of sharks took over the ruling spot, which they still hold today. Even as mammals recovered, their evolution was shaped by their relationships with these large, non-mammalian predators.

Mammals began their post-Cretaceous Extinction diversification during the Paleogene Period of the Cenozoic (66 to 23 Million Years Ago) in the shadows of these predators, and they mostly remained small. It wasn't until the Neogene and Quaternary Periods (23 Million Years Ago to the Present) that mammals really came into their own. Africa, in particular, seems to have been a refuge for mammals to evolve new forms, which would be expected in looking at the previous listing of where reptiles and fish still ruled. South Asia is another place where many modern mammal lineages evolved and even with huge monitor lizards ruling the food chain, Australia became a safe haven for marsupials to evolve, diversify and thrive with limited competition from both placental mammals and avian dinosaurs, who both out-competed marsupials in almost every other ecosystem on Earth, with some exceptions such as the Virginia Opossum. Indeed, the extinction of the large monitor lizards such as Megalania at the end of the Pleistocene around .04 million years ago allowed for the evolution of predatory marsupials such as the now-extinct Thylacine and the Tasmanian Devil.

The glaciation events which happened during the Quaternary especially helped mammals spread into new niches as many of the large, reptilian predators became extinct or restricted in range by the changing climate. An example of this is the demise of the Bathornids and Phorusrhacids, two families of very large, very nasty predatory ground birds that ruled the food chains in North and South America through much of the early Cenozoic, due to climate change in the later Cenozoic allowed for large predatory mammals such as saber-toothed cats (along with many of their less dentally enhanced relatives) and certain species of canids to have their chance as ground-based apex predators in the Americas. However, the moment at the top was fleeting for many of these mammalian predators as the end of the glaciers and the arrival of humans meant the end for most of them. The large, predatory birds had been a 60 million year continuation of the dinosaur dynasty. By comparison, many of the predatory mammals which replaced them during the Ice Age were extinct less than 2 million years later. The dinosaurs which could fly were relatively unaffected by both the coming of the glaciers and the receding of them

Even considering all this, however, it can be argued that, humans aside, Sauropsid dominance continues today as there are over 20,000 extant species of reptiles (of these, over 10,000 are birds and thusly dinosaurs) and only 5,700 species of mammals. Though mammals today are indeed a successful and diverse group of animals that fill many ecological niches, their present numbers and diversity fall short of the success levels that earlier Synapsid groups had in the Late Paleozoic. It is also important to note that mammals are the group of Amniotes which have the largest percentage of species threatened with extinction through human activities at the present time…..once again, the Synapsids are being threatened more than the Sauropsids by a mass extinction. Only this time, the threat is a fellow Synapsid rather than an anoxic event or a meteor strike.

When the fossil of Bathygnathus borealis was re-examined in 1905, it was found to be the upper jaw of a Pelycosaur, which is an evolutionary grade of Synapsid. So, Bathygnathus borealis is not a dinosaur. In fact, despite how it looks, Bathygnathus borealis isn’t even a reptile. It’s a Pelycosaur-grade Synapsid, which means that it’s far more closely related to mammals like you and me than it is to any true reptile, such a dinosaur. Pelycosaurs also lived tens of millions of years before dinosaurs even existed, so there is no chance that they even lived side by side with them. By the time dinosaurs came along in the Late Triassic, Pelycosaurs had already evolved into Therapsids, the advanced Synapsid group that includes mammals, among other groups. Because Pelycosaurs went extinct by evolving into Therapsids, they are an excellent example of what is termed pseudoextinction, where an animal went “extinct” by evolving into a new form known as a descendent taxon. For many years, theropod dinosaurs were considered pseudoextinct because they were thought to have evolved into birds, which were considered a new animal in older taxonomies. However, as there are very few differences between birds and other Maniraptorans that are not literally skin deep, birds are still dinosaurs and, thusly, dinosaurs are simply just not extinct rather than pseudoextinct like Pelycosaurs.

Well, I hope that you have enjoyed meeting one of our earliest and most mysterious relatives here in the form of this beautiful coin! And, remember that Bathygnathus borealis and any other Synapsids, no matter what they looked like, are not and never were true reptiles. They are a distinct lineage of amniotes, with their own distinct history and characteristics that ended up being steps along the way to the emergence of all the mammals you see today, including us!
View Coin Animals That Are Not Dinosaurs #3-Pterosaurs CANADA - 1968 TO DATE 25C 2013 QUETZALCOATLUS NGC SP 69 And now we come to the fourth and for now last coin featuring a prehistoric animal that many people think is a dinosaur but is not featuring Quetzalcoatlus northropi, one of the largest flying animals to ever live.

As is the case with many animals which a known only from fossils, we actually know very little about Quetzalcoatlus. We know that it could fly and that it had a wingspan from between 33 to 36 feet. We also know that it could move as a quadrupedally, as it is depicted on the coin. Aside from wingspan esitmates, other size estimates on Quetzalcoatlus are extremely difficult as there are no extant animals with a body plan similar to Quetzalcoatlus in any way. While some of its relatives had teeth, Quetzalcoatlus did not, instead having a long, spear-like toothless beak. This toothless beak initially led paleontologists to believe that Quetzalcoatlus was a predator of fish, but the knowledge that these animals were actually capable of walking has led to most researchers now considering Quetzalcoatlus as an apex predator in its ecosystem with hunting behaviors similar to large, predatory storks such as the Marabou Stork. Which makes this animal an absolute horror when you think about how Marabou Storks behave and you then scale them up to three times larger than they already are.

So, since this coin is in this part of the set, we’ve already established that Quetzalcoatlus is not a dinosaur. So, what is it then? Quetzalcoatlus is a Pterosaur, a type of flying reptile which existed alongside dinosaurs throughout the Mesozoic Era until their full extinction during the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event 66 million years ago. Pterosaurs are very interesting in that they are the earliest known flying vertebrates and that, unlike the other animals already discussed in this part of the set, they actually were relatively close relatives of dinosaurs though they were not dinosaurs themselves. Pterosaurs are not only reptiles, but they are also Archosaurs, making them close evolutionary cousins of both dinosaurs and crocodilians. Pterosaurs are also Avemetatarsalians, making them even more closely related to dinosaurs than crocodilians are, but in the great scheme of things that relationship is still somewhat distant.

Pterosaurs share some very interesting traits with dinosaurs. They had hollow bones, some of them were toothed while others were beaked and some of them also had a furry integument known as pycnofibers, which may have been homologous to feathers in theropods. The fact that pterosaurs completely died out in the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction also indicates that they were likely warm-blooded like dinosaurs are as well. However, the extinction of the pterosaurs is something of a mystery. It was initially thought that the end-Cretaceous Event took the pterosaurs because early birds and other flying non-avian theropods like enantiornitheans outcompeted the small-size pterosaurs, leaving only large bodied forms like Quetzalcoatlus by the Late Cretaceous.

As we already know, large bodied endotherms were the most vulnerable to the environmental stresses and food shortages during the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction and they were obliterated. However, recently discovered fossils indicate that there were small pterosaurs sharing the skies with flying theropods all the way to the very end of the Cretaceous, after which pterosaurs completely disappear from the fossil record. These discoveries make the extinction picture for pterosaurs much more complicated and mysterious as small pterosaurs would seem to have had many of the same advantages as smaller flying theropods in dealing with the conditions of the end-Cretaceous Event. However, none of them survived even though a few species of birds managed to make it through. The large pterosaurs, however, likely succumbed to the food shortages which took down other large endotherms, such as most of the dinosaurs and the aquatic mosasaurs.

While we’ll likely never know exactly why no small pterosaurs survived while a few of their flying theropod cousins managed to. It could be a question of geography. The fossil record seems to indicate that most of the dinosaurs that managed to survive the end-Cretaceous Event were located in the Southern Hemisphere, in what is now the continents of South America, Australia and Antarctica. South America, in particular, seems to have provided a refuge where a few communities of small, flying theropods could weather the storm. It’s possible that there were no small pterosaurs present in this refuge and that the areas where they did live were all heavily affected by the meteor impact, leading to their full extinction. It’s also possible that the few surviving birds had something about them which allowed them to outcompete any surviving small pterosaurs, leading to their demise. We already know that theropods are, as a general rule, very intelligent animals and that their advanced brains appeared early in their evolution. Pterosaur endocasts, which are rare but there are a few known, indicate that while pterosaur brains were complex (as would be required for a flying animal), they were not as complex as theropod brains. This makes losing the battle for scarce food resources in the earliest days of the Paleogene to surviving theropods a possible cause for the final extinction of pterosaurs. However, though there are many theories, we’ll likely never know why the small pterosaurs died out while a small number of small, flying dinosaurs survived to continue evolving throughout the Cenozoic.

View Coin Northern Flicker CANADA - 1968 TO DATE S$10 2017 NORTHERN FLICKER COLORIZED NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO Another great coin from Canada brings us another great modern dinosaur: The Northern Flicker, species name Colaptes auratus.

The Northern Flicker is a type of Woodpecker which ranges widely throughout most of North America when year-round, summer and winter ranges are all considered. There are 8 extant and one extinct subspecies of the Northern Flicker. While all of the subspecies of the Northern Flicker are overall brown with black spots, they all have other distinctive colors mixed in which vary among the subspecies, making this a good coin to depict the animal in pure silver in as it can truly represent the whole species complex. Size wise, Northern Flickers have a wingspan range of 17-21 inches, with a length range of 11-14 inches and a weight range of 3-5.9 ounces. Males and females are similar in appearance and size but males of all subspecies have a red stripe at the base of the beak, which is the only sexual dimorphism in this species.

Like all woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker is mainly a predator of insects, but they will also eat plant matter including berries, fruits, seeds and nuts. Unlike many woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker is noted for frequently feeding on the ground. Most woodpeckers mostly feed in trees. Northern Flickers also do not restrict themselves to hunting for insects in rotting, dead trees. They will also dig into and dismantle insect colonies in the soil, boring into the soil the way other woodpeckers dig into rotting wood. Any ground-nesting insect in North America can end up being prey for the Northern Flicker. Individuals of this species have also been sighted preying upon young bats leaving their roosting grounds. As far as habitat goes, the Northern Flicker can live in a variety of environments, including woodlands, open country on the edge of woodlands, yards, cemeteries and parks. Northern Flickers also do not act like other woodpeckers in that some populations actually migrate while most woodpeckers do not. Canadian Northern Flickers tend to migrate southward in the winter.

At first glance, Northern Flickers seem more typical of other woodpeckers in breeding behaviors. Pairs mate for life and they nest in a cavity excavated in a tree in most cases. However, some Northern Flickers will excavate nesting cavities in the ground and Northern Flickers will also reuse nest excavations, which other woodpeckers almost never do. The nest is cushioned using only wood shavings. Northern Flicker pairs produce between 6 to 8 pure white eggs that both parents incubate for between 11 to 12 days, after which the eggs hatch. The babies are born naked, pink and helpless. The babies are fed by regurgitation by both parents. At around 17 days of age, the babies begin to move around the nest and they cling to the sides of the nest rather than sitting on the floor. They fledge at between 25 to 28 days of age, after which the babies leave the nest and start foraging with their parents, who teach them where good feeding grounds are and how to hunt for food. Northern Flickers themselves have few predators, but any raptor in North America will occasionally prey upon them. Noted bird-eaters, like the Peregrine Falcon, the Sharp-Shinned Hawk and the Cooper’s Hawk, pose the largest threats. Northern Flickers live for about 9 to 10 years.
View Coin Common Kingfisher NIUE S$2 2018 Hummingbirds - Colorized NGC PF 70 ULTRA CAMEO When most people get engaged, they exchange rings. However, being unconventional in many ways as we are, my now-fiancee and I exchanged coins instead. We prefer to make our own traditions rather than follow those of others in many ways. This major life event for me has also brought another fascinating modern dinosaur to the collection: The Common Kingfisher, species name Alcedo atthis.

The Common Kingfisher is a sparrow-sized kingfisher, with a length of 6.3 inches, a wingspan of 9.8 inches and a weight of 1.2 to 1.6 ounces. As for the coloration, you can see the beautiful plumage of the Common Kingfisher right on the coin. Females and males are almost identical in appearance except that the lower mandible of the female is orange-red with a black tip while males have a black lower mandible with a red tip. Geographically, Common Kingfishers range across Europe, North Africa, the northern part of the Middle East and parts of Central and Southern Asia. There are seven subspecies of the Common Kingfishers across this geographical range.

Common Kingfishers need to eat 60% of their bodyweight in fish a day to survive, so this causes them to be highly territorial as they need to command a substantial piece of river territory to ensure an ample food supply. As highly territorial birds, Common Kingfishers are solitary for the whole year aside from their mating season. Common Kingfishers hunt from a perch and detect their prey by sight and they are absolutely brutal killers. When a Common Kingfisher sights a suitable fish, it rapidly dives and grabs the poor fish by the tail using its beak. Rather than spear the fish with its beak like many other kingfishers, the Common Kingfisher kills its prey by beating it against its perch until it is dead. Then the Common Kingfisher swallows the poor, beaten fish whole and repeats this process. Like most predatory theropods, Common Kingfishers regurgitate pellets to rid themselves of the undigestible parts of their prey.

Though they are solitary birds, Common Kingfishers do mate for life. Mated pairs maintain separate territories most of they year, only merging them when it is time to mate. Pair bonds are strengthened at the outset of the breeding season, which varies by subspecies, by calling and ritual feeding. The nest is a burrow excavated by both parents. Common Kingfisher pairs produce clutches of between 2 and 10 eggs, which are incubated by both parents during the day and only the female at night. After 19-20 days, the eggs hatch altricial young which are fed and cared for by both parents. The young leave the nest at around 24-25 days of age. Two or three broods can be produced in a single breeding season.

While Common Kingfishers face few predators, they experience a high rate of mortality from year to year. While raptors, snakes and sometimes felids do prey upon Common Kingfishers, the impact of these predators is rather minimal. Most Common Kingfishers succumb to starvation and a severe winter and the resulting food shortages can cause huge mortality among these birds. Common Kingfishers are also highly susceptible to buildup of chemicals in their systems from the fish they eat, meaning that human activities are also a major source of the large mortality rates that these birds experience. Common Kingfishers can live to be 21 years old, but very few ever make it that long. They tend to live fast and die young.

So there’s the Common Kingfisher, a very interesting and amazing addition to this collection of modern dinosaurs.
View Coin Blue Jay CANADA - 1968 TO DATE 25C 2010 BLUE JAY COLORIZED NGC SP 69 Our next modern dinosaur is one I see a lot in my own backyard and is one of my favorites. This is the Blue Jay, species name Cyanocitta cristata.

The Blue Jay ranges from 9-12 inches in length, with a wingspan range of 13-17 inches and a weight range of 2.6 to 3.2 ounces. As for the coloration, you can see that right on the coin. To me, the Blue Jay is one of the most beautiful dinosaurs in my ecosystem and it is always a joy to see one of these guys make an appearance. As with any theropod dinosaur with blue coloration, the coloration is structural and is a result of light refracting through the feathers rather than pigmentation. Geographically, Blue Jays range across the eastern and central United States and parts of southern Canada. There are four recognized subspecies of the Blue Jay which vary slightly in coloration and size. Blue Jays can live in a variety of habitats ranging from dense forests to many towns and cities as the Blue Jay is an expert at adapting to human settlements and exploiting the resources that humans provide for them both intentionally and unintentionally.

Blue Jays reproduce from mid-March into early July. Like many other theropod dinosaurs, Blue Jays mate for life. Blue Jay pairs are not picky about nesting sites and they will often use old nests made by other birds, lighting fixtures and large mailboxes. However, they prefer to build their nests in bushes or evergreen trees if they are available. Both parents work on building the nest. Blue Jay pairs produce between 3 and 6 eggs, which are incubated only by the female. The male feeds the female while she is incubating the eggs. After 16-18 days, the eggs hatch, producing altricial young, which are fed and cared for by both parents. The young fledge at between 17-21 days of age and stay with their parents through the fall, dispersing in the winter to find and establish their own territories. Blue Jays can live for up to 26 years, but an age of 16-17 years is more typical of wild Blue Jays.

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