The other night I found myself reading the comments on Trish A‘s post appealing to artists to stop drawing maniraptors scaly. One of the objections raised was that adding feathers to Velociraptors (Deinonychus/Utahraptor/whatever-the-hell Spielberg’s maniraptors were supposed to be) might make them too feminine. Humans are a funny species: we equate women wearing feather boas with the original wearer of the feathers – making all sorts of generalisations about the nature of being female in the process. The commenter went on to say that they thought the film might appeal more to girls than to boys if the dinosaurs were accurately feathered.

Assuming then that the platonic ideal boy is going to be attracted by action and violence, I thought I’d share a few bird things with you to dispell the myth that feathers equate to cute, fluffy, and harmless:

The bird temperament: a bird will not shy away from a confrontation to avoid getting its feathers messy, as this beautiful photograph by Martin Lukasiewicz demonstrates. In the photograph, a Flicker grabs a Red-headed Woodpecker’s tongue and doesn’t let go until they reach the ground. That’s a serioously dirty tactic!

This photo also, of pine siskins fighting, by Roy Hancliff shows how the delicate feathers of these little birds in no way prevent the birds from really brutal combat.

In Tarangire National Park, two ostriches go at each other. It may look absurd but the viciousness is undeniable. The victor walked away with a bloody gash in its underbelly:

In addition, merely owning feathers will not make you conventionally cute by default. If you think otherwise, look up: Shoebills (my new favourite extant dinosaur); Lappet-Faced Vultures; Marabou Storks; or Condors; I absolutely love these guys, they have so much character.

Lastly, just because it looks cute and fuzzy doesn’t mean it has a cute personality: how many people have duck frescoes adorning their kitchens without realising what horrendous sexual predators they are? How many give Christmas cards with robins on – blissfully unaware of how spiteful robins can be?

I am not writing this to put people off birds. I just want people to be realistic about our feathered neighbours – and to realise that a call to put integument on dinosaurs is not in any way a Disneyfication – if anything it makes them scarier.

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