Origin of Birds

And Etymology of the word Bird

The exact origin (or "etymology") of the word Bird is unknown, but in the word can be equated to the Old English word Brid, originally the general name for the young of animals, as in Wyclif's translation of Matth. xxiii. 33, "eddris, and eddris briddis" (A. V. "serpents" and "generation of vipers"); Trevisa, Barth de P. R. :xii. v. 415 "In temperat yeres ben fewe byrdes of been" [= bees], and op. cit. xiii. xxvi. 453 "All fyssh...fede and kepe theyr byrdes";  Scots Acts, 7 Jac. 1. "The Woolfe and Woolfe-birdes [i.e. cubs] suld be slaine." The connection formerly thought to exist between bird and breed or brood is now denied (New English dictionary sub voce), but no approach to the derivation of the first has been made.

Then, as the ancient word FOWL became specialized in meaning, taking its place to signify what cannot be more tersely expressed than by the saying that "A bird is known by its feathers." This proverb is, according to our present knowledge, also a scientific definition, for no other group in the Animal Kingdom has the same kind of clothing (see FEATHERS), though, regarding as almost certain the evolution of Birds from Reptiles, it must be that at one time there existed creatures intermediate between them, and it may be that remains of some of them will yet be discovered, showing that plumage was worn by animals which had not yet dropped all the characters that now distinguish Reptiles from Birds. The two Classes (Reptilia and Aves) were brigaded together in the 19th Century by Professor T.H. Huxley under the name of Sauropsida, and there can be no doubt that they are essentially much more closely allied to each other than either is to the rest of the Vertebrates.

Among Reptiles the forms which have been discovered to approach particularly close to Birds were the dinosaurs (Dinosauria); and certain parts of the skeleton, and particularly of the pelvic arch, present a remarkable resemblance to the corresponding parts of certain Birds, of the RATITAE especially. On the other hand, the earliest known Bird, Archaeopteryx, is less like the Dinosaurs than are the modern Ratitae. The gulf between Birds and Mammals is much wider than between Birds and Reptiles, notwithstanding that the simplest of existing Mammals, the Monotremes (scientific order Monotremata), possess several bird-like characters in their structure, and is now proved, lay eggs (see Anatomy and FOSSIL BIRDS).

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