Five Unique Birds’ Living Fossils

The term “living fossil” is used to denote any living species of organism, which through fossils were identified to be the same as a species before extant representatives were discovered; and has no close living relatives. In short words, living fossil is a unique species that apparently hasn’t undergone changes during its very long existence.


The Mousebirds or Colies are a small group of birds comprising six species belonging to one genius Colius. The six surviving species could be considered “living fossils” as evidence showed that their family’s (Coliidae) root traces back to the Early Eocene period. This group is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Their usual habitat includes; forests, savannas, and open brush lands. They are arboreal and eat leaves, flowers, fruit, buds and sometimes insects.

Mousebirds are small, slender birds, growing to about 30-34 cm long and weigh 45-55 gm. They have stubby, bills, curved claws, soft grayish or brown plumage with a long, thin, tail about 20-24 cm long. With the ability to direct all four toes forward, mousebirds are versatile acrobats. Currently, mousebirds are not listed on the ICBP endangered list.

Bearded reedling

The Bearded Reedling,(Panurus biarmicus), is a weird small wetland bird found in Asia and temperate Europe. Often known as the Bearded Tit, or Bearded Parrotbill, the Bearded Reedling has orange-brown plumage with long tail; about 16.5 cm in length and weighs about 14 grams. Males have grey head and sport black moustaches. Females are duller in color in shades of tan and rust. Both males and females have yellow eyes and beaks. These passerine birds feed on insects in the summer and seeds during the winter. Though not yet on the endangered list, habitat destruction is threatening the species.

New Zealand wrens

New Zealand wrens, are small passerine birds comprising the family Acanthisittidae endemic to New Zealand. There are six known species, but only two are still extant today. These two living species are: the Rifleman (Acanthisitta chloris), which are fairly common in North and South Island; while the South Island Wren (Xenicus gilviventris), whose numbers are decreasing are confined to the alpine areas of South. Both the surviving species are diurnal, non-migratory and are poor fliers.

These small birds average 7 cm to 10 cm long and weigh between 14-22g. They have short wings, pointed bill and sturdy legs. Typical Acanthisittidae plumage colors include greens, browns, and whites. The New Zealand wrens feed on a snag, and small arthropods. Neither species are included in the 2000 IUCN Red


The Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin), also known as the Canje “Pheasant”, is the only extant species in the Opisthocomidae family. Based on fossil records, the species have lived during the Miocene period. This pheasant-sized bird lives in swamps of South America. A slender bird, the hoatzin has a small head, red crest and eyes, large wings and long black tail. Adults average between 61-66 cm long and weigh about 816 grams. Hoatzins only eat plants, flowers, and fruits. These unique and odd birds are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Magpie Goose

The Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) is a waterbird species found in coastal northern Australia and savannah in southern New Guinea. It is a unique member of the order Anseriformes, and arranged in a family and genus distinct from all other living waterfowl. The Magpie Goose is a resident breeder in northern Australia and in southern New Guinea.The Magpie Goose is found in a variety of open wetland areas such as floodplains and swamps.

Magpie Geese are unmistakable birds with their black and white plumage and yellowish legs. The feet are only partially webbed, although the Magpie Goose will feed on vegetable matter in the water as well as on land. Males are larger than females. Unlike true geese, the moult is gradual, and there is no flightless period. The voice is a loud honking.

9 thoughts on “Five Unique Birds’ Living Fossils

  1. Juliana

    The Hoatzin birds look regal and so beautiful while the New Zeland Wrens look totally adorable. Bilog na bilog. teehee

  2. Chubskulit Rose

    I like the color of that New Zealand wrens. I don't know why but I'm enamored with the color chartreuse nowadays.

  3. Jessica Cassidy

    Now I know the real meaning of fossils. I feel so smart today. Hahaha! Hoatzin looks so different.

  4. nova hedges

    I really appreciate your professional approach. These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.

  5. Riza Acebuche

    They are all indeed amazing animals because of their uniqueness with other birds. thanks for sharing.

  6. Feeling vibrant

    Meron palang living fossils kala ko yung mga nadiscovered na bagay lang na wala ng buhay.

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