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Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 131–120 Ma
Confuciusornis sanctus (2).jpg
Fossil specimen of Confuciusornis sanctus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Clade: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Suborder: Theropoda
Clade: Pygostylia
Family: Confuciusornithidae
Hou et al., 1995
Type species
Confuciusornis sanctus
Hou et al., 1995

Confuciusornithidae is a family of primitive birds from the early Cretaceous Period of China. It consists of four genera. About half of all the confuciusornithid specimens, including representatives of all species, that have preserved feathers possess a pair of distinctive ribbon-like tail feathers, and possessed both shafted and non-shafted (downy) feathers.[1][2]


Size of different genera, compared to a human.

The family Confuciusornithidae was first named by Hou et al. in 1995 to contain the type genus, Confuciusornis, and assigned to the order Confuciusornithiformes within class Aves.[3] The group was given a phylogenetic definition by Chiappe, in 1999, who defined a node-based clade Confuciusornithidae to include only Changchengornis and Confuciusornis.[1] Jinzhouornis was added to the Confuciusornithidae by Hou, Zhou, and Zhang in 2002,[4] and in 2008, Zhang, Zhou and Benton assigned the newly described genus Eoconfuciusornis to the family.[2]

Most confuciusornithids are known from the upper Jehol group, the Yixian Formation and Jiufotang Formation, dating from 125 to 120 million years ago. E. zhengi, however, predated the other confuciusornithids by 6 million years, dating to 131 Ma ago.[5]


  1. ^ a b Chiappe, Luis M. et. al (1999)
  2. ^ a b Zhang, F. -C., Zhou, Z. -H., & Benton, M. J. (2008)
  3. ^ Hou, L. et. al (1995)
  4. ^ Hou, L. H., Zhou, Z. H., & Zhang, F. C. (2002)
  5. ^ O'Connor, J.K., Zhou Z. and Zhang F. (In press). "A reappraisal of Boluochia zhengi (Aves: Enantiornithes) and a discussion of intraclade diversity in the Jehol avifauna, China." Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, (published online before print 16 December 2010). doi:10.1080/14772019.2010.512614
  6. ^ Haaramo, Mikko (2007). "Mikko's Phylogeny Archive: Coliiformes– mousebirds". Retrieved 30 December 2015. 


  • Chiappe, Luis M.; Shu-An, Ji; Qiang, Ji; Norell, Mark A. (1999). "Anatomy and systematics of the Confuciusornithidae (Theropoda:Aves) from the Late Mesozoic of northeastern China". Bulletin of the American museum of Natural History. 242: 89. 
  • Hou, L.; Zhou, Z.; Gu, Y.; Zhang, H. (1995). "Description of Confuciusornis sanctus". Chinese Science Bulletin. 10: 61–63. 
  • Hou, L. H.; Zhou, Z. H.; Zhang, F. C.; et. al (2002). Mesozoic Birds from Western Liaoning in China. Shenyang, China: Liaoning Science and Technology Publishing House. 
  • Zhang, F. -C.; Zhou, Z. -H.; Benton, M. J. (2008). "A primitive confuciusornithid bird from China and its implications for early avian flight.". Science in China Series D: Earth Sciences. 51 (5): 625–639. doi:10.1007/s11430-008-0050-3.