''Bird-Like'' Tracks Before Birds | The Institute for Creation Research

''Bird-Like'' Tracks Before Birds

Scientists have found what appear to be fossil bird tracks in rocks claimed to be 60 million years older than the oldest bird fossils.1 In fact, these tracks are found at the same level as some of the earliest dinosaurs ever discovered and about 100 million years (in evolutionary time) before the so-called bird-like dinosaurs. This creates a major puzzle for evolutionists since they believe dinosaurs evolved into birds. It’s hard to evolve into something that already exists.

Since the late 1950s, paleontologists have reported multiple examples of “bird-like” tracks in South Africa that, according to the evolutionary story, predate the appearance of the first birds by many tens of millions of years.1,2 Such tracks are classified by paleontologists as “ichnofossils,” and the unknown creature that made these tracks has been dubbed Trisauropodiscus. The existence of Triassic bird tracks is a serious problem for the evolutionary story because it leaves insufficient time for birds to evolve.

Miengah Abrahams and Emese Bordy, two paleontologists from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, recently published an in-depth study of these tracks. They concluded that the track shapes or morphologies could broadly be assigned to two groups, the second of which indeed resembles footprints made by birds.1,2 However, they stopped short of saying that the tracks were actually made by birds, suggesting that the tracks were made instead by another creature with a bird-like foot. Nevertheless, they stated,

The strong resemblance of Morphotype II to established avian [bird] ichnogenera and their clear distinction from classical ornithischian and theropod tracks, which is now reinforced by morphometric analyses, supports the original avian affinity of Trisauropodiscus originally proposed by [other researchers].2

If it walks like a bird, then perhaps it really is a bird!

In 2002, paleontologists reported other “bird-like” tracks from Triassic rocks in Argentina.3 But in 2013 they retracted this claim, saying the bird tracks were really much younger than originally dated.4 Once the tracks had been “safely” dated as more recent than the appearance of the “first” birds, the authors had no problem admitting that the tracks were not just “bird-like” but were genuine bird tracks!5

Amateur paleontologist (and evolutionist) Jerry MacDonald did ground-breaking paleontological research in New Mexico.6 Among his other finds, he found tracks in Jurassic rocks that looked suspiciously like bear, bird, and ape tracks.

The fossil tracks that MacDonald has collected include a number of what paleontologists like to call “problematica”. On one trackway, for example, a three-toed creature apparently took a few steps, then disappeared—as though it took off and flew. “We don’t know of any three-toed animals in the Permian,” MacDonald points out. “And there aren’t supposed to be any birds.” He’s got several tracks where creatures appear to be walking on their hind legs, others that look almost simian [ape-like]. On one pair of siltstone tablets, I notice some unusually large, deep and scary-looking footprints, each with five arched toe marks, like nails. I comment that they look just like bear tracks. “Yeah,” MacDonald says reluctantly, “they sure do.” Mammals evolved long after the Permian period, scientists agree, yet these tracks are clearly Permian.7

Such anomalous tracks are apparently common enough that paleontologists have even given them a name: problematica.

As the above examples show, one of the great misconceptions about the fossil record is that there is a nice, orderly, simple-to-complex sequence that agrees perfectly with the evolutionary story, with no “out-of-place” or “out-of-time” fossils. This misperception is frequently used as an argument against a flood origin for the rocks and fossils. After all, if the Genesis Flood formed the rocks and fossils, shouldn’t fossils be found in places that contradict evolutionary expectations?

Creationists don’t dispute that there is a general trend in the fossils, though we attribute it to progressive encroachment of the Flood waters onto different pre-Flood environments. Fossils in the lowest rock layers tend to be marine creatures, and creatures in the uppermost rocks are a mix of terrestrial and marine. But the claim that no anomalies or potential anomalies exist is a gross oversimplification of reality. There are many such examples of out-of-place fossils and ichnofossils. Evolutionists long insisted that grasses did not appear until after the dinosaurs became extinct—that is, until fossilized dinosaur dung showed that dinosaurs ate grass.8 Footprints identical to those made by contemporary humans are present in rocks that supposedly pre-date the appearance of “modern” humans.9,10 And most lay people (not to mention most scientists) would be shocked to learn that evolutionary paleontologists have reported finding dinosaur fossils in rocks younger than 66 million years old—despite textbook dogma that dinosaurs were wiped out by a meteorite impact at that time.11,12,13

Yet these fossils that contradict evolutionary theory are explained away or ignored.13,14 Creationists strongly suspect that there are many more such examples that have not necessarily been published in the mainstream literature. Paleontologist Robert Broom and physician G. W. H. Schepers admitted as much in 1946:

When someone produces relics of Homo sapiens [sic] in geological deposits more ancient than Mid Pleistocene, we seek all manner of unlikely explanations for such an improbability, even going so far as to discredit usually reliable witnesses. Such finds ultimately become veritable skeletons in the cupboard to anthropologists, who, in the subconscious endeavor to support dogma, even fail to describe such finds fully enough to allow fools to enter where angels fear to tread.15

Of course, the discovery of bird tracks and bird fossils contemporaneous with dinosaurs is not an issue for creationists. Since all animals lived at the same time before the Flood, it is no surprise to find bird tracks and bird fossils with those of dinosaurs. There was no evolution from one kind to another. It is just the order of burial in the Flood that is observed.

Perhaps these “bird-like” tracks were indeed produced by something other than a bird. But evolutionists have a long track record (if you’ll pardon the pun) of playing games with fossil data. The claim that the fossils agree perfectly with evolutionary expectations is simply false, and well-informed evolutionists should know better than to make it. Yet this false claim has lulled many into thinking that the fossils and water-deposited rocks in which they are found can’t possibly be the result of the Genesis Flood. Hence, they see no need to repent of their sins and “flee from the wrath to come.”16,17 Yet our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, did indeed judge His creatures in the great Flood, and the rocks and fossils bear mute testimony.


  1. Abrahams, M. and E. M. Bordy. 2023. The oldest fossil bird-like footprints from the upper Triassic of southern Africa. PLoS ONE. 18 (11): e0293021.
  2. Unknown animals were leaving bird-like footprints in Late Triassic Southern Africa. EurekaAlert! Posted on eurekaalert.org November 29, 2023, accessed November 30, 2023.
  3. Melchor, R. N. et al. 2002. Bird-like fossil footprints from the Late Triassic. Nature. 417 (6892): 936–938.
  4. Melchor, R. N. et al. 2013. Retraction: Bird-like fossil footprints from the Late Triassic. Nature. 417 (501): 936–938.
  5. Melchor, R. N. et al. 2013. A Late Eocene date for Late Triassic bird tracks. Nature. 495 (7441): E1–E2.
  6. MacDonald, J. 1994. Earth’s First Steps: Tracking Life Before the Dinosaurs. Johnson Printing. Boulder, CO.
  7. Stewart, D. 1992. Petrified Footprints: A Puzzling Parade of Permian Beasts. Smithsonian. 23 (4): 70–79.
  8. Neergaard, L. Dinosaur poop shows grass is older than it seems. Seattle Pi. Posted on seattlepi.com November 17, 2005, accessed November 30, 2023.
  9. Thomas, B. Human Evolution Story Stumbles Over Footprints. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org April 6, 2010, accessed December 1, 2023.
  10. Thomas, B. Laetoli Footprints Out of Step with Evolution. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org August 11, 2011, accessed December 1, 2023.
  11. Rigby, J. K., Jr. et al. 1987. Dinosaurs from the Paleocene part of the Hell Creek Formation, McCone County, Montana. Palaios. 2 (3): 296–302.
  12. Fassett, J. E. 2008. New geochronologic and stratigraphic evidence confirms the Paleocene age of the dinosaur-bearing Ojo Alamo sandstone and Animas Formation in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico and Colorado. Palaeontologica Electronica. 12 (1): 3A.
  13. Bucks, B. J. et al. 2004. “Tertiary Dinosaurs” in the Nanxiong Basin, Southern China, are reworked from the Cretaceous. Journal of Geology. 112: 111–118.
  14. Oard, M. J. 2011. Taxonomic manipulations likely common. Journal of Creation. 25 (3): 15–17.
  15. Broom, R. and G. W. H. Schepers. 1946. The South African Ape-Men – The Australopithecinae. Transvaal Museum Mem. 2, p. 257. Quoted in Beasley, G. 1990. Pre-Flood Giantism: A Key to the Interpretation of Fossil Hominids and Hominoids. Journal of Creation. 4: 5–55. Bold in quote.
  16. Luke 3:7.
  17. Hebert, J. 2019. The Genesis Flood and Evangelism. Acts & Facts. 48 (6): 13.

Stage image: Fossilized Trisauropodiscus tracks and modern bird tracks
Stage image credit: Copyright © Abrahams et al. Used in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.

* Dr. Hebert is Research Scientist at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

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