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Changchenornis is known from only a single specimen, unlike its more well-known contemporary Confuciusornis sanctus, which is known from thousands of fossils. The two birds shared a number of features in common, including the long pintail feathers of some (possibly male) speciemens. The most striking difference between these two birds would have been their size--while Confuciusornis grew as large as a chicken, Changchengornis was about the size of a Ground Dove, the smallest member of the pigeon family. Changchengornis also posessed a distinctively tall crown, or crest, of feathers. Like Confuciusornis, it was probably capable of rudimentary flapping flight but would have mainly relied on gliding.
While neither bird was particularly well suited to life in trees, Changchengornis was better adapted for perching than its larger relatives, and its short, broad wings are common among birds that fly short distances between branches. Still neither bird had an alula, or feathers on digit one of the wing, which allows for greater manuverablity in tight spaces among more advanced birds. Unlike Confuciusornis, Changchengornis had a strongly hooked beak (C. sanctus beaks were characteristically straight and pointed, while Confuciusornis dui had a slightly upturned bill). This wide range of variation among closely related birds hints at the differences in diet and ecological niche necessary for birds sharing the same lakeside forest habitat.
In the field guide image above, a male (based on the type specimen) is compared to a speculative female. The female is drawn based on the idea that the same possible sexual dimorphism found in other confuciusornithid species also applied to Changchengornis. Plumage coloration is speculative but within the range of possible colors based on presumed diet and melanin/carotenoid pigment distribution.
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