Category Archives: bird

Confuciusornis (Age of the Dinosaurs by PNSO)

Confuciusornis is a prehistoric bird from the early Cretaceous of China, named after the famous philosopher. This small toy by PNSO is one of a handful of examples of this species committed to plastic, and the first Confuciusornis model reviewed on the Dinosaur Toy Blog. This one also goes by the nickname of ‘Yoyo’ and is one of the “Little” figures in the PNSO’s Age of the Dinosaurs series. PNSO they have completely done it justice.

Confuciusornis PNSO

The main reason I wanted to  review this particular figure is because of my involvement in an exciting Dinosaurs of China exhibition coming to Nottingham, UK, in summer 2017. This world exclusive one-time-only exhibition will explore the relationship between dinosaurs and birds, and includes real fossils of feathered dinosaurs and prehistoric birds from China – including a Confuciusornis. So, as the curator of the exhibition, I feel a certain connection to this species! If you want to see a real fossil of this species, plus 24 other dinosaurs including mounted skeletons of the mighty Gigantoraptor and Mamenchisaurus, then make sure to drop by Wollaton Hall this summer. See the teaser trailer, and tickets are for sale on the website: http://www.dinosaursofchina.co.uk. The PNSO are also connected to this Dinosaurs of China exhibition because they have provided all of the stunning artwork for the exhibition graphics. Anyway, that’s enough exhibition plugging, back to the model!

Confuciusornis PNSO

The sculpt is accomplished and finely detailed, as are all of the PNSO’s models. The anatomy is remarkably accurate, even the articulation of the wrists and the relationship between the wing feathers and the fingers, a point that trips up uninitiated palaeoartists. The long, hooked claws on the fingers are very clear, and the animal is in a flying pose. This pose encourages me to fool around and make it swoop: there is lots of playability in a pose like this. It has a punk-like hairdo and a puffed out chest so PNSO haven’t scrimped on the plumage.

Confuciusornis is remarkable because it is known from many specimens that reveal sexual dimorphism. That is, the males are different from the females. The paired strap-like tail feathers in Yoyo indicate that he is a male. For anyone into diorama building, a simple surgery would make him female.

Confuciusornis PNSO

The tail feathers are slightly warped so their tips overlap. They can be adjusted, as I have done for the photos, but their positions quickly revert. A treatment with hot water or a hair dryer might fix this permanently.

The paint work on this tiny figure is expertly applied and quite brilliant – adventurous but still believable. The wing feathers have natural-looking earthy tones in bands, which contrast sharply with the jet-black paired tail feathers. These strap-like feathers terminate with bright blue eye-spots. My only quibble would be that the eyes (the ones in its head!) are white without pupils, which make it feel a bit lifeless. Black eyes would seem more appropriate.

Confuciusornis PNSO

This is a lovely tiny figure that I highly recommend on all fronts.  This brings us lastly onto the topic of how to get our hands on these products. I know that the PNSO are still going through a change of personnel and there seem to be no signs yet of their toys returning to Amazon. These miniature figures also seem to be absent from the PNSO’s most recent catalogue, but one can only speculate as to why. I think it is just a matter of remaining patient while PNSO find their feet.

Thanks to the PNSO for the review sample.

Archaeopteryx (Age of the Dinosaurs by PNSO)

It’s all or nothing now. Having caught the young female’s eye, Jonas fluffs his feathers, spreads his wings, and raises his tail. She continues to watch him from a distance. Encouraged, Jonas rapidly bows his head and utters low clicks and rattles. At last, the female approaches him and the two touch muzzles. Jonas has found his mate.

Say hello to Jonas, the little Archaeopteryx from PNSO. The sculptor has caught this iconic feathered dinosaur in what appears to be the act of courtship display. Jonas’ wings are outstretched and held to the front, his right foot is raised, and his tail elevated, which are all things that many extant male birds do when trying to attract a mate. From his wingtips to the end of his tail, Jonas measures 9.5 cm long and is 5.5 cm tall. Much smaller than the other Archaeopteryx figures that have been reviewed here on the DTB.

Jonas balances well enough on his wingtips and left foot, although he falls over easily. His main colours are light grey and medium brown with very pale beige on the underside of his waist and tail and muddy brown for his fingers and feet. The plumage on his head is mostly very dark brown with white patches surrounding his black eyes and burnt orange on his cranium and snout. Dark brown is also used for the primaries on his wings and the accents on his tail. Finally, white is used to line the tips of the primaries and the secondaries. It’s a realistic colour scheme to be sure, but it’s not in fitting with the studies which concluded that Archaeopteryx had black covert feathers.

In terms of both detailing and scientific accuracy, Jonas rates pretty high. His plumage has been meticulously sculpted, with visible barbs on the feathers on his wings and tail. His wings feature all the major feather groups: front, coverts, secondaries, and primaries. They are also asymmetrical, which is a trademark characteristic of flying birds. His bare feet have faint wrinkles and the feathers covering his neck make it appear appropriately thick. His second toes, however, are lying flat when they ought to be raised just like a dromaeosaur’s.

Aside from this one flaw, Jonas the Archaeopteryx is an exquisite and enjoyable little toy. Definitely worth adding to your feathered dinosaur collection.

Thanks go out to PNSO for this toy!

Microraptor (Wild Safari by Safari Ltd)

Now available from Amazon.com here.

Microraptor is a relatively recent discovery, but it has quickly become very popular with dinosaur enthusiasts. And why not? It’s one of the best known dromaeosaurs, with a whopping 300 or so fossil specimens spread out globally in various museums. It’s also one of the smallest known dinosaurs, being only around the size of a crow. And with its full plumage and four wings, it would have been truly wondrous to see this unique little animal swooping through the Liaoning forests of China some 120 million years ago.

A Microraptor is one of thirteen new Wild Safari toys for 2017. Appropriately, this individual has been captured in full flight with its front wings outspread, its legs bent, and its long tail held straight out behind it. Well, it’s supposed to be straight, but the one on mine is slightly warped. This gives it a length of just over 18 cm as well as a wingspan of 17.5 cm. Unlike its tripod counterpart in the Carnegie Collection, this Microraptor balances on just its feathery hind limbs, with its tail held off the ground.


It’s presently unknown who the sculptor of this figure is, but he or she clearly possesses genuine talent. The contour feathers covering the Microraptor‘s main body are too small for a lot of detail, but the larger flight feathers on its four wings look very marvelous indeed. Each of these feathers features visible vanes and barbs. The flight feathers are arranged in multiple layers just like on extant flying birds, beginning with the large primaries and secondaries at the edges, then going to greater coverts, median coverts, lesser coverts, and scapulars at the shoulders and hips. The tail features a small fan with two extra long feathers trailing out from the tip. The featherless muzzle, fingers, and toes have faint wrinkles and the mouth features tiny but sharp teeth. The feet feature the distinctive “killing claws” that mark this animal as a member of the famous and deadly dromaeosaur family, in spite of its small stature. For a long time, paleontologists debated over whether Microraptor was a mere glider or a proper flyer, but the most recent studies have concluded that it was indeed the latter.


Another admirable feature of this figure is just how full and streamlined it looks. As you can see from the group shot below, the Carnegie Microraptor has a rather skinny neck and body that gives it a reptilian appearance in spite of its ample feathering. By contrast, this one’s neck is covered in so much contour feathering that it looks nice and thick. This Microraptor really looks and feels like a true bird to me. My wife feels the same way. She’s rather averse towards birds in general (especially ones that aren’t afraid of coming up close and begging/attempting to snatch food), and her initial response to this toy was a decisive “EWWW.” I love her so much. 🙂

Another fascinating fact about Microraptor is that we actually know what colour its feathers were! In 2012, a team of researchers used scanning electron microscope techniques to analyze fossilized melanosomes found in a particular fossil specimen. They concluded that Microraptor had dark, iridescent plumage just like a modern grackle. But here’s where my one beef with this toy arises. As you can see, it is coloured black all over with pale yellow for its muzzle, fingers, and toes, medium skin tone for the mouth tissue and the patches around the orange eyes, pink for the inside of the mouth, and white teeth. But the black is a dull, flat tone, not iridescent at all. Whereas the 2015 Archaeopteryx figure has a much more vibrant appearance despite the fact that it too is mostly black in colour.

Flatness aside, this is still an absolutely superb figure in terms of anatomical accuracy and sculpting detail. The Wild Safari Microraptor is definitely going to please any feathered dinosaur fan.

Heartiest thanks go out to FaunaFigures.com for selling me so many awesome prehistoric toys over the past two years. This has been my 125th review for the DTB! 😀

The Safari Ltd Wild Safari Microraptor is now available from Amazon.com here.