The fossil of the small flightless dinosaur Mei long shows the tail wrapped around the body, with the head tucked back under the front arm. The name Mei long means "dragon, soundly sleeping."
Mick Ellison did this reconstruction of the sleeping pose. When Ranger Rick asked me to paint Mei long for the new October issue (which should be on the stands now), I didn't want to copy my friend Mick's beautiful visualization.
I tried to find out all I could about how contemporary birds sleep. Mike Della Chiesa, who runs a bird breeding center in Saugerties, New York, told me that almost all songbirds and parrots sleep standing on one foot. If they don't, it can be a sign that they're not healthy or happy.
I also spoke with Manny Carrasco, who works a lot with modern raptors, such as hawks, falcons, and eagles. He said all the birds he works with also like to sleep on one foot. I had never seen a painting of a small dinosaur resting on one foot, but it made intuitive sense to me.
So I did this sketch to show the art director. Tomorrow I'll show you how I went from this to the final oil painting.
"How I Paint Extinct Animals" on the Ranger Rick website.
Wikipedia on Mei long.