The company line for YEC organizations like AiG, ICR, and the neglected step-child CMI, is that dinosaurs and birds are distinct “kinds.” Dinosaurs are reptiles. Birds are birds. Period. But, behind closed doors, Ark museums, and YouTube, are lengthy, creation-science journal articles, that say otherwise. Here is a brief overview of dinosaurs and birds in YEC literature.
Phillip J. Senter is an Orthodox Christian and a vertebrate paleontologist who specializes in dinosaurs. He is a gleeful foe for YEC science. He recently published a book called Fire-Breathing Dinosaurs that dismantles the theory that dinosaurs could breathe fire, using science. Senter also contributes regularly to Skeptical Inquirer to discount YEC theories. In 2010, he took the research of YEC scientist Todd Wood on baraminology (Multi-Dimensional scaling, statistics, etc.) Senter than applied the YEC scientist’s methods to dinosaurs and birds, where he successfully proved that some groups of dinosaurs overlapped with birds. Part 1 Senter Part 2 Senter
AiG responded with an article downplaying the methods that Todd Wood used. Dr. Wilson describes his “discomfort” with the conclusions of statistical baraminology here. However, throughout the 2010s Liaoning and other Chinese fossil hotspots continue to turn up birdlike dinosaur fossils. Wood and others begin to argue that it is possible God made some dinosaurs with feathers and that they might be related. AiG maintained its hard stance. See Here. But some highlights:
Complicating matters even further is the fact that true birds have been found among the Liaoning province fossils in the same layers as their presumed dinosaur ancestors.
Having a true bird appear before alleged feathered dinosaurs, no mechanism to change scales into feathers, no mechanism to change a reptilian lung into an avian lung, and no legitimate dinosaurs found with feathers are all good indications that dinosaurs didn’t turn into birds. The evidence is consistent with what the Bible teaches about birds being unique and created after their kinds.
But…here is where it gets interesting. In 2018, the International Conference on Creationism had two papers submitted which explored the relationships between dinosaurs and birds.
While many creationists may be skeptical of inferring feathers when there are no feathers preserved, these predictors have proven to be an effective indicator of the existence of feathers.
Troodontids are remarkably bird-like dinosaurs. They were lightly-built and had large brains.
While most reports of feathers have come from theropod dinosaurs, they are not exclusive to them. While rare, filamentous integument has been documented in ornithischians.
While we have found that feathered dinosaurs could be broken into multiple created kinds, and others have found that birds can be broken into multiple created kinds, we could not find a way to separate theropod dinosaurs and birds overall into two groups based on their anatomy. Traditionally, creationists have considered dinosaurs and birds to be two discrete groups, easy to separate and identify. To most people, dinosaurs and birds appear to be vastly different animals. However, such a distinction can only be maintained by “cherry-picking” non-birdlike dinosaurs for comparison. For instance if sparrows, eagles, and flamingoes are compared with Triceratops and stegosaurus. A much different picture appears if we compare birds to the theropod dinosaurs.
The second paper is Dinosaur Baraminology and shares many of the similar conclusions, though not as potently put forward. It appears that the scientists who work behind the scenes for the various creation ministries are well-aware of the prevalence of feathered dinosaurs and their birdlike similarities. AiG has drawn a pretty big line in the sand with dinosaurs and birds, but they may move the goalposts. Perhaps the Ark Encounter will display a feathered theropod and use it as an example of the “common design” in animals.
tldr; YEC scientists KNOW that dinosaurs have feathers.