It's now widely agreed that modern-day birds evolved, during the Mesozoic Era, from dinosaur species which survived the Cretaceous / Tertiary extinction event. (See:)
But the question of how and why birds acquired the ability to fly is still being debated.(* see note )
There are at least five mainstream theories, some from the time of Darwin, each of which covers various aspects of the evolution, but has not yet been generally accepted as a complete explanation.
See : Wikipedia
*Note : The question of how birds manage the aerodynamics of flight goes back at least to the time of Aristotle - and has now been largely explained. But the question of the gradual development of flight only arose after Darwin's and Wallace's theories of evolution in the mid 1800s.
Also see :
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