Giant Birds

Some people have reported sighting strange, giant birds in various parts of the world. In some cases, these creatures are described in ways similar to ordinary birds, except for their size. In other cases, the creatures sound more like crosses between birds and apes, reptiles, or humans, respectively.

Of the sightings of birds that are seemingly normal except for their size, most involve instances in which the giant bird has tried to carry off a small child. Some people dismiss such reports as the stuff of myths, but in fact a few of these abductions have been fairly well documented. These abductions include a case in Leka, Norway, in 1932 in which a slightly built five-year-old girl was taken by a giant eagle and dropped onto a ledge, where she was subsequently found safe; a 1868 case in Mississippi where a small boy was taken and subsequently killed when the giant eagle dropped him; and a 1763 case in Germany involving a three-year-old girl who was carried nearly 1,500 feet (450m) by a giant eagle before being dropped without serious harm. Skeptics counter that all such cases involve an exaggeration of the birds’ size and the distance the child has been carried—if the child was even lifted off the ground at all.

A more unusual giant bird is the thunderbird, whose name comes from Native American legends. These birds are said to look and behave much like condors, soaring on air currents and having naked heads and necks. Described as being brown, black, or gray and having a wingspan of anywhere from 15 to 75 feet, (4.6 to 22.9m) thunderbirds have been sighted primarily in the Black Forest north of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania but also in the Ohio River Valley; in the Appalachian, Smokey, and Bald mountains; and in the Ozarks.

Some cryptozoologists believe that thunderbirds are actually teratorns, a prehistoric bird that had a wingspan of anywhere from 11 to 24 feet (3.4 to 7.3m), depending on the species. In part, this belief is based on the fact that fossilized remains of teratorns have been found in many of the areas where the thunderbirds have been reported. Although this suggests that teratorns could easily have formed the basis of myths among Native Americans living in these areas, skeptics say there would not be enough food in such places in modern times to support a teratorn. Most scientists, moreover, think that these creatures became extinct about eight thousand years ago.

More unusual stories involve a giant bird that does not look at all ordinary: Big Bird. Whimsically named after a character on the children’s television show Sesame Street, this creature is typically described as being about 5 feet (1.5m) tall, with either a long beak or no beak, a monkeylike face, bat wings, red eyes, and black, leathery skin. Big Bird was first reported by two young girls, Tracy Lawson and Jackie Davies, near Harlingen, Texas, on January 1, 1976. The next day the girls’ fathers investigated and found odd tracks in the place where their daughters said the bird had been; these tracks were 8 inches (20cm) across and indicated that the animal had three toes on each foot.

On January 7 in Brownsville, Texas—not far from Harlingen—Alverico Guajardo saw a similar creature: a black bird, approximately 4 feet (1.2m) tall, with red eyes, a long beak, and batlike wings. He also said that it emitted a terrible shriek. A week later another man, Armando Grimaldo of Raymondville, Texas, saw a giant bird that he described in much the same way as previous witnesses, though he said it had no beak and that its skin looked like leather. Both Grimaldo and Guajardo saw Big Bird when it was on the ground. Grimaldo claimed that the bird slashed at his clothes with big claws before flying away, and Guajardo said that the bird stared at him as though it were going to attack before it took off.

Interestingly, two months prior to these sightings a few people in Rio Grande City, Texas, claimed they had seen a 4-foottall (1.2m) creature with the body of a bird and the head of a man, and in San Benito, Texas, a few women claimed to have been attacked by an enormous black bird with no beak. However, no physical evidence of these creatures, or of Big Bird, has ever been found, and skeptics dismiss all Big Bird stories as the result of overactive imaginations or complete fabrications.


  • Cryptozoology
  • Living Dinosaurs


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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