Science and Health

Fossil Of Largest Flying Bird ID'ed ... And It's Terrifying

Researchers say they've identified a fossil unearthed more than 30 years ago as the largest flying bird, well, ever. Time to run and hide, everyone.

Fossil Of Largest Flying Bird ID'ed ... And It's Terrifying
Bruce Museum / Liz Bradford

A massive fossil unearthed near an airport in South Carolina more than three decades ago is being called the ultimate big bird.

And no, we're not talking Sesame Street here, people.

"You're looking at an artist's rendition of the Pelagornis sandersi. The gigantic bird soared over the ocean about 25 to 28 million years ago. It supposedly had a wingspan of 21 feet." ​(Via WOLO)

As a writer for the BBC put it, this bird probably looked like "a seagull on steroids." To put things into perspective, its estimated wingspan is equal to the average height of a giraffe or the size of a particularly small plane.

Speaking of planes, the gigantic bird's fossil was first found near Charleston Airport in South Carolina back in 1983.

NBC reports the bones were taken to the Charleston Museum and left there for years until a researcher transferred to the museum and decided to study the remains.

Scientists estimate this new find would have been twice the size of the royal albatross, which is the world's largest living bird. (Via National Geographic)

On top of being unbelievably huge, the researchers say they believe the Pelagornis sandersi's long wings and hollow bones would have made it a powerful glider.

The BBC quotes the lead researcher on the fossil's find. "Computer models suggest that it had high lift-to-drag ratios, which would allow it to glide for a very long distance for every unit of altitude it could attain. It could likely glide at speeds over 10m per second — faster than the human world record for the 100m dash."

And it apparently looked pretty scary too.

"The mouth was filled with these spike-like projections, and they looked like teeth, but they're actually made from the same material as the jawbone. So there, it would have been a really kind of dragon-like appearance when it was alive." (Via ​YouTube / sciencecomedian)

Yikes! Massive birds like these used to be a common sight in the skies millions of years ago, as a writer on SciLogs notes. But scientists say they vanished about three million years ago, and no one really knows why.

Researchers say this new fossil could help them determine what happened to giant birds. The researchers' findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Tuesday.