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Terror Birds
Phorus
Artist's Rendering
Flightless birds
Size Comparison Between Flightless Birds, Including Moa and Dodo
Background
Type Flightless Bird, Living Fossil
First Sighting Unknown
Last Sighting January 7, 1976
Country United States
Habitat Southwestern Region
Possible Population Small
Huge flightless Terror Birds were South America's top predators for millions of years and at nearly three meters (9 feet) tall they certainly lived up to their name. The CryptoZoo, a website on Cryptids has the following to say about terror birds...

"Today, the largest flightless bird that science acknowledges is the ostrich, but much larger flightless birds survived until relatively recent times.

Some of these were the phorusrhacids or 'terror birds.' They are not closely related to ostriches, emus, kiwis and other flightless birds of today. Their closest modern relatives are thought to be the snake-killing secretary bird of Africa and the seriemas of South America. These giant predatory flightless birds were among the prime predators of the southern supercontinent that consisted of South America, Africa and Australia, sharing this niche with marsupial predators. Eventually, more competitive predators from northern landmasses invaded these southern lands with the exception of Australia, and the terror birds died out, along with most of their marsupial comrades.

South America had birds of this type, but they are thought to have become extinct when the land bridge formed to North America and predators such as the cougar and coyote gradually replaced them. However, this assumption was recently overturned. Fossils from Texas and Florida show that at least one species of South American terror bird managed to establish itself in North America, and was still alive two million years ago. This species had wings that had evolved back into arms, with clawed "hands" on them. It may have looked remarkably like a small, predatory dinosaur. Estimates of its height range from a modest six feet to possibly as big as twelve feet for adult birds. The two-million-year-old fossils have been dated accurately without a doubt. Other North American terror bird fossils might date to as recently as 15,000 years ago, a time when people could have seen them. In fact, there is North American Indian folklore that is rather suggestive of the terror bird, even getting the details right, such as clawed arms instead of wings."

Sightings

In the folklore of the Yakima Indians of the northwestern United States, the pach-an-a-ho' (Yakima: "crooked beak" or "rough-looking bird") is a giant ground-dwelling brown bird which leaves three-toed tracks, described by some authors as a thunderbird. A party of Yakima Indians who visited an unnamed museum allegedly claimed that a model of Diatryma (=Gastornis) was the pach-an-a-ho', and became very excited. Supposedly, a number of recent sightings of a 7' tall bird likened to the pach-an-a-ho' have been made in the Mount Adams area of Washington State, most recently in 1975.[1]

Notes and references

  1. Shuker, Karl P. N. ShukerNature: FROM BIG BIRDS TO BIGFOOT - DIATRYMA AND A VERY CURIOUS CRYPTO-DILEMMA karlshuker.blogspot.com [Accessed 29 June 2019]

Entertainment

  • In the popular British television series Primeval, which was created for ITV, the Terror Birds or Titanis make multiple appearances mainly as the antagonists of the episodes but in the later Primeval: New World, one of the Terror Birds nicknamed "Leggy" becomes a protagonist up until it's death.
  • In 2016, a movie titled Terror Birds was released, which was about a town being under siege by the presumed to be extinct Terror Birds after a wealthy scientists brings a couple of the gigantic birds back from extinction and they escape to wreak havoc among townspeople.
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