The Cryptozoologist



Posted on July 15, 2012 at 9:10 PM



Originally Posted on December 23, 2007; Revised July 15, 2012


Researched, Compiled, Edited and Illustrated

By R. Merrill


The legend of the Thunderbird is an ancient myth that survives even to the present day in some Native American cultures. Though the Thunderbird myth varied from region to region and tribe to tribe, the Thunderbird was, in the eyes of the ancient Native Americans, a magical animal that was sent by their gods to protect them from the powers of evil. Riding on the wings of the storm, the Thunderbird embodied the power of the storm. Its eyes flashed fire, its cry was like the crack of lightning, and its mighty wings beat with the sound of rolling thunder, ever protecting its people from the powers of evil.

There are at least three different legends of the Thunderbird available to us today, that can give us some information about what this creature was like. The first comes from the Winnebago Indians of the northern Midwest and Plains states, a second comes from the Passamaquoddy Indians of Maine, and a third comes from the Quillayute, a Chimakoan tribe living along the Quillayute River, a six-mile river on the Olympic Peninsula, near Seattle, Washington.

The Winnebago were an ancient and powerful people that once spread out from Wisconsin all across the northern Midwest and Plains states to Nebraska. They believed that the Thunderbirds were powerful, eagle-like divine creatures that were able to affect the winds and created storms, lightning, thunder, and rain. They also believed that they could take the form of humans, and that some humans, though not actually Thunderbirds, shared their characteristics and were considered to be semi-divine.

This thought is reminiscent of the "bird-man" concept prevalent at Cahokia, and it is believed that the Cahokians were related to the Winnebago peoples. Richard L. Dieterle explains in The Short Encyclopedia of Hotcâk (Winnebago) Myth, Legend, and Folklore,

Thunderbirds are powerful and warlike avian spirits who animate the gray clouds with thunder and lightning. Together with the Waterspirits, they were the first spirits that Earthmaker created. Their name, Wak'âdja, means, "Divine Ones." On the model of other tribes, they are conventionally called "Thunderbirds," since they alone possess lightning. Their basic somatic form runs the gamut of several species of birds, the hawk and the eagle being the most common. However, they are far stronger in build and have polychrome plumage that gives them a magnificent appearance unrivaled by the birds of earth. Their voices are like the sounds of flutes, recalling both the whistle of wind and the voices of raptors.



The enemies of the Thunderbirds in Winnebago legend are the "Water Spirits". These became the enemies of the Thunderbirds in primordial times, when the Thunderbirds shot their lightnings everywhere, including the waters. The Thunderbirds still use their lightning when crossing the waters, as that helps protect them from the waterspirits. The Winnebago believed that all lightning was directed at Waterspirits, which lived in bodies of water, or in streams of water beneath the surface of the Earth. The waterspirits were the favorite food of the Thunderbirds, though they usually ate animals and sometimes even humans.

Another primary source is from the legends of the Passamaquoddy Indians, who lived in the northeast, in the Quoddy Loop area of Maine and New Brunswick. In this story, two Passamaquoddy Indians went on a quest to find the origin of thunder:

This is a legend of long, long ago times. Two Indians desired to find the origin of thunder. They travelled north and came to a high mountain. These mountains performed magically. They drew apart, back and forth, then closed together very quickly. One Indian said, "I will leap through the cleft before it closes. If I am caught, you continue to find the origin of thunder." The first one succeeded in going through the cleft before it closed, but the second one was caught and squashed. On the other side, the first Indian saw a large plain with a group of wigwams, and a number of Indians playing a ball game. After a little while, these players said to each other, "It is time to go." They disappeared into their wigwams to put on wings, and came out with their bows and arrows and flew away over the mountains to the south. This was how the Passamaquoddy Indian discovered the homes of the thunderbirds.


The surviving Passamaquoddy Indian brave had discovered the home of the Thunderbirds, but the intrepid Indians who had set out on a quest for the source of thunder had gotten more than they had bargained for. One Indian had died already, and his companion was about to undergo a transformation:

The remaining old men of that tribe asked the Passamaquoddy Indian, "What do you want? Who are you?" He replied with the story of his mission. The old men deliberated how they could help him. They decided to put the lone Indian into a large mortar, and they pounded him until all of his bones were broken. They moulded him into a new body with wings like thunderbird, and gave him a bow and some arrows and sent him away in flight. They warned him not to fly close to trees, as he would fly so fast he could not stop in time to avoid them, and he would be killed.


The Thunderbirds, according to the Passamaquoddy, were men who could transform themselves into flying creatures. These men were also able to transform the Passamaquoddy Indian brave into a bird like themselves. However, this brave now had a new enemy: Wochowsen, "great bird from the south", who had control of the south wind, and made it blow so hard that the Passamaquoddy brave could not return to his homeland.

The lone Indian could not reach his home because the huge enemy bird, Wochowsen, at that time made such a damaging wind. Thunderbird is an Indian and he or his lightning would never harm another Indian. But Wochowsen, great bird from the south, tried hard to rival Thunderbird. So Passamaquoddies feared Wochowsen, whose wings Glooscap once had broken, because he used too much power. A result was that for a long time air became stagnant, the sea was full of slime, and all of the fish died. But Glooscap saw what was happening to his people and repaired the wings of Wochowsen to the extent of controlling and alternating strong winds with calm. Legend tells us this is how the new Passamaquoddy thunderbird, the lone Indian who passed through the cleft, in time became the great and powerful Thunderbird, who always has kept a watchful eye upon the good Indians.


A belief in the magic of the Thunderbird is held by the Passamaquoddy, because he can tame the winds alternating between calm and storms. In this way the Thunderbird was not merely seen as a large, natural flying creature, but as at least a semi-supernatural creature with ties to the divine world above.


Another Thunderbird story can be found in the myths and legends of the Quillayute Indians of the Pacific Northwest. In this story, disaster had struck —the rain and hail had fallen for many days, destroying all of the edible plants and making it impossible to fish. Many of their people had been killed by the hail, which was followed by sleet and snow. Out of food, the Quillayute were desperate, and the Great Chief was forced to call upon the Great Spirit for help. The Great Spirit answered, sending them the Thunderbird:

The people waited. No one spoke. There was nothing but silence and darkness. Suddenly, there came a great noise, and flashes of lightning cut the darkness. A deep whirring sound, like giant wings beating, came from the place of the setting sun. All of the people turned to gaze toward the sky above the ocean as a huge, bird-shaped creature flew toward them. This bird was larger than any they had ever seen. Its wings, from tip to tip, were twice as long as a war canoe. It had a huge, curving beak, and its eyes glowed like fire. The people saw that its great claws held a living, giant whale. In silence, they watched while Thunderbird—for so the bird was named by everyone—carefully lowered the whale to the ground before them. Thunderbird then flew high in the sky, and went back to the thunder and lightning it had come from. Perhaps it flew back to its perch in the hunting grounds of the Great Spirit. Thunderbird and Whale saved the Quillayute from dying. The people knew that the Great Spirit had heard their prayer. Even today they never forget that visit from Thunderbird, never forget that it ended long days of hunger and death. For on the prairie near their village are big, round stones that the grandfathers say are the hardened hailstones of that storm long ago.

The Quillayute described the Thunderbird as essentially a very large bird, though no bird in history was ever as big as the type of bird they described, and of course no other bird ever had the same supernatural powers:

Thunderbird is a very large bird, with feathers as long as a canoe paddle. When he flaps his wings, he makes thunder and the great winds. When he opens and shuts his eyes, he makes lightning. In stormy weather, he flies through the skies, flapping his wings and opening and closing his eyes. Thunderbird's home is a cave in the Olympic Mountains, and he wants no one to come near it. If hunters get close enough so he can smell them, he makes thunder noise, and he rolls ice out of his cave. The ice rolls down the mountainside, and when it reaches a rocky place, it breaks into many pieces. The pieces rattle as they roll farther down into the valley. All the hunters are so afraid of Thunderbird and his noise and rolling ice that they never stay long near his home. No one ever sleeps near his cave. Thunderbird keeps his food in a dark hole at the edge of a big field of ice and snow. His food is the whale. Thunderbird flies out of the ocean, catches a whale and hurries back to the mountains to eat it. One time Whale fought Thunderbird so hard that during the battle, trees were torn up by their roots. To this day there are no trees in Beaver Prairie because of the fight Whale and Thunderbird had that day.

The battle between Thunderbird and Whale appears to be primarily symbolic of the battle between the air and the sea, as imagined by the Quillayute in their attempt to interpret the forces of nature. Like most ancient peoples, the Quillayute interpreted the forces of nature in symbolic forms, inventing gods and goddesses, deities, and demigods as causes of these phenomena.

At the time of the Great Flood, Thunderbird fought a long, long battle with Killer Whale. He would catch Killer Whale in his claws and start with him to the cave in the mountains. Killer Whale would escape and return to the water. Thunderbird would catch him again, all the time flashing lightning from his eyes and flapping his wings to create thunder. Mountains were shaken by the noise, and trees were uprooted in their struggle. Again and again Killer Whale escaped. Again and again Thunderbird seized him. Many times they fought, in different places in the mountains. At last Killer Whale escaped to the middle of the ocean, and Thunderbird gave up the fight. That is why Killer Whales live in the deep oceans today. That is why there are many prairies in the midst of the forests on the Olympic Peninsula.


It is interesting that the Quillayute mention the "Great Flood" in their description of the battle between Thunderbird and whale. The story of a Great Flood that covered the Earth at one time is nearly universal throughout the ancient world—but that is a story for another time.

The Quillayute legend describes the Thunderbird as a giant flying creature with feathers. According to the geologic record, no avian (bird) was ever as large as the creature that the Quillayute described. However, there were flying creatures that were that large—the giant pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus Northropi, native to the Mesozoic Period. With a wingspan of 33 feet, Quetzalcoatlus Northropi was possibly the largest flying creature on earth in any period. However, even a fully grown Quetzalcoatlus would have been incapable of catching and carrying off even a small whale like the Killer Whale. Absurd as this might seem, there have been sightings of similar creatures all the way up to the present day in various parts of the world.


One problem with this theory is the fact that the Thunderbird is described as having feathers. However, recent evidence out of China suggests that at least some dinosaurs may have had feathers. One controversial photo, which has now been lost (if it ever truly existed), shows a pterodactyl-like creature with feathered wings being displayed by a group of men as a sort of hunting trophy. This controversial photo, some believe was a sort of urban legend, a thing that never happened but was believed by many to be true, despite the fact that large-scale searches have been made for the photo without success.


The most celebrated Thunderbird encounter took place in 1890, on the desert sands of what was then the Arizona Territory. Two cowboys had a bizarre confrontation which has varied widely in the telling, but the gist of the story is this: they saw a giant flying bird, shot and killed it with their rifles, and carried its spectacular carcass into town. A report in the April 26, 1890 Tombstone Epigraph listed the creature's wingspan as an alarming 160 feet, and noted that the bird was about 92 feet long, about 50 inches around at the middle, and had a head about eight feet long. The beast was said to have no feathers, but a smooth skin and wingflaps "composed of a thick and nearly transparent membrane... easily penetrated by a bullet." Perhaps the hardest part of this story to swallow is that two horses could manage to haul a dead behemoth like this for any distance. The Tombstone Epigraph printed its highly embroidered version of the cowboy's sighting, which was spared from fading into obscurity by its inclusion in a 1930 book on the Old West.

In 1963, the story came to the attention of writer Jack Pearl, who revived the tale for an article in a pulpy men's adventure magazine called Saga. As if the Epigraph report hadn't spiced up the facts enough already, Pearl liberally embellished the encounter into a dramatic rip-snorter entitled "Monster Bird That Carries Off Human Beings!" Pearl pushed the date of the encounter back to 1886, and he described the witnesses as two prospectors who killed the bird and proudly showed off their trophy in Tombstone. Pearl also added some extra conflict by telling of how a second Thunderbird snatched up a heckler who had ridiculed the prospectors and flew away with him in its talons. But Pearl's most significant editorialization was this: he said that the Epigraph newspaper story had run with a photograph of the giant bird's carcass, nailed up to a wall with its mighty wingspan unfurled, and a number of men posing next to it for scale.





So, despite the existence of plenty of secondary evidence, the quest for an actual photo or other decisive evidence for the existence of a Thunderbird continues on. Like the quest for Piasa, dragons, and other mythical monsters, the Thunderbird and its paranormal ilk continue to live on the fringes of human perception, waiting for the lucky snapshot to snap them into focus.



Following is a rogue's gallery of supposed "Thunderbird" photos which have since been proven to be hoaxes:



An internet rumor began in the late 1990s that the top photograph was found squeezed between the pages of a 1970s paranormal book purchased at a thrift store. For years, Forteans had searched for the exclusive "Thunderbird" photograph seen and remembered by zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson during the 1960s. Then, this newly discovered picture raised the question of its relationship to the Sanderson "lost Thunderbird photo." But something seemed wrong. The Sanderson stories told of a Thunderbird tacked to the side of a barn in Tombstone, Arizona, or some other location in the Old West. The photograph shown here, however, appeared to have captured a group of Civil War soldiers, circa 1860s, with the remains of a pterodactyl. Was this the long lost photograph, remembered by so many, but never found after decades of looking for it?

As it turned out this photograph was a promotional tool of Orlando, Florida's Haxan Production (producers of "The Blair Witch Project"), to develop interest in their forthcoming fictional program, "Freaky Links." The series, first broadcast on Fox TV, finally in 2000, involved the character "Derek Barnes," an investigator of the unknown.

The picture was a hoax and the pterodactyl was a prop created exclusively for two episodes of Freaky Links. Fox is done with the prop, however, and this intriguing pseudo-cryptid was acquired by Loren Coleman, and is now part of the collection of the Museum--that is all 22 feet by 11 feet of it.




They appear out of the sky like the shadow of doom. They have been described as having wingspans of up to 20 feet wide, hooked talons and razor-like beaks. They are the mystery birds of Illinois.


The ancient Indians of Illinois were no strangers to these birds. Two giant petroglyphs once decorated the stone bluffs near Alton, Illinois. The paintings portrayed a huge, winged creature known as the PIASA: The Monster Bird, which is translated to mean the "bird that devours men". The French explorer Pere Marquette recorded the first accounts of the paintings in 1673. He was impressed enough by them to record them in his journals and note that the account of the Piasa involved a terrible creature that preyed on the local Indians. An Indian warrior killed the creature and a painting of it was etched onto the bluffs to recall the legend.

American Indian lore is filled with stories of strange, monster birds with enormous wingspans and the propensity to carry away human victims. They called these creatures "Thunderbirds" because the Legend of the Giant Bird claimed that their flapping wings made a sound like rolling thunder. The birds have been described as having wingspans of 20 to 40 feet or more; hooked talons; razor-sharp beaks; and sometimes descriptions which seem oddly close to Quetzalcoatlus, one of the pterodactyls of prehistoric times.

But not all of these stories and accounts date back to the times of the early Americans. Most of them come from times that are not so long ago.... and are disturbingly close to home.

One modern day "flap" of Thunderbird sightings began in April 1948, according to Loren Coleman in his book, Curious Encounters. On April 4, a former Army Colonel named Walter F. Siegmund revealed that he had seen a gigantic bird in the sky above Alton. He had been talking with a local farmer and Colonel Ralph Jackson, the head of the Western Military Academy, at the time. "I thought there was something wrong with my eyesight," he said, "but it was definitely a bird and not a glider or a jet plane. It appeared to be flying northeast... from the movements of the object and its size, I figured it could only be a bird of tremendous size."


A few days later, a farmer named Robert Price from Caledonia would see the same, or a similar, bird. He called it a "monster bird... bigger than an airplane". On April 10, another sighting would take place and this time in Overland. A huge bird was spotted by Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Smith and Les Bacon. They said they thought the creature was an airplane until it started to flap its wings furiously.

On April 24, the bird was back in Alton. It was sighted by EM Coleman and his son, James. "It was an enormous, incredible thing with a body that looked like a naval torpedo," Coleman recalled later. "It was flying at about 500 feet and cast a shadow the same size as a Piper Cub at that height."

Then, on May 5, the bird was sighted for the last time in Alton. A man named Arthur Davidson called the police that evening to report the bird flying above the city. Later on that same night, Mrs. William Stallings of St. Louis informed the authorities that she had also seen it. "It was bright, about as big as a house," she said. A number of sightings then followed in the St. Louis area, but ironically, just when the public excitement over the bird reached its peak, the sightings came to an end.

Sightings of strange birds have not ended in Illinois and in fact continue today. One of the most exciting, and frightening, Illinois encounters occurred in 1977 in Lawndale, a small town in Logan County. On the evening of July 25, two giant birds appeared in the sky above Lawndale. The birds were reported several times as they circled and swooped in the sky. Finally, they headed straight down and reportedly attacked three boys who were playing in the backyard of Ruth and Jake Lowe. One of the birds grasped the shirt of ten-year-old Marlon Lowe, snagging its talons into the cloth. The boy tried in vain to fight the bird off then cried loudly for help.


The boy's cries brought Marlon's mother running outside. She later reported that she had seen the bird actually lift the boy from the ground and into the air. She screamed loudly and the bird released the child. It had carried him, at a height of about three feet, for a distance of about forty feet. She was sure that if she had not come outside, the bird would have been capable of carrying the boy away. Luckily, although scratched and badly frightened, Marlon was not seriously injured.


Four other adults appeared on the scene within seconds of the attack. They described the birds as being black in color, with bands of white around their necks. They had long, curved beaks and a wingspan of at least 10 feet. The two birds were last seen flying toward some trees near Kickapoo Creek.

A second version of the Lawndale event is as follows:

July 25, 1977 Lawndale Illinois. It was around 8:30 p.m. when Marlon Lowe, a 10 year old boy, was running for his life. He was playing with two friends in his family back yard when suddenly out of nowhere two huge black birds came out of the sky and began pursuing one of Marlon's friends, Travis Goodwin. Happily, Travis managed to escape by jumping into the swimming pool. Then the two switched their attention to Marlon. Marlon ran away as fast as he could, but it was not fast enough. As he was running he felt the talons of one of the birds grip the shoulder straps of his sleeveless shirt. Next the boy, weighing 65 lb., was lifted off the ground 10 ft., screaming and shouting at the top of his lungs as the bird easily carried him 40 ft. through the air from the back yard to the front yard. His parents, Ruth and Jake Lowe, heard the screaming and ran outside; so did two family friends working near by. Ruth was the first to see this horrific sight that would freeze her blood. There was her son was abducted by a huge black bird resembling a Condor, punching up at its legs with all his might as his feathered kidnapper carried him aloft. Seconds later however, one of his punches must have hit home, because the bird suddenly opened its talons and dropped him to the ground before soaring away with its mate. The four adults ran to the boy and discovered to their relief that—except for a frayed shirt where the bird had grabbed him—Marlon was physically okay. This is just one of the many bizarre accounts on file featuring encounters in North America with giant birds. Birds that should be impossible but yet seem to exist. In the case of Marlon Lowe, he and his parents said the bird most closely resembled an Andean Condor, a black vulture-like species with a wing span up to 10 ft. This species, however, is not native to North America. There is however a smaller version called the California condor which was once widely distributed across North America but by 1977 was virtually extinct. In either case the structure of the condors feet is incapable of lifting and transporting anything as heavy as a ten year old boy.





Three days later, a McLean County farmer spotted a bird of the same size and description flying over his farm. He, his wife, and several friends were watching radio-controlled airplanes when the bird flew close to the models. He claimed the bird had a wingspan of, again, at least 10 feet across. It dwarfed the small planes that buzzed close to it.

The next sighting took place near Bloomington when a mail truck driver named James Majors spotted the two birds. He was driving from Armington to Delevan when he saw them alongside of the highway. One of the birds dropped down into a field and snatched up a small animal. He believed the two birds were probably condors, but with 8 to 10 foot wingspans!

On July 28, Lisa Montgomery of Tremont was washing her car when she looked up and saw a giant bird crossing the sky overhead.

At 2:00 AM on Saturday, July 30, Dennis Turner and several friends from Downs reported a monstrous bird perched on a telephone pole. Turner claimed that the bird dropped something near the base of the pole. When police officers investigated the sighting, they found a huge rat near the spot.

Reports of giant birds continued to come in from Bloomington and the north central Illinois area, then finally further south, from Decatur to Macon and Sullivan. On July 30, the same day the birds were reported near Bloomington, a writer and construction worker named "Texas John Huffer" filmed two large birds while fishing at Lake Shelbyville. Huffer was a resident of Tuscola and was spending the day with his son when they both spotted the birds roosting in a tree. Huffer frightened the birds with his boat horn and when they took flight, he managed to shoot over 100 feet of film. He sold a portion of the footage to a television station in Champaign for a newscast. Huffer said that the largest bird had a wingspan of over 12 feet.

After the footage aired, experts were quick to dismiss Huffer's claims, along with the reports of everyone else who reported the birds. Officials from the Department of Conservation insisted the birds were "merely" Turkey Vultures of the species Cathartes aura. Not surprisingly, these claims were also refuted by wildlife experts and cryptozoologists who stated that no turkey vultures were of the size reported by witnesses. The largest flying land bird in North America is the California Condor, which has a wingspread of up to 9 feet. The Condor is also on the endangered species list and is restricted to a few areas in California. There is little chance that a few stray birds traveled to Illinois to attack small children!

Another tale, related by Loren Coleman, involved the killing of a giant bird in December 1977. Strangely, this event also took place near Lawndale. Apparently a woman was on her way to work one morning when she saw something that looked like "a man standing in the road with something over his arms". The woman collapsed and was hospitalized, but later recovered. A group of men, after hearing this report, went to the spot, killed a large bird, and then burned the body. The story was kept under wraps for some time for fear of ridicule.

So, what are these creatures? Some cryptozoological researchers like Loren Coleman believe that these thunderbirds may be Teratorns, a supposedly extinct bird that once roamed North and South America. If these prehistoric survivors are still around today, they could certainly account for the reports of the giant birds.




At this point, such creatures remain a mystery but one thing is sure, the sightings have continued over the years and occasionally an unusual report still trickles in from Central Illinois. So keep that in mind the next time that you are standing in an open field and a large, dark shadow suddenly fills the sky overhead. Was that just a cloud passing in front of the sun... or something else??

GIANT BIRD UPDATE: As late as Wednesday October 16, 2002, an article published in the Anchorage Daily News, and also picked up by the wire services, reported "a giant winged creature like something out of Jurassic Park" sighted several times in Southwest Alaska.

Cryptozoologist's Note: As recently as December 13, 2007, the following report was sent to me by one of the members on my friend's list.

Today I saw what looked like a freakishly large eagle. I thought it was a juvenile bald eagle but it didn't have any mottling and was very big. It was all very dark brown or light black and wingspan was around 8-10ft. I live in south central Iowa (about 7 miles from the Missouri border) and I see turkey vultures all the time. I've also seen lots of bald eagles and even a couple golden eagles when I've been out west on vacation. I'm not a bird watcher but I do like to look at nature when I can. I live on a farm with my dad raising buffalo. We have 40+ ponds and I've seen lots of blue herons, a few cormorants, one osprey, lots of canadian geese, and several other birds. However, what I saw today was much bigger than any canadian goose and about double the size of a turkey vulture. It was not quite double the size of a full grown bald eagle. It was only 40-50ft from me when it left its perch at the top of a small grain bin (where we store spare tires and such) and flew directly across my path. It's shape and flight looked like an eagle, but in slower motion. It didn't get much lift and it's wing beats were quite slow. But it did fly directly above a few of our buffalo and it's wingspan was the length of a full grown buffalo bull minus the head. So about 9ft, give or take a little. Anyway, I looked up condors and such and they don't migrate. I've never seen a bird like it and doubt I will again. But I'll carry my camera around with me for the next few days just in case. Have there been other odd sigtings like this around here lately?


Scott J.


And in 2009 I received the following report from another reader on my blog site:

As Reported to The Cryptozoologist


Reported by Ian Lewis

Date: Early September (Day and year not given)

Published with Permission


Cooper Camp & Caravan Site, Edale, Peak District, Manchester, England


Fine, sunny, bit of cloud.


Can't be to sure, but between two and five in the afternoon.


Early September.


Came back to tent in afternoon after short walk, due to the time of year only three or four other tents on the site, and those people were still out walking, so just me. Got in tent with the intention of havin' a snooze (like ya do) when all of a sudden lots of crows started makin' a ruckus ( that in itself ain't unusual in Edale; rookery about 200 yards away) but it usually means something is going on, so out of my tent I came...

The crows were airborne and trying to drive off a huge bird, jet black in colour, the bird was huge, and I do mean HUGE; difficult to judge wingspan as it was about half a mile away, but the crows were tiny compared to it ( I could only roughly guess about ten to fifteen foot ). The creature was immense and paid no attention to the crows whatsoever (which looking back seemed strange; it was almost as if wasn't aware of the other birds at all). Jet black in colour with longish beak, similar to a raven's in shape. I never once saw it flap its wings; it was just sort of gliding. It had feathers sticking out from the ends of its wings (just like in photo on your blog of giant bird B/W photo) and was in view less than a minute. There is a pass behind campsite on Kinder Scout called Grinsbrook and the thing flew in that direction and out of view, crows I might add still hot in pursuit. The bird made no sound at all, and like I say, seemed to be completely unaware of the other birds harassing it, even though they were virtually on top of it.

I am a keen walker/backpacker and have seen a few strange things, but this was something else! Taking a photo of it never even entered my mind 'till afterwards...I am not a person open to flights (no pun intended) of fancy, and I spend a great deal of my time outdoors. "Yes", I am interested in these subjects and "No", I don't believe in U. F. Os, radical or what. Had been to Edale campsite dozens of times before and since, but have never seen anything like it again.



P.S. I completely stand by all I remember about what I saw that September day,and it is accurate to the best of my memory.



Flying reptiles have captured the popular imagination ever since Arthur Conan Doyle made them part of his science fiction story The Lost World. These great creatures are thought to have been extinct since the Mesozoic era. Scientists named them "flying lizards" or pterosaurs (TERA sores), nearly two centuries ago, when their fossil remains were first found. How such large animals could actually fly has long been a scientific puzzle, since they weighed about as much as a human being. Today's hang-glider pilots must solve the problem of getting themselves airborne by using other aircraft, or leaping from great heights. How a giant lizard would take off is an unanswered question. The flying reptile was called "one of the greatest freaks of all time" by the late Harvard professor Percy Raymond. The flight mechanism was bat-like rather than bird-like. A membrane of skin stretched from the trunk to the front limb, but was attached to a greatly elongated fourth finger of the hand, and not to all four fingers as with a bat. Flying reptiles were probably soarers and gliders rather than active flyers. They could fold their wings like bats, and may have had similar roosting habits.


Until recently, it was thought that a wingspan of about 24 feet was the maximum size for one of these winged lizards. Then in 1971, Douglas Lawson, a University of Texas student, discovered the fossil bones of an even larger specimen with a wingspan of 36 to 39 feet. It was named after the Aztec god who looked like a feathered serpent: Quetzalcoatlus northropi. Pronounced "kwet zel KWAT lus," this creature was one of the last of the pterosaurs to survive. Its neck was extremely long, its slender jaws were toothless, and its head was topped by a long bony crest. Like other pterosaurs, it had fingers on the front edge of its wing with sharp claws that could grip prey.


The eating habits of Quetzalcoatlus are unknown, and there are different theories about the feeding habits of flying reptiles. Some experts think they ventured far out to sea, skimming over the surface of the water, and skillfully fed on fish. Others think they may have been carrion feeders, like modern vultures, and fed upon the carcasses of dinosaurs. Their long beaks and necks made them capable of probing deeply for food on sea or land.

Aeronautical engineers and paleontologists have theories about how large animals launched themselves into space and stayed there. As a flying machine Quetzalcoatlus lacked the muscle power to run rapidly until it reached an airspeed that allowed it to take off. Likewise, it did not have the muscle or skeletal structure to flap its wings constantly to maintain flight. Perhaps it became airborne by dropping from the height of a cliff, or the crest of a wave. Or perhaps it waited until the hot sun warmed the ground and created strong thermal updrafts. Maybe it could stand up on its hind legs, catch an appropriate breeze, and with a single flap of its wings and a kick of its feet become airborne. Once aloft, it may have stayed in the air for long periods, riding air currents with minimal effort as it soared slowly and gracefully over land or water looking for prey. Its aeronautical design suggests that it could coast more slowly than a bird, before it stalled and had to land. The great wings may have allowed it to land gently, but its size, weight and long, weak hind limbs suggest that it did not live in trees as birds do.

[Cryptozoologist's Comment: Another hypothesis, dismissed by mainstream scientists, is that the earth's atmosphere in the past was denser than it is today, perhaps by as much as 10%. A denser atmosphere would have permitted creatures such as the pterosaurs to easily become airborne without the necessity of launching themselves off a cliff, a condition that would seem to result in a virtual death sentence for any pterosaur that, for any reason, was forced to the ground or the surface of the water during its hunting forays.]

According to evolutionary theory, flying reptiles became extinct about the same time that dinosaurs did, at the close of the Age of Reptiles, or the Mesozoic Era. Even as they reached new records of size, a changing geography and their failure to adapt to new environments doomed pterosaurs. The Inland Sea, which covered so much of the interior of North America, drained away, and similar events around the globe affected the climate and food supply. Birds were better suited to flight and adapting for survival in almost every way, and became increasingly diversified.

Article by R. Jay Gangewere, Copyright 1998 Carnegie Magazine. All rights reserved.


Policeman Arturo Padilla of San Benito, Texas, was driving his police cruiser through the wee hours of the morning in 1976 when something unusual appeared in his headlights. It looked like a big bird. Only a few minutes later fellow officer Homer Galvan reported it too. A black silhouette that glided through the air. According to Galvan it moved without ever flapping it's wings.

A short time later Alverico Guajardo, a resident of Brownsville, Texas, reported he'd heard a thumping noise outside his mobile home at about nine-thirty at night. When he looked out the door he saw a monstrous bird standing in his yard. "It's like a bird, but it's not a bird," he said. "That animal is not from this world."


Sightings of the big bird multiplied. A radio station offered a reward for the creature's capture. A television station broadcast a picture of an alleged bird track. It was some twelve inches long. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, concerned that hunters might mistake a large rare and protected bird, like a whooping crane, for this creature announced that, "All birds are protected by state or federal law."

In February 1976 several school teachers told of a large flying creature, at least 12 feet across, diving at their cars as they drove to work. One of them checked the school library and found a name for the animal: A Pterosaur.

Pterosaurs were an order of reptiles that lived, and [are thought to have gone] extinct, with the dinosaurs. [According to evolutionary theory] they were the first true flying animals with vertebra. Their wings were composed of a membrane of skin that stretched from the side of the body, along the arm, out to the tip of an enormously elongated fourth finger, and then back to the ankle.

Computer analysis of pterosaur fossils suggest that they were slow gliders capable of making very tight airborne turns. A large Pteranodon, with a wingspan of 30 feet, could turn mid-flight in a circle only 34 feet in diameter.

The largest known Pterosaur (indeed the largest known flying animal of all time), the Quetzalcoatlus, had a wingspan of 50 feet (larger than that of many small planes) and weighed about 190 pounds. Unlike many of the other Pterosaurs, Quetzalcoatlus lived inland and probably had a vulture-like existence. It's long neck would have helped it to "probe" dinosaur carcasses for meat.

Quetzalcoatlus, interestingly enough, brings us back to Texas. The first Quetzalcoatlus fossils were discovered in Big Bend National Park, Texas, in 1972, just four years before the first sightings of the Texas "Big Bird." Is there a connection?

Have there been Pterosaurs hiding in Texas [since the Age of Reptiles]? Or could it be that the publicity surrounding the discovery of Quetzalcoatlus four years earlier triggered the misidentification of normal large birds like the sandhill crane, the brown pelican or the vulture? We may never know, because after the two month flap of sightings in 1976, reports of the big birds dwindled. The Pterosaurs, if they ever existed, have gone back into hiding.

Copyright Lee Krystek 1996. All Rights Reserved.



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