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The Giant Prehistoric Bird Thread

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  • Registered Users Posts: 30,747 ✭✭✭✭ Galvasean


    Seems like a lot to extrapolate based on one incomplete bone. I'm sure they could deduce it was avian and most likely related to Pelagornis, but to state the exact genus seems a bit over reaching to me.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor


    Galvasean wrote: »
    Seems like a lot to extrapolate based on one incomplete bone. I'm sure they could deduce it was avian and most likely related to Pelagornis, but to state the exact genus seems a bit over reaching to me.

    Yeah, well, you know they do that a lot :/


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,551 Rubecula


    Right or wrong it does make you think that perhaps these creatures had a lifestyle perhaps similar to a wandering albatross. (Which goes to sea for 10 years before returning to land to breed.)

    Something that big must have had a similar method of flying I think.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor


    Rubecula wrote: »
    Right or wrong it does make you think that perhaps these creatures had a lifestyle perhaps similar to a wandering albatross. (Which goes to sea for 10 years before returning to land to breed.)

    Something that big must have had a similar method of flying I think.

    Indeed, and so it is possible that they didn´t have a very definite distribution- they could probably fly enormous distances and show up anywhere in the globe, as has also been suggested for some giant marine pterosaurs :>


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor


    Scientists say a recently discovered footprint may suggest so. Im not sure I buy their reasons, tho. According to them, "all carnivorous birds have sharp, long talons".

    Only, modern day carnivorous birds can fly.

    This guy was flightless and its toenails were worn from constant walking on the ground. The toenails of T. rex were rather blunt too (they were more like ostrich toenails than eagle talons). The thing Diatryma and T. Rex have in common is that whatever they were eating, they used their jaws, not their feet, to get their food.

    As for their being slow, they could have been ambush hunters. I think we should wait until we find its stomach contents or something to be really sure...

    http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112736041/giant-eocene-bird-peaceful-herbivore-112312/

    tumblr_m9rt3chWOM1remqayo1_1280.jpg


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  • Registered Users Posts: 30,747 ✭✭✭✭ Galvasean


    If you ask me, the beak apears to be overdeveloped for a plant eating lifestyle. Unless, of course, it ate particularly large nuts or hard shelled fruits.
    I'd imagine such birds would have made excellent scavengers. There weren't many other large predators of note so they could probably intimidate rivals with their size. The massive beak looks like* it would be capable of cracking through bone so Gastrnis could then gorge itself on the nutritious marrow.

    *Have there been any studies to show how powerful said beak was?


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,551 Rubecula


    Coconuts?


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor


    Rubecula wrote: »
    Coconuts?

    Could be... apparently coconuts and coconut-like fruits were already around by then but, have any been found around where Gastornis lived? If it had been specialized on that they should have been very abundant...

    Been looking at its skull and comparing it to living birds that have somewhat similar beaks, btw:
    images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT7EiruOsYr5ed8BH1YEscrfDhqNj-kzhtLxwMtwMtqEoUyZuZd

    The most similar I found is this, the thick-billed raven from Africa, which is an omnivore with a tendency to carnivory.

    images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRb_s4zbryJaoH7fOxdirlIXDTGqepdd7QrMJ4g5DlJ6bEjLPw4

    images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS2kRTfRTUENvXurpp3t0LvFhxXuC9c-NcvRLVnEiBke_-wPXuqRw

    images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSZKyTcR0XUTfzxXca-XZxVsBkasllwKsSXYrwSRsUVNXL0zJNHgw
    There's also the Helmet Vanga which is much smaller but still has a somewhat similar bill. This one feeds mostly on small animals, especially large insects.
    Helmet-Vanga-1350.jpg

    MAD_HelmetVanga_TonyMills.jpg


  • Registered Users Posts: 30,747 ✭✭✭✭ Galvasean


    That thick billed raven's beak looks a lot lik that of Dromornis, another giant flightless prehistoric bird with a question mark over its dietary habits.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dromornis_stirtoni


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor




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  • Registered Users Posts: 30,747 ✭✭✭✭ Galvasean


    I really wish news outlets wouldn't wouldn't refer to Gastornis as a 'terror bird'. It just gets people confusing them with the phorusrhacidae.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor


    Galvasean wrote: »
    I really wish news outlets wouldn't wouldn't refer to Gastornis as a 'terror bird'. It just gets people confusing them with the phorusrhacidae.

    I agree. Now people will think actual terror birds are vegetarian :(


  • Registered Users Posts: 30,747 ✭✭✭✭ Galvasean


    Clamboured up on my soapbox about it...
    http://www.krank.ie/category/sci/gastornis/


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor


    I'm not going to start defending the predator theory now that evidence is piling up against it, BUT... I always thought the footprints were very poor evidence. I mean, there are no flightless raptors nowadays, and no predatory birds of that size. That means we really have no reason to expect sharp talons in a creature like Gastornis; I would expect its claws to be blunt and worn out, same as those of most large theropods- after all the feet would be busy carrying the creature around while it did all the dirty work with its beak...


  • Registered Users Posts: 30,747 ✭✭✭✭ Galvasean


    Good point. Also, considering just how big Gastornis was they could have trampled small critters to death. Blunt trauma being a good weapon and all. That said, the isotope analysis is very compelling evidence for herbivority (is that a word).


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor


    I think the word is herbivory :B

    And true; now that I think about it, the secretary bird kills most of its prey- venomous snakes included- by trampling them :>


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor




  • Registered Users Posts: 8,551 Rubecula


    The Moa is a sad loss I feel. What a wonderful bird it must have been. Ditto the Elephant bird of Madagascar. And the Haart's Eagle too.


  • Registered Users Posts: 30,747 ✭✭✭✭ Galvasean


    It's weird to think that they were roaming around so recently.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor




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  • Registered Users Posts: 30,747 ✭✭✭✭ Galvasean


    So Haast's eagle was perhaps not as powerful as we thought?


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor


    Powerful enough to eat people if old Maori stories are to be believed :cool:


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor




  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 9,367 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Manach


    When I see mention of New Zealand I think Middle Earth.
    But, given the distance between there and Australia, and the description of the proto-Kiwi as chicken sized - how likely would it be for a sufficient population to fly there but instead to independently evolve from the Moa.


  • Registered Users Posts: 25,560 ✭✭✭✭ Kess73


    Adam Khor wrote: »
    Powerful enough to eat people if old Maori stories are to be believed :cool:



    Would tend to believe that the Haast Eagle was capable of taking down very large prey.

    Modern day Golden Eagles have been confirmed as having attacked and killed adult swans, adult foxes, adult badgers (American and Eurasian), adult reindeer, adult sheep, and even young cattle up to about 100kg.

    A Haast Eagle would have been up to 50% or so heavier than a Golden eagle and it's remains suggest it was much more strongly build. Basically designed perfectly to take out larger prey than what a modern day Golden eagle can.

    Cannot think of any reason why a large Haast eagle could not have attacked and killed a human. The initial strike from such a large raptor would leave a grown man in no position to be able to defend himself.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 9,367 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Manach


    Well as Aeschylus discovered to his cost, all eagles have to do is to divebomb using turtles.


  • Registered Users Posts: 8,551 Rubecula


    Kess73 wrote: »
    Would tend to believe that the Haast Eagle was capable of taking down very large prey.

    Modern day Golden Eagles have been confirmed as having attacked and killed adult swans, adult foxes, adult badgers (American and Eurasian), adult reindeer, adult sheep, and even young cattle up to about 100kg.

    A Haast Eagle would have been up to 50% or so heavier than a Golden eagle and it's remains suggest it was much more strongly build. Basically designed perfectly to take out larger prey than what a modern day Golden eagle can.

    Cannot think of any reason why a large Haast eagle could not have attacked and killed a human. The initial strike from such a large raptor would leave a grown man in no position to be able to defend himself.

    I remember seeing a clip on youtube showing a golden eagle taking on a Grizzly bear, and winning despite the size difference. Didn't kill the bear of course, but had it running for it's life.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 5,279 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Adam Khor


    Kess73 wrote: »
    Would tend to believe that the Haast Eagle was capable of taking down very large prey.

    Modern day Golden Eagles have been confirmed as having attacked and killed adult swans, adult foxes, adult badgers (American and Eurasian), adult reindeer, adult sheep, and even young cattle up to about 100kg.

    Cannot think of any reason why a large Haast eagle could not have attacked and killed a human. The initial strike from such a large raptor would leave a grown man in no position to be able to defend himself.

    A golden eagle could kill a human, if motivated enough. In central Asia golden eagles are trained to hunt wolves, which may not be as heavy as the cattle you mention, but are surely more dangerous game. The eagle uses one talon to shut the wolf's jaws close, and the other to hold it still. Apparently the hunters usually try to get to the wolf before the eagle can do much damage to the skin, but I think I do remember reading about the eagle itself doing the kill. In Africa, children have been mauled by crowned eagles and the skulls of babies/toddlers have been found in their nests (which would make them the only bird of prey that still see us as prey).

    We also tend to forget that there was another eagle as large as the Haast's eagle in North America- it may have encountered humans as well, and was probably more similar to the golden eagle as it was used to hunting in open spaces, rather than forested areas like the Haast's.
    Manach wrote: »
    Well as Aeschylus discovered to his cost, all eagles have to do is to divebomb using turtles.

    Wasn´t that a bearded vulture?


  • Registered Users Posts: 25,560 ✭✭✭✭ Kess73


    Rubecula wrote: »
    I remember seeing a clip on youtube showing a golden eagle taking on a Grizzly bear, and winning despite the size difference. Didn't kill the bear of course, but had it running for it's life.


    They are also confirmed as predating on bear cubs ( Black and brown bears)


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  • Registered Users Posts: 25,560 ✭✭✭✭ Kess73


    Adam Khor wrote: »
    A golden eagle could kill a human, if motivated enough. In central Asia golden eagles are trained to hunt wolves, which may not be as heavy as the cattle you mention, but are surely more dangerous game. The eagle uses one talon to shut the wolf's jaws close, and the other to hold it still. Apparently the hunters usually try to get to the wolf before the eagle can do much damage to the skin, but I think I do remember reading about the eagle itself doing the kill. In Africa, children have been mauled by crowned eagles and the skulls of babies/toddlers have been found in their nests (which would make them the only bird of prey that still see us as prey).

    We also tend to forget that there was another eagle as large as the Haast's eagle in North America- it may have encountered humans as well, and was probably more similar to the golden eagle as it was used to hunting in open spaces, rather than forested areas like the Haast's.



    Wasn´t that a bearded vulture?


    Have little doubt that they have the tools to do so. Could easily imagine the initial strike possessing the force required to stun a human and maybe even breaking the neck of a human if the strike connected just right.

    You are spot on about how they use their talons on prey that is capable of fighting back, and those talons are deceptively strong.


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