Believe it or not, the Ostrich is one of the most-farmed animals in the world today. But in the past, there were many other birds of similar size. Let’s take a look at some of the largest ones, and some of the most vicious.
Believe it or not, the Ostrich is one of the most-farmed animals in the world today. But in the past, there were many other birds of similar size. Let’s take a look at some of the largest ones–and some of the most vicious.
The largest living bird today, the Ostrich is well known for both its size and its speed. Ostriches have been known to run as fast as 46 miles per hour, making them one of the fastest land animals in the world.
Lesser known is the fact that the Ostrich is a heavily farmed animal, for both its leather and its meat, as well as other byproducts.
Ostriches can be viciously territorial, and have been known to attack and even kill humans.
Now extinct, the Giant Moa has been called the tallest bird that ever lived. The largest species may have stood as tall as 13 feet to the head. They were herbivores, and their great height may have allowed them to eat from trees above where other large grazing animals could reach.
The Moa is but one among many iconic birds of New Zealand, most of them extinct today. It was hunted to extinction by native Maori tribesmen during the centuries before Europeans discovered the island in 1770.
Believed by many scientists to have been a predator, Gaston’s Bird–gastornis–was an even larger animal than the Ostrich or the Giant Moa, with a giant, powerful beak believed to have been used to kill and tear at prey. Some scientists believe that this bird did not even have traditional feathers, but instead fur-like down better at resisting the elements.
Gaston’s Bird is named after French physicist Gaston Planté, who discovered the first fossils near Paris, an achievement soon overshadowed by his discoveries in physics.
The third largest bird on our list is the Terror Bird, specifically genus Brontornis. Weighing in at around 800 pounds, these birds were the largest and most dominant predator in South America millions of years ago. Scientists believe that it was an ambush predator, pouncing out at its prey from a hiding place and bringing down its prey quickly. Its great weight would have made it ill-suited for long chases, unlike today’s Ostrich.
Like gastornis, the Terror Bird was very heavy-set and had an enormous, powerful beak.
The largest bird of its time, and possibly in all history, the Elephant bird is believed to have been extinct since the 16th century. It weighed in at almost half a ton, or 1,000 pounds, standing at a height of 10 feet to the head.
The Elephant Bird was likely herbivorous, related to the Ostrich, and was hunted by natives on its home island of Madagascar. Scientists believe that habitat destruction, not hunting, was a more likely cause of its eventual extinction.