Five of the Largest Birds in History

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.

Giant Moa

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.

Gaston’s Bird

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.

Terror Bird

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.

Elephant Bird

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.

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7 Responses to “Five of the Largest Birds in History”
  1. chocolate Says...

    On September 3, 2008 at 3:36 pm


  2. co Says...

    On February 2, 2010 at 9:55 am

    the gastornis is a great bird NICE!

  3. JP Says...

    On February 5, 2010 at 6:42 am

    would not it be nice to see that bird in life.
    pity that the time travel does not exist!

  4. Pranav Says...

    On February 28, 2010 at 3:22 am

    man….terrorbird is cool.

  5. ana galvan Says...

    On September 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    the gaston birb is the largest bird in the history of birds

  6. mostpopulararticle Says...

    On January 12, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Your Triond feed was subscribed by The Triond Experiment blog and when your articles happen to be related to the blog posts, your article links are automatically pulled up and attached with the blog posts as “Read Related Articles”.

    This article is currently showed as a Related Article under Five Largest Lakes in the World .

    Thanks and best of luck!

  7. jeff cumingham Says...

    On February 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    i love thees birds

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