Updating the True Ghost Stories Page recently, I once again came across several reports of huge birds that I received around 2006. It intrigued me enough to go searching for more information. I remember trying to research the phenomenon at the time I originally received the stories, and not finding much. Fortunately, the web is far bigger today and I have discovered some intriguing information about huge bird sightings.
First, the basics: the largest known living flying bird (as opposed to flightless ones like ostriches), the wandering albatross, has a wingspan from 8 to 11.5 feet. Other huge birds include storks, pelicans, the Andean condor, with a wingspan up to 10 feet, and the endangered California condor, which tops out at 9.5 feet across. Only the last species lives in the United States; other large U.S. birds include bald eagles and golden eagles. Birds with larger wingspans, such as the astonishing 23 foot wide Giant Teratorn, are extinct.
Nevertheless, people in modern times have reported sightings of huge birds whose wingspans easily surpass any known living species. Many of the sightings take place in Texas, but these gigantic animals have also been spotted in Australia, Alaska, Alabama, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and other places. Reports range from solitary birds sitting in trees to entire flocks of eight or more birds. Although the Native American legend of the Thunderbird is sometimes mentioned as an aside to the sightings, very few of the eyewitness accounts make any supernatural claims; they are describing birds engaging in ordinary birdlike behavior, unremarkable but for their incredibly large size.
What could these birds be? Theories range from relict animals (species believed to be extinct but perhaps still living) to simple optical illusion, causing large birds to look even larger in the eye of the beholder due to lack of perspective or landmarks against which to compare. Mistaken identity does likely account for some of the sightings, but what of the giant birds seen taking off from trees?
Compounding the mystery is that reports are often clustered around a place and time (perhaps the most famous of these being the Big Bird sightings in Texas in the 1970s) and then either abruptly or gradually peter out. The group of stories I received during the year 2006 would seem to bear this out. Perhaps the birds only swoop low enough or through populated places under certain conditions, or perhaps public reports encourage others to share their stories. Whatever the case, this mystery continues to fascinate me due to its earthly nature, and I would love to hear more experiences from readers.