The Terror Bird
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
Although a couple-million year ago, may sound like a long time (which it is for us humans), it’s not really that long of a time period in the history of the Earth, which spans hundreds of millions of years back into the past. Nearly around the time of the Sabre-toothed Tiger, there was one of the most interesting birds that existed in the world. If you already read the title, you would know what scientists call it. Yes, today we are talking all about the Terror Bird.
Not a monster
Imagine a bird, as tall as the ceiling, with a giant hooked beak and massive claws for feet. Although it couldn’t fly because of how big it was, these birds were fast, and dangerous hunters. They would use their long necks and massive beaks to protect themselves against the humans. Those sharp claws would have helped as well. Of course, this bird happened to live just around the time us humans started to spread around the world. Terror birds have gone extinct a long time ago, so there’s nothing to be afraid of anymore. Besides, as scary as they may look like, you can’t call these birds ‘monsters’ just because of that.
Even though everyone calls them ‘Terror birds,’ their official name given by the many archaeologists is Phorusrhacids. With a name that looks like that, no wonder people preferred to call them by this infamous name. These birds were different in size. Some grew to be about a metre, while the others sometimes grew to be around three metres in height. The biggest terror bird of them all was the infamous Titanus walleri.
Of course, I’m pretty sure you would have already guessed by now that this bird hunted and ate prey to survive.
Much like the beaks of predatory birds, the hooked beak heled these birds to break down chunks of meat into bite sized pieces. Palaeontologists are still trying to figure out if they hunted alone, or in groups. What we do know though is that these were some of the apex predators of their time, ruling the land with very little competition by other creatures in the American, as well as South American continent, especially in the Savannah grasslands of the time.
If the Terror bird was that successful of a predator; you might be wondering, ‘what happened?’ Turns out that there were a number of reasons why scientists think Terror birds started to become extinct.
Although there is an argument that early humans were a threat to it. Also, as the land that connected South with North America started to appear as time went on, more predators from other regions started entering the Terror bird’s habitat, which led to predators from the north started to creep in. With increased competition, Terror birds were not able to keep up, and slowly perished. Today, only one species of terror bird remain, which is a long lost cousin of the bird species. Yes, we are talking about the Seriema from South America, the last of its linage from the family Cariamidae.
Search for more
Now it’s your turn to go out and search for yourself about the Terror bird. Try to see if what I said was right, and do your own research. Who knows, one day, you might even be a researcher of the terror Birds, and discover something new that can change everything we knew about the birds.