Posted By Lauriel O. Posted On

“Argentavis Magnificens” it’s the largest species of flying bird ever discovered

Argentavis is an extinct flying bird genus within the Teratornithidae family and Aves class.

Argentavis was one of the world’s largest flying bird groups to ever exist, and the species described in 2014, Pelagornis sandersi, probably exceeds it in wingspan.

The only species Argentavis magnificens is sometimes known as the Giant Teratorn. Fossils of this extinct species were collected from three sites of the Andalhuala and Epecuen Formation.

This formation, situated in north-western and central, Argentina (South America) dates back to the Late Miocene period in the Huayquerian around 9-6.8 million years ago, and a good number of Argentavis fossil remains have been recovered.

The known upper arm bone or humerus of the Argentavis specimen was damaged to some extent. This arm was a little shorter in comparison of size to the human arm.

The body length, tip of the bill to tip of the tail was 138 in (3.5 m). These species are almost as tall as a human and measured around 59-66 in (1.5-1.8 m).

These predatory birds were large with large wings with weak breast muscles. However, this allowed fairly right estimates of their life’s length.

These vulture-like Argentavis species are known from a single upper arm bone or humerus structure that is damaged to some extent.

This humerus was only a little smaller in comparison of size to a human arm.

Estimates show that these large species had large feet, strong legs with stout and this would have allowed them to walk easily. Their bill was slender and large and had a wide gap near the hooked tip.

These enormous birds are given the name ‘master gliders’. From these birds’ structure and size of their wings, they would mainly fly for short periods by soaring and flapping.

They also might have used thermal currents. The estimated minimal flight velocity (speed) was 25 mph (40 kph). Their takeoff would depend on the wind too.

Their wings too were too long for flapping until they were off the ground, even though they had strong legs that had the ability to provide jumping or running start.

Flying simulations of these species were created by Sankar Chatterjee of the Museum of Texas Tech University.

This study indicated that Argentavis could not have produced the required lift for taking off by running. A little height was necessary for take-off.

The estimation of maximum power that their flight muscles might generate was done by Chatterjee, which showed that it was three and a half times less than the minimum power required for flying.

The maximum speed calculated by Chatterjee was 43.4 mph (70 kph).

So, he also thinks that these birds were capable of soaring for a large distance and despite their size, they fly through the air as easily as the smaller white stork or buzzard.

6 million years ago Argentina was drier and hotter than today, so the powerful thermals needed for their lift were present in the air.

These species were scavengers and fed mostly on carrion. These animals would search for food in their large range of about 190 sq mi (500 sp km) and possibly utilized the north-south directions to escape adverse winds.

These predatory teratorns seem to be aerodynamically less adapted for predation than their related species.

These species had eagle-like long beaks and were active predators, which is quite different in extant condors and vultures.

They could catch their prey in the air and eat them without landing on the ground. They might have used their large size to scare land predators to feed on their kíll.

It is indicated from the structure of the skull that these species swallowed their prey in one piece rather than tearing them up.

These animals were possibly pretty aggressive as they were active predators.

These giant birds preferred a habitat range with hot and dry open, large spaces.

Across the Andean foothills of Argentina, the climate was drier and warmer compared to current conditions and this also would have allowed the birds to stay aloft on top of thermal updrafts.

Comparing these birds of the Late Miocene era from Argentina with extant birds indicated that these birds could have laid one or two eggs and the mass of the Argentavis egg could have been 2.2 lb (1 kg), which is smaller than ostrich eggs.

Argentavis breeding depends on the climate due to which the eggs were probably incubated over winter. Both parents generally would take turns gathering food and incubating the eggs.

After around 16 months the young one would become independent but would only reach maturity after a dozen years.