Name: Elephant Bird
Scientific Name: Aepyomithiadao
Common Names: Aepyornis, Vavompatra, Varon patra
Historical Period: Pleistocene
Average Height: 10 ft
Average Weight: 1,000 lbs
Eggs: Average circumference of 3 ft, average length of 13 inches long. It is estimated that one could create 40 omelets from these eggs!
About: The “Elephant Bird” is a bird which is currently extinct. The name “Elephant Bird” does not stem from it’s being as large as an elephant (though large, it is not that big) but rather from the fact that at the time of its existence, it was large enough and strong enough to carry off a baby elephant. These birds were native to the island of Madagascar. They thrived there for many years in their island environment with no large predators. Despite the resistance of native peoples however, European settlers began to arrive on the island in the 16th century. The first settlers were Portuguese, arriving in 1500. Following that, the French began to arrive on and settle the island, and by 1642, these birds were already becoming quite rare. It is estimated that they became extinct by 1700. It is thought that the elephant bird is the largest bird ever to live, weighing in at 1,000 pounds, and standing at approximately 10 feet tall. The Elephant bird was flightless, and bred slowly. It is mentioned in several pieces of literature, including the book “New Zealand” by Ferdinand Von Hochstetter. It is also featured in a short story by H.G. Wells, entitled, “Aepyornis Island”. There is a painting by Walton Ford entitled “Madagascar” , which was painted in 2002. It is believed that the explorer Marco Polo could have been talking about elephant birds when, in his memoirs, he describes the Great Khan asking him to investigate sightings of a massive bird. The eggs of the elephant bird are mentioned in “Harmsworth Natural History” (1910)
“For a long period the marshes of Madagascar have yielded the egg-shells of enormous extinct birds, in search of which the natives are accustomed to probe with iron rods; the largest of these eggs having a longer circumference of upwards of thirty-six inches, and a girth of thirty inches.”
Athough these birds are mentioned in several areas of literature, and these large eggs have been found, it still remains uncertain as to whether or not all accounts are referring to the same species or not. However, such is the case with any ancient or extinct creature: we can only imagine and hypothesize what the world was like millions of years ago-since we can not see the marvels (which surely existed) with our own eyes!