Phorusrhacidae and the Terror Birds

Phorusrhacidae, (Pronounced for'-u-SA'-chee-day) -- Before you say 'what the hell is that??' Don't worry, I just heard about them the other day. Perhaps they have been a carefully kept secret to keep us all from fleeing in terror, despite the fact that they've been extinct for the last 2 - 60 million years. [Photo: If that's not terrifying, I just don't know what is. Source.]

I first stumbled across these feathered ferocities while researching ancient civilizations in South America. Needless to say, I was thoroughly distracted from the cause at hand. 

Phorsrhacidae Terror Bird Recreation
The Phorusrhacidae, aptly nick-named the "Terror Birds," were several specials of Giant Carnivorous Birds that once roamed North and South America. Surprisingly, this was millions of years before the giant mammals of the Americas came about. 

 Keywords here: Giant. Carnivorous. Oh, the bird part is pretty interesting too, since previously the only massive birds I knew of were Madagascar's Elephant Bird and the Moa from New Zealand. And those were okay. Those were herbivores. 

Terror Birds stood between 1 - 3 meters tall, and could run at speeds of up to 65km / hour. It's really no wonder they were the Apex Predator of their day (and another reason to be thankful that we weren't around 60 million years ago.)

Terror Bird Size compared to Human
Just big enough to bite your head off! Photo Credit.
 I've always read that birds evolved from dinosaurs, velociraptors had feathers, and T-Rex's closest living relative is the chicken, but I'd never quite seen the relation. That is, until I saw the skeleton of Phorsrhacidae! After that, it all makes sense. I mean, seriously. He looks like a velociraptor. 

Phorusrhacidae and Velociraptor Skeletons
Terror Bird "Titanis" Skeleton to the Left, and Velociraptor "mongoliensis" Skeleton to the Right. Credits: Titanis, Raptor
 Here, you can see how the skeleton of a Terror Bird compares with its predecessor from the Cretaceous Period. The main difference is that Terror Bird is a Bird, while the Velociraptor was somewhere in the middle of the evolutionary stage between reptiles and birds.

Unlike modern reptiles, Velociraptor was warm-blooded, and research suggests that Velociraptors may have been entirely covered in feathers! So, we can see that he was quite far along on his journey to becoming a bird. Again, we can be thankful that neither the Velociraptor nor the Terror Bird could fly!

Another difference is that Sir Terror Bird seems to have traded in a mouth full of teeth for a hefty beak that represents about 80% of his skull! Studies show that Terror Birds most likely kicked and pecked their prey to death before tearing them to shreds with that monstrosity of a beak. 

Prehistoric Terror Bird Skull
That skull looks like a helmet to me! Photo Credit.
Anyway, this article was pretty much to share the story of the Terror Birds, which frankly, I never knew existed. I was pretty happy with the largest birds being the herbivorous Elephant Birds, but hey, at least now we have something new to haunt our dreams!

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About Flame Rozario

A self-proclaimed Crypto-anthropologist with a personal interest in ancient intelligent civilizations, underwater archaeology, and the truth that lies behind the legend. I write about a combination of fact, fantasy, and my own personal theories. Why? Because I can.


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