In 1983, excavations for a new terminal at the Charleston International Airport in Charleston, South Carolina, began with a bang, as metal hit bone. The construction workers had stumbled upon a fossil so big that it required a backhoe to unearth. Now, over thirty years later, the remains have been identified as that of the largest known bird ever to have flown our skies.
The creature lived 25 to 28 million years ago and had a wingspan of 20 to 24 feet—twice that of the largest volant (i.e., flying) bird alive today, the wandering albatross.
Like the albatross, this ancient enormous bird soared long-range over the ocean, but how it managed to do so with a mass and wingspan that seemingly defies aerodynamic theory had, until recently, been a mystery. “Anyone with a beating heart would have been struck with awe,” says paleontologist Dr. Daniel Ksepka, whose study of the bird’s flight performance was published July 7, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This bird would have just blotted out the sun as it swooped overhead. Up close, it may have called to mind a dragon."
Discovery of the Biggest Bird That Ever Flew Rewrites Our Planet’s Histories and Mysteries