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Wednesday 13 May 2015

Mysterious Big Birds

     I'm in a quandary. I don't know whether to include this essay in my Cryptozoology or my Anomalies blog. Aficionados of both will be aware that occasionally they overlap. An obvious example is the appearance of bigfoot-like creatures in the vicinity of flying saucers. Similarly, back in the UK, black panthers are usually assumed to be flesh and blood, and placed in the cryptozoology pigeon hole, while black dogs seem to possess spectral qualities, and thus are classified along with ghosts and goblins.
     Thus, although I have problems with the idea of thunderbirds with wingspans of six or seven metres, I would not rule them out, and so would classify them as a cryptozoological mystery. However, the accounts you are about to read contain additional elements of weirdness which lead me to record them in the current blog. You be the judge.

  We will start with the experience of Ted Phillips, a researcher for the Mutual UFO Network, whose field of study, UFO traces, led him to a multi-year investigation of a region of mind-boggling weirdness in a remote part of Missouri, which he calls Marley Woods. On the night of 15 January 2010 he had set himself up in a shed, along with monitoring equipment, having placed some tarpaulin over the open door and the two sides which consisted of just wire screen. About a quarter past nine, after he had made a video sweep and shut down the camcorders, he heard "an extremely loud sound like air being forced through an almost-closed valve" approach and pass by the shed.
     Just as he was regaining his composure, his ears were assailed with what sounded like the flapping of gigantic wings. It lasted about 20 seconds, after which he ran outside, but could see nothing.
     Next, there came the crashing of something huge through the brushwork, and the intruder stood by the doorway, fiddling with the tarp about eight feet [2½ metres] from the ground. Mr Phillips positioned himself in front of propane lantern, so that his form, brandishing a 9 mm automatic pistol, would have stood out in silhouette, and perhaps that was the reason the intruder departed. It left no tracks.
Reference: Ted Phillips (Dec 2010), 'Close encounters: New mysteries focus on tarps, lights, and a really big bird', MUFON UFO Journal 512: 14-15

     Later in the year, a huge bird appeared at South Greensburg, Pennsylvania. It was about 8.10 pm on the evening of 26 August 2010, just after dark.  No reference was made to the lighting in the area, but four people were preparing a barbecue when suddenly they heard a loud swoosh, and saw a gigantic bird flying above a tree 30 - 40 feet [9-12 m] overhead, before heading down the road. I shall now quote the account by the researcher, Stan Gordon:
     When first observed, the massive wings of the creature were in an upward position and were beginning to drop slowly, almost as if they were rolling to the bottom. The swoosh sound could be heard when the wings were moving. The powerful bird had flown about 125 yards down the road, at which time the wings were coming back up. The creature was observed as it continued to move steadily down the road, passing just above the roof top of a house with its wings flapping slowly and steadily about 3-4 times until it reached a group of trees about ¼ mile [400 m] away, where it was lost from sight. It took about 20 seconds to go the ¼ mile distance.
     I interviewed two of the witnesses at the scene and they were able to provide a detailed description of the giant flying creature. As it passed over, it appeared as though it was peering below, with its head and beak positioned downward. It was estimated that if the bird was on the ground it would stand between 4 ½ to 5 feet [1.2 - 1.5 m] tall. The entire body was the same dark color, either darkish brown or black. The body width was about 25-30 inches [63 - 76 cm] wide. One witness said the body, “was very bulky and husky.”
     The head was oval shaped, and the beak was short for the size of the animal, about 8-10 inches [20-25 cm] long. The tail was about 2 feet [61 cm] long and came out wide to a point. It was the size of the wingspan of the creature that impressed the witnesses, which they estimated at 10 feet [3 m] or more in length.
     Let us dissect this report. One assumes that the researcher checked out the distances involved. Witnesses' estimates of time tend to err considerably on the high side ie it was probably in view for a lot less than 20 seconds. However, if their estimate is accurate, then its speed was 45 mph or 72 kph. This is quite reasonable for a bird that size, or even for many smaller birds.
     The size of a bird seen against the sky is difficult to estimate, but it is a different matter when it is close overhead to trees and a road. Of course, we should the quoted dimensions as guesswork only. However, to put them in perspective, you might like to spread a tape measure against yourself. As for me, I am six feet tall, and 18-19 inches across the shoulders. In other words, the witnesses gained the impression that its body was as big as a man's torso. As for a wingspan of 10 feet, I can only assume that they meant each individual wing, which would be the minimum for something as big as that.
     Of course, Pennsylvania is well-known for "thunderbird" sightings, and there is nothing in the above story which implies anything by a flesh and blood animal. The same cannot easily be said for the next account.
Reference: I originally saw this quoted in Phillips' report referenced above. Phillips cited Albert Rosales' Journal of Humanoid Studies, vol. 1, no. 6. Fortunately, this can now be downloaded in PDF form from Rosales' own website. The account is on pages 7-8. However, Rosales took it from the website of the researcher, Stan Gordon. Scroll down to the date of August 26. 2010. And while you are at it, pause to read about the even weirder creature at March 18, 2011. See also his report in the Salem News.

     Now let us go across the Pacific and across the years. Here in Australia we have two ufologists whose expertise, intelligence, and persistence are head and shoulders above the rest: Keith Basterfield and Bill Chalker. It was Bill Chalker who, in 1985, received a 19-page letter from an old man called Cecil McGann, about events that took place in 1927, when he was just ten years old. Apparently, it had been four years in the writing, at the urging of one of his sisters, called Dorothy. Bill was able to interview both of them personally in 1986.
     The events took place over a period of a few weeks at their small dairy farm in a district called Fernvale. The nearest large town is Murwillumbah, not far from the Queensland border, on the New South Wales side. Since Chalker's account can be read in full in the reference cited below, I shall merely summarise what took place:

  • UFO sightings -  nocturnal lights, with one close encounter of the second kind. Some neighbours saw them too. This was 20 years before anyone had ever heard of flying saucers.
  • Cows terrified, and some of them died.
  • Pigs gone missing, and some dead with puncture wounds.
  • An intruder making loud noises and leaving footprints around the house. There was a strong smell of poultry in the air, and in the morning Cecil discovered two "speckly" feathers two to three feet [60 - 90 cm] long, from an unrecognizable species.
  • A "man in white"

     Most significantly for our story, as Cecil was going to school, he saw a bird well over five feet [150 cm] high standing motionless and upright like a penguin on a dead tree near the school, its plumage shining in the morning sun. He ran and told the teacher, but by the time they had come out to look, it had disappeared. When he informed his parents, they dropped a bombshell. He remembered how a neighbour had previously sought refuge in their house one night because he had seen an "apparition". Now they told him that the apparition had been a huge bird on the ground which had flapped its wings at him.
     Another time, Cecil and one of his brothers were walking around in broad daylight when they heard what sounded like "talking and laughing". It turned out to being made by two birds gliding overhead - and they appeared to be two or three times as large as a wedge-tailed eagle (the largest flying bird in the area and, indeed, in the country). Also, another sister and one of their parents had gone out on the veranda one evening, and had seen a huge bird hopping down the hill, flapping its wings.
     That was 88 years ago. Somehow, I don't think there is a breeding population of gigantic birds out there now.
Reference: Bill Chalker (2001), 'Strange creatures on the Antipodean UFO trail', Myths and Monsters 2001 Conference (Sydney), pp 21-37. It can be downloaded in PDF form here.


  1. Replies
    1. I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the term, Ropen.

  2. He was doing research, he shuts his cameras off and then hears something startling, he regains his composure, then hears another startling sound that last 20 seconds, he goes outside and hears a startling crashing in the brush and see's something but never thought to turn the camera's back on???????? Maybe he should except the fact that research is not his forte.

  3. Had my own thunderbird sighting a number of years ago. Tried posting it on a crypto site, but was mock by one individual who seemed to have co-opted the place. He had his little group of toadies as backup. Not sure if he was there for disinformation purposes or a jealous wannabe. Almost gave up, but found another place where I posted my experience. Heard from two other individuals from the Midwest (my area) about having seen a similar bird in their states.
    Do not discount reports because of the extraordinary wingspan. The wings I saw were easily 18-20 feet wide. The bird itself was between 5-6 ft,

    1. Can you please give us the reference to the place where you posted your experience.

    2. This happened 7-8 years ago. I'm pretty sure one was Monster Quest, but I don't remember if that was the good site or the bad site.

  4. Like the reader above, I had a personal sighting. My description of it can still be found at Agree with reader above that some commenters mock these.
    - Joe K-

  5. When we experience an anomalous event we don't behave completely logically, we function at a basic survival level. We don't think about proving anything to anyone, we think about surviving and our peripheral thoughts, like our vision, shuts down. We panic even if it's slight. If the event lasts long enough we calm down and then may think about collecting evidence.

    It happened, got proof, no but we survived, that's how we work. Ask someone who has worked in law enforcement or the military and they will tell you, unless we are trained to function in highly dynamic and unusual circumstances, to a great extent we shut down if one occurs. This is exactly why trained people can help others in bad situations while untrained people can only seem to watch or even run away, and though often wanting to help are unable to do so, it's because they have partially shut down, and that is perfectly normal. If you are going to get eaten and can't escape, it's best to shut down even if only slightly.

  6. Ok, I never thought I would say anything about this but now I am going to.

    I have goats, boar goats, they are large and strong. One day I was sitting on the back porch looking out over the pond to the field on the other side and thinking how pleasant it was to see the goats eating grass in the sun. I often check on them due to predators, the goats are pets and I am fond of them. But regardless, I care about all of my animals.

    On this particular day something startled them and they did their usual predator reaction, so I look around quickly to see if it is something dangerous to them or just a fox or a skunk but I see nothing. They then start running for cover, under a shelter which has no walls and I am thinking that will do them no good at all and I still seeing nothing to be afraid of get ready to go and get a rifle because they obviously know something I do not. And I know from experience that animals are far more sensitive to predators than we are.

    Just then I see the goats under the shelter looking up to the sky and I'm mildly annoyed by this silly nonsense because eagles and vultures don't bother adult goats at all, and I'm naturally assuming that was what all the fuss was about. But then I see a huge bird that looked like a hawk except much much bigger, about 15ft across. It circles the field one time, the goats ran under the shelter and then it flew away.

    What do I think?, I think it was either it was a giant bird or it was a drone meant to look like a bird.

    The thing is there are far to many reports of giant birds and for to many years for there not to be something to it. As for drones, they haven't been around for long but giant bird reports have.

    I don't know, I only know what I saw.

    1. Thank you for the information. Could I trouble you for a bit more information? In particular: when did this happen? And where? Your home address is not necessary, but it would be useful to know the nation, state or province, and nearest town. To the best of my knowledge, all of these reports come from North America, but it cannot be assumed. (At the top of this blog is a field marked, "How to report a sighting.")

  7. My mom who passed in Oct.2014 swears that about 20 years ago she saw a bird that looked like pterodactyl at Tannihill State Park in Bessemer Alabama. She said it was the biggest thing in the sky she's ever seen. It then perched in a huge tree. She said it scared her so bad she left. My mom wasn't one to believe in those things. I believe her.

  8. The goats..

    It was a couple of years ago in Louisiana, US.

    If you are going to make a surveillance drone it would be a good idea to make it look like something natural, like a bird. But I don't see why a large, silent, highly sophisticated drone would be circling my field in the middle of nowhere. So I think it's unlikely it was a drone. It took an interest in the goats not the house, and the goats knew is was a threat, what do they instinctively know that we don't? They are not frightened of small or large aircraft, jets or helicopters etc. They knew it was alive.

    Surprisingly, what bothered me was not the bird so much but the large shadow it made on the ground. I was stunned when I saw the bird but reacted to the shadow, it gave me the creeps.

    At the time I was annoyed and decided I was not going to tell anyone about the event, because of my credibility, reputation. But I am now, to support others who have seen such things.

  9. Malcolm,

    Thank you for providing a place where people can talk about anomalous events such as this.

    I have provided the information I have, not so much to report a sighting but in support of
    those who have seen such things for themselves. To them I say, you are not alone.

    Other than that, I feel uncomfortable talking about this and do not wish to provide
    any further information. The whole thing puts me outside of my comfort zone.

    To those of you who have reported an anomalous event of whatever kind.

    Skeptics, based on long term observation.

    Skeptics, there are real skeptics and there are fake skeptics. A real skeptic is scientifically minded and will if interested, analyze a report from as many angles as possible in an impersonal and unbiased way, he wants the truth, he wants to understand. They look at you the victim and the event as a whole. These people are often compassionate and highly intelligent in their search for the truth and will not attempt to hurt you in the process.

    A fake skeptic sees a person who has experienced an anomalous event as a person in a position of weakness, and consequently an easy victim for their malicious nature to target.
    There are many of these, and they are of no value to the study of anomalies at all. They are the vicious thorns in an otherwise highly unusual, wondrous and sometimes beautiful garden, they will always be there and should always be ignored.