Giant Bird Fossils Discovered: Australia

Giant bird fossils were discovered by some farmers, at the moment nobody is saying the exact location of the find, but these birds have been discovered before in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, but this find has apparently footsteps going in all directions, so it is a fairly significant find.

Dromornis stirtoni, a flightless bird from the...

A flightless bird from the Late Miocene of Australia, pencil drawing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The official name for these birds is Genyornis-newtoni, but they are also known as a “Thunder Birds”, “Demon Ducks” and Mihirungs. They lived around 40 to 50,000 years ago. These were flightless birds and are thought to have lived in flocks, and are thought to be a relative of ducks and geese. But no webbed feet for this big guy, instead they had hoof like claws, a huge beak, but like our modern day birds it also had no teeth, and used stones to help digest its food.

                   Illustration by Peter Trusler of Genyornis. Picture: Monash University

The birds were most certainly around with man, and were hunted for food. Scientists think the birds may now be extinct not because of over hunting as first thought, but because the continent became drier during the last Ice Age, both ideas are still being studied at this time.

Read about the farmers who discovered this new set of fossils in
Learn more about these birds from the Australian Museum website.

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93 Responses to Giant Bird Fossils Discovered: Australia

  1. Elyse says:

    Cool birds — they look like Puffins (which like the cold in the North Atlantic).

  2. Very cool! It kind of looks like a cross between a toucan (the beak) and an ostrich (the size).

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Laurie,
      Yes their beaks are very sharp and large like a toucan, and they are very similar in size to an ostrich, I was amazed that these birds were relatives of duck and geese, when I first saw them I assumed they would be relatives of the Emu which is the Australian bird similar to the ostrich.

  3. Arindam says:

    Hi Mags!
    It’s a very interesting post. You always bring something important & interesting through your blog. And this one is a really informative post. Thanks for sharing it with all of us. 🙂

  4. It’s so exciting when you discover knew things! My friend Lisa is studying to be an archaeologist so she would love to hear about this! 🙂 I will send her the link!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Any Lucky Penny,
      I think it is fantastic also, the more we discover, the more we learn about the history of our world, and there really is so much to learn, and new things being discovered all the time. 🙂
      I hope you friend enjoys the read. 😀

  5. Pam says:

    I really enjoy fossils, and have my own big collection of rocks. It makes for heavy boxes when we move! Thank you for sharing this information – it is so interesting!

  6. niasunset says:

    This is interesting dear Mags, should be so exciting too. I loved these kind news too. Thank you dear Mags, Love, nia

  7. All I can say is I’m glad I didn’t live 50,000 years ago! Am I alone in thinking those birds are slightly scary?… and the fact that they had teeth and hooves… Sort of creepy!

    But still, I can appreciate how tremendous it is to find something like this. You might enjoy a fiction book called Remarkable Creatures. (by Tracy Chevalier) I loved it– Early 19th century off the coast of England discovery of dinosaur fossils and how the people responded in those days.

    • Elyse says:

      I second that book recommendation!

      • magsx2 says:

        Hi A Gripping Life,
        Creepy indeed, can you imagine the damage that beak would of been able to do as well as the claws, no doubt rip anything to shreds in a very short time.
        I will definitely have to look at the book recommendation, sounds like something I would very much enjoy. 🙂

  8. Windsmoke. says:

    I’ve been watching Australia: The Time Travellers Guide on ABC 1 Sunday Nights. Take a look if its on in your neck of the woods its very good. Last week was the first episode and was mainly about fossils :-)..

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Windsmoke,
      I haven’t heard about the series at all, I must see if it is on here, I assume it would be, thank you for the heads up on the show. 🙂

  9. travelrat says:

    They already have giant birds, so what do they need fossils for? 😀

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi travelrat,
      This is true, we do have some giant birds, but not the knowledge that the fossils can give us. 😀

      Have you boarded your train yet? You are going to love the ride I’m sure, the wide open spaces of OZ, I can’t wait to hear about it all on your blog, enjoy Australia while you are here. 😀

  10. It’s fascinating that nature still finds a use today for flightless birds, like the emu and penguin and your New Zealand neighbor bird, the kiwi. You’d think that the natural selection process would have made all flightless birds extinct because they would be obvious targets for larger and faster predators. Not so. Also interesting that evolution hasn’t come very far, such that this fossil found resembles, like others mentioned, the toucan and puffin.

    Lucky for the archaeologists that the farmers who found the bones recognized they had something valuable scientifically. Me, I’da thrown them in the garden for fertilization!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi EOSR,
      I agree, it is strange how some species are still with us or have evolved and others just seem to have disappeared altogether.
      The farmers must of have a sense that is was something different.
      You don’t know it may of turned out to be the best fertilizer known. 😀

  11. Doraz says:

    Amazing find. Hope all is well.

  12. susielindau says:

    That is the coolest looking creature!

  13. This is really fascinating. I love that there are still things to discover on this planet. Thanks for sharing this, Mags.

  14. barb19 says:

    An amazing bird, great information Mags; thank you for that.

  15. starlaschat says:

    Can you imagaine seeing this bird in the wild? With a giant beak I wonder if that helped eatting or as pertection maybe. Such a large bird.:+)

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi starlaschat,
      At a guess I would say the beak may have been used for both protection and eating, I would not like to come across this bird in the wild that is for sure, I assume it may have been a fast runner, either way not good. 😀

  16. elcampeador says:

    Had I been around back then, the only way I would have liked this “bird”, is cooked. 😉

  17. Acep Aprilyana says:

    big bird… 😉

  18. Very interesting,and those birds are so cool..but those Demon ducks certainly did have some powerful scary beaks 🙂

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Soma,
      It’s an unreal name isn’t it Demon Ducks, the name alone sort of gives you an idea of what those beaks would of been like. 😀

  19. tempo says:

    This is quite possibly in the Ediacara Hills in South Australia. In the enless rolling hills there have been countless fossils exposed already. Every year after the winter rains the scientists simply ride around on motor bikes and mark all the new finds. Some locals go up there yearly to find fossils (you’re not allowed to take anything)

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi tempo,
      You could be right with that theory, I have read about the area, and it is a wonderful source for fossils. I suppose once they cast the site, especially the footprints, perhaps even take the rock with all the footprints on it we may find out, I assume this will take some time.

  20. Thanks for this informative and enjoyable blog post. The bird’s head reminds me of the dead Dodo, they have the same slightly silly and very trusting expression on their faces. Amazing stuff.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi mariathermann,
      Yes they do have a bit of a silly expression like the Dodo, it makes you wonder though how smart these birds may have been, no doubt with this new find, they may learn a lot more. 🙂

      • Yes, I read somewhere or saw some programme about parrots once and they have the IQ of a smart 3-year-old toddler apparently. Quite scary when you think that human kids just soak up knowledge at that age! Reminds me of those raptors in the Jurassic Park movie!

        • magsx2 says:

          I always think of the movie Jurassic Park as well when I see things like this, a brilliant set of movies. 🙂

          • I only really liked the first movie, because it dealt quite intelligently and entertainingly with the notion that if we can we will, no matter what the consequences! As long as somebody’s going to make lots of money out of it…

          • magsx2 says:

            Unfortunately it is always about the money these days. 😦

          • It’s staggering to think how much money these scientists make. I remembered earlier that there has been some discussion about bringing the original horse species back, too. Those little horsies in the Carmarque in France are apparently the closest we still have to the original horses and there have been a number of freaky scientists who wanted to recreate the original horse, before mankind started tampering with their DNA through selected breeding. Mad!

  21. river says:

    It looks to me like an ancestor of the ostrich, just by looking at the legs, but did we have ostriches in Australia? I thought they were African birds.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi river,
      You are right the ostrich is native to Africa, our large flightless bird is of course the Emu, but scientists say the Genyornis is not a relative of either bird, but is a relative of ducks and geese

  22. Colline says:

    This is very interesting. I wonder how many other animals becme extinct that I did not know about.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Colline,
      There are a lot of extinct animals in the world, millions of years worth, some evolved into different forms, others just died off. 🙂

  23. aFrankAngle says:

    My first thought was about its height. Then I go to the museum link and whoa …. 2 – 2.25 m tall! One big’em bird!

  24. They look a bit like geese with their elongated necks. How can they have hoof-like claws? I’m not questioning your information (wouldn’t dare do that!) but I’m having trouble putting “hoof” and “claw” together. The illustration shows some pretty solid-looking legs-feet-hooves-claws-talons – whatever you call them. You wouldn’t want to mess with those!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Lady Marilyn,
      Yes the hoof-like claws is how it is described, but I did try hard to find some sort of sketch of these, plenty of skeletons shown in Museums, but no actual sketch showing how the birds feet are described by the scientists. I came to the conclusion that the artists didn’t know either. 😀

      • Having used the two links that you supplied, it seems that the “hoof-like” thing could just mean that the claws, which aren’t curved as claws usually are, are flat underneath “sort of” like hooves. Conclusion: the bird has unusual claws and scientists are having trouble describing them in language which is understandable to us, the uninititated. Hooves probably have nothing to do with it.

  25. Cool beans! (love that first pic, too :))

  26. Very interesting subject, so many things left to discover all over the world. Thanks for sharing this. I love your blog. 🙂

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Francis,
      I agree, there are just so much still to be learned, after each discovery we learn a little bit more. 😀
      Thank You for your kind words.

  27. gregoryno6 says:

    What did Demon Duck taste like? It would make a Sunday roast you could share with the whole street.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi gregoryno6,
      I never even thought of that, actually it would most likely feed the entire neighbourhood, and it probably tasted like chicken. 😆

  28. Selma says:

    They do look like puffins. Imagine that running after you. Absolutely terrifying. What an interesting creature. Just amazing!

  29. BoJo Photo says:

    I wish I could find a lot of rare fossil bones on my property! Demon Ducks! 🙂 Smoogs! Maybe I can find some Angel Ducks fossils on my property!!!

  30. Linda Vernon says:

    Wow! Fascinating. But you what? There might still be some live ones roaming around the outback! 🙂

  31. Tony McGurk says:

    I thought giant Puffins too. They sure would wreac havoc amonst farmers crops.
    John Williamson missed out on a big hit with this one. “Genyornis-newtoni can’t fly but I’m tellin’ you, they can run the pants off a kangaroo”

  32. My daughter has a poster of feathered dinosaurs on her wall. I’ll have to show her this.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi ariadnesdaughter,
      I hope she does enjoy reading the information. I think a lot of the animals that used to roam the earth are fascinating, some of course very different than what we see today. 🙂

  33. Interesting article looks like the Mammoth Puffin of the world 🙂 Enjoyed this post!

  34. dearrosie says:

    My word isn’t it amazing that we still haven’t discovered all those creatures who lived here before us. What a thrill for the folks who found it!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi dearrosie,
      There is just so much we don’t know, it is great with finds like these, with every new fossil found we just learn more and more.

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  37. adinparadise says:

    Really glad we don’t have huge birds like that around here. A very exciting find though. Thanks for sharing. 😉

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