The Elephant Bird once lived on the island of Madagascar, which is located off of the eastern coast of Africa.
The Elephant Bird once lived on the island of Madagascar, which is located off of the eastern coast of Africa. This island was settled about 2000 years ago by Indonesian and African peoples. Arab folklore contained legends about a giant roc which was more than likely based on the Elephant Bird.
Indian and Saracen traders often visited Madagascar as well as other areas of the African coast, and they would have come into contact with these birds. In 1298, while he was imprisoned in Genoa, Marco Polo had a chance to write in his memoirs that the Great Khan was sending him to Madagascar to investigate reports about giant birds.
The Malagasy people had come into contact with Arab traders over several centuries. However, they strongly resisted colonization. The first Europeans that visited the island of Madagascar were the Portuguese in 1500. French and Dutch expeditions set up coastal settlements after the year 1509, and they ended up penetrating the interior of Madagascar about 150 years later. During the 1500s, Dutch, French and Portuguese sailors came back from the Indian Ocean with huge eggs that were taken as curios.
The French established a settlement in the year 1642, and by this time the Elephant Bird had become quite rare. The last of these birds probably died in 1649. The first French Governor to rule Madagascar wrote in 1658 about a large bird that haunted the Ampatres and laid eggs like that of the ostrich.
As human hunters increased, these Birds retreated to the more remote regions of the island. By 1700, this bird was gone forever.
The Elephant Bird was the largest of all birds to have ever lived. It was a ratite and was related to the ostrich and the emu. It was not known for being a swift runner. This Bird had massive legs, its claws were taloned, and it had a long and powerful neck and vestigial wings. Bristling, hair-like feathers covered the entire body of this bird, which resembled the feathers of an emu. It's beak resembled that of a broad-headed spear. This bird had evolved over a period of time when it was thought that birds ruled the earth. It had probably made its home on Madagascar for approximately sixty million years.
In spite of the fearsome appearance of this Bird, it was an herbivore. It had very little to fear from other native creatures that inhabited the island of Madagascar. Its huge size offered protection, and if it needed to, it could use its heavy beak and feet to protect itself in fights with other birds of its own kind.
These Birds resembled ostriches with their small heads, their vestigial wings and their long, powerful legs. They had a height of about 10 feet and weighed about 1000 pounds. Although some of the moas were taller, the Elephant Bird had a more robust build body.
The eggs boasted of a circumference of approximately three feet, and they were approximately thirteen inches long. This egg had a capacity of about two gallons. Fossilized eggs are still found buried on Madagascar.
This island could have only supported a small, slow-breeding population. The bids were most likely driven into extinction by the theft of Elephant Bird eggs by humans and also by hunting.
The fact that the Elephant Bird had existed for approximately 60 million years and was able to adapt to a world that was ever changing shows that this species of bird had become a success. The Elephant Bird, however, lived in an island environment that had no large predators. It was in no way ready to survive having contact with aggressive Europeans.
Fossil evidence indicates today that there were several other species of the now extinct Elephant Bird. Its height ranged from three feet to ten feet. It had come to live in Madagascar, though most of this species had died out before human beings came onto the picture.
Collecting eggs by the Europeans would be considered as a more reasonable threat since the Elephant Bird could only lay these very large eggs in small numbers. Therefore, the birds bred very slowly. The destruction of the bird’s habitat was a very grave danger to such a specialized bird.
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The Elephant Bird
Were you aware that such a bird even existed? This great bird, which resembled that of an ostrich, inhabited the island of Madagascar. It soon suffered extinction due to the poaching of its eggs by humans as well as the destruction of its habitat.
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