TIME animals

Scientists: Biggest-Ever Bird Had Massive 20-Foot Wingspan

Bird
Liz Bradford This is a reconstruction of the world's largest-ever flying bird, Pelagornis sandersi, identified by Daniel Ksepka, Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn. Reconstruction art is by Liz Bradford.

With a wingspan of about 21 feet

Scientists have identified what they believe to be the largest bird to have ever lived.

According to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, a bird with a wingspan of about 21 feet soared through the skies some 25 million years ago. That’s double the size of a modern Royal Albatross and, according to the Associated Press, bigger than a giraffe’s head.

While the bird’s giant size led to some clumsiness on land, flight analysis estimates that the creature traveled up to 50 feet a second in the air.

“This was a pretty impressive creature,” Bruce Museum paleontologist Daniel T. Ksepka told the Wall Street Journal. “Science had made a rule about flight, and life found a way around it.”

The ancient bird’s sizable skeleton was discovered in 1983 near a Charleston, South Carolina airport.

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