The phorusrhacids or the “terror birds” were a species of flightless predatory birds that roamed the earth in the Cenozoic Era. It is established that they lived in South America between early Paleocene to the late Pleistocene. It was known for its characteristic hunting style and its competition with dangerous predators like the saber tooth tiger. Here the most amazing facts about these lethal terror birds.
They only thrived well in South America
Some close relatives of the terror bird could have lived in Europe, Antarctica, and Africa, but only the species living in South America survived for the longest.
Members of the order Cariamiformes or Cariamae
Cariamiformes is a larger order of flightless birds that were first seen during the late Cretaceous period 66 million years ago.
6 feet tall and 100 kilograms heavy
The different species of the phorusrhacids had height ranging between 3 feet to 9 feet. Among the largest known species is Titanis walleri, which lived in North America. Its height was 8 feet and it weighed about 150 kilograms.
Modern day relatives
The seriemas are the sole living members of the small bird family Cariamidae. The seriemas are up to 31 inches in height.
Why they were called terror birds
The phorusrhacids very large heads in proportion to their bodies. To balance the weight on their head, they had large pelvises. They were armed with a hooked tip that teared apart flesh. They had a flexible and strong neck that allowed them to attack at terrifying speeds. Although it looks as if they have a small neck, but their flexible spine structure might have aided in extending the length of their neck while attacking. It is also estimated that its neck muscles and spine generated high momentum for striking its prey with deadly blows.
They were carnivores, obviously
Evidently enough, the terror birds were carnivores. For their diet, they competed with other ferocious predators like the saber tooth tiger, thus making them predators on the top of the food chain.
Agile and powerful muscles
Some phorusrhacids like Andalgalornis were very powerful and capable of attacking with great speeds. The same was established by a study of their limbs and muscle structure. They might have run at speeds of 48 km/h.
Largest bird skulls ever known
The largest skull for a bird was that of a phorusrhacids species, Kelenken guillermoi. The skull in the form of a fossil measured 71 cm including a 46 cm hooked beak.