There are several references in history, legend and lore about huge and/or strange flying creatures. Some people champion the cause of living or recently extinct pterosaurs. There are historical references to creatures that are described a lot like pterosaurs, particularly in Egypt. The Chinese character for dragon depicts a creature that flies and often the adjective “golden” is added to it. This may match up with the “Fiery flying serpent” in the book of Isaiah. However, at least as many of the traditional legends feature apparently avian subjects. The Phoenix (India, the Middle East + N. Africa, parts of Europe), the Thunderbird and Piasa (N. America) and the roc or rukh reported by Marco Polo and others in lands near the Indian Ocean fall into the mythological category but could they have roots in reality? The Cherokee had their own flying creature legend that actually featured a huge insect that carried things off rather like a bird of prey. What can we tell from the fossil record? Well, the two biggest flying things would be the Quetzalcoatlus
(supposedly separated by 60 million years). They both possessed roughly 7 meter wingspans (another extinct giant bird has been discovered from Madagascar, in the historical or mythological range of the Roc). Of course, there is debate about whether such giant creatures could possibly get off the ground. However, Sankar Chatergree, from Texas Tech University, is positive that Argentavis
could and reach speeds of up to 150 miles an hour. He also says that wind passing through the five foot long feathers would create a tremendous noise that could probably be heard for miles. I can’t help but instantly think of the “thunderbird” and maybe this very sound instigated the giant insect idea. Some have said that based on the beak and other things, the huge Argentavis
was not well designed for scavenging and others have said that it could only take off in an head-wind while facing downhill. This would actually fit pretty well with the stories of those flying giants living on mountains and bluffs without trees. In the legends the big birds (or whatever) are seldom mentioned in a scavenging role but usually snatch something up to devourer in another location, perhaps its lofty perch. This would make taking off again more possible. Ddo Are these stories echoes of ancient human experiences or simply the result of imaginations running wild? I suppose that an apology is in order for including all these different creatures and legends in one discussion when individually they would make for interesting discussions.