160. Elephant Birds

Elephant birds are a family of flightless birds found only on the island of Madagascar, extinct since the 17th century. These birds were over 10 feet tall and weighed a massive 880 pounds!

The eggs of these birds had a circumference of 39 inches and length up to 13 inches. The volume of one such egg is equivalent to 160 chicken eggs! Like all the other ratites, these birds could not fly. Their breast bones had no keel.

A French Governor to Madagascar in the 1640s and 1650s recorded frequent sightings of the Elephant birds. It is not known whether these birds adapted to the dense forest dwelling like the cassowary. The food habits of these birds are not known. However some rain forest fruits might have been adapted to pass thorough the ratite guts.

The extinction of these birds was due to human activities. The adult birds were large, elusive and wide spread. But the eggs were vulnerable. The remains of the egg shells found in the remains of the human fire suggests that the eggs must have served as the meal of entire families.

Animals accompanying the colonists namely cats, dogs and rats must have preyed on the eggs, bringing down the population of the birds to extinction.

Visalakshi Ramani


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