Quick Elephant Bird Facts
- Went extinct during the 18th century
- Lived in Madagascar
- Was half the height of a giraffe
- Weighed more than a horse
- Probably had a diet of fruit
- Was the biggest bird of all time
About the Elephant Bird
Elephant Birds were huge, flightless birds which lived up until the 18th century in Madagascar. They were officially described and named by Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire in 1851. It was given its name due to its great size.
If you look at Elephant Bird pictures, then you might be a little disappointed. That’s because these birds really weren’t the size of an elephant – although they were rather large. The average Elephant Bird was approximately 10-feet tall and weighed about 1,000 pounds – or half a ton. While that isn’t as large as an elephant, it is large enough for this to be one of the biggest birds of all time.
This bird lived on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, which is off the Eastern coast of Africa. One of the interesting facts about Elephant Birds is that the island environment probably contributed to their enormous size. That’s because it was a lush tropical environment that had a lot of vegetation for it to eat but was devoid of many of the predators that other locations would have had. This allowed this bird to evolve into a bigger size. This is due to an evolutionary principle called insular gigantism.
For many years, it was believed that the Elephant Bird was related to the Giant Moa of New Zealand. Which makes sense, if you think about it, after all, they are both giant birds. However, that is simply not the case. Scientists have found out that they are actually related to another inhabitant of New Zealand, the kiwi. Some scientists believe that eons ago, a group of kiwi ended up on Madagascar and eventually evolved to an enormous size.
Although the Elephant Bird is big and scary, it probably lived off a diet of low-hanging tropical fruit and not the small animals you would expect it to eat. This theory has been proven by the study of other smaller extant ratites whose bodies are perfectly designed for a fruit diet.