The new species, Pelagornis sandersi, had an estimated wingspan of 20 to 24 feet when its feathers are included. This is up to more than twice as big as that of the royal albatross, the largest living flying bird, which has a wingspan of about 11.4 feet. [See Images of Giant Flying Species & Other Huge Birds]
“It’s a really remarkable species,”study author Daniel Ksepka, a paleontologist and curator of science at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, told Live Science. “It really pushes the limits of how big we think flying birds can get. Getting a chance to add something like this to the avian evolutionary tree is really exciting.”
Until now, the biggest known flying bird was the extinct Argentavis magnificens, a condorlike titan from Argentina.
“It’s disputed how large Argentavis’ wingspan was we only have one wing bone for it,” Ksepka said. “We think the wingspan of Argentavis’ skeleton was a bit under 13.1 feet, while the skeletal wingspan of P. sandersi was about 17 feet. Now both of their wingspans would be longer once feathers are taken into account, but P. sandersi would still probably be larger than Argentavis.”
The story also mentions that the fossil, found in South Carolina, was “so large that it had to be dug out with a backhoe.”
My eight-year-old and I have spent a few lunches this summer on the sofa, eating cheeseburgers and watching the BBC’s excellent production Walking With Beasts on Netflix. The show covers the sometimes giant and usually deadly mammals that arose after the great extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. If the show covered Pelagornis sandersi, then I must have missed it — but I don’t think Pres would mind if I asked him to sit down and re-watch the series with me.