wood storks

Was a Thunderbird spotted in Georgia?

March 10th, 2016 / Adairsville, Georgia, USA

A man flying a hobbyists remote control airplane (the really expensive and “professional” RC type) at around 400ft up, spotted what appeared to be a Thunderbird.

The man stated that the length of his plane from wingtip to wingtip was a little more than a foot and a half long. As he was flying the plane, a gigantic bird emerged from the treetops and almost collided with the plane. Startled, the bird let out a loud screech and dived down a bit to avoid the remote controlled craft. The large bird then adjusted its path and flew the opposite direction. From there, the bird continued to rise higher in the sky, eventually flying out of eyesight and disappearing into the horizon.

The witness states that he watched this creature for about 7mins before it finally flew out of sight. Since the bird almost collided with the plane, that puts it at the same height of around 400ft up. The man stated that the wingspan of the bird appeared to be almost seven times larger than that of the plan. That would mean the big bird had a wingspan of a little over 8ft long. The witness also stated that it possessed a long straight neck and a pointed beak of at least 11in long.The bird was completely covered in black feathers.

Big bird yes, but is it Thunderbird size? While an 8ft wingspan is big, it is not outrageous. The Wandering Albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird in the world, typically measuring up to 11ft. The California Condor comes in second with a wingspan a little over 9ft long.

What makes this interesting though is that these two birds are not native to Georgia. Golden Eagles have been found in Georgia, but they are extremely rare. They do however possess a wingspan of up to 7ft. But what they do not have is a long straight neck or long pointed beak.

The description of the beak and neck also rule out large hawks, eagles, owls, and other common small birds found throughout Georiga. But what about storks and cranes in the area?

The Wood Stork has a wingspan of almost six feet, but they possess white feathers. The Sandhill Crane is typically gray in color and has a wingspan of over 7ft, a long neck, and a long pointed beak. These characteristics make this Crane a good candidate for what the man saw. BUT, the underside color of these birds’ wings are typically white and gray. The man stated that this bird was all black. So now we go back to square one. What kind of bird did this man see?

It is possible that the bird spotted was just a normal crane or stork of some sort with a color mutation making its feathers all black. Color mutations happen frequently in the animal kingdom (black flamingos, deer with piebaldisim, blonde elk, blue lobster, etc) so a solid black crane is not out of the realm of possibility.

So what do we think the man saw? Could it have been a Thunderbird? Most likely not as the often reported description has them with a wingspan anywhere between 14 and 18ft, this Georgia mystery bird is way short of that. Personally we feel it was just a normal bird in a location that it is generally not seen in. Most likely due to migration or just being lost. Besides, without a photograph of the bird in question, stating without a doubt what kind of bird this man saw is almost impossible.

-The Pine Barrens Institute

Wood Stork ~ Waldstorch ~ Mycteria americana

2014 © Jesse Alveo

Endangered! Threatened! Hey, U. S. friends, don’t let these vulnerable cuties become extinct! Protect your wetlands, okay? Thank you! :-)