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Dromornis and Aepyornis

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More prehistoric bird illustrations for the talk I'm planning for the bird watcher's club!  These are the two largest known prehistoric bird species: Dromornis stirtonii (left) and Aepyornis maximus (right). Both these species grew to about 3m/10' tall and 400-500 kg in weight.  Dromornis lived in Australia, dying out in the Pliocene epoch; it was apparently a relative of ducks and geese, and it and its family are sometimes called the 'Demon Ducks of Doom'.  It had a very heavy and powerful bill, and as with Diatryma, some people claim it was a herbivore while others believe it was a carnivore. 

Aepyornis, the Elephant Bird, lived in Madagascar and may have survived until about a thousand years ago.  It likely died out as a result of humans settling the island, either directly due to hunting or indirectly due to habitat destruction or perhaps due to diseases brought in along with human poultry.  Of all living birds, the kiwi of New Zealand is apparently its closest relative!  This means that the ancestors of the elephant birds probably reached Madagascar from Australasia, and must have been able to fly since at the stage they must have evolved these land masses were already separated by a vast stretch of ocean.  Many elephant bird eggs have been found ... they're the largest known of any bird, equivalent to 160 chicken's eggs!

As with most extinct species, we don't know exactly what they looked like, and therefore there is much guesswork and imagination in these reconstructions.  Pencil drawings, coloured in Photoshop.
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© 2015 - 2020 WillemSvdMerwe
Comments28
anonymous's avatar
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Nuclearzeon2's avatar
Even if Dromornis was a herbivore, I still don't think it was a bird to be messed with, any more than an ostrich or cassowary. I mean, look at that powerful beak!

I feel that way about Gastornis as well. I'm tired of articles describing it as a "gentle giant".
diebruder's avatar
diebruderHobbyist Digital Artist
QUE BELLAS
WillemSvdMerwe's avatar
Thanks a lot!
WDGHK's avatar
WDGHKHobbyist Traditional Artist
With the recent discoveries about its cousin the Gastornis being a vegeterian,I think its certain that all of the dromornithinds were herbivores as well,since they lacked large foot claws and hooked beaks, unlike the terror birds.
ffejgao's avatar
Pretty much. 
WillemSvdMerwe's avatar
I think you're right ! Thanks for the comment.
animalovertime's avatar
animalovertimeProfessional Photographer
which looks more harmless?
WillemSvdMerwe's avatar
I'd say Dromornis looks more harmless!
animalovertime's avatar
animalovertimeProfessional Photographer
it just looks like the young of a Genyornis that cross-breeded with a Gastornis
vasix's avatar
vasixHobbyist Digital Artist
If only at least the elephant bird was alive today...then feathered non-avian dinosaurs would be appreciated more. I mean, Aepyornis really is the biggest dinosaur to have gone extinct recently. 
WillemSvdMerwe's avatar
It is a tragedy indeed!  Thanks for commenting.
vasix's avatar
vasixHobbyist Digital Artist
Sure, of course :) 
acepredator's avatar
I wish we didn't drive Aepyornis to extinction.
WillemSvdMerwe's avatar
Me too!  Thanks for commenting.
Gogosardina's avatar
GogosardinaProfessional Traditional Artist
Wow, these are nicely done! Been illustrating D. (=Bullockornis) planei myself recently for an upcoming paper and I'm now sceptical of the "Demon Duck" hypothesis. Extremely narrow puffin-like bill with no hook, little eyes facing sideways, high abundance in the fossil record at Alcoota etc.
WillemSvdMerwe's avatar
Thanks!  Do you mean you don't think they're related to ducks?
Gogosardina's avatar
GogosardinaProfessional Traditional Artist
They're definitely fowl of some kind. If not in Anseriformes proper they are at least Galloanseriform. I meant I have doubts of the macropredator hypothesis.
herofan135's avatar
herofan135Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Now these are pretty cool, great choice of colours!
WillemSvdMerwe's avatar
Thanks a lot!
westcpw's avatar
westcpwHobbyist Digital Artist
nice work. sad to think how many hundreds of species have been lost.
WillemSvdMerwe's avatar
Thanks!  I agree.
Zimices's avatar
ZimicesHobbyist
The heaviest birds, hehe. :) Well, the reasons for herbivory in dromornithids are pretty strong, including the lack of hooked claws (actually very hoof-like) and the configuration of jaw muscles. Also, it seems that the decline of its birds is related to the evolutive radiation of diprotodontids and the aridification of Australia.

Nice election of feathers for the elephant bird ;)
WillemSvdMerwe's avatar
Thanks!  Yes, I consider them to probably be herbivores. Still sad that they're gone.
AnonymousLlama428's avatar
AnonymousLlama428Hobbyist General Artist
They look oddly tasty...
anonymous's avatar
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