The theme of Dino Day this year is "Predators and Prey"—and terror birds were top predators. These giant flightless South American birds had huge hooked beaks and sharp claws. Ranging in size from the 3-foot-tall Psilopterus lemoinei to the 10-foot-tall Brontomis burmeisteri, they probably killed their prey by stabbing it with their hooked beak. Their strong legs might have helped hold down struggling prey while the beak stabbed and ripped it.
|Terror bird foot|
As for who they ate, we can't be sure. Larger terror birds probably could have eaten small- to medium-sized mammals.
There are no birds alive today close enough to terror birds to tell us exactly how they lived and hunted. Modern large, flightless birds—ostriches, emus, rheas, and cassowaries—are not hunters (although they can be dangerous). Terror birds' closest living relatives, the seriema, may be close to what the smallest terror birds looked and acted like.
|Terror bird head|
The Burke's terror bird is a cast (replica) of Paraphysornis brasiliensis. It lived in Brasil 23 million years ago.
Dino Day 2012 is coming up on Saturday, March 3rd!
Posted by: Winifred Kehl, Communications