We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Were Elephant Birds?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
All Things Nature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All Things Nature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Elephant birds were massive birds found on the island of Madagascar through the 1500s, when they finally succumbed to human pressure and became extinct. These birds were the largest living birds on Earth at the time, and evidence suggests that they may have been among the largest birds to ever live; adults could measure more than 10 feet (three meters) tall, which must have been quite a sight.

Technically, the term “elephant bird” is used as an umbrella term to describe four species of bird in the family Aepyornithidae, with the Giant Elephant Bird being the largest. Two genera, Aepyornis and Mullerornis, have been classified in this family. Elephant birds are also known by the alternate name Vorompatra, a word taken from the Malagasy language.

Evidence about how elephant birds looked and moved appears in the form of skeletons, fossils, drawings, and contemporary depictions. Elephant birds were, by all accounts, very stocky and muscular, and drawings seem to suggest that they looked like especially large chickens with very long necks. Their plumage appears to have been gray, while their beaks were adapted to eat a wide variety of tropical fruits and plants on their native island of Madagascar.

These flightless birds are classified as ratites, which means that they lack the keel, the part of the breast bone to which flight muscles could attach. Many ratites have achieved formidable sizes; ostriches, emus, and rheas are all ratites, for example, and many have also evolved on islands. Elephant birds are probably only distantly related to other ratites, as Madagascar separated from Africa so long ago that the birds most likely evolved on their own. Some people have suggested that elephant birds probably provided the inspiration for the fearsome rocs in the tales of Sinbad the Sailor.

As a result on their insular environment, elephant birds were woefully unprepared for European civilization, when it arrived. The birds were by all accounts rather slow and stupid, making them easy targets for traveling sailors, and while their large size inspired awe, it wasn't enough to protect the birds from being hunted to extinction. Several natural history collections have examples of elephant bird skeletons and fossilized eggs on display, and they are well worth seeing if you have a chance to visit.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By sinefey — On Feb 07, 2010

A ten foot tall chicken! I've read that they also were probably about 800lbs and eggs could be 3ft in circumference!!

Because they were easy to kill and must have provided a lot of meat, they would have been a perfect food source to replenish ship stores. Sad that they are gone, course it's sad that any species is gone, more so when it's directly because of humans.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.