Support
Subscribe
Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.

DONATE

You are here

Elephant Birds Laid Really Big Eggs

The largest eggs ever known . . .
© Ilianna Teixido/JG Keulemans DMNH View Large

What bird laid the largest eggs ever known? To date, the record holder is the now-extinct Elephant Bird, a relative of the present-day Ostrich and other large, flightless birds, including rheas, cassowaries, and kiwis. Up to the late 1600s, Elephant Birds lived on the island of Madagascar. But by the 1700s, they were extinct. Some of their eggshells survived, though, and they dwarf an Ostrich egg, measuring 13 inches long and tipping the scales at around 22 pounds. Strangely, DNA has proven that the Elephant Bird's closest living relative is the diminutive kiwi.
Ilustration courtesy of the Delaware Museum of Natural History

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®  

Elephant Birds Laid Really Big Eggs

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

If you’ve ever seen an Ostrich egg in a museum or a souvenir shop you’ll know — they’re big. Nearly six inches long. And they’re heavy. Live Ostrich eggs weigh about three pounds, the same as about two dozen large chicken eggs.

[Museum sound: Blockbuster 2010 Music: Flight of the Cosmic Hippo Bela Fleck 1991 Warner Bros]

But what bird laid the largest eggs ever known? To date, the record holder is the now-extinct Elephant Bird. They were enormous — flightless birds that stood nearly 10 feet tall and weighed in at around half a ton. Up to the late 1600s, Elephant Birds lived on the island of Madagascar. But by the 1700s, they were extinct.
Some of their eggshells survived, though, and they dwarf an Ostrich egg, measuring 13 inches long and tipping the scales at around 22 pounds. That’s about 15 dozen chicken eggs.

Elephant Birds belonged to a bird group called the Ratites (RAT-tites). They were relatives of other large, flightless birds, including the present-day Ostrich, Emu, cassowaries, and rheas and the much smaller kiwis — a dozen living species in all. But when Elephant Bird DNA was analyzed, it turned out that the huge bird’s closest living relatives are those diminutive kiwis, the largest of which stands a modest 18 inches tall. 

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.

###
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.
Xeno Canto 152944 recorded by Fernand Deroussen.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
© 2017 Tune In to Nature.org   February 2017   Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#                 elephantbird-01-2017-02-10    elephantbird-01
 
Early David Attenborough film from Madagascar (including Elephant Bird eggshell)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Elephant_bird#p00dzfyy
re ostrich eggs - http://www.buzzle.com/articles/ostrich-eggs-facts-about-ostrich-eggs.html

Sights & Sounds

LEAVE A COMMENT

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Related topics:

Related field notes:

Home
Shows
Galleries
More