genus of birds (fossil)

Presbyornis is an extinct genus of water bird. It was a wading bird, often walking in shallow water on its long legs.

Temporal range: Paleocene-Eocene, 62–55 Ma (possible Oligocene record)
Presbyornis pervetus AMNH 28505.jpg
An assemblage of Presbyornis pervetus skeletons (AMNH 28505)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Presbyornithidae
Genus: Presbyornis
Wetmore, 1926
  • P. pervetus Wetmore, 1926 (type)
  • P. recurvirostris (Hardy, 1959; disputed)
  • P. isoni Olson, 1994
  • Nautilornis Wetmore, 1926
  • Coltonia Hardy, 1959
Artist's impression

Presbyornis was one of the first anseriforms. Because of its long legs and neck, it was initially mistaken for a flamingo. Later it was reclassified as an anseriform when the duck-like anatomy of its skull and bill was found. It is from an extinct group closely related to ducks and geese. Judging from numerous fossil findings, Presbyornis probably lived in colonies around shallow lakes. Its broad, flat bill was used to filter food (small plants and animals) from the water, in the manner of today's dabbling ducks.[1]

The fossil record includes many complete skeletons from Green River Formation sites (early Eocene).[2] This suggests that the birds nested in colonies, similar to many colony-nesting waterfowl or shorebirds today. Species of this bird have also been found in Maryland, Utah, England,[3] and Mongolia.[4] Fossils are held in the Smithsonian Institution, the Natural History Museum, London, and the KUVP.


  1. Palmer D. (ed) 1999. The Marshall illustrated encyclopedia of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals. London: Marshall Editions, 181. ISBN 1-84028-152-9
  2. Wetmore, Alexander 1926. Fossil birds from the Green River Deposits of Eastern Utah. Annals of the Carnegie Museum 16: 391-402.
  3. Dyke, Gareth J. 2001. The fossil waterfowl (Aves: Anseriformes) from the Eocene of England. American Museum Novitates 3354: 1-15. [1]
  4. Kurochkin, Evgeny N; Dyke, Gareth J. & Karhu, Alexandr A. 2002. A new Presbyornithid bird (Aves, Anseriformes) from the late Cretaceous of southern Mongolia. American Museum Novitates 3386: 1-11. [2]