family of tetrapods

Teratorns [1] were a group of very large birds of prey that lived in the Americas from the Miocene to Pleistocene epochs. They are all extinct now. They include some of the largest known flying birds. So far, at least five species in four genera have been identified:

Temporal range: Late Oligocene-Late Pleistocene
~25–0.010 Ma
Giant Condor.jpg
Teratornis merriami skeleton from the La Brea tar pits
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Cathartiformes
Family: Teratornithidae
L. H. Miller 1909


Teratornithidae are related to New World vultures (Cathartidae, syn. Vulturidae).[2]

  • Teratornis merriami.[3] This is by far the best-known species. Over a hundred specimens have been found, mostly from La Brea tar pits. It stood about 75 cm (29.5 in) tall with estimated wingspan of perhaps 3.5 to 3.8 metres (11.5 to 12.5 ft), and weighed about 15 kg (33 lb); making it about a third bigger than extant condors. It became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene, some 10,000 years ago.
  • Argentavis magnificens.[4] A partial skeleton of this enormous teratorn was found from La Pampa, Argentina. It is the largest flying bird known to have existed. It is the oldest known teratorn, dating to late Miocene, about 6 to 8 million years ago, and one of the very few teratorn finds in South America. Initial discovery included portions of the skull, incomplete humerus and several other wing bones. Even conservative estimates put its wingspan at 6 meters and up (some 20 ft), and it may have been as much as 8 metres (26 ft). The weight of the bird was estimated to have been around 80 kg (176 lb).


  1. from the Greek Τερατορνις Teratornis, 'monster bird'
  2. Chatterjee, Sankar et al 2007. The aerodynamics of Argentavis, the world’s largest flying bird from the Miocene of Argentina. Ameginiana 104 (30): 12398–12403. [1] Archived 2015-09-24 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Miller, Loye H. 1909. Teratornis, a new avian genus from Rancho La Brea. University of California Publications, Bulletin of the Department of Geology 5: 305–317.
  4. Howard, Hildegarde 1952. The prehistoric avifauna of Smith Creek Cave, Nevada, with a description of a new gigantic raptor. Bull. S. Calif. Acad. Sci. 51: 50–54. [2]