A lot of people think Australians make up stories to pass the time. That may or may not be true. But the Demon Ducks of Australia are certainly true.
The Demon Duck is dromornis stirtoni, weighing over 500 kilos and nearly 3 metres tall, indeed the biggest bird that ever lived.
Commonly known as Stirton’s Thunder Bird, this huge flightless bird lived in subtropical open woodlands in Australia during the late Miocene, roughly 8 million years ago.
If it walks like a duck …
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck even if it’s 10 foot tall and weighs 1500 lbs.
Perhaps it didn’t quack, we don’t know, these ducks are extinct.
Demon Duck meets Camel
This is a BIG duck
Dromornis stirtoni was bigger than the Giant Moa of New Zealand and even bigger than the enormous Elephant Birds of Madagascar.
Unbelievably, these ducks were close to 10 foot tall with massive strongly-muscled legs for speedy running. A giant duck that can RUN!
Some of its bones are huge. A toe bone is 10 times the size of a human finger. The jawbone is described as big enough to play tennis with.
This is a Dangerous Duck
For many years the Demon Ducks were thought to have eaten mainly tough-skinned fruits and seed pods. Pleasant-natured vegetarians nibbling their way (though in large quantities) through the countryside.
But closer scrutiny of the shape and size of its skull and bill suggests a different story – some scientists believe it concentrated on meat.
Can you imagine this? A duck, bigger than a camel, and it eats meat? Definitely a bird to avoid.
Alcoota Station Fossil Beds
Next time you’re in Alice Springs, drive north east for a few hours. You’ll find yourself in one of the most important paleontological sites in Australia – the Alcoota Station.
The fauna in the fossil beds is about 8 million years old, with a rich concentration of vertebrate fossils. In particular, the fossils of Australian megafauna.
It’s amazing what’s in here. Herds of the wombat-like diprotodontoids, the wolf-sized Powerful Thylacine (Thylacinus potens), the large leopard-sized Alcoota Marsupial Lion (Wakaleo alcootaensis) and our old friend Dromornis stirtoni, commonly known as Stirton’s Thunderbird, the Demon Duck of Doom.
Why is this a Dead Duck?
The Aboriginal people arrived here about 60 thousand years ago, using fire as a tool for changing landscapes as well as for driving prey while hunting. Very handy for cooking too. Did this signal the end of the last megafauna?
It can’t be denied that wherever humanity has spread, there have been drastic reductions in the populations of other animals, and our appearance has coincided with the disappearance of whole species.
Did people eat the giant ducks into extinction?
How about You?