History

A Living Texas Thunderbird or a Giant Myth?

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Imagine it’s a regular weekday morning. You’re on your way to work with your usual carpool. It’s the start of another ordinary day, and you have no reason to expect anything unusual will happen. Then you spot a giant shadow moving across the road. Everyone in the car glances up. You all see it at once: a giant reptilian bird, gliding only a few feet above the power lines that stretch alongside the highway.

That’s what three schoolteachers claimed to have witnessed on Feb. 24, 1976, while driving down a secluded road southwest of San Antonio. One eyewitness, David Rendon, reported that the bird had, “a bony structure, you know like when you hold a bat by the wing tips, like it has bones at the top and in-between.”

Pterosaur

Photo: Pixabay.com/Efraimstochter

That same year, a pair of San Benito, Texas, police officers, Arturo Padilla and Homero Galvan, also reported witnessing a similar creature in the wee-hours one morning. What could be the answer to this strange phenomenon?

Cryptozoologists and other believers claim these giant “birds” could possibly be pterosaurs, a type of flying dinosaur believed to have gone extinct a long, long time ago. The most famous of these pterosaurs is the familiar friend of our childhood imaginings, the pterodactyl.

Pterodactyl drawing

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Many legends and myths from central and south Texas, as well as Mexico, speak of giant birds. Native American myths from the region tell of the Thuderbird—a creature whose flapping wings caused thunder and whose eyes shot lightning.

Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec God, was also reported to take the form of a giant “feathered serpent,” which correlates with an extinct species of bird called the quetzalcoatlus. Fossils of the quetzalcoatlus have been found in Texas as recently as 1972.

Giant bird

Photo: Pixabay.com/mrganso

Skeptics maintain that the sightings were simply instances of optical illusion or weird perspective. Multiple birds flying through just the right lighting could have caused the appearance of a large shadow. The juxtaposition of one bird really close to a viewer with other birds farther away in the background could have easily “tricked” the eye of a beholder into believing they saw a giant bird.

What do you think? Were the sightings the result of optical illusions and overactive imaginations, or is there really an ancient species of giant bird cruising through the wide-open skies of Texas?