When: Late Miocene (~6 million years ago)
What: Argentavis is the largest flighted bird there ever was. Its wingspan has been estimated at 23 feet (~7 meters), almost double that of the largest flying bird that soars today’s skys, the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans). All specimens of this avaian have been found in Argentina, hence its name, which means ‘magnificent Argentine bird’. Recent studies looking at the biomechanics of flight in Argentavis have determined that it was a soaring bird, like today’s condors and vultures. It would have easily glided upon the strong thermals above the Argentine pampas, but getting up to those winds was a bit more of a challenge. It was too large to just flap its wings and take off, even when it was standing in a strong headwind. Instead Argentavis would have had to run down a steep hill or jumped from a high perch in order to take to the skies. Once it was up there, however, it is estimated it could have soared for hours, hunting for prey as it rode the late afternoon thermals.