1. ITV Report

The Big Bird 'like something out of a fantasy novel'

The Palegornis Sandersi could have flown enormous distances over the oceans, scientists say. Photo: Liz Bradford/PA Wire

Forget Sesame Street - scientists says they have discovered the original 'Big Bird'. a jumbo-sized prehistoric animal that would have looked "like something out of a fantasy novel".

The creature, known as Pelagornis Sandersi, had a wingspan of 24 feet, twice the width of the biggest avian around today, the Wandering Albatross.

Apparently the Pelagornithid family could have been found all over the world before they became extinct around 3 million years ago.

The giant albatross would have been dwarfed by Pelagornis Sandersi. Credit: John Stillwell/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Thanks to its extraordinary size, Pelagornis was an expert glider, according to researcher Dr Daniel Ksepka from the Bruce Museum in Connecticut.

His team looked at bones discovered in the 1980s to work out the likely size of the bird and how it would have flown.

"Pelagornis sandersi could have travelled for extreme distances while crossing ocean waters in search of prey," he said.

Once in the air it would have been able to fly with almost no exertion for many miles, swooping down when it spied possible prey.

"That's important in the ocean, where food is patchy," Dr Ksepka explained.

Despite its aerial prowess, however, it seems not to have been the most elegant of beasts.

Paper thin bones and stumpy legs meant it was probably too big to take off under its own steam and would probably have had to hurtle downhill or take advantage of a friendly gust of wind to get off the ground.