Dromornis stirtoni

Dromornis stirtoni

Last updated: January 9, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Nobu Tamura, CC BY-SA 3.0 – License / Original

Dromornis stirtoni Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Dromornithiformes
Family
Dromornithidae
Genus
Dromornis
Scientific Name
Dromornis stirtoni

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Dromornis stirtoni Conservation Status

Dromornis stirtoni Locations

Dromornis stirtoni Locations

Dromornis stirtoni Facts

Diet
Omnivore

Dromornis stirtoni Physical Characteristics

Skin Type
Feathers
Weight
1100 pounds
Height
7 feet
Length
10 feet

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“This massive flightless bird weighed as much as a full-grown horse.”

Dromornis stirtoni Facts

  1. Dromornis stirtoni lived in Australia during the Pleistocene epoch, around 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.
  2. It was a massive flightless bird of up to 1,100 pounds, but it still had wings that may have been used for balance or display.
  3. Its exact diet is not known but researchers think it was mainly herbivorous.
  4. Unlike other birds that usually have lightweight bones, dromornis stirtoni had a strong, heavy bone structure.
  5. The cause of its extinction is unknown, but may have been related to climate change and human activities.

Dromornis stirtoni Scientific name

The scientific name of the extinct flightless bird Dromornis stirtoni is Dromornis stirtoni. It is classified in the order Dromornithiformes and the family Dromornithidae, which are a group of large, flightless birds that are known for their massive size and heavy build. The genus name Dromornis comes from the Greek words “dromos,” meaning “racecourse,” and “ornis,” meaning “bird,” and refers to the bird’s large size and heavy build. The species name stirtoni honors Australian paleontologist Richard Stirton, who discovered the first specimen of Dromornis stirtoni in the mid-20th century.

Description & Size

Dromornis stirtoni was a massive, flightless bird that is known for its large size and heavy build. It is thought to have been one of the largest birds that ever lived, with an estimated body mass of up to 1100 pounds, which is about the weight of a full-grown horse. It was about 10 feet long and 7 feet tall–about as tall as many NBA basketball players.

Despite being a flightless bird, Dromornis stirtoni had large wings, which is unusual for flightless birds. These wings may have been used for balance while running or for display purposes.

Another way dromornis stirtoni differed from other birds was in its heavy, solid bone structure. This solid skeleton was used to support the massive weight of the bird, unlike flying birds that have lightweight bones adapted for flight.

Because of its massive size, this bird was probably a slow-moving animal that relied on its size and strength to defend itself against predators.

Dromornis Stirtoni
Dromornis stirtoni was also often referred to as Stirton’s thunderbird.

©Nobu Tamura, CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

Dromornis stirtoni Evolution and History

Dromornis stirtoni was first described by paleontologist Walter B. Richardson in 1978, based on a number of fossil specimens that had been discovered in Australia. These specimens included bones and teeth, which were found in a variety of locations in Australia, including the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in Queensland and the Alcoota fossil fields in the Northern Territory.

Dromornis stirtoni lived during the Pleistocene epoch, which lasted from around 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. At that time, the continent was home to a diverse array of plants and animals, including a number of other large, flightless birds. This species is thought to have gone extinct around 50,000 years ago, along with many other large, flightless birds in Australia, such as Genyornis newtoni. The cause of its extinction is not fully understood, but may have been due to a combination of factors, including climate change and human activities.

The evolutionary history of Dromornis stirtoni is not fully understood, as there is still much that scientists do not know about the evolution and relationships of this species and other members of the order Dromornithiformes. However, it is thought that Dromornis stirtoni and other dromornithids evolved from a group of birds called mihirungs, which were also large, flightless birds that lived in Australia during the Pleistocene epoch.

Diet – What Did the Dromornis stirtoni Eat?

The diet of this species is a matter of some controversy, with some paleontologists arguing that the powerful beak and teeth of this species pointed toward a carnivorous diet. However, the placement of the eyes on the sides of the head and the absence of sharp talons makes this bird more similar to herbivorous species like chickens. Today a general consensus is forming that this species was likely a herbivore or a mainly-plant-eating omnivore.

Habitat

Dromornis stirtoni lived in Australia during the Pleistocene epoch, which lasted from around 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago. It is thought to have gone extinct around 50,000 years ago, perhaps due to a combination of climate change and human activities. It is known from fossil specimens that have been found in a number of different locations in Australia, suggesting that it may have had a broad distribution across the continent. Based on the fossil evidence that has been found, it is thought that Dromornis stirtoni lived in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and wetlands.

Threats And Predators

It is not known what kinds of animals hunted Dromornis stirtoni as their prey, as there is still much that scientists do not know about the behavior and ecology of this species. During the Pleistocene epoch, Australia was home to a diverse range of plant and animal life, including a number of large, flightless birds such as Dromornis stirtoni. It is possible that Dromornis stirtoni was both a predator and prey species, and may have been hunted by a variety of other animals.

Discoveries and Fossils

Fossils of Dromornis stirtoni were first discovered in Australia in the late 1960s, in the Alcoota fossil fields in the Northern Territory. Dromornis stirtoni is known from a number of fossil specimens, including bones and teeth, which have been found in a variety of locations in Australia, including the Riversleigh World Heritage Area in Queensland and the Alcoota fossil fields in the Northern Territory. Other remains have been found in New South Wales.

Fossils of Dromornis stirtoni are kept on display in a number of museums and research institutions around the world, including in Australia and other countries. Some of the museums and research institutions where fossils of Dromornis stirtoni may be on display include:

  1. Australian Museum, Sydney
  2. National Museum of Australia, Canberra
  3. Queensland Museum, Brisbane
  4. South Australian Museum, Adelaide

Extinction – When Did It Die Out?

Dromornis stirtoni is thought to have gone extinct around 50,000 years ago, along with many other large, flightless birds in Australia, such as Genyornis newtoni. The cause of its extinction is not fully understood, but may have been due to a combination of factors. Some scientists believe that these birds may have been affected by changing environmental conditions, such as fluctuations in temperature and rainfall, which may have impacted their ability to survive and reproduce. Others suggest that human activities, such as hunting and habitat destruction, may have contributed to the extinction of these birds.

Similar Animals to the Dromornis stirtoni

  1. Genyornis newtoni: a species of extinct flightless bird that lived in Australia during the Pleistocene epoch, around 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.
  2. Dromornis planei: This species was similar in size and appearance to Dromornis stirtoni, but had a more robust build and a shorter snout. It is thought to have lived in more open habitats than D. stirtoni, and may have been better adapted to a herbivorous diet.
  3. Bullockornis planei: This species was also known as the “Demon Duck of Doom,” and was one of the largest flightless birds to have ever lived. It had a long, heavy beak and powerful legs, and is thought to have been a predator of small mammals and reptiles.
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About the Author

I'm a freelance writer and a lifelong animal lover. I've traveled the world, but the high point for me was riding an elephant in Nepal. Currently I'm an "Emotional Support Human" to 3 dogs, 1 cat, and 3 guinea pigs. My favorite wild animal is the quokka, the most selfie-friendly animal in the world.

Dromornis stirtoni FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Was dromornis stirtoni a herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore?

The diet of dromotornis stirtoni is not known for sure but today most researchers believe it was a herbivore or omnivore.

 

When was dromornis stirtoni alive?

Dromornis stirtoni lived during the Pleistocene epoch in Australia and is thought to have gone extinct around 50,000 years ago.

How big was dromornis stirtoni?

Dromornis stirtoni is thought to have been one of the largest birds that ever lived, with an estimated body mass of up to 1,100 pounds.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia.org, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dromornis
  2. Australian Museum, Available here: https://australian.museum/learn/australia-over-time/extinct-animals/dromornis-stirtoni/
  3. Prehistoric Wildlife, Available here: http://www.prehistoric-wildlife.com/species/d/dromornis.html
  4. Prehistoric Fauna, Available here: https://prehistoric-fauna.com/Dromornis-stirtoni
  5. (1970)

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