The extinct flightless elephant bird lived in Madagascar until around the 16th century.

Elephant birds

Madagascar's giant, flightless elephant birds were once a common sight on the island, certainly up until the 17th century. It is generally believed that the elephant bird's extinction resulted from human activity, perhaps not surprising when one of their giant eggs would have fed an entire family. Sir David Attenborough pieced fragments of one of the eggs together for the 1960's series Zoo Quest, which you can see in the video clip below. At over 3m tall, the largest elephant birds competed in size with New Zealand's moas, though at a hefty half tonne they were certainly heavier.

Scientific name: Aepyornithidae

Rank: Family

Common names:

  • Aepyornis,
  • Vorompatra,
  • Vouron patra

Watch video clips from past programmes (2 clips)

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Distribution

The Elephant birds can be found in a number of locations including: Madagascar. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.

Behaviours

Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Classification

  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Birds
  5. Aepyornithiformes
  6. Elephant birds

BBC News about Elephant birds

Video collections

Take a trip through the natural world with our themed collections of video clips from the natural history archive.

  • Nature's record breakers Nature's record breakers

    Animal kingdom record breakers - how fast can a cheetah run, how heavy is an elephant and what's bigger than a dinosaur? Watch amazing video clips from the BBC archive and uncover the fascinating facts about our smallest primate, the longest stick insect and the most venomous snake.

  • David Attenborough's Madagascar David Attenborough's Madagascar

    Like nowhere else on Earth, the mystery and magic of Madagascar leaves a vivid impression on all those who visit, and none more so than David Attenborough.