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
David Attenborough examines the size of Madagascar's huge, flightless elephant birds.
Living in Madagascar, elephant birds were the heaviest birds to ever live and laid the world's largest eggs.
It's tricky reassembling fragments of an elephant bird egg.
Local people gather Aepyornis (elephant bird) shell fragments for David Attenborough. One boy brings him some very large fragments which David attempts to reassemble. To his delight, all the pieces of shell come from one egg. They fit together perfectly.
The Elephant birds can be found in a number of locations including: Madagascar. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.
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Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Elephant birds were a family of large to enormous, flightless birds that once lived on the island of Madagascar, which lies about 200 miles off the southeast coast of Africa. They became extinct, probably in the 17th or 18th century, for reasons that are unclear, although human activity is the suspected cause. Elephant birds comprised the genera Mullerornis and Aepyornis. Aepyornis was among the heaviest of birds. (The extinct Dromornis stirtoni of Australia reached a similar weight).
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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.
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