Terror bird with prey

Terror birds

Huge flightless terror birds were South America's top predators for millions of years and at nearly three metres tall certainly lived up to their name. Their modern relatives, the seriemas, kill their prey by smashing it repeatedly against the ground, which may well have been the terror birds' technique too. The terror birds lived between 27 million and 15,000 years ago and spread into North America when the two continents joined. One of these birds boasts the record for the largest bird skull ever found, measuring 71cm long with a wicked, curved 45cm beak.

Scientific name: Phorusrhacidae

Rank: Family

Common names:

rag thieves

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

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.


  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Birds
  5. Cariamae
  6. Terror birds

BBC News about Terror birds

  • 'Terror bird' was prize fighter Scientists show how the giant, flightless terror birds that roamed South America for millions of years would have taken down their prey.