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Giant Flying Creature Seen in Southwest Alaska, 2002
Southwest Alaskans see bird they say is Super Cub-sized Skeptical biologists say people are probably reporting a Steller's sea eagle
By Peter Porco
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: October 15, 2002)
A giant winged creature, like something out of Jurassic Park, has reportedly been sighted several times in Southwest Alaska in recent weeks.
Villagers in Togiak and Manokotak say they have seen a huge bird that's much bigger than anything they have seen before.
(Photo;Illustration) A Dillingham pilot says he spotted the creature while flying passengers to Manokotak last week. He calculated that its wingspan matched the length of a wing on his Cessna 207. That's about 14 feet.
Other people have put the wingspan in a similar range.
Scientists aren't sure what to make of the reports. No one doubts that people in the region west of Dillingham have seen a very large raptorlike bird. But biologists and other people familiar with big Alaska birds say they're skeptical it's that big.
A recent sighting of the mystery bird occurred last Thursday morning when Moses Coupchiak, a 43-year-old heavy equipment operator from Togiak, 40 miles west of Manokotak, saw the bird flying toward him from about two miles away as he worked his tractor.
"At first I thought it was one of those old-time Otter planes," Coupchiak said. "Instead of continuing toward me, it banked to the left, and that's when I noticed it wasn't a plane."
The bird was "something huge," he said. "The wing looks a little wider than the Otter's, maybe as long as the Otter plane." The bird flew behind a hill and disappeared. Coupchiak got on the radio and warned people in Togiak to tell their children to stay away.
Pilot John Bouker said he was highly skeptical of reports of "this great big eagle" that is two or three times the size of a bald eagle. "I didn't put any thought into it."
But early this week while flying into Manokotak, Bouker, owner of Bristol Bay Air Service, looked out his left window and 1,000 feet away, "there's this big . . . bird," he said.
"The people in the plane all saw him," Bouker said. "He's huge, he's huge, he's really, really big. You wouldn't want to have your children out."
To Nicolai Alakayak, a freight and passenger driver from Manokotak who was flying with Bouker, said the creature looked like an eagle and was as large as "a little Super Cub."
Comparison to an eagle, certainly. Super Cub? Probably not, scientists said.
"I'm certainly not aware of anything with a 14-foot wingspan that's been alive for the last 100,000 years," said federal raptor specialist Phil Schemf in Juneau.
Schemf, other biologists, a village police officer and teachers at the Manokotak School said the sightings could be of a Steller's sea eagle, a species native to northeast Asia and one of the world's largest eagles.
It's about 50 percent bigger than a bald eagle. The Steller's eagle has occasionally shown up in the Pribilof Islands, on the Aleutian chain and on Kodiak.
A bird known to be a Steller's sea eagle has been spotted three times since May and in August of last year, 40 miles up the Nushagak River from Dillingham, according to Rob MacDonald of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Another Steller's eagle took up residence on the Taku River south of Juneau for 10 summers starting in the late 1980s, Schemf said. The fish-eating Steller's sea eagle can weigh 20 pounds and have a wingspan of up to 8 feet.
It has a distinctive and impressive appearance, Schemf said, with a pronounced yellow beak, a black or dark brown body and large white shoulder patches.
"It's hard to mistake it for something else," he said. It's clearly an eagle, though more "like a giant bald eagle." People who observe animals "don't always have the sizes right, but this is very different because the people in that area know what eagles look like," said Karen Laing, also a federal biologist.
"I don't know of any bird that's three times the size of an eagle," Laing said. "What would that be? An ostrich? What bird occurs here that would possibly be three times the size of an eagle or the size of a Super Cub?"
Reporter Peter Porco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at 907 257-4582.
Giant Bird Sightings in Pennsylvania, 2001
A gigantic bird has been sighted in Pennsylvania. On the evening of Tuesday, September 25, 2001, a 19-year-old claimed to have seen an enormous winged creature flying over Route 119 in South Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
The witness's attention was drawn to the sky by a sound that resembled "flags flapping in a thunderstorm." Looking up, the witness saw what appeared to be a bird that had a wingspan of an estimated 10 to 15 feet and a head about three feet long.
This is the most recent sighting of an incredible creature - most often considered a myth - known as a "Thunderbird." Sightings of these gigantic birds, apparently unknown to science, go back hundreds of years and are a part of many Native American legends and traditions.
They have even been blamed for abducting, or attempting to abduct, small children. And now they seem to be soaring through the skies of Pennsylvania.
On September 25, the witness told researcher Dennis Smeltzer, that the huge black or grayish-brown bird passed overhead at about 50 to 60 feet. "I wouldn't say it was flapping its wings gracefully," the witness told Smeltzer, "but almost horrifically flapping its wings very slowly, then gliding above the passing big rig trucks."
The witness observed the creature for about 90 seconds in total, even seeing it land on the branches of a dead tree, which nearly broke under its great weight.
Unfortunately, no other witnesses saw the bird on this date and no tangible evidence could be found for the bird after the site was searched.
What makes this story more interesting, however - even plausible - is that other sightings of similar description were reported in Pennsylvania in June and July, 2001.
On June 13, a resident of Greenville, Pa. was startled by the great size of the grayish-black creature seen soaring overhead, at first thinking it was a small airplane or ultralight aircraft!
This witness observed the bird for at least 20 minutes, clearly seeing its fully feathered body and confidently estimating its wingspan to be about 15 feet and its body length at about 5 feet.
This bird, too, was seen to perch on a tree for at least 15 minutes before taking to air again and flying off toward the south. A neighbor of this witness claimed to have seen the creature the next day, describing it as "the biggest bird I ever saw."
Less than a month later, on July 6, a witness in Erie County, Pa. reported a very similar sighting, according to an item in Fortean Times magazine.
Again, the creature's wingspan was estimated to be 15 to 17 feet and was described as "dark gray with little or no neck, and a circle of black under its head. Its beak was very thin and long - about a foot in length."
Giant Bird Sightings in 1980
Los Angeles, California, 1980
This happened almost twenty years ago. My son was right around one year old and also included in this was the house cat we had at the time. Our clothes drier is in a small shed in our backyard. My wife and son who I was holding and myself had got home late from visting relatives. Our housecat trailed out after us to get some clothes out of the drier.
As I said I was holding my son in my arms and my wife was leaning over into the shed retrieveing the clothes, when I noticed that our cat had gone into a crouched position and was staring intently with it's ears laid back at something in the sky.
My wife noticed the cat at about the same instant I did and then I saw that my son was also cranning his neck to see something in the sky.
I've often wondered about this fact that the cat and my young child were the first to see and register on this thing. My wife and I looked up towards where the cat and our son were staring and what we saw was a giant flying animal that at first I took to be a bat.
As I looked at it several things began to become apparent. It was quite large easily the biggest flying animal I'd ever seen before or since, it was flying quite high. We live near a municipal airport and there is always private aircraft flying over head.
Also It is not rare for commercial jets from LAX to fly by overhead. The animal was at a height of I would guess three thousand feet and seemed to be the aproximate size of a private aircraft-- maybe a twenty five to thirty foot wingspan.
As I remember it, if I held my hand at arms lenth it was the size of three of my fingers. It was a pale white colour and it flew in a steady northernly direction.
I said before that I first thought it was a bat, because it's wingbeats were very fast and steady like a bat . While it was in sight it's wings never slowed or stopped to soar.
I could not see its body shape distinctly but had the impression of a short neck, thick body and maybe the head had the horned look of some types of owls. when me and my wife first saw it it was almost directly overhead and we watched it for about thirty seconds til it flew out range of our sight in the darkness.
All this time the cat had been making low growling noises and right before we lost sight of the thing we heard a sharp piercing cry from the thing. It sounded something like a hawk but different and louder since by this time it must of been a couple of miles distant.
At the animals cry the cat hissed loudly and ran back and under the house and our son began to cry and didn't stop for a long while . Our son for the next week or so always looked up at the sky when out in the backyard.
I've seen owls including snow owls, vultures ,eagles, herons, pelicans, gulls ,geese and swans in flight and none of them looked like this and no bird I've ever seen flew with the rapid wing beat of this thing for the period of time we saw it.