(Bird giant claw).
Named By: Oscar Arredondo - 1954.
Classification: Chordata, Aves, Strigiformes, Strigidae.
Species: O. oteroi (type), O. minor, O. gigas, O. acevedoi.
Size: 1.1 meters tall, at least 9 kilograms in weight.
Known locations: Cuba.
Time period: Tarantian of the Pleistocene to early Hologene.
Fossil representation: Many sets of remains, some almost complete.
sheer size of the first remains along with their proportions initially
led to the identification that Ornimegalonyx was a
‘terror bird’ similar to the smaller members of that group such as
This classification continued until 1961 when Pierce
Brodkorb correctly identified the remains as that of a large ground
dwelling owl (two years later Brodkorb would identify Titanis,
first phorusrhacid from North America).
Ornimegalonyx is thought to have used its long and powerful legs to chase after prey rather than flying. This behaviour would see Ornimegalonyx hunting for small to medium sized mammals, particularly large rodents that are common to Central American Islands. Ornimegalonyx would likely use its powerful feet and claws to strike out at its prey and cause fatal injuries to the spine, neck and face. These areas are often targeted for attack by owls that fly, the idea being to incapacitate their prey so that it cannot escape should the first attack not prove fatal.
Ornimegalonyx may not have limited itself to just running after its prey, but may have also used what is termed a pouncing strategy. This hunting behaviour would involve Ornimegalonyx taking up a position above the forest floor and waiting for prey to approach beneath. Ornimegalonyx could just hop off its perch and drop down, perhaps holding out its wings to both slow down and steer its descent for a precision strike on its unsuspecting prey.
Even though the wings are greatly reduced in size, Ornimegalonyx may have still been capable of limited bursts of flight. The keel of the breast bone while reduced would still allow for some development of the flight muscles that in other birds allowed for powered flight. Ornimegalonyx may have used its long legs to spring itself up into the air and then flap its wings to slow its descent and extend the range of the jump. This way Ornimegalonyx may have been able to take up positions off the floor where it could rest as well as hunt for food.
- The Great Predatory Birds of the Pleistocene of Cuba. - Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology number 27, pp. 169-187. - Oscar Arredondo - 1982.
- Los Strigiformes fósiles del pleistoceno cubano. - Boletín de la Sociedad Venezolana de Ciencias Naturales 140, 33-55. - Oscar Arredondo - 1982.