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Fossil Find: Big Bird Roamed Northwest 50 Million Years Ago

Tom Banse

Scientists from Western Washington University have found fossil evidence that Big Bird roamed the Northwest 50 million years ago. We're not talking about the friendly yellow bird from "Sesame Street," though. Correspondent Tom Banse explains.


Last year, a landslide east of Bellingham exposed a rock slab with an assortment of fossilized bird tracks. One of the footprints is really big.

Tucker: "It is a three–toed track and it is about 10 by 11 inches."

Geologist Dave Tucker says a Western Washington University team has identified the track as belonging to an extinct bird that was giant and flightless. It's called Diatryma.

Tucker: "This is significant because it has never been identified having lived here on the West Coast before."

Nearly complete skeletons of Diatryma have previously been found in Wyoming, New Mexico and Europe. Today, Diatryma appears in some video games as a ferocious predator. But Tucker thinks it's more likely the giant bird grazed on plants. Five million years ago, the Northwest was much flatter, swampy, and covered with subtropical rainforest. Tucker says the rock slab containing the precious footprint will eventually go on public display at the university in Bellingham. I'm Tom Banse reporting.

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