Sunday, February 8, 2009

Unknown Avian Cryptid

Last year on this blog I related my Thunderbird experience I had while working at Erie County Memorial Gardens in 2001.

You can find the entry here. I am still not sure what I did observe that hot summer day, but the bird was huge.

After relating my experience I hinted at other high strangeness that I experienced there, and shared some of those with in the form of some of the ghost stories which were related to me by fellow employees. They are bizarre and unnerving stories and thank goodness I never experienced them for myself.

One of the oddest things I did experience there was the appearance of a small little animal near the edge of the wood for which no one has a clue as to what exactly it is.

It was mid summer in 2003, and I was on my way to the graveyard dump with a load of dirt that was just taken from a freshly opened grave. The funeral was to take place early the next day and we opened the grave a day early to get a jump start on the next morning, so the time was around 2:00 in the afternoon. Like most summer days near lake Erie it was a hot and humid one, and the skies were clear.

I turned onto the dirt road that led to the dump when I noticed a small bird to the right side of the road edge. I slowed down to let the bird get out of the way, but instead it just stood there and looked at me. So I eased the dump truck to the left side of the road and passed the bird very slowly. It never got out of the way, and as I passed it, it started to follow me down the dirt trail.

It was brown and the feathers had the same sheen as a pigeons. It was about double the size of a pigeon though, and had a bright orange beak. I also noticed that it had no tail feathers whatsoever.

After quickly depositing the dirt I went back up the road, and the bird was still there, this time it was on the grass to the east of the road. It walked slowly into the neighboring woods, and as it walked I noticed that it did not have the same bobbing action that pigeons have when they walk.

Here is a composite picture of what I saw.

No one that I talked to at the graveyard had ever seen a bid like this, so curiously I called the Pennsylvania Game Commission and described the fowl to them. They had no idea what it could have been, no indigenous creature of the area matched the description.

So what was it?

Last year I submitted the composite picture to Loren Coleman who also had no idea of what exactly I had seen that summer day 6 years ago.

So, anyone have a clue?

If so write me and let me know.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope


cryptidsrus said...

A pigeon that caught its tail in something and had it broken off and was seeking your help. :)
No seriously, I have no idea what it is either. Spirit of a bird?

Vasily said...

Maybe a Sora or one of its relatives like a species of Rail or the Moorhen?

Kooljanik said...

Maybe you should submit your picture to They have forums that can help you identify it if it's a known species. Maybe its tail had been cut off by a predator and that's why it didn't fly away. He's really cute though!

cryptidsrus said...

That's a good idea, Kooljanik!!!

Sam said...

Assuming that the bird was flightless perhaps you should do some reasearch into the native birds of New Zealand, just about all of them have similarities to what you may have seen. How a flightless bird from NZ ends up in the U.S is beyond me, however there are theories the the native people of New Zealand ( the maori ) May be related in some way to the Native American Indians, perhaps if that theory is true then maybe our native birds aren't so native and hitched a ride.

Jeff said...

I agree that it looks like a New Zealand native. How it got to America is no great mystery - people bring home souvenirs all the time. It could have then escaped.

As for your other bird, I have no idea. It is far too easy to make a mistake about size based on perspective, because the human eye can be fooled. I once saw what I thought was a huge bird fly across a road, but when I stopped and looked for it in the trees, I saw that it was only a golden eagle. Now, this was Mississippi, and golden eagles weren't supposed to be living in Mississippi at the time, but still, in that instant when I saw it cross the road with one wingtip almost brushing the ground, I would have sworn on a Bible that it was bigger than my car. I'm not saying you didn't see what you saw, but if what you saw looked so much like a blue heron, then it is far more likely that what you saw was a blue heron than a thunderbird.

shiva said...

Could it have been a Rumpless Araucana chicken?

The composite image does look like some sort of large flightless rail, but there aren't any in North America, so it would have to be an escapee.

The first thing i thought of, apart from the rumpless chicken, was a Kagu, but those are light grey and have tail feathers - i guess it was just the orange beak that reminded me...

cryptidsrus said...


Cryptomundo has your story. They basically think it is a chicken. One of them said it pretty much looked like a species of chicken raised in Rhode Island. I think he was talking about the Rhode Island Red.

That guy was serious---some of the others sounded more "dismissive." Who knows. Could it be a chicken???

Pastor Swope said...

Thanks for the comment Cryptidsrus,

I saw the link from Loren and followed up on the comments. I was raised on a farm so I know what various varieties of chickens look like! :)

NOT a chicken. Nor a Rail or Sora. The beak was straight and pointed and there was no evidence of trauma to the rear end of the bird to account for the missing tail.

Thanks for defending me!

Most of the comments were overtly dismissive for sure, and some a little condescending.

But it is a highlight of my blog to have a link from Loren. I admire him very much, and he has been nothing but kind, courteous and professional.

Loren Coleman said...

"Cryptomundo has your story. They basically think it is a chicken."

Yes, Cryptomundo has a link to Pastor Swope's account here.

However, just for clarification, the "they" are the comment makers, but does not include the one who wrote the blog posting (me).

I reported it as straight news, as per Pastor Swope's account (which he kindly had shared with me last year). I did not label it a chicken.

I see that Pastor Swope understands that point, by his comment here, but I merely wanted to reinforce the difference between the blog and the comments.


Sly said...

Sounds like one flew over the coo coo's nest, hahaha...

Strange bird. Interesting story.

As usual, so happy to catch up on your stories.

cryptidsrus said...

Thanks for clearing that up, Loren!!!
I didn't mean all of Cryptomundo. Certainly not you.

Vasily said...

In the 1960s I found a strange unknown creature in the leaf litter while hiking in the woods in northern Illinois. It had a leathery green shell, camouflaged to look like a leaf, and an orange translucent body under the shell. For over 40 years I wondered what this creature was: then based on a hint from an insect site, I finally found it; a slug moth caterpillar:

I'd described it over the years to people - and finally came to wonder if my memory were faulty after all those years, and I had embellished the memory in some way. Turns out no, my memory was accurate.

Perhaps your bird was a "sport", a variation on something more common; perhaps something escaped from captivity; perhaps a bird from elsewhere - a foreigner here on vacation. Or a mutant chicken. In any case, thanks for sharing your stories with us; I appreciate and enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

t know if this helps much, but it looks a lot like a cinnamon bittern to me.

But if it is one, it was a long ways from home. Maybe it was an escaped pet?

Pastor Swope said...

Thanks Anonymous,

Not a Cinnamon Bittern.

Thanks though!

I am so amused at some on the other site who insist that what I saw was a chicken. I was harvesting chickens before I went to Elementery School. Not only was the body wrong, the feathering was totally different. The feathers had the same spectral lighting as a pigeon ( and the fine feathers) but it was brown, all one shade with no variation. Definitely not a Rhode Island Red !!! :)

I was 7 feet away from the bird and observed it for about 5 minutes and at 360 degrees.

cryptidsrus said...

One thing, though...

From the photshopped picture you submitted---the head is too small to be that of a chicken!!!

I'm no experts on birds, but I've seen enough of the chicken variety to know that that head would be too small to be that of one.

Ann F said...

The shape looks a lot like a greylag goose, except for the missing tail. They've got the same kind of pigeon sheen and the size is about right. Could it be one that was injured or deformed? Or alternatively, juvenile geese sometimes look like they don't have fully developed tails (or butts).

Scroll down to the photo labeled "Here is one of the young" to see one that looks a bit like it's not got a tail.

Pastor Swope said...

Thanks Ann F,

Your pointer was the closest to what I did see. But the chest of the baby goose is much larger than the thing I saw.

Closest yet though!

Quantitatively much better than the Rhode Island Red that some would point to! ;)

Ann F said...

A few more geese for your consideration, then. :-)

Different kinds of geese interbreed very easily, so it could be that a goose with the right coloration bred with a smaller kind.

It could also be some other kind of waterfowl, a duck would be closer to the right size, but the shape isn't quite a classic duck shape.

Vasily said...

Also keep in mind it could be a variant of some species ... for example, American robins with dark coloring have been found. Or it might be a deformed or injured individual (which might explain the short tail).

Anonymous said...

Don't know about the strange bird.It is not uncommen to see "strange" birds and animals near a graveyard, epecially if near other sacred lands.

Can't say for sure about the thunderbird, but here is my story:
Was near an ancient effigy mound while wandering through the countryside. My sister a devout Jehova's witness was with me on the trip, lasting two days. During those two days, we saw dozens of Eagles on the side of the road, flying along side of us, even flying directly over our car, a conversion van, and swooping down the front, so big it looked like a turkey. This excited my sister and myself. We wandered over to a small resturant and camp, by following the Eagle. There we had lunch and the entire lunchroom was passing around binaculours to better see the Mom and Dad Eagle, who were on the ice in the river, teaching the baby Eagles how to fish. They (the campers) had never seen this and it was exciting to them to see Eagles.
We also saw a huge, huge Eagle circling near our hotel which was over three stories tall. The wingspan being at least 8 feet on it, even way up over the building. I estimate it to be about the size of a small cub plane. We both saw it and she remarked how odd it was to be so big and yet ...not cast a shadow on a sunny day....
Was it a thunderbird? Don't know but it must have been huge to be that big and that far up. I consider what I experienced to be some kind of Eagle Blessing as the sheer volume of sightings both coming and going was amazing. The spiritual world is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Saw dozens of Eagles over a two day period with my Jehovah's Witness sister once. They were flying along side the car and over the car, swooping down over the conversionvan top, appearing as big as a turkey. We followed the Eagle to a small restrurant where the lunchtime crowd was passing around binoculours and fondly watching a Mom and Dad Eagle give fishing lessons on an icy river to Jr.
On this same trip we saw a giant huge Eagle circling high above our three story hotel. It had an eight foot wing span even at that distance, meaning it must hve been the size of a small plane.(the old kind). Was it a thunderbird? Don't know but it was huge and on a very sunny day my sister remarked that it was odd that it did not cast a shadow...
I consider that event some kind of Eagle blessing due to the high volume of Eagles that we saw coming and going.
The spirit world is capable of many things.Peace

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was a zoo escapee of some sort. So maybe a North American bird is not the place to look.

Anonymous said...

The bird may have been a Bittern.

Anonymous said...

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