An artist's illustration of Argentavis magnificens
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Cathartiformes (disputed)
Family: †Teratornithidae
Genus: Argentavis
Campbell & Tonni, 1980
Binomial name
Argentavis magnificens
Campbell & Tonni, 1980

Argentavis ("magnificent Argentine bird", or "magnificent silver bird") is a large bird from Late Miocene Argentina and currently is regarded the biggest flying bird ever, as while the type and only species Argentavis magnificens is likely surpassed in wingspan by Pelagornis sandersi, it is still significantly heavier. Argentavis is sometimes called the giant teratorn, and is known from three sites from the late Miocene of Central and Northwestern Argentina, where a good sample of fossils have been obtained.


While the only known humerus (upper arm bone) specimen of Argentavis is somewhat damaged, it still allows for fairly accurate estimations of its length in real life, which is thought to be only slightly shorter than a human arm. The species possessed large and powerful feet which allowed it to carry significant payloads and walk on the ground with ease.

Argentavis is currently accepted to have an estimated wingspan of around 5.1 to 6.5 meters (17 to 21 feet), a height of 1.5 to 1.8 meters (5 to 6 feet), and a mass of approximately 70–72 kilograms (154–159 lbs). This makes Argentavis extremely large among other birds, with its wingspan only being surpassed by the pseudotooth seabird Pelagornis sandersi. For comparison, the snowy albatross (the current holder of the largest wingspan among any extant bird), has a smaller wingspan of about 3.6 meters (12 feet). Though, as the snowy albatross is known to be a seabird, while A. magnificens is very clearly a more terrestrial species of bird, a better comparison would be one with the Andean condor, a close and extant relative of A. magnificens that can attain a wingspan of up to 3.3 meters (11 feet). A. magnificens is also notably heavy among flying birds, as the current heaviest flying birds in the world, the great and kori bustards can only reach a weight of 21 kg (46 lbs) in comparison to the 71 kilograms (157 lbs) of A. magnificens.


Compared to modern day birds, Argentavis seems to lay 1 to 2 eggs that weigh about 1 kg (2.2 lbs) in weight around every two years. Due to the climate, eggs were likely incubated during winter, with the mates collecting food. The young would likely be independent after about 16 months, but they would not be fully mature until reaching an age of about 12 years old. The mortality rates for Argentavis were likely very low, since the main factors for the death of an Argentavis were mainly from old age and disease, not by predation.

Argentavis likely flew mainly by soaring, flapping for short periods of time, due to information from its wing structure and wing size. Argentavis also likely used thermal currents to help fly, which, due to it being warmer in the Miocene then today, it would be easier to stay aloft in thermal updrafts. Due to its wings being too long to flap effectively, Argentavis would likely need to use mountain slopes or headwinds to take off, which it could likely do even on gently sloping terrain.

Argentavis likely used a north-south direction when searching for food to avoid being slowed down by adverse winds. Being less aerodynamically suited for predation than its relatives, Argentavis may have preferred to scavenge for carrion, scaring away metatherian carnivores such as Thylacosmilids from their kills. When hunting, Argentavis likely targeted small prey such as young ground sloths, large rodents, and small armadillos, swooping onto them, grabbing them with their powerful feet, and then killing and swallowing them without having to land at all. Such behavior is inferred from the structure of the skull, which would allow Argentavis to swallow its prey whole instead of tearing them into more digestible chunks.

In the Media[]

  • Argentavis appeared in Ark: Survival Evolved as a tamable creature that can take small creatures and players. It is often regarded as one of the best mounts in the game
  • Argentavis appeared in Jurassic World: Alive as a rare creature, marking its first appearance in the Jurassic Park Franchise.



  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1906724/
  2. https://archive.org/details/guinnessbookofan00wood
  3. http://www.fossilworks.org/cgi-bin/bridge.pl?a=taxonInfo&taxon_no=39644
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2981443/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1941455
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7395523/
  7. https://academic.oup.com/biolinnean/article/103/2/458/2452621