Kelenken is an extinct genus of giant flightless predatory birds of the family Phorusrhacidae or "terror birds".



Reconstructions of Kelenken guillermoi (BAR 3877-11) (A), Devicenzia pozzi (MLP 37-III-7-8) (B), and Patagornis marshi (BMNH A517) (C) in occipital (left) and lateral (right) views. FIGURE 12. Reconstruction of Kelenken guillermoi scaled for comparison to a human. Preserved bones are in white.  

Kelenken is a bird that was discovered in 1999 by Guillermo Aguirrezabala in Comallo, Argentina. This bird was one of 18 different groups of “terror birds” which roamed multiple continents prior to extinction. This bird lived during the Middle Miocene Period that extended from about 23 million to about 5 million years ago. Its name is an indigenous Native American name which means “winged deity.” These birds were discovered within Argentina, and likely had a range all over the rest of South America.

These birds lived in the Middle Miocene, some 15 million years ago, in Argentina along with Argentavis. Kelenken was one of the largest carnivorous birds of all time, reaching 2.28 to 2,5 meters tall and weighing around 250 kg. It was a large, flightless carnivore which was thought to have chased down and killed its prey with several bone-shattering blows from its beak.

Another possibility is that it may have picked up its prey item, then proceeded to shake it vigorously to break its back, or simply deliver a fatal bite from its massive beak. With a skull 71 cm long (including its 45.7 cm beak), it had the largest head of any known bird. The tarsometatarsus was about 45 cm long.


A unique trait about the Kelenken’s beak is that it contained a small hook on the tip of it that allowed it to eviscerate its prey. Like all birds, capable of flight or not, this bird was covered in feathers on most of its body.

Similarly to other purely terrestrial aves, this bird sported long legs with large claws at the end, having one raised sickle-shaped talon on each foot. These features would’ve both assisted in both pursuing prey and fleeing, giving it plenty of agility.

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