Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Largest flying bird was an expert glider

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The largest bird that ever flew was an expert glider but was too heavy to fly by flapping its wings, researchers say.

Getting off the ground was a challenge for the 155-pound (70-kilogram) Argentavis magnificens, a condor-like bird that lived in the Andes mountains and the pampas of Argentina about six million years ago.

Despite its massive flight muscles and 21-foot (6.4-meter) wingspan, the giant bird probably could not generate enough lift to take off from a level surface, according to a new study.

Like human hang gliders, Argentavis probably had to run downhill into a headwind to become airborne, said Sankar Chatterjee of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

"Takeoff capability is the limiting factor for the size of flying birds, and Argentavis almost reached the upper limit," Chatterjee said.

Source : National Geographic

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