While this creature may share the same moniker as the affectionate, yellow plumed character adored by millions on Sesame Street, anyone who’s ever encountered this ape-faced, bird-like monstrosity will tell you that this creature is anything but lovable.
Although Tom Waldon would claim to have found unusual,three-toed tracks measured 8-inches across embedded in the ground near his Harlingen home on January 2nd, 1976, the first known sighting of the creature that would come to be known as “Big Bird” occurred on January 1st, 1976, when, then 11-year old Tracey Lawson and her 14-year old cousin, Jackie Davies, saw the beast while playing in Lawson’s back yard near Harlingen, Texas.
The two girls claim they saw the creature standing approximately 300-feet away in an irrigation canal. Lawson, frightened yet intrigued, went inside to get her binoculars. When she returned, Lawson did not a the large bird she expected, but a mysterious monster staring back at her. Not surprisingly their parents, who had yet to hear any reports of the creature, were skeptical of the girls’ story.
That would be until the wee hours of January 7th when a San Benito, Texas, police officer named Arturo Padilla claimed to have seen something extraordinary in the headlights of his cruiser.
Padilla described the creature as looking like a “really big bird,” approximately 5-feet in height with a 12-foot wingspan. As striking as the proportions of this AVIAN ANOMALY are, far and away the most intriguing aspects of this flying fiend were its bald head and simian-like features complete with bright red eyes.
Almost immediately following this initial encounter, Padilla’s colleague — officer, Homer Galvan — also reported seeing the thing, but due to his distant proximity all he was able to discern was a large, black, winged creature silhouetted against the sky.
Later that night, Alverico Guajardo and his nephew Ricardo — who were fishing on the banks of the Rio Grande — also claimed to have encountered the thing. They described it as having eyes as big as silver dollars and a long, skinny beak, despite the fact that it resembled a huge bat.
The next day the Brownsville Herald ran a story about Guajardo’s bizarre sighting and quoted Alverico as saying:
“I was scared. It’s got wings like a bird, but it’s not a bird. That animal is not of this world.”
This abnormally powerful fear is a sensation shared by many people who claim to have had encounters other fantastic, red-eyed, flying fiends such as the MOTHMAN, the BLACK BIRD OF CHERNOBYL, the FREIBURG SHRIEKER and the Anomalies, Monsters
CRIMEAN WAR MONSTROSITIES, just to name a few.
That having been stated, the mammalian features described by most witnesses, would seem to preclude quasi-paranormal creatures like the ones listed above. Still, as terrifying as this apparition was to behold, the worst was yet to come.
On January 14, 1976, Raymondville resident Armando Grimaldo claimed to have had the most harrowing encounter yet chronicled with this aerial atrocity. According to Grimaldo, he heard a loud flapping sound accompanied by a odd whistling noise while walking outside. Just as he glanced up to find the source of this strange noise a pair of large, talon-like claws grabbed onto the back of his shoulders, tearing his shirt and sending him crashing to the ground.
Neighbors, responding to Grimaldo’s shrieks, claimed that they found him in his back yard shaking and screaming, his shirt and jacket torn. Grimaldo would later describe his airborne assailant as a soaring, gorilla-faced creature with leathery, bat-like skin.
This description is not unlike those of WINGED MONKEYS that have been seen in some of the most remote regions of the Earth, such as the Indonesian ORANG-BATI, the Vietnamese AHOOL, Cameroon’s bat-like OLITIAU and even North America’s dubiously named BATSQUATCH.
On February 24th, 1976, three teachers from San Antonio claimed to have seen the “Big Bird” near Harlingen as well. The trio indicated that the creature did not look bird or bat-like, but resembled most an order of FORMERLY EXTINCT flying reptiles that were thought to have been wiped out along with the dinosaurs nearly 65 million years ago known as pteranodons.
These bizarre sightings persisted in the area for several weeks and it wasn’t long before the press got wind of these encounters and a wave of “Big Bird” hysteria swept the nation.
Local radio stations offered $1,000 rewards for the capture of this creature and television news teams showed footage of 9 by 12-inch, bird-like tracks that were said to be those of the “Big Bird.” The incident would soon reach the apex of its fame when it was spoofed by none other than the legendary Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.
As the frenzy surrounding this phenomenon peaked, Ed Dutch, commission officer of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department – no doubt fearing that would-be monster hunters might mistakenly shoot and kill large, rare and protected birds — announced that the birds were protected by state and federal law:
“We have a number of species of birds that do exist in South Texas in the Valley area. Many of them have wingspans up to perhaps 10 feet or in excess of 10 feet, and some of them are on the rare endangered species list. The punishment for catching a protected bird could cost a hunter $5,000.”
Not long after the initial “flap” of sightings, a 5-foot tall jabiru — the tallest flying bird found in South and Central America, with a wingspan up to 9-feet — was found far from its Latin American home, near the Rio Grande River.
This combined with video footage of a large blue heron, which was passed off on a local news program as genuine footage of the creature; led some to surmise that the whole “Big Bird” fad was nothing more than non-indigenous birds being misidentified by overeager eyewitnesses.
Of course, for those who had all too close encounters with this creature — such as Officer Padilla, and Armando Grimaldo — the skeptics claim that the whole flap was caused by nothing more than giant storks and blue herons was patently ridiculous. One does not need to be a trained ornithologist to recognize the differences between a bird’s beak and a primate’s face.
Alex Resendez claimed to have seen the “Big Bird” three times during in the 1970s. The first two sightings consisted of brief glimpses of the beast over Brownsville, but the third time; Resendez swore he saw it in broad daylight near his rural McCook area home.
Resendez said the huge animal had landed not far from him in a cow pasture, which is not surprising as this animal — much like many creatures reputed to be from OUT OF THIS WORLD — was accused of numerous cattle mutilations.
He described the thing as having glassy, black eyes underscored by distinctive red markings, but its oddest feature was its beak. In his own words:
“You have to look close because his beak is very transparent. If you see it real fast, you’re going to think he ain’t got no beak… I never seen a bird that big. He was brownish, like dirt… He does not have long legs and does not stand like other birds.”
Resendez estimated that the brown bird stood over 4-feet tall, but before he could inspect it any further, an angry bull charged at the creature. The “big Bird” wasted no time in unfurling its large wings — which, much to his surprise, appeared to have blue and white stripes — and taking flight. The short legs and translucent beak would seem to indicate that this is not a typical stork or heron as skeptics claimed.
While Texas has been long known for its THUNDERBIRD sightings — and there are more than a few who have speculated that the “Big Bird” may be the very same creature — there is nothing in the annals of American zoology that even remotely compares to the ferocious, flying, ape-faced fiend that stalked the Texas skies all those years ago.
© Copyright Rob Morphy 2002 — 2011