Thunderbird Sighting

lordmongrove

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What do you make of "Thunderbird" sightings @lordmongrove?

I think if there were a species bird with a 25 foot wingspan in North America then the legions of twitchers would have known about it long ago. Maybe outsized individual freaks of know species? The Marlon Lowe case has always interested me.
 

Ogdred Weary

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I think if there were a species bird with a 25 foot wingspan in North America then the legions of twitchers would have known about it long ago. Maybe outsized individual freaks of know species? The Marlon Lowe case has always interested me.

Would you go with "Zooform Phenomena" here?
 

Kondoru

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Thats a good theory, yes
 

Mouldy13

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I think if there were a species bird with a 25 foot wingspan in North America then the legions of twitchers would have known about it long ago. Maybe outsized individual freaks of know species? The Marlon Lowe case has always interested me.

I know the bare bones as it were of this case, do you have a good link to check out?
 

brownmane

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A film on the Canadian thunderbird
I did wonder, while watching film, if condors might be considered as the thunderbirds.

Good documentary outlining different indigenous peoples stories of thunderbirds in their regions. The grouse being one, I don't believe imo, to be the thunderbird referred to in the northern most parts of North America.
 

Endlessly Amazed

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I am struck, when reading of accounts of impossibly big birds, or other impossible cryptids, that the logic being used is often to not consider out of place animals. I think that if an animal exists in the world somewhere, then it can (even if improbably, illegally, not likely, etc.) also be in an unusual spot.

With that, I have always thought that the bird which picked up Marlon Lowe was a South American condor. It and its mate did not have to be blown off course to central North America by a storm, or to have naturally moved into this new territory. This pair of big birds could have been illegally and secretly-held property by someone in Illinois. A breeding pair? If they then escaped or were released, and were hungry, it would explain their boldness (habituation) in hanging around peoples’ homes, and then picking up a child. The description of multiple witnesses matched that of a SA condor.

I have some casual experience with people with the mindset to collect weird animals, even if illegal, difficult, and expensive. They are secretive about their hobby. (I also suspect that they often suffer from some sort of mental or emotional illness.) If someone were holding a pair of SA condors illegally in Illinois, and the birds escaped or were released, the owner would likely not come forward.

North American condor stories: 40 years ago, when I lived in Arizona, my first husband and I drove up to the eastern part of the Grand Canyon National Park. We were stunned at the monstrously large turkey vultures living on the Navajo reservation. We both knew that there were no condors in Arizona :) Later we found out that those condors were part of a secretive captive breeding program and were released in that area. Dead sheep were placed in the area to give the birds a headstart in their new home. Fast forward 40 years, and condors are regularly, but not frequently, seen in the Grand Canyon. They are stunning! They, like the ravens and eagles, can glide effortlessly for hours on the thermal winds just off the rims.
 

Sharon Hill

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@Endlessly Amazed It's certainly plausible because we know those animals do exist. But there remains the problem that you can't easily place those animals in that situation. There should be supporting evidence that they are in that location - more people should see them, they should leave traces, it should happen more than once, there should be an explanation for why they may be there, etc. We don't usually have any of that. We do know that people ubiquitously make mistaken observations and unknowingly exaggerate or change the events when they describe them. So, that is even more likely than an out-of-place animal.
 

Endlessly Amazed

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@SharonHill – You raise some interesting points which I would like to address. First, all of your points are one with which I agree, in the general case. However, I view the general case as a compilation of specific instances. Each specific instance is best evaluated on its own merits. To examine a specific instance with the general case logic (and then reject the specific case) is to not consider adequately the details of the specific case.

In non-laboratory (that is, not in a designed and controlled environment) settings, data is the plural of anecdotes (non-scientific, first-person observations), at least as a starting point. It is a starting point which we may ignore to our error-making peril. It is a starting point which we must examine as closely as we can, or we risk error-making peril. Think of this as type I and type II errors.

Here are the objections you raise, followed by my comments:

SH: There should be supporting evidence that they are in that location - more people should see them

EA: Marlon Lowe, his mother, and his friend, all claimed to have witnessed the bird. I don’t recall if more people saw that event, or saw the bird in the general area. For me, in this specific instance, the agreement of the three witnesses was enough for me to provisionally accept that something unusual had happened. A following event, which added support in my mind that something weird had happened, was that the witnesses persisted in sticking to their story (or even mentioned it in the first place), even when their neighbors ridiculed them harshly. I was raised in a small, narrow-minded community, and know how cruel this can be.

SH: they should leave traces,

EA: I am not sure what you mean by this. The single instance was a large bird which lifted a child up and flew with him for a short distance. What traces do you mean? As far as I remember, nobody took the story seriously enough to go looking in the countryside for the birds. So, the traces (droppings, feathers, small dead animals with neck wounds) may have existed, but were not searched for. Alternately, the birds may have left traces too far away to be discovered. Birds even as large as a SA condor could live for years (but what would they eat?) in the Midwest forests without human discovery because of the sparce population and the very dense ground cover. Alternately, if the birds had escaped, they may have gone back to their original captivity when they got hungry enough, leaving nothing to discover.

I sometimes see, in the wilderness, animals which are out of their normal environment or exhibiting unusual behavior and which leave no trace such as footprints or scat. I have told others of these sightings, to be told that I was mistaken. However, I was not mistaken (from 10 feet away, smelled them, viewed clearly for more than a few seconds). These sceptics were applying the general case to my specific instance.

SH: it should happen more than once,

EA: I disagree. If this was an established population, exhibiting typical behavior, then, yes, it should happen more than once. However, in this specific instance, a bird attempted to pick up and fly away with a child. It failed. If this was typical behavior in a typical environment, then it “should” try again with a different child. However, it wasn’t typical behavior nor a typical environment. I once was dive-bombed by a golden eagle when I was walking out in a back pasture to examine a dead newborn calf with severe neck wounds. It scared the crap out of me. It was not typical behavior (“should happen more than once”), but it happened.

SH: there should be an explanation for why they may be there, etc.

EA: Sharon, who should be responsible for explaining, in this specific instance, why the birds were there? I think that, with unusual occurrences, the established authorities (persons who, by reason of their occupation or expertise, are generally considered to be a respected source of comment) tend to decide (accept or reject) based on degree of congruity with previous instances – the general case, again. In this specific instance, there were no previous cases to compare to, so the accepted authorities (if I recall correctly, the local police) politely rejected.

SH: We don't usually have any of that.

EA: I agree – we don’t. That no other evidence was forthcoming is a cause for more caution, not less. For me, the evidence of the 3 witnesses was sufficient for me to provisionally accept that some big bird picked up a child. I assume it happened, with the caveat in my mind that it was a wild-ass story. For you, the testimony of the three purported witnesses was insufficient to provisionally accept, so you rejected the story. I respect that. However, I do not agree with your applying general case logic to this specific instance.

SH: We do know that people ubiquitously make mistaken observations and unknowingly exaggerate or change the events when they describe them.

EA: Yes, I agree with this. However, I disagree that this reasoning be applied to all specific instances as an accept/reject criterion. If this were a good way to figure things out, we would reject all general non-laboratory observations because “people ubiquitously make mistaken observations and unknowingly exaggerate or change the events when they describe them.”

That witnesses make mistakes is something to bear in mind to all specific cases, which is why I have only provisionally accepted that a SA condor tried to fly away with a child. However, in my heart I think it really happened. But, if the witnesses recanted their story, I would, with a heavy heart, sadly accept that SA condors were not on the loose in the US midwest :)

SH: So, that is even more likely than an out-of-place animal.

EA: I disagree with your summary conclusion, based on the specific points above.
 

Sharon Hill

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Your premise was that "if an animal exists in the world somewhere, then it can also be in an unusual spot". I provided logical reasons why that isn't usually a good answer to a cryptid account. I was not talking specifically about the Lowe case but the evidence for that particular case remains entirely unconvincing. Three witnesses (or more) can be wrong. Had even one of the criteria that I mentioned been applicable in that case, the conclusion of large non-native bird as the identity of the animal would have been stronger.
EA: Sharon, who should be responsible for explaining, in this specific instance, why the birds were there?
A strange weather pattern, a population issue, food sources, etc. would all be valid considerations for an outlying sighting. There are plenty of documented accounts of unusual animal sightings due to natural conditions.

Agree or disagree, premises of biology and human perception discourage the explanation of a cryptid as an out-of-place animal*. This can be applied to the Lowe case as well. In fact, we can not even confirm that it happened as described. Until another bird abduction account comes along with more convincing evidence, there is nothing more to do than speculate. After a while, that becomes a useless exercise.

This is the main problem with the study of cryptids. We have almost no better evidence than eyewitnesses or dubious traces. And, even over decades, the evidence does not get better.

*with the caveat that it does happen on rare occasions
 

kamalktk

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If you think it was an out of place south american condor that tried to fly away with a child in Illinois, then it would be reasonable to assume there would be regular reports of this behavior from south american condors in their native range, given their greater numbers in their native range than an out of place location.
 

Endlessly Amazed

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@SharonHill – Thank you for your response.

I do not speak as a representative of science (although I have terminal degrees and advanced certifications) because I think that no single person can adequately represent the range of different opinions in the different fields. This is partly why I try to emphasize the distinction between a specific instance and the general case. It is a point I hammered hard with Ph.D. students.

Sharon, when you state “ …premises of biology and human perception discourage the explanation…”, this is phrased as a general case pronouncement and a summary statement, and not an individual opinion. As a pronouncement and summary, it can be construed by readers that this is what science has decided about the situation. Summary statements are often used as guiding principles for other, following, investigations. Although this may not have been your intention, when you write these types of opinions, it influences the readers, who may then conclude that there is nothing in these weird occurrences. In other words, all these types of occurrence have been misconstrued and have not actually occurred. When you reject all or the general case of weird occurrences as “mistaken observations and unknowlingly exaggerat(ions)”, you fall into Type II error – the error of omission.

In actual fact, these types of occurrence are indeterminant without additional evidence and perhaps indeterminable no matter what type of additional evidence may be forthcoming. This difference between your statement and mine is profound.

I never stated that the Marlon Lowe occurrence was an out-of-place bird. I stated that I thought it was. This remains my provisional explanation (hypothesis), but I would never claim it is the actual explanation in that the bird was, without any doubt, a SA condor. I agree with you that we, the general public, will likely never know what actually happened, because this many years after the event, new evidence is unlikely to be discovered. I wish someone had preserved a feather from the bird so DNA testing could be done. But nobody did, just like nobody got a clear photograph of UFOs, or a sea monster or…..

Speculation (along with observation) is the start of provisional hypotheses, which are a respectable part of the scientific method.

Sharon, I would greatly appreciate it if you would respond, specifically, to the specific points I made in post #19. If you did, I would be better able to understand your point of view. If you decide not to, I understand, because it may take more time than you want to spend on a, to you, trivial point. In any case, I have enjoyed our discussion.
 

Nosmo King

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Did the mystery b&w photo that a lot of people, including myself, swear they remember seeing of the prospectors/cowpokes, standing with the dead specimin of a thunderbird, ever turn up?
 

EnolaGaia

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Nosmo King

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Nope - at least not one that folks could agree was authentic.

The Legendary Thunderbird Photo
https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/the-legendary-thunderbird-photo.3229/
Thank you for your reply, i just did a quick google image search and there are plenty of 'thunderbird' pics out there, im convinced the one i saw was not, as most posters say, a pterasaur but a huge condor/raptor type bird and the folks are holding it from behind outstretching its wings, is that similar to anyone elses memories?
 
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