Why not all “Long Tails” Mean Pterosaurs

Pterosaur misidentification—I mean a non-pterosaur being mistaken for a living pterosaur—is possible, even when the apparent “pterodactyl” has a long tail (or seems to have one). What modern bat or bird is known to have a long featherless tail? Probably not even one, but there is another possibility that we need to watch out for: Some birds have long legs that they hold behind them during flight. But first let’s consider actual tails on birds.

The black Hornbill bird, Anthracoceros malayanus, lives in Southeast Asia, in particular in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand. The following photo, taken in Malaysia, may be that species; at least it appears to be some type of Hornbill. 

Maybe a Black Hornbill - this bird was photographed in Malaysia

It seems highly unlikely, however, that the above bird could be mistaken for dark-colored featherless flying creature with a long tail. It is a dark-colored feathered bird with a wedge-shaped tail. But other birds actually have long tails, including the oceanic Frigate Bird.

A dark Frigate birdFive species of Frigatebirds fly over the warmer areas of oceans. Some of them have been mistaken, by Westerners, for the ropen of Papua New Guinea, which is reported to have a long tail. But the tiny head of the Frigatebird is close to the body, making its silhouette quite different. Notice the one on the right, with hardly any of the head visible. Now compare it to a sketch of the Gitmo Pterosaur.


Eskin Kuhn, in 1971, at the Guantanamo Bay military installation in Cuba, sketched the two pterosaurs he had personally observed one clear day.

sketch of the two pterosaurs observed by Eskin Kuhn in Cuba

Notice the enormous head of the Gitmo Pterosaur. Also, notice the shape of the wing and the structure at the end of the tail and the obvious featherless appearance. This flying creature is obviously not a Hornbill bird and obviously not a Frigatebird.

This sketch was drawn, by the eyewitness, within hours of the sighting. In addition, Kuhn provided us with many paragraphs describing the overall experience, including many details about the appearance and the flight of the two creatures, which were seen at close range. He has stood by his testimony for decades, in spite of criticisms from skeptics. In 2011, his account was supported by a new eyewitness who had observed the same kind of flying creature at the Guantanamo Bay station; that new eyewitness recently learned about Kuhn’s sighting and has now come forward with her account of a sighting just a few years before Kuhn’s.

 But what about those birds that have long legs and hold their legs behind them in flight?

Three American Flamingos in flight

The American Flamingos on the right have long legs, making it possible for some eyewitnesses to mistake those legs for a long tail. Indeed, the end of the legs even looks like the tail-end of a Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur. But what about that extremely long neck? And what about the shape of the head and the shape of the wings? Even if the Gitmo Pterosaur were pink, a flamingo it is not.

Long tails (or apparent tails) alone do not necessarily mean what you have seen is a pterosaur; but a pterosaur head crest with a Rhamphorhynchoid tail and an obvious lack of feathers—that means you have probably seen a living pterosaur.



front and back covers of "Live Pterosaurs in America" nonfiction book

Encounter eyewitness accounts of living pterosaurs in the United States. Live “pterodactyls?” In the United States? Many scientists have long assumed all pterosaurs died millions of years ago. Now take a whirlwind tour of many years of investigations in cryptozoology, and prepare for a shock: At least two species of pterosaurs have survived, uncommon, not so much rare as widely, thinly distributed.

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3 thoughts on “Why not all “Long Tails” Mean Pterosaurs

  1. It seems that many, if not all, of the critics who cry “misidentification” ignore critical details and fail to look deeply or to think clearly. The structure on the top of the head of many hornbills is nothing like the pointed head crest drawn by Eskin Kuhn or described by Duane Hodgkinson and Brian Hennessy. Some critics just take a word and compare that word with something associated with a bird or bat and then reject all of the testimony of an eyewitness of an obviously-apparent pterosaur. It takes a sketch or silhouette drawn by an eyewitness or approved by an eyewitness to see more clearly. It seems that the critics don’t care to be that careful.

  2. The most common misidentification of a bird for a pterosaur, especially “ropen” pterodactyl, is from the Frigatebird (also spelled Frigate Bird), but the difference between them is immense.

  3. Pingback: Hornbill Bird Versus Pterosaur - Pterosaur Eyewitness

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