Massive birds from the past make ostriches look like midgets. Elephant birds in Madagascar strode around a landscape filled with other massive animals like giant tortoises and hippos. According to a study by James P. Hansford and Samuel T. Turvey, elephant birds were still around up to about 1,000 years ago. Published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal, their paper notes that there were lots of big birds found on the island nation. ZSL Institute of Zoology noted that Aepyornis titan was thought to be an "aberration" of a bird named the Aepyornis maximus.

Discovered in 1894, Titan was not recognized as the biggest of the big elephant birds. But now, after studying hundreds of bones and bits and pieces, the conclusion is that they are their own species and ruled the roost as the biggest ever.

Big Bird weight in at up to 1700lbs, towered over 10ft

Now termed Vorombe titan, which for ease of reference will be referred to as Big Bird (Malagasy and Greek), the massive creature weighed in at up to 800kg (1,700lbs) and reached a height of three meters, nearly 10 feet tall. Consider that ostriches reach only round two meters (7ft) and weigh in at a measly 250 to 350lbs and you can grasp the difference. The huge birds interested David Attenborough "so much," he said on BBC Earth, that he made a special trip to visit a display of them.

He pointed out there are very few complete skeletons, but the elephant birds that are mounted were put together from various specimens found.

The giant birds in Madagascar ate vegetation

Big Bird and the other elephant birds ate vegetation. Attenborough noted that they ate the leaves of trees which they browsed. However, in the recent paper, it was noted that there were several species and they didn't really compete for food as each species had a different diet.

Hansford said in his statement, such "large-bodied animals have an enormous impact on the wider ecosystem they live in via controlling vegetation through eating plants, spreading biomass and dispersing seeds through defecation. Madagascar is still suffering the effects of the extinction of these birds today.”

According to Attenborough, the moa birds of New Zealand may have been taller than the elephant birds, but the Big Bird won out when it came to weight.

At maximum size, they weighed up to half of a modern-day African elephant. The birds were flightless, but only ancient man could possibly tell you how fast they ran if you tried to pinch a ginormous egg.