Skip to main content

Demon Ducks of Doom

A deadly demon duck

A deadly demon duck

This is some duck!

A lot of people think Australians make up stories to pass the time. That may or may not be true. But the Demon Ducks of Australia are certainly true.

The Demon Duck is dromornis stirtoni, weighing over 500 kilos and nearly 3 metres tall, indeed the biggest bird that ever lived.

Commonly known as Stirton's Thunder Bird, this huge flightless bird lived in subtropical open woodlands in Australia during the late Miocene, roughly 8 million years ago.

Meet the 'Demon Duck of Doom'.

If it walks like a duck ...

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck even if it's 10 foot tall and weighs 1500 lbs.

Perhaps it didn't quack, we don't know, these ducks are extinct.

Demon Duck meets Camel

Demon Duck compared to a Camel

Demon Duck compared to a Camel

This is a BIG duck

Dromornis stirtoni was bigger than the Giant Moa of New Zealand and even bigger than the enormous Elephant Birds of Madagascar.

Unbelievably, these ducks were close to 10 foot tall with massive strongly-muscled legs for speedy running. A giant duck that can RUN!

Some of its bones are huge. A toe bone is 10 times the size of a human finger. The jawbone is described as big enough to play tennis with.

Demon Ducks in Stone

Statue of Demon Ducks in Western Power Park, Perth.

Statue of Demon Ducks in Western Power Park, Perth.

This is a Dangerous Duck

For many years the Demon Ducks were thought to have eaten mainly tough-skinned fruits and seed pods. Pleasant-natured vegetarians nibbling their way (though in large quantities) through the countryside.

But closer scrutiny of the shape and size of its skull and bill suggests a different story - some scientists believe it concentrated on meat.

Can you imagine this? A duck, bigger than a camel, which eats meat? Definitely a bird to avoid.

Fossil Beds of Central Australia

Site of fossil megafauna

Site of fossil megafauna

Alcoota Station Fossil Beds

Next time you're in Alice Springs, drive north east for a few hours. You'll find yourself in one of the most important paleontological sites in Australia - the Alcoota Station.

The fauna in the fossil beds is about 8 million years old, with a rich concentration of vertebrate fossils. In particular, the fossils of Australian megafauna.

It's amazing what's in here. Herds of the wombat-like diprotodontoids, the wolf-sized Powerful Thylacine (Thylacinus potens), the large leopard-sized Alcoota Marsupial Lion (Wakaleo alcootaensis) and our old friend Dromornis stirtoni, commonly known as Stirton's Thunderbird, the Demon Duck of Doom.

Look at that map! Nothing there. Nothing at all, just the Fossil Beds of Alcoota

Scroll to Continue

Mihirung paringmal

In Western Victoria. the Tjapwuring people tell of the Mihirung paringmal which they once hunted before the Europeans came.

Mihirung paringmal is Big Bird in their language.

Dromornis stirtoni lived up to about 50,000 years ago, and the Aboriginal people have been here for 60,000 years.

Did they really hunt the Demon Duck a mere three hundred years ago?

The last of the Australian megafauna became extinct a mere 20,000 years ago and the cause of the extinction is still being debated .But who knows, there may have been some left.

Keep an eye out for giant birds when you're travelling, you never know.


Why is this a Dead Duck?

The Aboriginal people arrived here about 60 thousand years ago, and these earlier peoples used fire as a tool for changing landscapes as well as for driving prey while hunting. Did this signal the end of the last megafauna?

It can't be denied that wherever humanity has spread, there have been drastic reductions in the populations of other animals, and our appearance has coincided with the disappearance of whole species.

Did people eat the giant ducks into extinction?

Demon Ducks of Doom and Killer Kangaroos

See? I didn't make it up!


How about you?

Maybe they just ate themselves out of existence.

All comments are greatly appreciated. You don't have to be a duck (of any size) to leave yours

© 2010 Susanna Duffy

What do you think? Too big?

mariacarbonara on August 14, 2013:

An animal as large as that has to have a lot of food to keep it going. Once their food disappears they disappear too, so im thinking climate change is responsible.

ChimpWithKeyboard on June 27, 2012:

Now THAT duck would make a good distraction in El Goonish Shive.

Nanase (pointing) - "Hey, is that a demonic duck of some sort?"

Elliot (distracted) - "A demon duck?"

Nanase (Leg sweeps Elliot)

Elliot (*crash*) - "arggh!"

Demon Duck (ashamed) - "I feel so used"

Lorelei Cohen from Canada on March 15, 2012:

The demon duck definitely brings back to mind that old saying, "I don't have to outrun the duck - I just have to outrun you". Yikes what a bird that duck would have been.

MrTossot on January 28, 2012:

Good information

Yvonne L B from Covington, LA on August 09, 2011:

I enjoyed reading about the demon ducks. Sprinkled with dust from the Angel of the farmyard on a Back to school field trip.

The Goblins Den on May 01, 2011:

There needs to be more demon ducks to chase people around. I knew about the moa and such, but not about this freak. Great lens subject.

MagpieNest on February 20, 2011:

Now that's a seriously big duck! Blessed.

seegreen on January 21, 2011:

I love your first sentence "A lot of people think Australians make up stories to pass the time" and your google map. I think that map is what most of Australia looks like.

WebIsFun on January 20, 2011:

What a cool lens!

Tonie Cook from USA on January 13, 2011:

LOL! The first thing I thought of when I saw the title of this lens was a mallard duck I made friends with while on vacation some years ago. I would get up every morning at 4am to watch this fellow literally chase every hotel guest that crossed his path. You see, he was guarding his brood, and where ever the mama duck and ducklings went, papa duck would always right with them. In the early morning hours, papa duck was the bit shot of the pond, and anyone within eye shot of that duck got chased. (The duck never bothered me.) I must admit that 'demon duck' was one of the highlights of my vacation. This is a great lens, as I had never heard of a prehistoric duck before. Love learning something new.

Carol Fisher from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK on January 08, 2011:

I wonder what meat it would eat now?

anonymous on October 01, 2010:

how did stirton's thunderbird get its name just discovered there was a bird by this name

oztoo lm on May 04, 2010:

I never heard of the Demon Duck before. Australia sure is full of suprises.

nebby from USA on May 04, 2010:

I learn something new everyday. Fascinating.

Gordon N Hamilton from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on May 04, 2010:

It is of course always terrible to read of the extinction of a species, especially where there is some possibility that mankind had a hand in it. However, I do love duck and especially in such long ago times - when after all there was little choice but to hunt for food - I'm not sure I could have resisted any more than the Aborigines perhaps did. (PS - I did Google this first to make sure it wasn't a, "Story!" :) )

Related Articles