Ancient Animals: Terror Bird book cover image

Ancient Animals: Terror Bird

  • 1295

By: Sarah L. Thomson / Illustrated by: Andrew Plant

A creature whose name says it all.

There are a lot of large birds that inhabit our world today—the albatross, the condor, the emperor penguin. But none of these compare to the terror bird: a bird of prey that roamed ancient South America over fifteen million years ago. The terror bird could stand as tall as a basket ball hoop, with strong beaks designed to hunt. For sixty million years, the terror bird thrived. Almost every other animal could be considered its prey.

How did this prehistoric creature live and hunt? How did it eventually become extinct? Sarah Thompson presents this scientific information with the emerging reader in mind—the text is simple, concise, and clear, yet full of useful and thought-provoking facts and ideas. Andrew Plant’s illustrations, labeled throughout, provide readers with an accurate visual of the creatures presented. Lovers of nature and paleontology will find much to enjoy in this introduction to the biggest meat-eating bird that ever lived.

Back matter includes facts about other flightless birds—both alive and extinct—as well as additional resources for further discovery.

Look Inside the Book:

Author & Illustrator Bios:

Sarah L. Thomson, author

Sarah L. Thomson is a former children's book editor who is now a full-time children's book writer. She has written more than thirty books across many genres. Sarah lives in Portland, Maine.

Read more about Sarah Thomson.

Andrew Plant, illustrator

Andrew Plant is a trained zoologist who has illustrated more than 40 books for kids, including Where's My Shell? (Cambridge University Press) and Could a Tyrannosaurus Play Table Tennis? (Penguin Australia). Andrew lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Read more about Andrew Plant.

Awards & Honors:

Coming Soon!

Editorial Reviews:

NSTA Recommends

As the title implies, a "terror bird" is a member of an ancient and fearsome family. Living in the land that was to become South America millions of years ago, these birds ruled the grasslands. We are still learning about these fascinating creatures from their fossil records.

This book introduces the reader to a species that was previously unknown--a group that varied widely in size from as small as an eagle to as big as a one-story building. A voracious consumer, this bird could swallow its prey whole or slice it apart with its sharp, curved beak. Although it had wings, the terror bird did not fly but it ran really fast. As a top predator, it ruled!

Scientists have a variety of theories about the extinction of the terror bird. The reader can continue investigating through the resources listed at the conclusion of the text. The colorful illustrations present comparison to modern top predators as well as flightless birds familiar to readers. The drawings embedded with the scientific name of various organisms help the reader make connections and begin to understand the connectivity over species over time.

School Library Journal

Imagine a predator that stands about seven feet tall and has an enormous hooked beak and long, thick, sharp talons. All of these traits combined to form the largest-known carnivore in the avian world, called the terror bird. It thrived in South America more than 15 million years ago but died out after a land bridge between South and North America formed. These facts, coupled with acrylic gouache illustrations that artfully depict the terrain and various items on the terror bird's menu as they are eaten, will appeal to children fascinated by predator/prey relationships and creatures of the past. The book includes a gallery of other flightless birds. The text is simple and straightforward, with short sentences and an open format. The author concludes with theories about the bird's demise.


Dinosaurs get plenty of attention, but what about other ancient creatures? Thomson and Plant attempt to remedy this oversight with a glimpse into the life of the terror bird, a prehistoric bird with powerful hind legs; a gigantic, meat-tearing beak; and tiny, flightless wings. In brief, informative free-verse lines, Thomson details the terror bird's size ("The smallest was the size of an eagle. A large one could be as tall as a basketball hoop"); predatory habits ("It could break bones with one kick"); and its place in the ecosystem ("They kept a balance between food, predators, and prey"). Plant's vivid paintings of the terror bird in action--chasing down prey, tearing apart their quarry--are clearly labeled with scientific names. Though the book notably lacks a glossary, the list of flightless birds that can be seen today (the much gentler ostrich and emu, for example) and resources for futher research make this a good starting point for young readers interested in prehistoric animals.


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ISBN: 978-1-58089-398-5

ISBN: 978-1-58089-399-2

ISBN: 978-1-60734-610-4 PDF
For information about purchasing E-books, click here.

Ages: 6-9
Page count: 32
8 1⁄4 x 6

Correlated to Common Core State Standards:
Reading Informational. Grades 1 to 3. Standards 1-4, 7, and 10.

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Raptor's Revenge
Feathered Dinosaurs of China
Ancient Animals: Saber-toothed Cat