Around the United States, a common theme keeps emerging, as people are reporting large, featherless, winged creatures flying through the sky. It appears onlookers also have an idea of what they’re looking at – live pterodactyl sightings!
Before looking at the claims, let’s recall what is already known about pterodactyls. Properly referred to as pterosaurs, there are over one hundred distinct pterodactyl groupings that lived all across the globe. Reigning for over 160 million years, these flying reptiles supposedly died off over 65 million years ago. Given this huge time frame, a large selection of characteristics distinct to each group have evolved. Even so, there are similarities common to the large majority of pterodactyls, which are crucial for identification purposes.
Front to back, scientists know pterodactyls had a large beak studded with teeth that transitioned into a giant crest on the back of the head. Their wings were made of skin and muscle, stretching from the shoulder to the legs. Diet wise, they were known to be carnivorous, feasting on fish, small lizards and other carcasses.
So, what makes us think these prehistoric monsters are being sighted in the United States? The outpouring of support in response to a Charlotte-based blog regarding pterodactyl sightings is undeniable. Possibly more important is that the stories line up with what we already know about these flying dinosaurs. Further, the locations of the sightings make sense when compared with what we know about these monsters.
Here are a few recent pterodactyl sightings:
“Driving home yesterday, I saw two flying [creatures] side by side. At first, I thought they were geese, and as I got closer, I thought they were sandhill cranes. But then when I got to where they were flying just above my car, I saw it wasn’t a bird at all. They were dark with matte leather bat-like wings. No feathers and claws. They had [a] point on their head and long beaks, and boy were they huge. Pterodactyls use to be my favorite dinosaur as a kid, but to see even one, let alone two, is still hard to wrap my head around.”
“I saw this thing in Durham, N.C. the other day, as I was driving to the gym on Martin Luther King Blvd. I’m a huge nature person, so my eyes are always wandering around the sky and trees. I don’t do drugs, I do not drink. Nothing in my system but coffee. I’m a sane, rational woman, and I know what I saw. Right in front of my very two eyes, I saw this thing fly, rather slowly, across the road, right to left. It was much bigger than a heron, and it had a diamond shape thing on the end of its long, thin tail. And that’s what really stood out to me because I don’t know of any birds native to North Carolina with that kind of tail.”
“I saw [a pterodactyl] in Lansing, Ill. in 1967. The whole sighting was 20 to 25 seconds. There was no one out on the street, as I went to my dad’s car to run an errand. I couldn’t get anyone else’s attention to see it, as I looked up and down the street and even into people’s houses. But it was huge! I’d say the bat-like wingspan was 15 to 20 feet, and the body about 10 to 12 feet long. It had a brownish gray ‘furry’ body with a dull red ‘crested top’.”
“I yelled as it got close, parallel to me and over the road about 10 feet above the trees. It turned its head as I yelled, and the second time I yelled it turned its head toward me and looked right at me opening its 4 to 6 foot long ‘beak’. The rows of teeth I saw in those beaks told me to shut the heck up! I just watched in amazement as it flew directly west and out of sight. Also, it had a long tail, maybe 4 or 5 foot long with a dark spade like end. It made no sound. I got a feeling NOW that there are a lot of people like me who’ve never reported this kind of thing!”
What Do These Pterodactyl Sightings Mean?
These stories represent the vast majority of pterodactyl sightings. All major features are accounted for – flight, featherless body, beak, crest and bat-like wings. The significance, however, lies in the sightseers ability to consistently eliminate the most common alternatives. The people seeing these flying reptiles systematically eliminate herons and sandhill cranes. It is also no accident that the descriptions are similar, as far as the common attributes known to all pterosaurs go. These stories are not isolated in time or place, evidenced by Darrell Ashley’s story above.
Here we see a similar description with the exception of a fur-covered body. Far from contradictory evidence, we know at least one species of pterosaur had hair and was likely warm-blooded. Considering the location (Illinois drops below zero every winter), it would be necessary that the midwestern pterodactyl be able to remain warm.
The final piece of evidence is the distribution of the sightings. While several people could coordinate pterodactyl sightings, it would be very difficult to coordinate hundreds of sightings in exactly the same pattern we expect to see. What is this pattern? Water. The majority of sightings are seen in coastal areas, which is consistent with the consensus that these creatures predominantly eat fish. As we move inward from the coasts, we see that the second tier of sightings surrounds Lake Erie and the third tier follows the Mississippi River.
Utah appears as the only exception. This apparent contradiction is actually strong evidence. Utah boasts the preeminent water source just west of the Rockies. Any pterodactyl traveling over the Rockies would likely need to stop in Utah to fuel up on fish prior to or after their crossing.
Cryptids Similar to the Pterodactyl
There are a few cryptids that resemble pterosaurs:
One interesting thing not mentioned in the stories is neck length. Seemingly trivial, that observation could be the key to identifying a Kongamato travelling across the Atlantic Ocean and being spotted in the United States. Kongamato has a noticeably shorter neck than the pterosaurs of the fossil record. The plausibility of this is more thoroughly described in our Apopka Florida Sighting.
Ropen means “demon flyer,” and these cryptids are typically seen on New Guinea Island. Most people describe this creature as a “big bat,” which generally speaking, fits the pterosaur description. It lives primarily on a diet of fish, but has eaten human flesh.
Similar to the Van Meter Visitor (see below), Ropen are nocturnal creatures and illuminate the sky with bioluminescence. Most of the reported sightings in the United States have been during the day, so this doesn’t discredit the possibility of Ropen sightings.
Van Meter Visitor
The Van Meter Visitor supposedly swooped down upon Van Meter, Iowa in October of 1903. While not exactly a pterodactyl look-a-like, the Van Meter Visitor does have some similarities with pterosaurs.
Despite its half-human description, it’s bird-like shape and large bat-like wings are key to mistaking this creature for a pterosaur. Interestingly enough, in 1903, reports suggested this monster shot light beams from its head. There haven’t been recent reports of that, but with a recent sighting in Illinois, anything is possible.
Are These Pterodactyl Sightings True or False?
Putting it all together, the evidence is overwhelming. Accurate descriptions across several verified characteristics. Deviations known to exist in currently-labeled extinct species. Numerous independent sightings that paint a trend following precisely the theoretical route expected. Even an apparent anomaly that provides strong evidence to the case.
Our conclusion is that these sightings are true. Let us know what you think in the comments below, and if you’ve seen a pterodactyl, please don’t hesitate to contact us!