Creature Feature: The Big Bird


For the next two months, The Monitor will be running a nine-part series entitled "Creature Feature." Published each Thursday, this series will feature creepy tales of ghosts, ghouls and cucuys from deep South Texas by author David Bowles, with illustrations by a variety of local artists.

For two months in early 1976, the Rio Grande Valley was plagued by a massive flying beast known only as the Big Bird. On the evening of January 7, San Benito policemen Arturo Padilla and Homero Galván separately spotted a strange winged form as they patrolled. That same night, Alvérico Guajardo caught sight of the same creature in Brownsville: he described it as a giant bat. A week later an airborne monster with leathery skin and simian features attacked Armando Grimaldo of Raymondville.

After that incident, there came an avalanche of reports. A group of teachers driving to San Antonio witnessed what they swore was a prehistoric pteranodon. National media picked up the story. Johnny Carson joked about the Big Bird on The Tonight Show. But when a reward was offered, hoaxes started cropping up.
Finally, the news reported the capture of a jabiru, an enormous South-American stork, and broadcast video of a large blue heron native to Texas. Many people believed the mystery of the Big Bird solved, and the media turned to other stories. But those who had encountered the creature, including the Perales family, insist to this day that it still haunts the skies of South Texas.

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Classic Tales From Cryptozoology - Mass Flying Dinosaur Sightings In Texas Circa 1976
Written By: Ken Hulsey

It is surprising how certain events from your childhood stick with you over the years and make subtle changes in who you are as a person.

One such series of events that I remember vividly to this day, were a series of reports of 'flying monsters' that came out of Texas in our nation's Bicentennial year (1976).

Since I was a very young lad, and I just so happened to have lived in Texas at the time, these reports both fascinated and terrified me. Throughout the year reports seemed to be coming in quite frequently, and our local television news would start off it's broadcast with the latest news on the monster.

I can still remember during the summer months being afraid to go outside and play, believing that the monster may swoop down and attack me or possibly carry me off.

Though my research online only revealed news stories from that time period centering on sightings from an area close to the Texas/Mexico border, in actuality they were coming from all over the state. Descriptions of the creature varied from that of a flying dinosaur (pterosaurs) to something that looked more like a dragon with a head like a bat or even a gorilla.

Here is an excerpt from an article I found online by David Hatcher Childress the recounts some of these sightings:

"Officer, There's a Pterodactyl in My Backyard!"

That there were sightings of pterodactyls in the 1800s, I have no doubt. In fact the sightings in the Sonora Desert continue to this day. In the early months of 1976, a rash of "flying reptile" sightings were reported in the Rio Grande River Valley along the Mexican-American border.

One of the first encounters was in the early hours of December 26, 1975 when a rancher named Joe Suárez discovered that a goat he had tied up in a corral in Raymondville, Texas (about 30 miles north of the Rio Grande in southeastern Texas), had been ripped to pieces and partially eaten by some unknown assailant. The goat had been mauled from the right side and was lying in a pool of blood with the heart and lungs missing with the snout bitten away. The blood was still wet and warm when police officers examined the carcass. They could find no footprints around the goat and concluded that a flying creature of unknown origin had caused the death.

Then, in the same town, on January 14, 1976 at about 10:30 in the evening on the north side of Raymondville, a young man named Armando Grimaldo was sitting in the backyard of his mother-in-law's house when he was attacked by a strange winged creature.

"As I was turning to go look over on the other side of the house," said Armando to the Raymondville press, "I felt something grab me, something with big claws. I looked back and saw it and started running. I've never been scared of nothing before but this time I really was. That was the most scared I've ever been in my whole life."

This strange flying attacker had dived out of the sky-and it was something Grimaldo described as being about six feet tall with a wingspread he estimated as being from ten to twelve feet. Its skin was blackish-brown, leathery and featherless. It had huge red eyes.

Grimaldo was terrified. He screamed and tried to run but tripped and fell face first into the dirt. As he struggled up to continue running for his mother-in-law's house, the beast's claws continued to attempt to grasp him securely, tearing his clothes, which were now virtually ripped to shreds. He managedto dive under a bush and the attacking animal, now breathing heavily, flew away into the sky.

Grimaldo then crashed into the house, collapsing on the floor, muttering "pájaro" (Spanish for bird) over and over again. He was taken to the hospital, treated for shock and minor wounds, and released.

Blazing Red Eyes

A short time later, in nearby Brownsville, on the Rio Grande, a similar creature slammed into the mobile home of Alverico Guajardo on the outskirts of town. Alverico went outside his trailer to investigate the crash into his house. When he noticed a large animal next to the crash site, he got into his station wagon and turned the lights on to see the creature, which he later described as "something from another planet."

As soon as the lights hit it, the thing rose up and glared at him with blazing red eyes. Alverico, paralyzed with fear, could only stare back at the creature whose long, batlike wings were wrapped around its shoulders. All the while it was making a "horrible-sounding noise in its throat." Finally, after two or three minutes of staring into the headlights of the station wagon, it backed away to a dirt road a few feet behind it and disappeared in the darkness.

These were just the first of a number of bizarre encounters with seemingly prehistoric "birds." Also in January of 1976, two sisters, Libby and Deany Ford, spotted a huge and strange "big black bird" by a pond near Brownsville. The creature was as tall as they were and had a "face like a bat." They later identified it out of a book of prehistoric animals as a pteranodon.

The San Antonio Light newspaper reported on February 26, 1976, that three local school teachers were driving to work on an isolated road to the south of the city on February 24 when they saw an enormous bird sweeping low over cars on the road. It had a wingspan of 15-20 feet and leathery wings. It did not so much fly, as glide. They said that it was flying so low that when it swooped over the cars its shadow covered the entire road.

As the three watched this huge flying creature, they saw another flying creature off in the distance circling a herd of cattle. It looked, they thought, like an "oversized seagull." They later scanned encyclopedias at their school, and identified the creature as a pteranodon.

And here is another from Blue Road Runner.com:

These reports didn't gain real notoriety until the mid-1970s, when a number of sightings of large birds or bats surfaced in Rio Grande Valley, Texas. The first report came from the town of San Benito, where three people reputedly encounters with a bald-headed creature. But rumors had long circulated among the Mexican inhabitants of the town about a large bird-like creature, believed to make tch-tch-tch sounds.

On New Year's Day, 1976, two girls near Harlingen watched a large, birdlike creature with a "gorilla-like" face, a bald head, and a short beak. The next day, a number of three-toed tracks were found in the field where the creature had stood . On January 14, Armando Grimaldo said he was attacked by the creature at Raymondville. He said it was black, with a monkey's face and large eyes. Further reports surfaced from Laredo and Olmito, with a final sighting reported from Eagle Pass on January 21.

Though reports of flying dinosaurs over Texas reached it's pinnacle in 1976, the state has been a 'hot spot' for such sightings since the 1800s. Things quieted down throughout the late 1970s, then unexpectedly there were another rash of sightings again in the early 1980s, followed again by a period of little to no reports.

Periodically reports of flying creatures still surface from time to time in Texas, but never to the extent of the ones that all surfaced in 76.

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