On September 25, 2001, a 19-year-old driving along Pennsylvania’s Route 119 reported what he described as
“flags flapping in a
thunderstorm” coming from above his car. When he looked up, he was astounded to see what looked like a bird with a 3–4.5 meter (10–15 ft) wingspan and a strange, elongated head flying above him. Over the next few months, two more witnesses would report seeing similar creatures in Greensville and Erie County, Pennsylvania. The reports were reminiscent of a string of sightings that took place in Texas in 1976 and 1982. In all cases, the creature described sounded remarkably similar to a Pterosaur. The sightings in Texas even occurred near to where the fossil of Quetzalcoatlus northropi, a large Pterosaur of the Late Cretaceous, was first discovered.Interestingly, these “Pterosaur” sightings seemed to occur close to each other in waves. That suggests that people were really seeing something—but what? One obvious candidate is the frigate bird, whose grey feathers can look like leathery skin from the right distance and whose wingspan can reach up to 2.5 meters (8 ft). The frigate bird hardly ever lands except to tend its young and can soar effortlessly over long distances. Quetzalcoatlus /kɛtsəlkoʊˈætləs/ was a pterodactyloid pterosaur known from the Late Cretaceous of North America (Maastrichtian stage) and one of the largest known flying animals of all time. It was a member of the Azhdarchidae, a family of advanced toothless pterosaurs with unusually long, stiffened necks. Its name comes from the Mesoamerican feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl.When it was first discovered, scientists estimated that the largest Quetzalcoatlus fossils came from an individual with a wingspan as large as 15.9 meters (52 feet), choosing the middle of three extrapolations from the proportions of other pterosaurs that gave an estimate of 11, 15.5 and 21 meters respectively (36 feet, 50.85 feet, 68.9 feet). In 1981, further study lowered these estimates to 11–12 meters (36–39 ft).