Living Pterosaurs and Frigatebird Misidentification

By the cryptozoology author Jonathan Whitcomb

I know of three cases in which a person has seen a frigatebird, or a photo or video of that kind of oceanic bird, and thought it was a living pterosaur (or at least he put forward the idea that it was a non-extinct pterosaur). Take that in context: Over the past thirteen years, I’ve looked at hundreds of eyewitness sighting reports of possible living pterosaurs. The great majority of those reports were of flying creatures that could not reasonably be attributed to misidentified frigatebirds, for a number of reasons. We now have more evidence that most sightings are not connected to those oceanic birds.

The following is an enhanced image of a map from the following press release:

Eyewitness Reports of Apparent Living Pterosaurs in the United States

This map shows two areas in the Continental USA where the concentration of extant-pterosaur sighting reports fly in the face of the frigatebird-misidentification hypothesis:


Proof that frigatebird misidentification is invalid

Frigatebirds fly over tropical and sub-tropical oceans of the world, which might account for one or two sightings of “pterodactyls” in the southern tip of Florida, but that’s only theoretical. In reality, sightings in Florida are less common, in relation to human population, than in most other states of the USA in which sightings have been reported. In addition, they’re generally not in the southern end of Florida, and the descriptions do not fit with that oceanic bird.

Important Concentrations of Living-Pterosaur Reports in the USA

Two areas on the map show where sightings are more common, in relation to human populations. These are far from where any frigatebird should be seen to fly:

  • Montana, Idaho, and Utah
  • Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma

Sketches of Ropens and a Photo of a Frigatebird

Consider the differences in appearance between these two different types of flying creature:


Two sketches of living pterosaurs

Sketches by two eyewitnesses: two sightings in eastern Cuba in mid-20th century


photo by Jonathan Whitcomb: frigatebird

Frigatebird in the Caribbean (image from a video recorded by Whitcomb)


Notice the long necks in the Cuban ropens shown in the top image (two sketches); the frigatebird, in contrast, has no visible neck at all. Notice the tail flanges on the two flying ropens; the frigatebird can sometimes be seen to have a split tail, but that differs from the flange seen at the end of the long tail on many living pterosaurs. Notice the wing shape of the two flying ropens; this differs greatly from the wing shape of a frigatebird.

In addition, Patty Carson saw many small teeth in the mouth (or beak) of the flying “dinosaur” she saw at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1965 (see sketch on top right). Frigatebirds have neither extremely long beaks nor teeth. Also, the well-known oceanic birds have nothing remotely like the head crest of many ropens.


frigatebird in the Caribbean

Silhouette of a frigatebird




Frigate bird misidentification

Last August [2010], I wrote the post “Frigate Birds are not Pterosaurs.” It briefly explained why some commenters were mistaken about a Youtube video of a Frigate bird.


Living pterosaurs in Florida

I’m delighted when somebody sends me an email about a pterosaur sighting only hours or minutes old (some reports are of sightings years earlier). One of those delightful reports was from a professor in western Florida . . .


Pterosaur sightings in Draper, Utah

I interviewed three eyewitnesses in Draper, Utah, two days ago. The sightings were about four miles west of the mountains that are the eastern border of the Salt Lake Valley, near the southern area of the valley.


Living pterosaurs or misidentified birds?

Some persons reported a long neck and a horn-like appendage coming out of the back of the head, if fact each of those two characteristics is common. Consider now some of the critical sightings that cannot reasonably be dismissed as misidentified birds or bats.


Pterosaur sightings in Kansas

Two sightings of apparent living pterosaurs we now consider, both in Kansas, the first recorded in more detail in my book Live Pterosaurs in America (The third edition of this non-fiction cryptozoology book is now available on Amazon).


Birds or living pterosaurs?

Consider many accounts of amazing encounters with creatures described like living pterosaurs, unlike any bat or bird known to science.


Pterosaur sighting in Oklahoma

One flew right over our heads and landed in my mom’s field across the creek. . . . He was no more than ten feet directly above us, but I think it was closer to five. [It] feels like I could have jumped and touched him! His wing span was 15-17 feet.


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