The Talegate Podcast

S2E8 - Teratornis, Wonder Bird of the American West

June 20, 2022 Harrison the Florida Man & Aaron the Cheesehead Season 2 Episode 8
The Talegate Podcast
S2E8 - Teratornis, Wonder Bird of the American West
Show Notes Transcript

Teratorns were enormous North American birds of prey who lived between 25 million and 13 thousand years ago. They had a wingspan of over 12 feet wide with a gliding endurance and likely food preferences similar to the modern day Condor. Though extinct, there is cause to speculate these magnificent birds are the root of such mystical creatures as the Thunderbird. 

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"Terry, the Inarticulate" played by Aaron Sherry
"Terry, the Articulate" played by Harrison Foreman
“Cheese Head” played by Aaron Sherry
“Florida Man” played by Harrison Foreman
"Talegate Theme" by Mat Jones

Written & Edited by Harrison Foreman

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FLORIDA MAN: Howdy folks, and welcome to The Talegate!

CHEESEHEAD: For those of you just joining us, we’re on a roadtrip across America to uncover the mysteries behind tall tales, fairy tales, folktales, fishtales, & urban legends, one interview at a time.

FM: We inherited a truck from our late Granny May and discovered that the crystal hanging off the rearview mirror was more than decorative. It’s a Dowsing Pendulum leading us to the good folks behind the tales we all grew up with.

CH: We accidentally stole a canopic jar belonging to the mummy of Pharaoh Ay, who awoke from his eternal slumber and placed a death curse on us. But that shit’s old news, because we shipped the jaw back to the museum to complete the set and thus.... 

FM: That curse is as broke as... our wallets.

CH: Ya, who woulda guessed road tripping for weeks on end without income would completely deplete your bank account? 

FM: Gas ain’t cheap, man. 

CH: Neither is beer.

FM: We could always switch to Naddy Daddys.

CH: I’d rather stay broke.

FM: Stayin’ broke it is then. And on that stormy note of self-realization, [distant storm cloud sound] I’m Harrison, the Florida Man. 

CH: And I’m Aaron the Cheesehead. And today we come to you from the Donna Anna Mountains, NM, just outside of Las Cruces.

FM: Doña Ana.

CH: Huh?

FM: It’s the Doña Ana Mountains. Miss Ana?

CH: Oh yah, do I ever. I miss you, Ana. First love.

FM: No no no Doña Ana means “Miss--” Yanno what, not important. What’s important is WHY we’re in the Doña Ana Mountains. Right over the hill here is New Mexico’s most plausible cryptid, the legendary Teratorn!

[pterodactyl sounds]

CH: While sightings of giant birds have been recorded since practically the dawn of the written word, the Teretorn has been reported in New Mexico as far back as the 1800s and as recently as 2007, the same year I graduated High School.

FM: According to an article on, one their own long-time residents, Dave Zander, witnessed two of these giant prehistoric birds July 19, 2007, gliding along the Organ Mountains right here in the Doña Ana, the images of which have haunted him to this very day.

CH: Should we go say hi?

FM: To Dave?

CH: To the Teratorn over there.

FM: Oh, yea! Aight, let’s do it.

[grunting climbing; muttering things, walking; Wild flapping/bird sounds; stomach churning]

CH: Oofta, I really shouldn’t have scarfed that gas-station BBQ.

FM: Well, that’s kinda your fault for washing it down with a jumbo-sized Pelon Pero Rico flavored ICEE.

CH: Yah, what even was that?

FM: A ICEE with the flavor of a Pelon Pero Rico.

CH: Thanks, that was super helpful.

FM: Don’t mention it. Wow, we finally made it to the top!

[Large flapping/screeching commotion]

FM: Whoa whoa whoa, it’s all good, teratorn. We come in peace!

CH: Yah, we’re just here for an interview, doncha know?


FM: Hello back to ya! Name’s Harrison the Floridaman!


FM: Hello again. Thought we were past that now, but reckon second time’s a charm... as I said, name’s Harrison the Flor-


CH: Ah shoot. He means me. And I’m Aaron the Cheesehead Everso pleased to meetcha, Mr. Teratorn! So for those of you at home wondering just what in the heck a Teratorn is, what we got here is a giant bird. And I mean giant. This fella here is what Buc-ee’s is a Circle K. 

FM: Solid analogy.

CH: Weighing roughly 120 pounds, which is a freaking lot for a hollow-boned aves, and with a wingspan of--what’d you estimate, Florida Man?

[Huge swoopsound]

FM: Whoa now! Just about flapped me off the damned mountain. Uh, reckon ‘bout 20 feet at least. So, while many cryptids seem only loosely based on preexisting creatures, Teratorns were straight up real. The Teratorn, stemmin’ from the term “Wonder Bird” in Greek, was named by American paleontologist and professor at the University of California, Loye Miller, after he and fellow paleontologist, John C. Merriam, discovered the fossils of this massive bird in La Brea, CA.

CH: Isn’t that the famous tar pits that entrapped hundreds of direwolves, smilodons, and mammoths?

FM: Same! And you heard him correct, folks. Direwolves weren’t made up for Game of Thrones, but were very legit animals that thrived throughout prehistoric times. In fact, the La Brea tar Pits houses the largest collection of Dire Wolf skulls on the planet, most of which met an unfortunate end drowning in them there pits of the tar.

CH: But hey now, who are we here rattling off facts while we got the real Teratorn right here?

FM: Good point. 

CH: Let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth! Er... straight from the bird’s beak? Anyway, take it away, Terry!

FM: Yea, Teeerry!


CH: Yah... we’re long past introductions now, Terry.


CH: Is he mocking me?

FM: Think he’s just, what’s the word now... inarticulate.


CH: A little racist calling me a Cracker, but okay. 

FM: Maybe to a Wisconsinite. In Florida, being called a Cracker ain’t so derogatory. Florida Crackers were 19th century cowboys. Got the name because, unlike Vaqueros and western cowboys usin’ lassos and such for herdin, Crackers used dogs and whips.

CH: Interesting. Well regardless, this fella here does indeed seem less-than-articulate. So it looks like we might as well be flying solo on this one, buddy. 

FM: Eeeeey. Someone call Natalie Imbrugla, ‘cause this Tera’s Torn. He’s all out of faith. This is how he feels...

CH: Bet this Bird-Man here serves up a tasty flight of beer.

FM: I turned myself into a Neogene bird, Morty. I’m Prehistor-Riiiiiick! But yea, this guy ain’t much help at nothin’. Maybe he’s just so old he done plum lost his mind. 

CH: Old? 

FM: Yea man. We’re talking Pleistocene old.

CH: Real talk, I have no idea what the hell that means.

FM: The Pleistocene Epoch is, well, an Epoch. An Epoch is a segment of time within a Period within an Era.

CH: You’re talking to someone who majored in Musical Theory, Buddy.

FM: I got ya, man! So the geological timeline has many divisions and subdivisions. Name a dinosaur.

CH: The frilled one.

FM: I think you mean Dilophosaurus which didn’t actually have a frill.

CH: Da one that spits poison.

FM: Ain’t spit poison, neither. Thems all creative licenses taken by Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg. So the Dilophosaurus, ironically enough, is the only dinosaur from the Jurassic Park movie to actually exist during the Jurassic Period. The Dilophosaurus existed around 193 million years ago in the--brace yourself-- Sinemurian Age within the Early Epoch of the Jurassic Period during the Mesazoic Era.

CH: So going micro-to-macro: Age, Epoch, Period, Era. Gotcha.

FM: Exactly. Now, our boy Terry here is a Teratornis which was believed to have ruled the skies between the Early and Late Ages of the Pleistocene Epoch during the quaternary period within the Cenozoic Era. During this period is our most modern Ice Age.

CH: I loved that movie. So this doofus *ahem* inarticulate bird here flew around the same time as Scrat and Sid, er no?

FM: Yep yep. Only thought to have gone extinct around 10,000 years ago. To put things in perspective, the Pyramids of Giza were built around 5,000 years ago. That said, early humans were certainly around during the time of these aerial terrors and some folklorists even theorize that sightings of these massive birds were partly the inspiration behind the legendary Thunderbird.

CH: Wowzers! Well, what is one doing way out here in the middle of New Mexico?

FM: I mean, they’re birds man. Prolly migratory. 

CH: Well of course most birds are migratory, but most of them aren’t giant and in the middle of a desert. 

FM: Actually, these here Teratorns are the distant relatives of the California Condor, vultures, buzzards, and the like. They come equipped with a mighty wide wingspan meant for catchin’ air currents to minimize wing-flapping down to 1% for the sake of conservin’ energy. And you might be wonderin’ about their diet.

CH: Carrion.

FM: Think I will carry on. So ya see...

CH: No. Carrion. They’re related to condor and vultures so it stands to reason they are omnivores with taste for the pre-deceased. Work smarter, not harder, right Terry?


CH: That’s definitely not what I said, but okay. I do wanna clarify that there is some confusion on the internet between the identity and genus of these teratorns. A Tumblr post made the rounds claiming it was a “leathery-skinned” pterosaur. And in fact, this description better coincides with the Tombstone Dragon.

FM: Dragon!? 

CH: Yeppers.

FM: There’s a dragon? We’re gonna finally meet a dragon?

CH: I didn’t say that, exactly, but...

FM: Unholy hot hell, I hope to meet a dragon one day.

CH: Well, while not a proper dragon, it’s aerial reptilian cousins, the pterosaurs, were fearsome predators that ruled the skies alongside the dinosaurs. Which is why Teratorns being winged reptiles is far less likely. Plus, as you articulated -- unlike our guest here, “Teratorns” is the scientific name for an actual bird. 

[Thunderous flaps, landing, and bird screech]

TERRY BRO: Sup brooo!


CH: Gee golly Wilakers, a second Teratorn!

TERRY BRO: What’s shakin’, little dudes?

FM: Uh, not much, man.

CH: Wait, you guys can talk?

TERRY BRO: Sure we can! Anyway, thanks for looking out for this little guy for me. Gotta bring Lil Bro home. Mama just ate a whole herd of bighorn sheep, so we’d better get back while the regurgitated supper is still Little Caesars.

CH: Little Caesars?

TERRY BRO: Yea, you know: Hot and Ready. 

FM: Gross.

CH: Pst, Florida Man, maybe we should interview this articulate Teratorn before he leaves.

FM: Sounds like a good Idea to me. So we got some pictures here of alleged Teratorns taken by folks claimin’ to have seen you in the flesh. So we’re about to play a little game we like to do here on The Talegate called ISSSS THISSSS YOU?

[Swooping sounds]

TERRY BRO: Check you later, my dudes! And thanks again for watching my baby broski! Can’t wait til he grows up to be totally articulate like the rest of us. Later Deeeeeewds! 

[fades out]

FM: Wait wait wait, we need to know isss this yoooooooou... dammit.

CH: Maybe next time, good buddy.

FM: Welp, you ever experienced the supernatural, seen giant birds, UFOs, or the like?

CH: Obviously, I’ve been with you this whole road trip.

FM: I’m talkin’ at the folks at home.

CH: Ah geez, my bad.

FM: Shoot us an email with your stories to so we can read them on the air and follow us on Instagram @TheTalegatePodcast for photos, cast info, updates and more!

CH: Be sure to tune in again in two weeks for new episodes. And, if you like what you hear, don’t forget to rate and subscribe to The Talegate Podcast on Apple Podcast and Spotify. That’s tale, “T-A-L-E” as in “Fairytale.”

FM: See ya later, Talegaters!

TERRY BRO: Sup, little listeners? Thank you dudes for joining us on the latest episode of The Talegate Podcast! TERRY is voiced by (one of our names). Aaron the Cheesehead is played by Aaron Sherry, you can check me out on my Youtube channel, So Can You! and on Instagram @aaronunabridged. Harrison the Florida Man is played by Harrison Foreman. Theme Song is performed by Mat Jones. This episode is written and edited by Harrison Foreman. [Alt] This episode is written by Harrison Foreman and Edited by Aaron Sherry.