Thunderbird sightings are spread across North America, but can be easily divided into two separate groups: the grand majority of North America describes Thunderbirds as a large Condor or Teratorn-like bird, while people of the Southwestern US, Texas and Northern Mexico describe something more akin to an average person's idea of a pterosaur. These creatures, which Cryptozoologists refer to as "Big Birds" or "Texas Pterosaurs" to ease the name confusion (I personally like the name "Desert Dragon", after the original Tombstone story) are often used by various people as "edvidence" of surviving Pterosaur, citing them to be living Pteranodons or Quetzalcoatlus that have survived to the modern day.

I admittedly, have a soft spot for this particular Cryptid, and fondly remember excitedly reading the article dedicated to them in my Uncle's old WORLD EXPLORER compendium (always a useful look into paranormal lore). Its combination of southwestern desert lore, Civil War history, Native American mythology and paleontology is immensely appealing, despite there being no real evidence such creatures exist today or ever did exist past the K/T extinction, and most of the stories fall flat in the face of skeptical research and what we know of Pterosaurs from the modern fossil record.

Merely speculating from a Cryptozoologicon-type perspective, however, if these creatures DID exist, they would probably not be descendants of the large Pteranodontids and Azdarchids of the end of the dinosaur age, as they would've most certainly been wiped out by the subsequent asteroid impact and nuclear winter along with their non-avian dinosaur relatives. Around this time, most smaller Pterosaur species had been largely outcompeted by birds, of the Pterosaur Claude wasn't starting to die off completely by that point. However, Campanian Fossils from Canada (probably a colder region, even back then) reveal the bird-sized ornithocherid Piksi, revealing perhaps not all small Pterosaurs had competed out by the end of the Cretaceous.

Being small, resource-efficient, small enough to hide in burrows and already accustomed to a colder environment, one of Piksi's Maastritchian descendants survived the K/T impact and nuclear winter and diversified across North America during the earliest Paleocene. While birds quickly took control and out competed this second wave of Pterosaurs, a couple branches managed to migrate and survive in the more remote places of the planet, one such species in the Southwestern Deserts of North America resuming its Mesozoic relatives's habit of reaching gigantic sizes.

Brontodactylus Tombstonii, the Arizona Desert Dragon is the largest post-K/T Pterosaur and largest Pterosaur known, with a wingspan twice the length of the Cretaceous Azdarchids. Initially discovered by Europeans in the 1890s, such creatures have been known by the Natives for some time and are often confused with the living Teratorns of the North, as well the Southern Piasa Birds. Brontodactylus is an Apex Predatod, both an opportunist and active hunter, scavenging prey as well as consuming a large diet of Desert fauna, from Jackrabbits to smaller Coyotes. Main hunting method is to either soar down and chase their prey on foot to grab and shake it, or outright grab the prey in their specialized jaws and fly off with it, dropping it from a short distance to break its bones and end the struggle. Older specimens are known to go after larger prey such as Pronghorns and bighorn sheep, flying down after them and "Tripping" their legs in a manner very similar to a Cheetah. Organized "packs" of related subadults have been known to kill livestock such as sheep and goats as well as dogs. There are rumors of Flaplings being able to kill and eat Rattlesnakes and other venomous reptiles, but there has yet to be any research on possible venom immunity in these Pterosaurs.

Mating between pairs is monogamous, will usually produce toughly five flaplings in a lifetime, roughly one egg per year. Flaplings are nurtured by their parents for the first two years of life before becoming a subadult and joining the roost of siblings surrounding the parents nest for another three years before maturing completely and flying off to find a mate to restart the cycle. This long growth period is believed to be the reason behind the Pterosaurs intelligence, possessing a large braincase and limited object manipulation behavior.

Due to advancement of civilization, most of the remaining Brontodactylus population today survives in the more arid and desert regions of the Southwest and Texas. Roosting in the canyons, caves, mines, mesas and abandoned missions of the area, the unappealing environment to humans has fortunately soared them from humanity's usual response to strange new species.

Now, if only we could only find some solid edvidence fir the creatures existence and a post-K/T Pterosaur fossil record stretching across North America and back across the entire Cenozoic, perhaps we can more about these mysterious creatures.
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