How do modern pterosaurs behave, regarding catching food, avoiding humans, and nesting? Let’s begin with bird-catching behavior, quoting portions of the third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America:
Pterosaurs Eat Birds (a concept scattered around in the book)
In the summer of 1891, southeast of Fresno [California] . . . two featherless flying creatures with wingspans of fifteen feet. . . . the “monsters” were held responsible for attacking chickens, with “many of the hens being bitten in two and left partly devoured.” . . . Teeth were visible; the eyes never blinked. A few mudhens were caught and devoured, one of them “in two or three clamps of the jaws.” [page 14]
. . . in the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary—here many birds (and a few bats) could feed a hungry ropen. [page 24]
I interviewed a young man who reported a long-tailed flying creature . . . on a hot summer day in Antwerp, Ohio. . . . “It was huge. . . . About 4.5 ft tall, 10 ft from head to end of tail. Long skinny tail with a spade about 3-4 [inches] from end of tail. It had a wing span of I would say 8-10 ft.” . . . “I seen it catching sparrows that were catching bugs off the top of the river.” . . . “My sighting was just outside Antwerp, OH. On a bridge that crosses the Maumee River.” . . . Q: “Did you see it catch a sparrow?” A: “Yes, I did.” [pages 47-48]
[Also, Nighthawks might be food for nocturnal pterosaurs in Washington state: pages 72-73]
From the above reports in the book Live Pterosaurs in America, we learn of the possibility that some of those flying creatures may eat birds. (In addition, there is indirect evidence, from some reports, that modern pterosaurs in some locations feed on bats.) But what about other behavior, besides eating?
The rarity of reports of live pterosaurs (compared with the frequency of human observations of common birds like crows) is caused by several factors: nocturnal behavior and rarity in general are significant.
But do modern living pterosaurs purposely avoid humans? I know of one native tradition on the northern coast of Umboi Island. One islander told Garth Guessman and David Woetzel (it was the second ropen expedition of 2004) that the ropen sits on a particular tree on a promontory, before flying over the reef to feed; it is said to wait on that tree to see if it is being watched. I believe the real reason it regularly waits on that tree is to recharge its bioluminescent capability. The ropen of Umboi Island can only glow for about five to six seconds at a time, after which it cannot glow again, apparently, for some time. It seems that it needs that glow to both find its perch on that tree and to get food on reefs.
The primary reason we do not get more published reports of living pterosaurs in developed nations is simple, having nothing to do with human avoidance: We are brought up from early childhood to believe that all dinosaurs and all pterosaurs became extinct long ago; therefore, very few persons in Western countries will take seriously any report of a live pterosaur. But the creatures themselves are not illusions; the idea that they are never observed is an illusion, mostly caused by cultural indoctrination.
Of course, human interference has surely played a part. For centuries, perhaps thousands of years, the more troublesome and dangerous of the flying creatures have been hunted to extinction or near extinction. The species that are left, probably fewer in number than before, are the ones that naturally keep better hidden or are darker colored and nocturnal. Humans often cause selection processes, intentionally or not.
Of all my ignorances, this is one that cries out for more enlightenment: Where do modern living pterosaur build their nests? Over the past eighteen months, I have received two answers, from different areas of North America. That gives us very little to go on, especially since one of the reports is second or third hand. But here is the summary: One nest was reported on the top of a small hill in British Columbia and one was reported under a bridge in southern Arizona.
The nest in Canada was, according to the cryptozoology author Jerald McIsaac, for exposing the eggs to the warmth of the sun. The nest in Arizona may have been for hiding the “baby” pterosaur from being seen from above, perhaps to hide it from large birds of prey. But I’m open to suggestions, and I would be grateful for more sighting reports.
When I interviewed natives on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, in 2004, the great majority of eyewitnesses had seen only a distant flying light.
“I feel blessed that God has allowed me to see this creature that should not be here, and yet is, this strange dragon-like thing that lives somewhere in the woods in this redneck little town.”
No, speculating about pterosaur nests does not disprove the existence of modern living pterosaurs.