Living Pterosaurs in England

By the modern-pterosaur researcher Jonathan Whitcomb

My investigation, over the past fourteen years, of reports of apparent living pterosaurs verifies what other researchers have learned: These extraordinary flying creatures are nocturnal, at least most of them and for most of the time. Let’s now look at one of those apparent exceptions.

Pterosaur Sighting in Shropshire, England

This is not a rumor I found on the internet or a third-hand account related to me by one of my cryptozoology associates. The lady sent me an email, just last week, and here is a small part of what she said (I’ve made some changes in punctuation, etc):

First let me introduce myself, my name is _____. I am a mother of four and I am 32 years old. I live in Britain on the Welsh border in an area called Whitchurch, Shropshire. I may now add that I am in the best of health mentally, I do not take any form of narcotics nor prescription pills and I do not drink. . . .

With that out the way, I will now tell you what I have seen and the reason as to why I have contacted you. Two weeks ago . .  [mid-morning] I went into the garden to play with my cat, a usual occurrence for me as I love my cats. Anyway, we live near a wildlife reserve which has an abundance of birds and wildlife, including eagles and hawks, heron, geese, swans etc. its usual for them to fly overhead and I see them flying . . .

I saw two pterodactyls, side by side, flying past the tree. . . . [with at least one of them she noticed] a giant-sized beak and the wings had no feathers. . . . [The two flying creatures were] grey in colour . . .

She was stunned. After devoting some time to research all the birds she could find, birds in England and elsewhere, apparently nothing seemed to fit what she had seen. But the most impressive difference, to her, was the sound of the screech of the two apparent pterosaurs that had flown through that area of Shropshire in September of 2017. No bird call was close to that sound.

I suggest that these two flying creatures may be related to the ropen of Papua New Guinea: a large Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur. Like the ropen, the two seen in daylight in Shropshire may actually be mostly nocturnal. Perhaps they were disturbed in daylight and so flew into the air when they would normally be sleeping.

landscape photo - Shropshire, England

A lovely rural area of Shropshire, England

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Other “Pterodactyl” Sightings in England

The blog post linked above appears to have been published online before October 21 of 2012. I’ll summarize two of those reports of apparent pterosaurs:

Near the town of Glossop, Paul Bennet  saw something like a bird, but it had leathery
wings. He mentioned the word pterodactyl in his 1982 report.  At about the same time, Jean Scofield reported, from about 35 miles to the north, in the town of Yeadon, a huge “bird” and estimated the wingspan to be about ten feet.

Could These Flying Creatures be From Africa (Kongamato)?

I can see how some cryptozoologists might speculate that these “pterodactyls,” what some would call “dinosaur birds,” are like the kongamato of Africa and might even be from that continent. I would suspect, however, that such speculation would include the assumption that large flying creatures like these could not have been living in England for centuries without being discovered by scientists. That’s another subject entirely.

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Live pterosaur in Africa

A few years ago, a man from Africa sent me an email about his encounter one night in July of 1988, when he was a boy in Sudan. . . . he noticed, on the roof of his uncle’s house, a strange winged creature. It was about four to five feet tall as it perched, and only about ten feet from a light bulb . . .

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Discovery of a 19th Century Living Pterosaur

In January of 2017, the physicist Clifford Paiva and I talked by phone and agreed that the photograph now called “Ptp” has an authentic image of a modern pterosaur.

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Living pterosaur on Umboi Island

. . . our investigations of apparent nocturnal Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea! . . . Gideon Koro related how he was terrified at the sight of the giant ropen that flew over Lake Pung (around 1994). He and his friends were only children (or in their early teens) when they had climbed up to the crater lake on Siasi (Umboi) Island, Papua New Guinea.

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Dinosaur Birds

The pterosaur is known by several names in the United States: “dinosaur bird,” “flying dinosaur,” and perhaps the most popular “pterodactyl.” In Papua New Guinea, it is known by many names: “ropen,” “duwas,” “indava,” and “kor.” But what shocks many Americans and Europeans are eyewitness reports that these supposedly “ancient” and “extinct” flying creatures are alive . . .

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Kongamato of Africa

Introduction to reports of living pterosaurs in Africa

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Flying Creature

You have seen a flying creature unlike any bird or bat. It’s more like a pterosaur but alive, a “flying dinosaur.” What do you do?

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Pterosaur Behavior

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?

Avoiding Humans

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.

The Pterosaur Nest

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.

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Nocturnal Pterosaurs

When I interviewed natives on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, in 2004, the great majority of eyewitnesses had seen only a distant flying light.

American “Dragon Pterodactyl”

“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.”

The Pterosaur Nest Objection

No, speculating about pterosaur nests does not disprove the existence of modern living pterosaurs.

Are the ropens always nocturnal?

In August of 2009, a university student in Papua New Guinea sent me an email. Here is part of it: (minor English corrections for grammar and spelling, etc)

Hi. My name is Rex Yapi. I’m a second-year business-accounting student at the PNG University of Technology in Lae City. [The city of Lae is on the mainland, many miles from Umboi Island (called by these people “Siasi”), where this sighting took place and where I, Jonathan Whitcomb, explored and interviewed eyewitnesses in 2004.]

I just want to [tell] you of the current sighting of the dragon named “Ropen.” I was on an out-board motor as early as 9 a.m., when we saw a giant creature floating along the coast line near Bunsil Bay.  Its body was submerged under the sea but its tail was emerged. I saw that its tail is about 6-7 meters long with a sharp diamond-shape. It was an awesome scenerio and I started pointing to the others towards the object. It was floating 10 meters away from the boat and its color was brownish-dark without any form of hair.

Being in fear, we stopped the boat to let it pass by. Later I was told that Bunsil Bay Coast Line up the Goosh River is the normal route which Ropen takes when it’s coming into Umboi Island from the mainland of PNG. . . .

It seems that the ropen does appear in daylight, on rare occasions. Thus we have eyewitness accounts with detailed descriptions, including detailed estimates of tail length. This consistent description of a long tail refutes the criticism that the ropen is just an unclassified species of bat, rather than a pterosaur. Critics consistently ignore reports of long tails.

Around 2004, the paleontologist Glen Kuban wrote a web page (revised, apparently, through 2007) criticizing the belief that any pterosaurs are still living. He says, “A number of large birds, as well as large fruit bats, can present pterosaur-like shapes, especially if seen from a distance or in silhouette.” But his web page says nothing about any long tail reported on an apparent modern pterosaur. A sketch of a long-tailed pterosaur he displays, as well as two photos of the giant Flying Fox fruit bat (those bats appear to have no tail at all). Why speculate about sightings in the dark? Some daylight sightings of ropens reveal a long tail.

The only instance of the word “tail” on Kuban’s web page is on a caption of a photo of a pterosaur fossil. Why ignore the testimony of the American World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson? He made it clear that the creature that flew up from the clearing, in plain view in daylight, had a tail “at least ten or fifteen feet” long.

Why did Mr. Kuban write a long web page, with dozens of paragraphs, to disuade people from believing in reports of living pterosaurs? He seems to be most concerned about protecting the standard models of geology. He did not, apparently, conduct any objective research to evaluate and report the most relevant details from the eyewitness reports that so strongly suggest that Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs live in Papua New Guinea.

See also: The nonfiction pterosaur book about sightings in the United States

See also: Problems with a bat interpretation

Apparent-pterosaur sketches compared

two sketches, by Aaron Tullock and Eskin KuhnWhat can we learn by comparing the sketch by Aaron Tullock to the one by Eskin Kuhn? First we need to compare the sightings and the reporting of those sightings. Then we’ll examine the two sketches.

Aaron Tullock’s 1995 sighting of an apparent pterosaur was in Marion County, Texas. He drew a color sketch, showing a number of details described in his words; he drew in the common style, in which the mental image is not used directly but interpretted subconsiously first: “left brain” drawing. [see top image]

Eskin Kuhn’s 1971 sighting of two apparent pterosaurs was at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Soon afterwards he drew a sketch in realistic style (but not, apparently, to show realistic color), for he is a talented artist. This technique of sketching has been referred to as “right brain” drawing. [see bottom image]

Mr. Tullock made no immediate formal report of his 1995 sighting, for he was only eight years old; who would have taken him seriously? He reported his sighting to me in 2009 (I interviewed him in January, 2010), and that throws light on the reliability of his experience. Why? Childish imaginings do not usually remain misunderstood after a person grows into adulthood; even what is vividly imagined will normally become revealed as imagination as a person matures. My communications with Mr. Tullock revealed no symptom of any abnormality related to potential hallucination or delusion, and I have had adequate experience with those with that kind of problem. I believe that Mr. Tullock observed a flying creature with features basically the same or similar to those that he described to me.

Mr. Kuhn revealed his sighting years ago, and his sketch (of two pterosaurs) has been online for some time. I surprised him with a phone call early in 2010. His communications with me convinced me of his honesty. I believe that he observed creatures with features basically the same or similar to those that he described to me.

So why do the sketches show details both similar and dissimilar? A long tail on a featherless flying creature is obvious, as is the Rhamphorhynchoid flange at the end of the tail. On the other hand, the difference in the feet are striking, as is the difference between the heads (including teeth and lack thereof), and the general coloration. Although the drawing style is very different, in this case that has little relevance, for the differences reveal much more. Before giving the obvious explanation, I need to explain something.

For six years, I have interviewed eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs. People of various beliefs, languages, and cultures have reported to me what they have seen in various countries around the world. I have written two books on living pterosaurs and a scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal of science. I dare say that nobody else has written hundreds of web pages and blog posts on living pterosaurs, not that I am more intelligent than anybody else; perhaps I am stubborn and outspoken. But my experiences have proven to me that there are a number of species of pterosaur living in various parts of the world, although they may be somewhat rare and mostly nocturnal.

The creatures seen by Eskin Kuhn and Aaron Tullock represent two distinct species of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur. The pair seen by Kuhn are probably nocturnal (I believe the coloring was bland and most modern pterosaurs are nocturnal), not necessarily very rare; the one seen by Tullock is probably not nocturnal (judging by the coloring) but maybe very rare (judging by the rarity of sightings). For now, what we most need are more eyewitnesses who are willing to come forward, at least as far as to communicate with me; if they choose to be anonymous, I respect that desire. Any suggestions?

By the way, both sightings were in clear daylight, with no obstructions; both involved only one eyewitness, but that is rather common. Fortunately both eyewitnesses have agreed to have their names revealed. In regard to the differences in the sketches, why is drawing style mostly irrelevant here? The verbal descriptions that the eyewitnesses gave to me differ: teeth, no head crest, long claws on feet, bright coloration; no apparent teeth, head crest, no description of long claws on feet, no description of anything bright.

See also: “Texas Pterosaur” (Cryptid Eyewitness)

Somewhat related to: Marfa Lights of Texas (Living Nightmare: Attack in the Dead of Winter)

Nocturnal Pterosaurs

When Susan Wooten’s sighting in South Carolina began receiving more attention, one critic proclaimed that a large modern pterosaur would be impossible so near the Atlantic coast of the United States, for thousands of beach-goers would have seen it. That critics seems to assume that any large pterosaur living in South Carolina would have shown up at the beach in daylight, causing news headlines; since he did not see any relevant news report, then no large pterosaur could live there.

How rarely critics consider the whole picture! The overall reports of living pterosaurs around the world suggest these creatures are mostly nocturnal. It’s not just the rarity of daylight sightings. Specific flight behavior at night suggests they are nocturnal.

Then why should they ever appear in daylight? Consider two dramatic daylight sightings in Papua New Guinea, where the nocturnal ropen is believed to fly with a bioluminescent glow at night. Both cases involve a large or giant “prehistoric” creature, with no sign of feathers, flying at low altitude. Both may have been Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs, awakened from sleep in daylight and frightened into flying away from potential danger.

In 1971, in daylight, on Bougainville Island, Brian Hennessy saw something he will never forget. In his own words, “. . . our truck had stopped on our downward journey from the top of the range to the coast way below. . . . I can’t remember why our vehicle had stopped. Maybe we had to wait for another vehicle to pass us. . . . I saw a very unusual creature. Firstly, it was very big . . . a longish narrow tail . . .”

I asked Mr. Hennessy, “Was anything coming out the back of the head . . . a crest,  appendage, horn, or comb?” He replied, “It was like a horn.”

The two vehicles may have startled the creature from sleep. Many years earlier and many miles to the west was another sighting.

In 1944, in daylight, west of Finnschafen (mainland New Guinea), Duane Hodgkinson saw something he will never forget. At the edge of a clearing, he and his army buddy were gazing at some large ants, bigger than any ants in Ohio. Some animal, at first unseen, came running through the grass. Something then flew up from the far side of the clearing, apparently startled by the running animal. Hodgkinson soon realized that it was not a bird, for it was too big and it had a long appendage coming out the back of the head. He then concluded that it was a “pterodactyl.” At about the time it flew away, a wild pig came running past.

I am convinced that both Hennessy and Hodgkinson saw Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs (on Umboi Island, the animal is called “ropen“). The 1944 sighting seems to have involved a large ropen awakened from sleep by a wild pig.

But the ropen is rarely seen in daylight, by Umboi natives. It is said to catch its food at night, on reefs that surround the island. Its described behavior resembles that of the kor, which islanders to the north say catches fish at night. Deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea a large flying creature is said to fly at night: the indava. These three native names may refer to the same type of animal, for all accounts include a glow that flies at night. Of course intrinsic bioluminescence would not make it impossible for a creature to come out in daylight; it only makes a daylight appearance rare.

See also Pterosaur in South Carolina and also Hennessy Pterosaur

Consider reading more about nocturnal pterosaurs: Cliff Paiva report