Frigate Birds Are Not Ropens

How unfortunate for living-pterosaur investigations that some recent web pages display photos of Frigate birds as if they were living pterosaurs! Those daylight-loving feathered soarers look hardly anything like ropens, or long-tailed modern pterosaurs. Let’s consider a photo of a Frigate bird, then compare it with the sketch by the U.S. Marine Eskin Kuhn (which he drew soon after his sighting in 1971 in Cuba). This deserves careful attention, please.

Notice the huge size of the ropen head. (I say “ropen” because that is the name becoming common in at least some English-speaking countries.) Notice the ropen’s head crest. Notice the depth of the wings (distance from cutting-edge to trailing-edge of wing). Notice the bone structure visible because of the lack of feathers. How little this creature resembles the common Frigate bird!

Eskin Kuhn's sketch of pterosaur that fly over a military base in Cuba

Sketch by Eskin Kuhn: 1971 sighting in Cuba

Addendum: The sighting of two pterosaurs, in Cuba in 1971, by the marine Eskin Kuhn, deserves a brief summary here. On a hot day, with clear visibility, at the Guantanamo Bay military station, he was looking out towards the sea. He saw two flying creatures–obvious pterosaurs–flying not far away. Being a gifted artist, he soon thereafter sketched what he has seen. He later wrote many details about that day and about what he had seen. He has maintained the truthfulness of his account, despite ridicule and disbelief from skeptics. The combination of long-tail and head-crest have been vindicated, for subsequent years of investigations and interviews, with eywitnesses from a number of countries around the world, verify this otherwise strange combination: a giant Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur with a head crest (“long” and “pointed” and words that might be used for some of the head crests observed).


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About Jonathan Whitcomb

I'm a passionate investigator of reports of living pterosaurs throughout the world. I explored part of Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, in 2004, interviewing many natives who had seen the ropen.
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