An artist’s depiction of a plotopterid

An artist’s depiction of a plotopterid

New bird species found northwest of Sooke

Sooke family finds 25-million-year-old fossil while beach combing

Out on an ordinary walk on a local beach, a Sooke family found something peculiar recently: a slab of rock that had fallen out of a nearby cliff containing a fossil of sorts.

Curious, they rushed the fossil to the Royal B.C. Museum for a proper examination. As it turns out, the fossil is not only 25 million years old, but it belongs to a prehistoric bird never before seen on these shores.

Gary Kaiser, a research associate and bird expert at the Royal B.C. Museum was able to distinguish the rare bird’s remains from its equally ancient family of plotopterids, a long-extinct family of flightless birds.

These groups of wild birds are well known to be from the West Coast of the United States and from Japan, and now, for the first time, in Canada. They were massive in size, weighing between 220 to 440 pounds and standing about six feet tall.

Only, this particular bird, an adult, was no more than three pounds when it was alive, making it an unusual, but thrilling discovery, noted Kaiser, who said Sooke’s bird is one of three of its kind found in the world.

“Out of 200 specimens of these birds, only three of them are little guys. One in Japan, one in California, and now ours,” he said.

Sharing similarity to cormorant bones found in the modern pelagic cormorant, the fossil, known as a coracoid (collar) bone, was one of three bones in the bird that hooked up at the shoulder. Then there’s the wishbone, and the shoulder blade, which hangs literally along the backbone.

Kaiser described it as a “long sword-like flexible bone” and the other bone that hooks into that point is the arm bone. Unusual, but then what would you expect from a flightless six-foot bird.

Its anatomy aside, it’s still very rare, as bird bones don’t preserve very well as they are thin and light.

The last fossil bird discovered along the shorelines northwest of Sooke was more than 100 years ago, according to the Royal B.C Museum.

It’s not the first time this has happened, either. Kaiser said a couple of tourists once found a whole skeleton of a prehistoric hippopotamus-like behemoth at Sombrio Beach that was just laying in the creek, along with many other fossils.

A type of “beach bear” was another native species from that area, among thousands of fossils of better-known creatures.

 

“We’ve got a few whale bones and dolphin bones – 99.9 per cent of the fossils are shells, but every now and then you get one of these bones stuck in them,” Kaiser said.

 

 

Just Posted

Staff member Lena Laitinen gives the wall at BoulderHouse a workout during a media tour on June 16. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)
BoulderHouse raring to rock Langford

Popularity of bouldering continues to climb across Greater Victoria

The Sooke Potholes is a jewel in the community's crown. Transition Sooke hosts a town hall meeting on community growth on June 26. (Courtesy: Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke forum tackles community growth

To Grow or Not to Grow online town hall meeting set for June 26

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.’s Indigenous language, art and culture

North Saanich advisor says initiative supports urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

This dilapidated single-family dwelling at 6735 Eustace Rd. in Sooke will soon be replaced by a two-storey building featuring commercial and residential units. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Small Eustace Road development gets green light

Development includes retail and housing units

Colin Davidson won $100K on a Set for Life scratch ticket in Sooke. (BCLC photo)
Sooke man does ‘happy dance’ after scratching a $100,000 Set for Life win

Colin Davidson plans to renovate his home and invest in his daughter’s education

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Green party Leader Annamie Paul speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Paul has survived another day of party strife after a planned ouster shifted course, leaving her with a tenuous grip on power ahead of a likely federal election this year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul blasts ‘racist,’ ‘sexist’ party execs who sought ouster

Fallout has continued, with two of the federal council’s members resigning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says re-opening B.C.’s border to the U.S. ‘is not in our best interest’ right now. (B.C. Government photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry (B.C. Government photo)
B.C. records 113 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 4 deaths

Vaccination of young people rising quickly, near 75 per cent

Most Read