My post “Pterosaur in Hawaii” (on the Live Pterosaur blog) refers to a sighting of an apparent pterosaur—I believe that’s what it was—four decades ago. But I have learned of several sightings that were more recent.
I would not call this flying creature a “bird,” for it resembled, to the two eyewitnesses, a “pterodactyl,” and the possibility of feathers on the tail is speculative. The distance was great enough that the eyewitness could hardly have distinguished feathers from hair on the tail of that creature.
The wingspan was estimated at twenty feet and the length, eight-to-ten feet. It seems to me that a Frigate-bird misidentification is ruled out because of the eyewitness description of a long neck or elongated head that gave the impression of a long neck. Frigate birds look nothing like that.
I quote part of the soldier’s account:
. . . I’m pretty sure it was October or November of 1999. We had just completed a night excercise and it was about 1:00 a.m and we had bed down for the night.
It was a full moon and there were only a few small clouds high in the sky . . . [The soldiers decided not to use tents that night.] As I was laying there looking at the sky I noticed a huge bird like creature hovering way up in the sky amongst the clouds apparently riding thermals . . .
. . . it was flying at around the same altitude that the passenger jets traveled at and was still easily visible to me. I only knew this because it flew through the same little set of clouds that a jet had flown through not five minutes earlier.
This “bird” had very long angular wings that swept out and away from its body. A long body and either a long neck with a pointed head or a very elongated head on a shorter neck it was hard to distinguish that feature.
[The tail of the creature] was about one quarter the size of [its] body and [appeared that] it might be feathered.
The soldier continued watching the flying creature until another soldier took notice. They discussed what it might have been, without coming to any firm conclusion of either a definite “pterodactyl” or a definite bird.
The soldier who recorded the sighting and had it published by S8intcom—he afterwards researched birds of Hawaii and questioned a biologist. No bird fit what was observed that night in 1999.
Jungle trail on Oahu Island, Hawaii
From my recently-published book Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea (Duane Hodgkinson’s 1944 sighting):
The World War II veteran completed the survey forms that I had sent him in mid-2004, returning them with a few notes to clarify what he had observed. But the 2005 videotaped interview that Hodgkinson had with my associate Garth Guessman—that launched the 1944 sighting into the number one spot: the most important sighting of an apparent living pterosaur in the southwest Pacific. . . .
The giant creature that flattened the grass with its wing beats, however—that divided the two soldiers, for Hodgkinson wanted to talk about the “pterodactyl,” but his buddy preferred to pretend they had no encounter.
As the soldiers gazed in astonishment, the creature ran to their left, taking about eight steps to get airborne. Hodgkinson later estimated that the legs were three to four feet long. The wingspan was similar to that of a small private plane, about thirty feet. Hodgkinson’s attention was drawn to the head, so he could give only a rough estimate for the tail length: “at least” ten or fifteen feet long.