Many readers will doubtless recall the adventures of Sin bad the Sailor of Arabian Nights fame, who was carried away by a huge bird called a roc. The existence of such a bird was also supported by Marco Polo, who wrote of a legend of the natives of Madagascar.
According to this story, birds of tremendous size had been seen to seize elephants in their claws, carry them, struggling, to great heights and drop them, then settle on the carcasses and eat their fill. Like the Thunderbird of Indian legend, the roe was also said to prey upon human beings and domesticated animals.
So, was the Roc a real bird? There is no evidence that enormous birds of this type ever existed, but skeletons and eggshells of a large extinct species have been found in Madagascar, which may have given rise to the story of the roc.
These birds, however, could not have flown away with a field mouse, much less an elephant, for they could not fly at all. Variously called rocs, elephant birds, or giant birds, they were probably somewhat larger than ostriches, but the most remarkable thing about them was the size of their eggs.
Almost complete shells of these eggs have been discovered, and some of them will hold over 2 gallons.