People see Thunderbirds all the time. Take, for example, this 2008 encounter.
Joe Kazenas of Boerne, Texas, has submitted the following sighting:
The location of this sighting was about 8 miles east of Boerne in the Texas Hill Country, about 35 miles north of San Antonio. The date was a mid-October weekday in 2008. I am writing this with the experience still fresh. The time was an hour and a half before sunset. The weather was sunny, warm, and clear. Just a hint of a southerly breeze. A beautiful early evening. The elevation was about 500 feet. We live on top of a huge but gentle hill amongst low rolling hills which are heavily treed. It is a rural area. There are no houses around for many acres. It can be dead quiet, especially if no cars are passing on the road about 350 feet out front. At the time, it was indeed very quiet.
The encounter began noisily. I was kneeling on a deck I was building, behind our garage.
While working, I heard a strange noise like a rapid “chugga chugga wappa wappa chugga wappa” coming from the back (south) of our wooded 10-acre property. My first thought was that my son, for some reason, had somehow driven his car back there, and I was hearing his car engine cough. I looked up, harumphed at my son, and returned to my work. I had time to start drilling in one screw when I realized the noise was not going away. So I looked up again. That’s when I saw what was making the noise.
Coming in low, just over the trees behind me to the south, and passing directly over the tree next to me, was a huge black bird. It passed only 30 to 40 feet from me, flying just above the treetop adjacent to my garage and deck. It passed to my east, so that I was located between it and the western sun. The low sun behind me illuminated it clearly. I got a very good look.
My first impression – besides its huge size – was of its wings. They were hunched and articulated into sections of different angles, like those of a bat or pterodactyl. They were not outspread and flat like those of a vulture or hawk. Its shoulders were showing, in other words. It seemed to fly sort of hunched up. The wings were messily pointy at the ends, not rounded.
This was not a vulture or turkey vulture. Vultures float and swoop constantly where we live and I am familiar with them. This was much larger than a vulture – bigger than the surprisingly long wingspan of a vulture when you see one up close. I estimate this creature’s wingspan to have been 10 or maybe 12 feet. It was easily double or perhaps triple the size of a vulture. Ditto for its head and beak compared to the size of a vulture’s head.
Quickly I saw the reason for the odd wappa-wappa noise. The entire bird was covered with small jet-black feathers. It showed no other colors anywhere. Just pure black. I could clearly see the small black feathers on its wings being fluffed up by the wind resistance. The fluffing up of these small feathers was making the odd wapp-wapp-wappa-wappa noise. The fluffed-up feathers covered its body. It looked like a cheap pinata.
The creature appeared and sounded as if it was not meant to fly at all. It struck me how its black tussled feathers were not graceful or slicked back. Although I did notice ends of longer feathers extruding from the backs and ends of its wings.
It was not flapping its wings very hard. Its progress reminded me of one of those puppet-like flying monsters from the old Godzilla movies, whose wings don’t move up and down much. Yet they fly. Like Rodan for instance. We live on top of a big hill, so it was flying slightly uphill, on a long gentle upslope. The wappa-wappa noise was not generated by energetic wing flaps, as it is with small birds. It was entirely generated by the fluffing and ruffling of the small feathers.
Its eye – the left eye which I could see – showed stark white against its black head. It had a brow hump over its eye socket that made a menacing visage – quite unlike regular birds. For a split second the thought flashed that I hoped it did not see me. The black head looked bony and narrow. However it was not the long head of a pterodactyl. Its beak was large and broad but not long. It was pointed in a sort of blunt triangle. The beak had no pronounced hook like an eagle’s or hawk’s beak. The entire beak was a vibrant yellow color in the sun. All yellow.
So that’s it. It wappa-wapped noisily over the tree, moving its wings gently, and it was gone. Flying straight north. It did not turn its head nor look at me. I got the full side-on view which I have described.
I realized later that, in the quiet when wind can usher rural sound great distances, the slight southerly breeze probably accounted for the fact that I could hear its wappa-wappa feather noise well in advance of its arrival. After noticing the sound to my south, and musing about my son’s car, I still had time to turn back, pick up a screw, place it, and start to drill it down. All the while it was coming and I could hear it.
Startlingly huge. Completely black. Yellow stubby but pointed beak. White eye. Oddly ruffled small feathers. Hunched or boney a bit at the shoulder. Articulated sectional wings. Grim looking. Definitely not a vulture because it was very much bigger and had an all-black head and no grey wing colorations.
That’s my sighting. The bird’s heading was due north. Checking a map, it would have taken it directly between the two tiny crossroads centers of Kendalia and Sisterdale, and, again just further north, directly between two larger towns of Johnson City and Fredericksburg. From this we might conclude, since birds return to their roosts just before sunset, that it might be roosting somewhere along that line. The line tracks interestingly almost midcenter away from all towns, deep in the Texas Hill Country.