However, after reviewing several actually excellent sightings I have come to suspect that the creature we are dealing with could turn out to be an Andean Condor. The creature would have no difficulty extending its range into North America. Individuals could easily be much larger than the ten foot wing span and the white collar is a give away.
Pat Grether is a skeptical person. The 53-year-old mother and grandmother doesn't believe in ghosts or goblins or monsters or UFOs or aliens or Bigfoot. As far as she's concerned Elvis is dead, and the Loch Ness Monster, infamous legend of her native Scotland, is a myth.
She's not crazy, nor does she drink or partake in the kinds of substances that would result in a person seeing a huge, scary bird in her backyard.
Which happened last Monday morning, she said.
Her dog, a 6-month-old chow named Bear, was in the backyard of her home on Leaf Street in Brandywine Crossing in Manchester Township. Beyond the fence is a grassy
It was about 10 when she heard Bear yelping and barking and generally carrying on like a bird large enough to carry her away had landed just on the other side of the fence.
Grether went outside to see what the problem was. It sounded like something had frightened Bear, she said, something big, scary and weird.
Pat saw it as soon as she walked out the door. At first, she thought it was one of those big kites kids sometimes fly in the field. But it wasn't.
It was a bird.
A huge bird.
"It looked like a Cadillac," she said.
If that's so, it was the avian equivalent of an Escalade.
Huge doesn't do it justice.
It was black, except for white feathers on the tips of its wings and what appeared to be a white ring around its neck. [I am concerned here that this is inspired by Warner Bros or perhaps the other way around] It didn't look like any bird she knew. She knows what eagles look like, and it wasn't an eagle. She knows what vultures look like, and it wasn't that either. "Vultures have that turkey face," she said. "It didn't have a turkey face."
Most striking was the bird's size.
By her estimation, the bird had a wingspan of 18 to 20 feet.
Considering that California condors - the largest bird in North America, which, of course, is not native to this region - has a wingspan that approaches 10 feet, that's a lot of bird.
The huge bird perched in the field, just beyond her fence.
"I was shaking," Grether said. "I was scared to move. It takes a lot to scare me. Nothing scares me. But this did."
Bear, brave creature that he is, crouched behind her. "Bear was scared to death," she said. "And chows aren't scared of anything. They hunt lions."
Had it been a lion behind her house, she would have been all set and would have been able to sic Bear on it, or at least she wouldn't have been as upset as she was by the sight of a bird of prehistoric proportions. (It didn't appear prehistoric, Grether said.)
"If it had been a lion, I would have said, a lion, OK," she said. "But this …"
She froze, and after what seemed like a long time, the bird took to wing and flew off toward the south, toward York.
Then, she went inside and called her husband, Glenn, to tell him that she wasn't crazy, but she had just seen a huge bird behind their house. Her husband didn't think she was crazy. If she said she saw it, she saw it.
She and her husband later checked the Internet and couldn't find any birds that resembled the one she says she saw. She has her video camera charged and ready to go in her kitchen in case it comes back.
"I know it sounds crazy," she said. "But I'm not crazy. I know what I saw."
And it was huge bird, bigger than any bird native to these parts.
Francis Velazquez, a naturalist at York County's Nixon Park, said he'd never heard of a bird that big. He said it could have been an immature eagle or a vulture, but neither of them have wingspans of 18 to 20 feet. A full-grown eagle, he said, may reach 9 feet, but that's about as big as it gets. He said sometimes, particularly with people not familiar with birds, it's difficult to judge a bird's size and wingspan.
But 18 to 20 feet? "I don't know of anything that big," he said. "That's monster-sized."
It wasn't a monster, Grether said. It was a bird.
And she hopes someone else saw it.
"It's impossible for a bird that size to be around and nobody else see it," she said. "I just want to know if anybody else saw it."
She hopes it won't become the York County version of the Loch Ness Monster.
Which she doesn't believe in anyway.