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Giant Flyer

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Just how are you going to climb that mountain, hmm?

"... it was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world, maybe it was..."

Large flying creatures are a staple of Fantastic Fiction. This trope comes in a few distinct flavors:

Note that Giant Flyers can be either literally gigantic or just relatively large compared to the other characters. Compare Our Dragons Are Different, Dragon Rider, Feathered Fiend, Eldritch Abomination, Terror-dactyl, Roc Birds, Thunderbird, Space Whale, Living Gasbag, Living Ship and Winged Humanoid. See also Sea Monster.

In Real Life, the largest flying birds are limited by the manner in which avian flight feathers grow, and historically have never been much bigger than even modern condors and albatrosses (wingspan about 3.5m/11.4ft) with the exception of the condor-like Argentavis and the seagoing Pelagornis sandersi (both with wingspans perhaps up to 7m/23ft). Pterosaurs evolved to be much larger, but then anything bigger than a Quetzalcoatlus (wingspan about 10m/32ft) is running up against the Square-Cube Law — it gets really difficult to take off, since the wings become too heavy to overcome their own weight, let alone the rest of the body. The largest bird species generally spend most of their flight time gliding rather than flying, and prefer to land on a high point rather than the ground, as they tend to need a downward dive at the beginning of a flight to build up momentum. In fiction, if any effort is made at all to explain why an overly large flying creature can exist, the go-to explanations are low-gravity planets and magic.

Not to be confused with large airplanes and airships; for those, see Cool Plane, Cool Airship, and Plane Spotting. Also not to be confused with the paper type of flyer.

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Examples of Large Flying Predators:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Digimon: Lots of these. Often times it's someone's partner Digimon (such as ShineGreymon), though there are a few notable exceptions (such as Azulongmon).
  • In The Dragon Dentist, the dragon of the title is an extremely giant flying beast slowly undulating through the sky, with a village perched like cliff-dwellings on it to house the dentists, also of the title. A predator in the sense that it can be employed in war.
  • In Great Mazinger — one of the Mazinger Z sequels — an entire division of the army of Robeasts were giant birds.
  • These exist in Hunter × Hunter. There a scene in both Anime and Manga where it cuts to Ging, sitting on the back of giant frog. It pans out, and it shows that giant frog is on the back of a giant dragon, which takes off and flies off into the distance.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: When Lucoa's dragon form is revealed, it stretches far off into the distance, wrapping behind a mountain on the horizon (and that's less than half of what's visible). Her eyes alone are larger than Tohru's entire dragon body. She so big she gets hay-fever from entire trees.
  • In Naruto, there is Chōmei the Seven-Tails, one of the Tailed Beasts, an armored rhinoceros beetle.
  • Several types of insects from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.
  • The Mass-Production EVAs from End Of Evangelion. Picture a bone-white humanoid vulture with a 200-foot wingspan, no eyes, a permanently-grinning mouth with incongruous red lips and bad teeth, and you may end up like Shinji or Asuka.
  • Flying-type Pokémon that can evolve will usually end up being (relatively) large in their final stages. Even non-evolving ones can be this, including Skarmory and any flying Legendary — in the latter category, special mention goes to Articuno, Zapdos, Moltres and Rayquaza.
  • Queen Millennia: Nunas are dinosaur-looking creatures who take Hajime from the caveship back to Earth.
  • Shadow Star: Grown up shadow dragons.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Slifer The Sky Dragon, The Winged Dragon of Ra, and many others.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • Amulet: The eternally-storming Golbez Cycle contains Sky Eels, docile creatures with impossibly long wingspans.
  • Arawn: Siahm traveled to her son Math's castle when she felt the end of his reign was near on a giant eagle. It was killed right when she arrived by a hail of arrows.
  • Superman:
    • Supergirl (1972): In "The Sinister Snowman", Supergirl and Zatanna fight an ice eagle that is several times larger than a man.
    • The Unknown Supergirl: Martian Angarks are weird, purple-feathered, snail-eyed birds of prey. They are large and strong enough to catch and lift tanks.
    • At the start of Superman's Return to Krypton, Superman chases a planet-sized, balloon-shaped, dragon-like flying monster.
    • The Hunt for Reactron: When Kara and Thara went on a hike to the Fire Falls, they were accosted by a larger-than-a-human man-eating bird of prey which vaguely resembled a giant black crow with a serrated beak and lizard tail.
    • Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom: When Supergirl climbs a mountain in an alien world, she is attacked by a massive, floating squid-like monster.
    • The Legion of Super-Heroes!: The Neptunian invisible eagle is a man-sized bird of prey which Superboy must find and catch.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Queen Clea's forces ride giant pterodactyl-like mounts with sharp teeth.
    • Comic Cavalcade: Vulture King at first seems to be a human wearing a poor vulture outfit who uses devices to control gigantic vultures, but his thralls turn out to be humans forced into very strange flying devices disguised as vultures.
  • Yoko Tsuno: Oversized pteranodons show up in The Morning of the World.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • The Geeky Zoologist's reimagining of Jurassic World has Quetzalcoatlus, the largest pterosaur species. Geosternbergia also appears briefly towards the end.
  • The Life and Times of a Winning Pony has rocs, birds that resemble an eagle twenty times larger than normal and fully capable of carrying off a grown pony in their talons.
  • The Palaververse: Rocs, enormous birds made of stone. Some tribes of Diamond Jackals hollow them out into living, flying fortresses.
  • Realistic Pokémon: Many flying types are shown to be this, but Rayquaza and Yveltal take the cake. Subverted with Lugia, which is seen as one of these, but turns out to simply levitate with psychic abilities.
  • Vow of Nudity: In one story, a massive "skyswimmer" (a giant flying wormlike monster covered in tendris) assaults a zeppelin Haara is stowing away on.

    Films — Animation 
  • One of the things Cinderella 3D, the Mock Buster of Rango, takes from the film is the riding of birds, though they did change them to vultures instead of roadrunners.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: The majority of the different dragon species are bigger than humans and have large wingspans to match. The Red Death from the first film takes the cake as the second largest species of dragon in the franchise note  and the largest that is capable of flying.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: The vindictive King of the Moon (who is a giant) attempts to kill and feed the Baron, Sally and Berthold to the three-headed monstrous bird he's riding named "Sybil", who reveals to be a Clockwork Creature when the heroes split up and each head attempts to follow them separately tearing up its own body.
  • As mentioned elsewhere, large Pterosaurs fill this role in damn near every movie they appear in:
  • James Cameron's Avatar has two main kinds of giant flying predator: the Banshees (or Ikran), which are dragon-like, four-eyed and four-winged blue creatures often mounted by the Na'vi; and the very rare Great Leonopteryx (or Toruk), a similar species, only even bigger and red, that only the most badass Na'vi (and the odd Mighty Whitey Bodysurfing in a Na'vi-human hybrid body) have ever been able to ride.
    • More specifically, banshees have a wingspan of 13.9 meters while the "Leo" is at least 25 meters. The size of those creatures is deceptive because the Na'vi riding them are 3 meters tall.
  • The Giant Claw, as big as a battleship!
  • Godzilla:
    • Rodan is a bit of an odd duck here as he's just as likely to fit into any one of the other categories, depending on the director's mood. More often than not, he's a good monster.
    • Mothra and Battra are butterflies with wingspans larger than most airplanes'. Depending on the continuity, the former’s wingspan can reach up to 250 meters (820 feet).
    • There are quite a few of these like King Ghidorah, Destoroyah, Hedorah among others.
    • Godzilla (2014): The male Muto has a pair of enormous wings in place of one set of legs.
  • The Hobbit: It's unclear yet exactly how big he is due to limited points of comparison, but Smaug is enormous. To put it into perspective, the Fell Beasts in The Lord of the Rings already have a wingspan as big as or bigger than a 747 jumbo jet. Smaug utterly dwarfs them.
  • Pacific Rim: Otachi is a massive kaiju with wings that can fly. And it doesn't reveal these wings until it decides the only way to beat Gypsy would be to simply drop it from 50000 feet. Nice plan, but Gypsy had a sword.
  • Starship Troopers had a scene where a scout was grabbed by a flying bug, until Rasczak uses a sniper rifle to kill his own man instead of shooting the bug.

  • Animorphs: Many of Visser Three's giant morphs fall into this category.
  • Wayne Barlowe's Expedition, and the Speculative Documentary based on it, Alien Planet, feature the jet-propelled, lance-headed Skewer, which has a 60-foot wingspan. The book also mentions the Ebony Blisterwing, which is said to have a wingspan of up to 1000 feet.
  • The Fold has the alpha predator, a predator with a thousand-foot wingspan and tentacle appendages that drag along the ground.
  • Blood Hawks in the Robert A. Heinlein novel Glory Road.
  • The tarns of Gor are a well thought out example. Despite having a 30 foot (9 meter) wing span they are so light that two strong men can easily lift one above their heads.
  • Mercedes Lackey's Gryphons, who are fully intelligent characters on par with humans, from her Heralds of Valdemar books.
  • The Horror Of The Heights, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, features similar problems with pioneering flight; in an altitude band too high for humans to see (somehow) there is an ecosystem of terribly dangerous organisms, including lighter-than-air jellies and rays that fly like birds of prey.
  • Icebones is a novel that follows the journey of a herd of Mammoths on Mars (just follow along), and at one point their youngest member is menaced by a giant seabird.
  • Inheritance Cycle: Dragons literally never stop growing. They're typically born from eggs roughly a foot long and within a few weeks are large enough to ride, and nothing is ever said to indicate that that remarkable growth rate declines. As of Brisingr, less than two years after she hatched, Saphira was so large that jumping down from her back when she is standing up is a long enough drop to either sprain or break bones, and particularly old dragons (before they were wiped out) were said to be mistaken for hills at a distance.
  • The Known Space story "Safe at Any Speed" features the Roc, a gigantic alien bird large enough to swallow a car.
  • Worsel the Velantian in E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman Galactic Patrol. The heroes are being dragged by savage other-wordly beasts to a cave in which they will meet their doom when Worsel, a thirty-foot-long sentient flying reptile, drops from the sky and scatters the beasts in a shower of body parts.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
    • The dragons of the series are immense. Most natural dragons have already died out by the time of the main story, but Eleint Soletaken still have the ability to transform into the massive beasts. It is noted that the Soletaken often rely on sorcery to remain airborne, especially if their wings are damaged.
    • The assassins, know as the Shi'Gal, of the K'Chain Che'Malle are giant even for the race of sentient would-be T. rexes whose normal size puts their hips at a man's eye level. The Shi'Gal are double that height again and Shi'Gal Gu'Rull grows wings in order to better be able to accomplish his mission in the last two books of the series. He has no problem to lift a carriage, including the horses, into the air and throw it around.
  • Geryon, a massive demon of fraud and keeper of the "Malebolge," flies the heroes of The Divine Comedy into the deepest parts of Hell. He's described as a devil with the face of a honest man, body of a multicolored serpent, hairy wings, and a scorpion's.
  • The Neverending Story: Falkor is a large, serpent-like white dragon.
  • Nightworld. Portals to Another Dimension have opened sending nightmare creatures swarming across the Earth. To defeat them the protagonists must go on a Fetch Quest. Repairman Jack is flying through an ash cloud over the Pacific Ocean when he suddenly thinks they're flying too close to the ground, only to see a Giant Eye of Doom staring back at him from a titanic flying leviathan several miles in diameter. Another protagonist heading over the Atlantic has a leviathan swoop down on their jet, which escapes by flying close to the water then banking hard at the last second. The creature's huge wingspan causes it to clip the water and crash as it tries to follow.
  • Ology Series: Dragonology and Monsterology, respectively, have wyverns and rocs as flying creatures of tremendous size, both quite capable of grabbing elephants in their talons and flying off with their catch.
  • In Railsea, the one rule of exploratory flying is "don't", for just this reason. Some airborne monsters are simply giant birds, some cephalopoid, and some more Lovecraftian things. Some of things can even set traps for unwary trains.
  • A mother Roc and her chick appear in the short story "Selim, Shadows, and the Sea" by Pamela Love.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Dragons never stop growing after they hatch and have an incredibly long natural lifespan. Daenerys' dragons grow from tiny hatchlings to being large enough to ride in the space of only a couple of years. In the backstory, Balerion, the century-old dragon ridden by Aegon the Conqueror, was said to be massive enough to have entire towns fall under his shadow when he flew overhead, and had a jaw large enough to swallow a mammoth whole.
  • In Star Wars there are the thranta of Alderaan and the aiwha of Kamino, which both look somewhat like flying whales.
  • The Red Dragons in the Sword of Truth series.
  • The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen: In one island, Munchausen stumbles upon a church-sized nest built by a giant kingfisher. Its hatchlings are only "considerably larger than twenty full-grown vultures".
  • In The Voyage of St. Brendan, St. Brendan and his shipmatess encounter both a "gryphon" and an enormous bird who fights and kills the gryphon.
  • Thank You for Taking Care of our Enchanted and Haunted Castle features giant crows which are used to flee the castle. They apparently like Cheetos.
  • The Seanchan of The Wheel of Time: The Seanchan have scouts that ride giant winged creatures called raken and even larger to'raken as mounts.To'raken even carry boxes of ten or twenty elite soldiers called Fists of Heaven, which they use for aerial assaults. If they put damane (slave mages) in the transport boxes, they can even be aerial artillery.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alien Worlds (2020): The skygrazers are huge, whale-like organisms which graze on clouds of aeroplankton. Their existence is justified by the thicker atmosphere of Atlas being able to hold them up, but their size also means they can never land as adults, because they're too heavy to get airborne again.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Extraterrestrial (2005): The blue moon's dense atmosphere and high oxygen allows it to support immense flying creatures, many of which never land, including skywhales with ten-meter wingspans and kite-like creatures five meters across.
  • Game of Thrones: Daenerys Targaryen's three dragons grow exponentially throughout the series. As of the fifth season, they tower over humans, and can eat them whole. By the seventh season, their size is comparable to a jet airliner.
  • House of the Dragon continues its parent series' tradition by introducing many more humongous-sized dragons. For instance, when Daemon is standing beside his dragon, Caraxes, he's dwarfed by just the creature's head. The queen of them all is Vhagar, a nearly two centuries-old dragon who is essentially a winged Kaiju. According to the Word of God, she is 150 meters long.
  • In the Opening Monologue of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which shows several sequences from the War of Wrath, a Fellbeast can be seen battleing and killing a Great Eagle.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Red Dragon Thunderzord and platform in season two. Besides the Fire Bird Thunderzord (which, as a fairly traditional aircraft doesn't count for this trope), the rest of Thunderzords could at least hover.
  • Monster Warriors: The Warriors battle monstrous pterodactyls in "Pterodactyl Terror" and "The Secrets of the Lost Canyon". The inaccuracies are Justified is this case these are not supposed to be real pterodactyls, but creatures conjured out of an old monster movie by the series' Big Bad.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Tempests", the atmosphere of the gas giant Leviathan harbors two giant flyers: "pteranodons", gigantic winged predators that are been seen on "deep radar" (the characters encounter a skeleton) and "baleens", kilometer-sized jellyfish-blobs that float through the clouds and have dog-sized Giant Spiders living in their guts.
  • Primeval: In S1E5, a large Pteranodon comes through a time rift. It's originally thought to be the Monster of the Week responsible for some recent killings, but it's then explicitly stated to be a fish-eater and achieves no casualties other than an accidental injury. The actual culprit is a swarm of smaller, flying pterosaurs who prefer Death of a Thousand Cuts to carrying the food off.
  • Torchwood has its own pet pterosaur cum watch-flyer called Myfanwy.
  • Ultra Series: Bird kaiju are popular in the franchise. Examples include:
    • Return of Ultramans Bemstar is an extraterrestrial bird-like creature with a Belly Mouth that allows it to eat the energy-based Finishing Moves of Ultra heroes, making it another super-iconic and frequently recurring member of the Rogues Gallery.
    • Ultraman has Hydra, an archaeopteryx''-griffin kaiju made up by an animal-loving boy. But when the kid is killed in a vehicle accident, his ghost brings his creation to life to destroy all motorists in Japan!
    • Ultraman Cosmos: Lidorias is a Gentle Giant phoenix-like kaiju, and occasionally assist Cosmos or Musashi in some of his battles against Chaos Header.
    • Ultraman Orb gives us Maga-Basser, a dragon-eagle creature and the King Demon Beast of Wind. It possesses the ability to manipulate atmospheric conditions to create multiple massive tornadoes in a concentrated area.
    • Ultraman Taro: Birdon is a prehistoric rooster-like monster entombed in a volcano for millions of years. He's well-known among fans as having killed Ultraman Taro and Zoffy by brutally stabbing the heroes to death with his beak, making Birdon a popular choice for when the producers want to bring back a monster.
    • Ultra Q: Litra is one of the first two kaiju in the franchise, being a benevolent prehistoric phoenix-like creature awoken to defeat the violent Gomess. She also appears in Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle as a Pint-Sized Powerhouse and one of the main heroic kaiju of the show.
  • Walking with Dinosaurs: Several of the pterosaurs. One episode focused entirely on an Ornithocheirus that has a forty-foot wingspan.

    Myths & Religion 
  • More than a few flying dragons get cast in this role; wyverns, in particular, swoop down on many a hero in folklore.
  • Griffins in general, going back to Classical Mythology.
  • The Thunderbirds and Piasa of Native American Mythology, although the Piasa wasn't always this.
  • The legend of the Roc (a bird of prey big enough to carry elephants) might have been inspired by ostriches, since being huge and flightless they were thought to be the roc's chicks; a similar theory proposes the giant — and extinct since the beginning of the second millennium — elephant birds of Madagascar instead, formerly some of the biggest living birds on Earth and situated just at the edge of the known world of the Arabs.
  • Jewish folklore mentions the ziz, the aerial counterpart to the terrestrial behemoth and the marine leviathan. Supposedly, it's so big than an object dropped in water that's only ankle-deep to it will sink for over a week before hitting the bottom.
  • Garuda, the king of birds in Hindu Mythology and mount of Vishnu, is so large its wings can stop the spin of heaven.
  • The Peng in Chinese folklore; its wings in flight are said to look like clouds descending from heaven. It is also said to be transformed from the equally gigantic Kun, a Sea Monster.

  • Avatar: The Banshee, as part of the "Ride the Banshee" mode. The Limited Edition game also has one on the playfield.

  • Cool Kids Table: At the end of the game Small Magic's first arc, Byrb the blue jay becomes one thanks to the Tenshi's magic.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Thunderbirds are immense, capable of reaching thirty feet from head to tail and to have fifty-foot wingspans, and can easily carry animals as large as an orca away into the sky.

    Video Games 
  • Angry Birds: The Mighty Eagle, which will wipe out all the pigs in a level.
  • Breath of Fire IV has a flying whale-dragon-god, whom the party has to visit.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow has, as it's penultimate level and also the final Titan Battle a fight against an utterly enormous frickin' UNDEAD DRAGON that you fight on top of a giant pillar of stone in the LAND OF THE DEAD.
  • The angels of Darksiders apparently use griffins as mounts and military animals, because at one point you steal one and ride on it.
  • Demon's Souls features the Storm King as the boss at the Isle of the Shadowmen. A huge leathery-winged thing the size of Texas. It also comes accompanied by a fleet of Storm Beasts, smaller versions of itself that are more than twice as big as the player-character.
  • The Suckers from Diablo II are small compared to some of the entries on this page... but are still weird mosquito-things as big as a large man.
  • Dragon Age: Origins contains a really nasty High Dragon that a group of people have decide is the reincarnation of the Prophetess Andraste. Hernote  wingspan is roughly on par with a medium-sized airplane. You don't have to fight her, but defeating her awards an achievement and is necessary to forge one of the best armors in the game.
    • The Archdemon. This presents a bit of a problem for the heroes, as the Blight can only be ended with the Archdemon's death, but it's ability to fly allows it to easily stay out of the Gray Warden's reach. Luckily, Riordan manages to sneak up on it and force it to land by slicing one of its wings open.
  • Dragon Age II has another High Dragon as an Optional Boss near the end. This one just wandered into an inhabited area, no crazy dragon-worshiping cults this time around.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition upped the ante significantly with a grand total of ten High Dragons (the current era is called "Dragon Age" for a reason) that set up shop all over the game world. They're also Optional Bosses, but unlike the ones from DA:O and DA II they actually fly around to strafe your party with powerful elemental attacks, although thankfully they spend just as much time on the ground to give you a reasonable chance to defeat them. Also unlike the earlier examples, each dragon is a specimen of its own subspecies with considerably varying looks, weaknesses and elemental affiliation.
  • Dwarf Fortress has too many examples to list, typically from applying the "giant" template to normal flying creatures. Most such creatures are content to leave dwarves alone, providing only atmosphere and the occasional hunting spoils, but a few are of note:
    • The flying standard megabeasts, rocs and dragons. A newly-hatched roc is as big as a grizzly bear, and they eventually become as large as a whale shark. Dragons are even larger, growing to the same size as a sperm whale.
    • Flight-capable procedurally generated megabeasts and Hidden Fun Stuff are usually not quite as large, but still far larger (and weirder) than most natural creatures.
    • Like ordinary keas, giant keas are curious creatures that travel in flocks and like to steal shiny things. These shiny things may include anvils. Giant keas are "only" somewhat larger than an adult grizzly bear, but their combination of thievery, aggression towards dwarves that try to stop them, and numbers make them a serious threat to any fortress they're in.
  • Eagle Island: Armaura, the Big Bad, is a giant eagle deity.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The main antagonists are large, angry dragons. Much of the time spent fighting them will be trying to get away from them when they're in the air raining fire down on all the things.
  • Final Fantasy: The Zu. Lampshaded in Final Fantasy X by Tidus if he encounters on in the desert around Home.
    "How can a bird grow so big?"
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: The Mountain Roc, which is a) large enough to carry off human prey when Amiti recalls indirectly encountering it as a child, b) large enough that the nation of Morgal worships it as a god, c) large enough to force the camera to zoom out during your boss fight against the damn thing (and you still don't get the whole thing on your screen), and d) large enough that its gizzard acts as a Womb Level, albeit a short one.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn has the Stormbird, a machine that looks like a giant, mechanical eagle. Its size is at least vaguely justified since it has engines mounted on its wings, giving it the power needed to fly despite being the size of a small house. Also, its size may have had an in-universe purpose as well due to its original role in detoxifying the Earth's atmosphere after the Faro plague — there's likely all sorts of air-purification equipment in there. For Aloy though, its size and weaponry make it a boss fight by itself.
  • Kaiju Wars has Pterus Ignis, a flying kaiju resembling a winged serpent made of fire. Like the game's other kaiju, it's out to wreck the player's city and is big enough to treat squadrons of tanks and fighter jets as flies to be swatted.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
  • The Twilit Dragon Argorok, boss of the City in the Sky, in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
  • Monster Hunter:
    • A huge number of the monsters in the series are of this nature, the two most recognizable ones being the Rathalos and Rathian. They seldom spend much time flying at a height where you can't reach them, generally only doing it when they're moving between areas or for specific attacks. Otherwise, they're usually seen moving about on foot or with a low hover.
    • The Elder Dragons take it to another level, being much larger than the common monster species and sometimes having a special ability to account for how they stay in the air. Notable examples who don't abide to the traditional winged approach include Valstrax of Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate who basically has a natural jet-propulsion system and Portable 3rd''s Amatsu using its control over wind to hover and remain high in the clouds.
    • Monster Hunter: Rise also introduced Ibushi and Narwa, two enormous Elder Dragons who use special organs to generate strong wind currents (for Ibushi) or electromagnetic fields (for Narwa), allowing the two to remain airborne and effortlessly move through the sky when their massive sizes would otherwise make it impossible. Both spend their entire fights hovering in the air and only fall down temporarily after their elemental organs are damaged.
  • Ori and the Blind Forest's Big Bad is Kuro, a giant black owl who stole Sein from the Spirit Tree and killed off the Spirit Guardians in revenge for the Accidental Murder of her offspring by the Tree's light, and is now after Ori as well.
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the Big Bad Shriek is a giant demonic owl who was deformed by and lost her parents to the Decay that arose in the wake of the Spirit Willow's passing, and was rejected by the other owls due to her twisted appearance, leading her to shun the light and embrace the darkness.
  • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire introduces Raquayza, based on the Ziz, a giant bird from Jewish folktales. There are other examples thought the game such as Lugia and Yveltal
  • Shadow of the Colossus: One Colossus resembles a gigantic bird, and actively attacks you once you shoot at it with arrows, whereas the flying serpent simply flies around — thank goodness, as by Word of God in the artbook, it's the longest colossus at 200 meters (656 ft.) long.
  • Skies of Arcadia has several, with most of them serving as ship bosses. Four of the six biological superweapons known as Gigas can fly (with the most physically imposing but never fought being an colossal whale), and you can also optionally fight a Roc, a flying kraken, a giant... flying... spider thing, and an enormous Looper.
  • Sky: Children of the Light: The Krill are giant, insectoid abominations that float through the final areas of the game, hunting down the player with their spotlight-esque Eye Beams.
  • Sky Serpents is based around fighting giant flying serpents, hence the name.
  • Starcraft:
    • The overlord and guardian in the first game.
    • The campaign mode of the sequel has the Leviathan, which is somewhere between thirty to fifty times the size of a battlecruiser. Even though the game's units aren't to scale, it's clearly meant to be enormous.
  • World 5-SHIP: Eagle Path in Super Mario Fusion Revival. Based on the 4th stage of Golden Axe, "The Fiends' Path", this level takes place on the back of a giant eagle. Dangers include homing feathers, large Mana Beasts, and unstable platforms.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X: Planet Mira has a lot of extremely large giant flying creatures, with the man-sized jellyfish things being the smallest examples by far. The largest fliers could probably make a nest out of a football field. Interestingly, most of them won't attack you: you're way too small to be considered a meal or a threat, so unless you attack them, they'll ignore you. Until you get your Humongous Mecha. Then they'll take notice.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY has a class of Grimm known as a Nevermore, which is of course, a gigantic crow. These are big birds, and are pretty dangerous, usually requiring multiple hunters to take down. Or a Gatling gun.


    Web Original 
  • A giant winged bull shows up in Void Domain to wreck havoc.

    Western Animation 
  • In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2021), a dragonfly is accidentally mutated by the power of Havoc into a giant insect named Gary. He's a nice enough guy, but is driven by hunger that only ended when he ate an Artifact of Doom running on Havoc energy. The same artifact the Masters of the Universe and the Dark Masters are fighting each other over.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, these are a common site in Miseryville. At different points, they've snatched up Beezy, Lucius, and Samy.
  • Parodied hilariously in Korgoth of Barbaria, where the giant fearsome flying predators are... pigeons. Granted, they are pigeons the size of a T. rex but still... A similar joke was used by a FedEx ad campaign.
  • Flying plant creatures(!) called "Swoopers" in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Infinite Vulcan". There are also Flyers in other episodes (such as "The Eye of the Beholder") who are said to be different species but use the same character models.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Adult dragons are colossal, easily as big as a large house, and tend to be ferociously predatory.
    • In "Molt Down", Spike is hunted and neatly eaten by a roc, an eagle-like bird of prey the size of a full-grown dragon, attracted to the smell he starts emitting during his molt. It's stated that rocs, alongside hydras and tatzlwurms, are the biggest danger faced by young, molting dragons newly kicked out of their homes, tracking them down through the smell they produce and stopping at nearly nothing to devour them.

Examples of Leathery Winged Avians

    Comic Books 
  • The "Birds of the Master" in the Valerian album named after them.
  • Pterodelph (or whatever this big white thing is called) from Arzak.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • The aptly-named Winged Beast from 9 is a mix of this and Giant-Only-In-Comparison; a vaguely draconic Scavenged Punk Mechanical Monster and minion of the Big Bad, but since the heroes are all roughly six inches tall, it's probably about the size of a condor.
  • The Black Cauldron: The Horned King keeps two Gwythaints, which he sends to kidnap the prophetic pig Hen Wen. They're portrayed as a sort of mix between a wyvern and a pterosaur, in a departure from the original book series where they're described as large vulture-like birds.
  • Heavy Metal: Taarna's heroic mount is winged and featherless, but is much more benign-looking than a traditional pterosaur.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Leviathans from The Avengers are flying, armor-plated whale monsters used by the Chitauri as a combination of siege engines and war animals in the invasion of New York.
  • Gyaos of the Gamera series.
  • The Fell Beasts used as mounts by the Ringwraiths in The Lord of the Rings. While they are more vaguely described in the books, here they are portrayed as large, leathery-winged and scaled, with two legs, long necks and blunt, snakelike heads. They are used by the Ringwaiths almost like reconnaissance planes while patrolling the lands around Mordor, but are taken directly into battle at Osgiliath, Minas Tirith, and the Black Gate.
  • Otachi from Pacific Rim resembles a giant reptilian bat capable of lifting a giant robot of equivalent size, and like all Kaiju exists for the purpose of destroying human civilization so that the civilization that made it can take over the Earth. Its ability to fly also more or less invalidates any use the wall system can have of keeping Kaiju confined.

  • Lone Wolf.
    • The Zlanbeasts and Kraan; ugly reptilian creatures with leathery wings serving the Darklords as flying mounts from them and their various troops.
    • The Grand Master series also features the Lavas, dragon-like monsters in direct service of the god Naar.

  • Many of Visser Three's giant morphs in Animorphs fall into this category.
  • Bored of the Rings parodies this trope, and its use inThe Lord of the Rings, by having the Black Riders fly killer pelicans.
  • The original Gwythaints of The Chronicles of Prydain are almost a subversion. They used to be good; they were peaceful flying creatures akin to real-life condors. Somehow, they were corrupted by Arawnbut there is still good in them. Taran rescues a young Gwythaint who later goes on to rescue him.
  • The Rooks controlled by the Dark in The Dark is Rising straddle the line between this and the flying predator subtrope.
  • In the book Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones, the titular character (and protagonist) is supposed to have a supply of Leathery Winged Avians on hand. What he actually ends up using are a flock of rather snarky intelligent geese.
  • The Death Gate Cycle: The Labyrinth, the deadly and aware prison-world where the Sartan sealed the Patryn, is home to several dangerous flying creatures, designed physically and behaviorally to maximize the torment of their victims. These are directed by there Labyrinth to torment and harry its prisoners, and are later recruited into the dragon-snakes' army when they enter the Labyrinth themselves. These include very literal Leathery-Winged Avians who prefer to go after their prey's eyes, blinding them and leaving them helpless before the avians swoop in for the kill, and the blood dragons, evil, cruel monsters that are some of Labyrinth's deadliest minions.
  • The Ak-Baba from Deltora Quest were monstrous flying servants to the Big Bad. They scattered the jewels of Deltora across the land and terrorized the heroes on more than one occasion.
  • There's also meet night-gaunts in Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, and they're actually pretty nice.
  • In Guards! Guards!, mention is made several times of the fact that 'noble' (ie, giant and mythical) dragons are, intrinsically, wrong; nothing that big with that wingspan should ever be able to fly — Sybil even mentions the thing about how you can't just scale something up and expect it to work. The only way they can survive in the real world is by, essentially, feeding on magic. Lots of it. And that doesn't go so well once the magic starts running out.
  • Inheritance Cycle: The Lethrblaka ("leather-flapper" in the Ancient Language), monstrous, man-eating creatures resembling draconic pterosaurs with arms as well as legs and wings. The Ra'zac use them as transportation when going around doing King Galbatorix's business. (They're also the adult form of the Ra'zac).
  • The Fell Beasts of The Lord of the Rings, vaguely-described creatures with vast, leathery wings used by the Ringwraiths as flying mounts. There are also the the winged dragons such as Smaug, some of Morgoth's most terrible minions. Particular mention should be made of Ancalagon the Black, the greatest of all the dragons of Middle-earth. He was so large that he could blot out the light of the sun even from a great distance, and when he was slain and thrown down his body utterly smashed the three peaks of Thangorodrim (three very large volcanoes).
  • H. P. Lovecraft:
  • The Pellucidar novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs just cut to the chase and make the winged Mahar the Big Bad; they further feature the savage Thipdars.
  • In Star Wars: Kenobi, Jabba's thugs keep flying reptilian Kaven whistlers in the ceiling of his townhouse, and feed delinquent debtors to them.
  • Flying monkeys from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Though it should be mentioned that, in the book, the Monkeys are merely flying predators who were enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the West via a magic hat which may be used to summon the monkeys three times. Dorothy gains the rights to this hat after killing the Witch, and the Monkeys aid her and her friends three times. Dorothy then handed the hat off to the Good Witch of the South, who declared she would use her three to get Dorothy's friends back home. She then gives the hat to the King of the Monkeys so no one else could use it, effectively freeing the monkeys.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The series finale of Angel had Angel going to fight a large dragon once the city goes to hell. By the beginning of After the Fall he has become Angel's ally.
  • Stargate SG-1 once faced a dragon, in their final season. Vala named it Darryl.

    Myth and Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • The harpies could be seen as the trope makers for the Leathery Winged Avian variant, though downplayed as they're on the low end of "Giant".
    • The Caucasian Eagle, the monstrous bird that ate the eternally regenerating liver of Prometheus. Big enough to devour the liver of a titan and in many versions, the offspring of Greek Mythology's Big Bad, Typhon.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dragon Dice, all races have access to the eponymous dragons by summoning them through magic. Most races have some form of flying cavalry or monster in addition to having access to dragons.
  • In the Iron Kingdoms world, any of the spawn of Ever blight that happen to have wings. They all have chitinous plates where their eyes should be, but make up for it by having an prodigious number of sharp teeth, as well as a variety of other natural weapons such as claws and blight-breath. The Angelius has itself no less than six wings. And then they are further topped by Archangels.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Tyranids have a large number of flying monsters in their army. The Harridan is a huge winged monstrosity with razor sharp claws, pointy teeth and acid-shooting "bio cannons". Often carries around flocks of Gargoyles, smaller flying Tyranids. Harpies act as living bombers with a screech that can rupture eardrums. Hive Crones will wrestle enemy aircraft out of the skies before strafing ground forces with their stomach acids. Sky Slashers are nothing so much as fanged maws with bat wings that attack in huge swarms. Finally, Shrikes act as synapse creatures, keeping the other dying units connected to the Hive Mind.
    • The daemons of Tzeentch, the Chaos God of sorcery and manipulation, have a distinct avian theme, and many are capable of flight.
  • Many Warhammer armies have access to giant flying monsters as mounts for characters, mostly classic mythological monsters such as Dragons, Griffons, Pegasi, Wyverns and Manticores, although there are also stranger creatures like the dragon-sized zombie bat known as a Terrorgheist. The closest to the classic Lord of the Rings type is probably the Wyvern, available to Orc warbosses and great shamans.

    Video Games 
  • The giant Pteranodon in Ecco the Dolphin, the garage-sized flying jellyfish in The Tides of Time, and a helpful giant bird in the Dolphin's Nightmare levels in Defender of the Future.
  • Metroid:
    • Ridley, although he's not really a servant of the Mother Brain, as he's the leader of the Space Pirate army who ally with her.
    • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes also features the giant moth Chykka.
  • Pokémon: Yveltal, a massive bird-like Pokémon and also a god of death. If it dies, it can rebirth itself in a dark reflection of a phoenix, sucking the life out of everything for miles around.
  • Yehat in Star Control and their wingless offshot the Pkunk are an intelligent version.

  • A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe: The flying void beasts sent agains the Everyman include some impressively large specimens, such as a bat the size of a hang glider, a pigeon the height of an elephant, and a wasp several times larger than a tank. The members of the flock that attacks the Everyman and Snuffy in the courtyard are smaller, but most are still easily as large as or larger than the Everyman — notably, while the ones based on large birds such as condors and albatrosses aren't larger than their real-life counterparts, the ones based on small perching birds are colossal.
  • El Goonish Shive has the Bulldog Dragon, a creature summoned at one point against the heroes. It's basically what you'd get if you combined a bulldog, a bat, and a goat while making it the size of a small car and reptilian.
  • Lovely Lovecraft: Night Gaunts in the Dreamlands are roughly nine feet tall.

    Western Animation 
  • In Code Lyoko, the Frelions and flying Mantas are XANA's aerial fight force. The Frelions are Goddamned Bats of the swarm kind, and the Mantas are occasionally used as steeds (most notably William's Black Manta).

Examples of Deus Ex Machina Airlines

    Anime and Manga 
  • Birdramon from Digimon Adventure was ridiculously large compared to the rest of the cast; large enough that several of the chosen could ride on her feet. Other Giant Flyers include Zhuqiaomon from Digimon Tamers, Qinglongmon from Digimon Aventure 02, and Imperialdramon. Imperialdramon, furthermore, had two different forms: one was humanoid and used mainly for combat (called "Fighter Mode"), while the other was a quadruped with a domed glass-like shield on its back which it could carry passengers in.
  • One application of Haruna's ability in Negima! Magister Negi Magi involves her sketching different kinds of giant flyers to be used for quick transport.
  • Yes! Pretty Cure 5GoGo!'s Syrup, when he isn't busy being a cute little boy or cuter penguin, can also become what's been described as a "birdplane."
  • Kohaku in Spirited Away.
  • Many (if not all) of the dragonets that appear in the manga and anime of Shadow Star can fly and carry their owners with (or even inside) them.

    Comic Books 
  • Several comic book characters ride flying horses; Valkyrie, Amethyst, Black Knight, Dreadknight, Shining Knight, basically a lot of knights.
  • The giant hawks flown by the Chosen Eight in ElfQuest.
  • Wonder Woman not only rides a winged horse — sometimes the original Pegasus herself and sometimes one named Cloudancer — but Pegasus' very first appearance in Wonder Woman (1987) involved the horse coming out of nowhere to the rescue when Medusa's sisters tried to attack a weakened and wounded Wonder Woman.

    Fan Works 
  • Dragons of Ice and Fire: Sonagon the ice dragon, even compared to the three dragons Dany has. Especially compared to the three dragons Dany has. He's described as a "flying mountain" more than once, and Jon can bring 20-30 men with him when they go flying.
  • With Strings Attached:
    • George turns into a pegasus and a dragon, always acting as a Deus Ex Machina Airline for Ringo and, usually, someone else (As'taris and the Hunter). Of course, he becomes many smaller kinds of flyers as well.
    • He continues this trend in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, though he's too prudent to fly as a dragon where anyone might see him (and take a shot at him). Twice he becomes a giant eagle to carry one of the others when riding isn't an option; Ringo hates this, since it makes him feel like George's dinner!
  • Sacredgreymon drives Abyssgreymon from Digital City near the end of Transcendence: Digital Curse.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Land Before Time VII: The Stone of Cold Fire features a Giant Flyer (really as that's what Pterosaurs are called in this verse) who was able to transport all of the characters off the top of a volcano just before it erupts. Certainly, there were some impressive Pterosaurs in real life. Not so sure if one would give a young sauropod a ride.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In After Earth, a giant eagle saves Kitai from freezing to death by covering him with its wings. Previously, Kitai defended the eagle's nest from a pack of big cats.
  • Pegasus in Clash of the Titans (1981).
  • Once again, more than a few dragons:
  • In Lady in the Water, the Great Eathlon is a giant eagle-like creature who takes Story away in the end.
  • H'Raka, Jor-El's Kryptonian dragon in Man of Steel.
  • MirrorMask: "Bob! Bob! Malcolm!"
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones features the giant winged cetaceans called Aiwha, used by the Kaminoans as transport.
  • In Yamato Takeru, Amano Shiratori, the White Bird of Heaven, is a giant metallic swan-like being sent by Amaterasu first to save the infant Prince Ousu from being killed and returning years later in time for the final battle with the Yamata no Orochi where it serves as a mount, then becomes part of Yamato Takeru's Utsuno Ikusagami form, and finally carries the heroes back to Earth.

  • Lone Wolf:
    • The Itikars, giant birds used as steeds by the Vassagonians. Lone Wolf gets to ride one in book 5.
    • Lone Wolf also "borrows" a Zlanbeast on a few occasions to travel through enemy territory.

  • Tobias has been this in Animorphs when the others are in insect morph. Other times they just morph birds themselves.
  • The Roving Reptilian Rescuers in The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear, including the aptly named Deus X (Mac) Machina.
  • Gwahno in Bored of the Rings is the Sub-Trope Namer.
  • In The Darkangel Trilogy, many of the guardian beasts ridden by Irrylath's brothers in the final battle fall under this category: specifically, the starhorse Avarclon, the cockatrice Elverlon, the newt-ape-bat-creature Ranilon, the gryphon Terralon, and the four-winged leopard Zambulon.
  • The Skybax in Dinotopia are a rare example of friendly large pterosaurs.
  • Of course, the Dragonriders of Pern.
  • The Caterbird from The Edge Chronicles always shows up at the exact right time. In fact, it promises to do so as soon as it's introduced.
  • The Gaea Trilogy features sentient blimps. A species of symbiotes lives inside their "stomachs" and helps them out by bringing in vegetable matter for the blimps to digest. Blimps are pretty laid-back and it's possible to convince one to give you a ride, as long as you're not carrying fire or any means of making fire, which they're scared to death of for good reason... they get around the square-cube law by internally producing hydrogen so they're lighter than air (but also rather explosively flammable).
  • The night-gaunts in Brian Lumley's Hero of Dreams series. Yep, they've switched sides since Lovecraft's day (see above).
  • The Dirigible Behemothaurs from Iain M. Banks's Look to Windward are giant flyers of a sort, though very large (large enough to provide living space for dozens of human-shaped creatures in their various nooks and crannies) and rather slow and inscrutable. You generally wouldn't chat to them, certainly.
  • Gwaihir and the other Eagles in The Lord of the Rings.
  • In I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, leviathans look like flying whales so massive that they can carry small towns on their backs, although most of the time they appear in their humanoid forms.
  • In the Conan story The Scarlet Citadel, the Necromancer Pelias summons some kind of beast with a 40-foot wingspan to get Conan back to Aquilonia, described vaguely as merely "neither bat nor bird." Conan, still reeling from all the crazy things he's experienced in Tsotha's dungeons, tries not to think about it too much as he climbs on its back and flies home.
  • Another Garth Nix example: in Shade's Children, "Wingers" are leather-winged flying beasts. Technically, that would put them in the category directly above, but as Shade notes, the normal laws physics makes it impossible for them to fly, but the Change Reactors make it possible.
  • And his predecessor Thorondor in The Silmarillion.
  • Star Wars Legends: Among the many species that went extinct when Alderaan exploded were a number of massive flying creatures called thrantas, used as beasts of burden and steeds. The largest species could carry passenger vessels the size of ships. Fortunately, before this happened, one species was exported to the gas giant Bespin, which has an entire airborne ecosystem.
  • The Gars in The Sword of Truth series. They're only about man-sized, and can only seem to carry skinny teenage girls, or wizards using magic to make themselves lighter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kilgharrah in the Series 2 finale of Merlin carries Merlin back to Camelot.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Pegasus, the flying horse tamed by the hero Bellerophon and that served as his steed when he vanquished the Chimera, may be the Ur-Example.


    Video Games 
  • The giant Pteranodon in Ecco the Dolphin.
  • Parodied in The Halfblood Chronicles. One of the heroic Dragons gives a ride to a character who has just joined with the heroes. They both come away from the experience saying that it had to be the most uncomfortable way to travel imaginable.
  • In Haven (2020), Yu and Kay meet a Katefulai, an insectoid flyer, that they name Birble and can use for fast travel to previously cleared Islets. Shortly afterwards, they discover another individual of the same species who transports them to an otherwise inaccessible set of islets in the swamp region of Source.
  • Act II of Kentucky Route Zero features Julian, a bald eagle large enough to carry away houses. The cast uses him for long-distance transportation over swamps.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link and his Red Loftwing pull the Catch a Falling Star gambit as a matter of routine. He comes from a Floating Continent, where leaping to your doom and whistling for a nearby bird to rescue you is just how people get around.
  • The dragon/pterodactyl at the end of Out of this World.
  • Pokémon has an amusing application of this trope in the form of the teachable move "Fly". Any Pokémon who can learn it effectively becomes your Deus Ex Machina Airline. (In practice, this means you are able to revisit important locations within the game.) The list of characters who can carry you while flying includes everything from creatures who fit the Giant Flyer trope, like the big, badass dragon Salamence. But it also hilariously includes tiny little Zubat and (possibly the most amusing) Doduo, a two-headed flightless bird thing without wings. Generally the entire evolutionary lines of common bird Pokémon (Pidgey, Hoothoot, etc.) can learn Fly even in their small initial forms (for one thing, Pidgey's Pokédex entry calls it a Tiny Bird Pokémon). Natu stands out as a rare example of a common bird Pokémon that can't (like Pidgey, it is also described as a Tiny Bird Pokémon), though its evolved form, Xatu, can.
    • Much more amusing than Doduo is Smeargle. It's not bird-like or winged at all (it's a vaguely dog-like Cartoon Creature with a paintbrush tail), but that doesn't stop it from sketching and using Fly.
    • Best of all for a Deus Ex Machina Airline? A Legendary Pokémon like Rayquaza, Moltres, or Ho-Oh. You are riding a friggin' phoenix, or the Ziz itself.
    • This is even funnier if you have a Golurk and teach it Fly. It's a possessed golem about twice the size of the player, and many fans depict it with a built-in jetpack. Which is how the anime ended up depicting it, too.
    • Sun and Moon replace Fly, along with most of the out-of-battle moves, with the Ride Pager, which allows you to call up certain Pokémon to where you are to perform those tasks. Fly's role is done by Charizard, allowing you to fly around the Alolan islands as you please on the back of a dragon.
  • Rune Factory Frontier has a whale shaped island that you can use a beanstalk to climb onto. This island is intelligent and needs your help to defeat the infestation of monsters inhabiting the very large dungeon inside of itself.
  • Shantae: In the cancelled game for the Game Boy Advance, Risky Revolution, Sky's bird, Wrench, was going to be revealed as having grown really big in the period after the first game, and would have served as the Global Airship for Shantae. Played straight in Half-Genie Hero, where Wrench serves as Shantae's transport between levels.
  • Solatorobo has the Master of the Clouds, who is used to travel from the Shepherd Republic to Earth.
  • Fluzzard from Super Mario Galaxy 2, which is a giant parrot in which Mario must ride on in the "Wild Glide" and "Fleet Glide Galaxies" to obtain their Power Stars, and later on he must use him to race a team of hummingbirds.
  • Ba'ul from Tales of Vesperia becomes the party's Global Airship once he evolves into a more mature form, being able to easily carry their boat around once they tie it to him.
  • In Wardner, a certain enemy in Stage 3 will drop an ocarina that summons a giant phoenix that can carry the player over most of the stage.
  • Flammie, from the World of Mana series, a giant... dragony-thing the heroes used as transportation.


    Western Animation 

Examples of Normal-Sized Flyers (that appear giant due to the scale of the other characters)

    Films — Animation 
  • The bird from A Bug's Life.
  • Epic (2013): ALL birds from Leafman perspective, but in particular the hummingbirds and crows which are actually used as mounts.
  • The hawk from Rango.
  • Orville and Wilbur in The Rescuers. Then again, they are albatroses for better or worse. Orville has to fall almost the entire height of the UN Building to accelerate beyond stall speed, and when Wilbur approaches the RAS outpost in the Australian outback, he is described as a "jumbo", and the rooftop airfield isn't designed to accommodate a bird of his ginormous size.
  • Jeremy in The Secret of NIMH.

  • Discworld:
    • Constable Buggy Swires of the City Watch; a gnome who maintains a squad of (semi)trained pigeons -and a turkey vulture in Monstrous Regiment.
    • Predating Buggy Swires is The Death of Rats riding Quoth the Raven and the (semi)trained pigeons (see Soul Music which happens two years before Jingo).
    • One of the Nac Mac Feegle in The Wee Free Men has a trained Sparrowhawk whom he rides around on. This is probably a direct parody of...
  • The Fledgling justifies this by hinting that there's something up with the heroine that allows her to ride upon the Goose Prince and that allows her to fly on her own.
  • Gnomes in the Gnomes and Secrets of the Gnomes illustrated books hopped a lift on large birds quite often. One slightly Narmy illustration shows a pair of gnome newlyweds being carried off to their honeymoon by a swan.
  • Woe betide the person who says it's cute how the Gallivespians of His Dark Materials ride around on dragonflies... Though, no matter how small the Gallivespians are, it was mentioned (or at least implied) that the dragonflies were bigger than modern-day ones, perhaps at Meganeura size.
  • The titular characters in The Minnipins are tiny gnomes who ride upon birds. Of course, they happen to know a huge Mute Swan who can carry their new human friend.
  • Long before he wrote it into Discworld, Terry Pratchett gave geese to the Floridian Nomes in Wings, the last part of the Nomes Trilogy.
  • Normal-sized owls, crows, hawks — and Kehaar the gull — in Watership Down, since the heroes are rabbits.
  • The Wonderful Adventures of Nils: A boy gets shrunken and ends up traveling with a flock of geese by riding on one's back.

Other Examples

    Anime and Manga 

    Fan Works 
  • Christian Humber Reloaded: Season-Bringer is a particularly extreme example. He's a flying dragon that's 120,000 feet long, 18,000 feet wide, and weighs 900 quadrillion tons.
  • Kaiju Revolution: Several kaiju are capable of flight including Rodan, Mothra, Jyarumu, Kamacuras and King Ghidorah. An explanation is actually given on how the first and last are able to achieve this. With Rodan, his respiratory system has evolved into a biological turbine engine that forces air out from openings in his body. As for Ghidorah, he uses his electromagnetic powers to repel himself from the earth's core and effectively hover in the air.
  • Last Child of Krypton: When Shamshel attacks, several characters note that it's a skyscraper-sized flying creature.

    Films — Animation 

  • Daybreak on Hyperion has sky whales. Tame ones are used as a mass transportation or shock troops in battle. Pods of wild ones are a major danger for large herds of animals, both wild and domesticated.
  • In Stephen Baxter's book Evolution, he invents a species of pterosaur dubbed the "air whale" with wings a hundred metres across. Living off tiny creatures in the stratosphere, it had paper thin hollow bones. They mated on the highest mountain peaks and it is suggested there are very few of them due to the lack of food. Able to circumnavigate the globe with the aid of wind currents, it need never touch the ground.
  • Various species of alien fauna from Wayne Barlowe's classic Speculative Documentary sci-fi book Expedition, including the fierce "Skewer" (essentially a Killer Air Whale) and the bizarre "Rugose Floater" (seen on the cover).
  • The titular creature in Leviathan fits the other trope name: Air Whale.
  • Tamora Pierce can go here because hers are varied and hard to categorize. She has traditional dragons and griffins; kudarung, which are traditional winged horses except that they come in widely varied sizes, making some of them Pocket-sized Flyers; hurroks, clawed, predatory "horse-hawks" with batlike wings; and Stormwings, which are half human, half giant sharp-metal-feathered bird, and aren't evil but do take natural pleasure in human suffering. They're all immortal unless killed (except possibly the kudarung, which aren't specifically identified as immortals and might not be, since they didn't enter the human world under the same circumstances as the immortals the readers know).
  • In The Stormlight Archive, the Spirit World of the Cognitive Realm has "mandras", colossal flatworm-like flying creatures with multiple sets of legs and manta-like wings. Although their body shape could never fly normally, as spren, they're spiritual beings who aren't quite bound by normal physics. They're also quite useful for pulling ships.
  • In This Immortal, spiderbats can grow large enough to catch and carry off a man.
  • In the medieval Irish romance The Voyage of Máel Dúin, Máel Dúin and his crew encounter a bird so large they initially think it is a cloud, and which carries in its beak a twig as large as an oak tree. It turns out to be completely harmless.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Quetzalcoatl from Aztec Mythology was such a giant flyer that he became the namesake for a real life one, the below mentioned Quetzalcoatlus. There is some debate on whether or not he actually had wings (he's frequently depicted as a feathered snake in every sense of the word, including being limbless), but almost every version of his feathered serpent form is a huge flying creature.
  • On the cryptozoology side of things, so-called "Atmospheric Beasts" are often this. Their sizes vary, but the largest are often said to be over a hundred feet in length.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the AD&D edition of Dark Sun campaing setting, "Cloud Rays" akin to enormous flying manta rays appear as an extremely dangerous monster.
    • And of course, in most settings you have dragons, wyverns, rocs, manticores, chimeras, sphinxes...
    • In sizes, the largest AD&D dragons were described in the Monster Manual as being up to 350 feet long. While unlike in the "Draconomicon" in 3.5 wingspan was not given scaling the one in the latter to the former would give them ones of several hundred feet
  • Fantasy Fliers is a free set of rules for playing fantasy air combat in miniature, allowing the use of a wide variety of technological and magical constructs, standard fantasy flying beasts such as dragons and pegasus, various sizes of bugs, bats, and sea creatures. Since they are often used as mounts, but can fly alone, acting as predators, prey, and enemy troops, this game could fit all the above categories.
  • A design mechanic in Magic: The Gathering gives all colors an iconic species as a large, dramatic, expensive creature, and all except Greennote  have flying. White gets Angels, Blue gets Sphinxesnote , Black gets Demons (or sometimes just large Vampires), and Red gets Dragons.

    • Gukko and Nivawk, both giant cyborg birds used as transport.
    • Plus the Nui-Rama, giant cyborg insects.

    Video Games 
  • In the skies of the Shadow World of Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic swim whale-like Skwahl. They aren't present (at least in the official ruleset), but the description of floating Forceship unit says Syron make them from hollowed carcasses of old Skwahl.
  • The titular Ashen is depicted in the opening as a massive raven of light large enough to perch on the branches of the tree of worlds. Its feathers alone are about as large as the player character. The Diasora, a giant furry whale-like creature the size of a small fortress also counts.
  • Another giant bird, this time from Bravely Default: the Hresvelgr summon.
  • When McQueen visits the Dark World in The Darkside Detective, an enormous flying ... thing ... can be seen swooping through the Alien Sky. McQueen doesn't get a good look at it, nor stick around long enough to find out which subcategory it fits into.
  • Devil Survivor 2 gives us an Eldritch Abomination Alioth's warship, which is so big that it is the only Eldritch Abomination in the game which can be seen in a satellite photo. It pretty much levels Sapporo when it's shot down. The Updated Re-release's new campaign has Denebola, which while not nearly as massive as Alioth is still huge enough to dwarf the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest tower in the world.
  • The Elder Scrolls series' lore tells of werevultures native to the forests of Valenwood, a form of were-creature who transform into giant carrion birds. They've yet to make an in-game appearance, however.
  • Goblin Sword has birds just bigger than the swordsman as an enemy.
  • Half-Life has huge manta ray-like alien fliers who at some points in the game drop alien grunts. In Opposing Force, they appear right at the beginning when they start shooting down Osprey troop carriers with their lightning rays.
  • The Wind Fish in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. Made sillier by its absurdly tiny wings.
  • In Minecraft, there are the Ender Dragon, which is one of largest mobs in the game, as well as the Ghast, and arguably the Wither. All three are, at least partially, Justified. The Ender Dragon inhabits a separate dimension, where the laws of physics might very well be entirely different. The Ghasts are implied to be undead, and the Wither is a magical construct, which presumably flies as part of that magic.
  • Quake II has the Hornet (aka Flying Guardian), a hovering insectoid cyborg thing.
  • The flying Colossi from Shadow of the Colossus, Avion and Phalanx. Phalanx (pictured) takes the cake as the single largest Colossus in the game (it's twice as long as the final Colossus is tall). Interestingly, neither are hostile: Avion needs to be provoked into fighting you, and Phalanx mostly ignores you for the entire "fight", only trying to shake you off if stabbed.
  • The Rukhs in Sonic and the Secret Rings are, like the legend they're based on, enormous flying creatures. In this game, they double as Turtle Island in that a civilization had been built on the backs of a flock of them in the past, each of them carrying roughly a city block's worth. Appropriately, they are found only in the stage known as Levitated Ruin.
  • All of the above are very, very possible in Spore, due to the existence of Epic Creatures. Flying epic creatures in particular are somewhat more deadly than regular ones, especially ones with higher levels of flight, because they can move much more silently and quickly than normal ones.
  • The Sand Bird from Super Mario Sunshine is literally a sand bird and fully capable of flight.
  • Total War: Warhammer: Flying units are a fairly large part of the game, adding a new dimension to battlefield tactics from previous Total War titles, although they're not present to the same degree in all armies.
    • For the Empire, Emperor Karl Franz can unlock his massive griffin, Deathclaw, as a mount. Generals of the Empire can also ride smaller griffins, while Imperial Amber Wizards can ride green-feathered jade griffins.
    • Similarly, Orc heroes can come mounted on wyverns.
    • The Vampire Counts have access to a large number of flying units, most notably Vargheists, vampires that have been driven insane by centuries of imprisonment and mutated into giant batlike monsters. In addition, they can raise Terrogheists, the reanimated husks of bats the size of dragons, as well as actual zombie dragons.
    • The Warriors of Chaos can unlock a two-headed chaos dragon as a mount for their lords.
    • The Wood Elves are also a fairly aerial faction. They get a unit of missile cavalry mounted on giant hawks, and in addition get giant eagles and forest dragons as both mounts for their hero units and as individual monstrous units.
  • Triangle Strategy has greathawks. They're giant hawks used as mounts in place of horses, mostly in Aesfrost and occasionally Glenbrook, and can easily carry an adult rider. (Though Hughette can note that two riders are usually too much for a greathawk to handle.)
  • Dragons in World of Warcraft get to be pretty massive, though special mention goes to Deathwing, who's been described as "airliner-big." According to the artists for the Cataclysm cinematic his wingspan is 1,200 feet from wingtip to wingtip.

  • George the Dragon features a large green dragon who has the habit of swooping down from the sky to humiliate humans in sadistic games of tag.
  • Girl Genius: Add the Heterodynes' Franz to the list. He admits to cheating a bit.
  • In Godslave, the second ba takes the form of a giant, bird-shaped tree. Which, in violation of all rules of physics and then some, can actually fly.
  • Hibachi the Dragon in the webcomic The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!.
  • Perca (Priscila S. Piccin) uses large flying creatures in multiple of her comics including a giant space whale in Killer of Monsters, a flying Whale in the OCBZ Highway with a man riding it called pedro, and a similar whale (plus pedro) in Boobtrap.
  • Lampshaded in The Order of the Stick #754. When the large-bellied, small-winged dragon ruler of The Empire of Blood decides to fly to a royal parade, a dumbstruck Vaarsuvius remarkes that they should avoid casting magic for the rest of the day, "if only to give the laws of physics time to cry alone in the corner."
  • The flying whales and White Steel Eels from Tower of God.

    Web Original 
  • The alien Cloud Grazers, giant creatures that feed on clouds in the skies of another world.
  • Argentavis is #5 on Cracked's 7 (Thankfully) Extinct Giant Versions of Modern Animals.
  • The ornimorphs of Serina can have wingspans of thirty feet or more. The archangel family in particular reaches the size of a small plane.
  • In There is no GATE; we did not fight there, the titular King of the Sky from the interlude "The Myth, the Legend, the King of the Sky" is an enormous Thunderbird composed of storm channels, blotting out the entire sky. Kytheus compares its size to that of the earth dragon his grandfather had slain before his birth, and whose bones have the main city of the Rhavenfell built into them.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The genus of pterosaur known as Quetzalcoatlus (where "quetzalcoatl" is Aztec for "feathered snake" and was the name of a major god) had a wingspan of 10-11 metres (32-35 feet) and was as tall as a giraffe.
    • Quetzalcoatlus has a Romanian cousin named Hatzegopteryx, which may have been even bigger than its American counterpart; one of the most common estimates is that the creature had a whopping 12-metre (38 feet) wingspan. That said, some have theorized that Hatzegopteryx and Quetzalcoatlus were actually the same species, although later findings suggest that this isn't the case (the two animals had a lot in common, but there are enough differences between them to suggest that they're separate species). These differences include the fact the European version had a much shorter, much thicker neck and was built to kill much larger prey (namely cow-sized dwarf sauropods), being the unrivalled apex predator of the area.
  • The most commonly depicted pterosaur in popular culture, Pteranodon, was pretty large as well, with an average wingspan of 4-6 metres (13-19 feet). In fact, before the discoveries of Hatzegopteryx and Quetzalcoatlus, it was considered the largest flying animal to have existed.note 
  • The South American Tropeognathus (more popularly known by its former name Ornithocheirus) was another pretty gigantic pterosaur. One former estimate predicted its wingspan could've been as much as 39 feet (12 metres) across, which would've been the largest of any known flying animal. While this is now considered very unlikely, even the comparatively tamer modern estimates of 27 feet (8 metres) still make it slightly bigger than Pteranodon and by far one of the largest pterosaurs known from the Southern hemisphere.
  • Though it was a sparrow compared to the above mentioned pterosaurs, Harpactognathus is the largest known non-pterodactyloid pterosaur, with an estimated wingspan of 8 feet (2.5 meters). It's also thought to have acted something like a large bird of prey, making it similar in both size and behavior to a modern eagle. Its recently discovered relative Dearc was even larger, with a possible wingspan of more than 12 feet (3.7 meters).
  • Another extinct animal: the Giant Teratorn (Argentavis) had a smaller wingspan of up to 8 metres (26 feet), but was the largest flying bird of all time. Later, Pelagornis sandersi broke the record.
    • Similarly, there were the little-known pelagornithids (or pseudotooth birds), seabirds on steroids that had tooth-like bony projections on their beaks. They appeared soon after the K-T event (filling the ecological space vacated by the extinction of large, fish-eating pterosaurs) and persisted until around 2.5 million years ago; the largest, Osteodontornis, had a wingspan of 20 feet (6 meters). Scientists speculate that it behaved like a modern-day frigatebird (basically the meanest bird on the open seas) and had a throat pouch like a pelican (basically the meanest bird on the beach). Now imagine a beach full of those things. Happy picnicking!
  • For a more recently extinct animal, one that humans probably did interact with, there's always the Haast's Eagle of New Zealand, at about 3 meters (10 feet). They hunted moa, which ranged up to 15 times their weight (and are also bigger than humans), and lived up until a few hundred years ago.
    • It has been noted that, based on puncture marks found on moa pelvises, the Haast's Eagle was probably a fairly specialized hunter of the same. Moa were big, feathered bipeds. The earliest Maori colonists were most likely wearing feather cloaks same as they do now. This might have caused... issues. In the end, human overhunting of its food supply drove the eagle into extinction.
  • Not as well known as Haast's Eagle, but equally big (similar wingspan, lighter body) is Woodward's Eagle, which has been found in the La Brea Tar Pits. Some experts think the Thunderbird legend was inspired by encounters with it by early Native Americans.
  • Rounding out the extinct animals, we have Meganeura and its relatives from the Carboniferous period. A wingspan of 70 centimeters (27 inches), it sounds puny compared to most of the animals listed here until you find out that it was a dragonfly.
  • There are multiple species of still living birds with large wingspans including: the Wandering Albatross (3.6 metres/11.5 feet), the Stellar's Sea Eagle (2.7 meters/8.6 feet), the California Condor (2.8 meters/8.9 feet), the Cinereous Vulture (3.1 meters/9.9 feet), the Andean Condor (3.3 meters/10.5 feet), the Marabou Stork (3.7 meters/12 feet), the Great White Pelican (3.5 meters/11 feet), the Southern Royal Albatross (3.6 meters/11.5 feet), and the Jabiru Stork (2.8 meters/9.2 feet).
  • Due to their lack of hollow bones and air sacs, bats are more limited in size than birds and pterosaurs. However, some species can still get pretty large. A good example is the Golden-Crowned Flying Fox of the Philippines which can reach wingspans of up to 5.5 feet (1.7 meters).

Alternative Title(s): Air Whale, Giant Flier


Giant Butterfiles

From a 2019 Commercial.

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