Common Name: Bennu or Giant Heron
Scientific Name: Ardea bennuides
Size: 65 – 82 ½ inches (165-210 cm) Wingspan: 86 ½ - 105 (220-270cm)
Habitat: Africa and Asia; Arabian Peninsula. Found in coastal marshlands.
Status: Extinct. Global Population: None. It became extinct when humans colonized what was apparently its final stronghold of the island Umm al-Nar, around 5000 B.C.
Diet: Fish, frogs, and insects.
Nesting: It is assumed that the Bennu Heron would have similar Breeding habits to its’ modern day counterparts, breeding in mixed colonies of hundreds or thousands of pairs. It may have also nest solitarily or in small groups of 2-10 nests. The nest was probably a stick platform that is often re-used over successive years, usually positioned high in a tall tree up to 50 m, but also on the ground or on cliff edges, in reed beds or in bushes. In reed-beds nests may be built of reeds, and ground nests may be reduced to a slight scrape, ringed with small stones and debris.
Cool Facts: A large species of heron, nowadays extinct, occurred on the Arabian Peninsula in comparatively recent times; it may have been the ultimate inspiration for the Bennu. The species is called the Bennu Heron (Ardea bennuides). Bold text Enormous, conical nests measuring about 15 feet in diameter were discovered along the Gulf of Suez by James Burton in 1822. Locals told him they were built by large stork-like bird taller than a man that had vanished from the area.
Myths, Stories & Legend: The Bennu bird serves as the Egyptian answer to the phoenix, and is said to be the soul of the Sun-God Ra. Some of the titles of the Bennu bird were “He Who Came Into Being by Himself,” “Ascending One,” and “Lord of Jubilees.” While Bennu is the common name given to the bird in English, the original vowels of the name spelled as bnn by Egyptian scribes are uncertain, although it may have been pronounced something like *bānana. The name is related to the verb *wabāna (spelled wbn in Egyptian texts becoming Coptic ouoein), meaning “to rise brilliantly,” or “to shine.” The Bennu bird was the mythological phoenix of Egypt. It was associated with the rising of the Nile, resurrection, and the sun. Because the Bennu represented creation and renewal, it was connected with the Egyptian calendar. Indeed, the Temple of the Bennu was well known for its time-keeping devices.
According to ancient Egyptian myth, the Bennu had created itself from a fire that was burned on a holy tree in one of the sacred precincts of the temple of Ra. Other versions say that the Bennu bird burst forth from the heart of Osiris. This would mean that Rah reincarnated himself through Osiris, creating a precedent for Pharaohs. The Bennu was supposed to have rested on a sacred pillar that was known as the benben-stone. The Egyptian priests showed this pillar to visitors, who considered it the most holy place on earth.
The bird is may have been modeled on the gray heron (Ardea cinera), purple heron (Ardea purpurea) or the larger Goliath heron (Ardea goliath) that lives on the coast of the Red Sea. The Bennu Bird is described as having twin red and gold plumes on it’s head. Archaelogists have found the remains of a much larger heron that lived in the Persian Gulf area 5,000 years ago. There is some speculation that this bird may have been seen by Egyptian travelers and sparked the legend of a very large heron seen once every 500 years in Egypt. A large species of heron, nowadays extinct, occurred on the Arabian Peninsula in comparatively recent times; it may have been the ultimate inspiration for the Bennu. Reflecting this, the species was described as Bennu Heron (Ardea bennuides).
The bird was frequently depicted in the vignettes of the netherworld books as well as on heart amulets and other objects, particularly those of a funerary nature. When carved on the back of a heart-scarab and buried with the dead, it is a symbol of anticipated rebirth in the netherworld and ensures that the heart does not fail in the examination of past deeds in the Hall of the Two Truths (judgment of the dead). In the Book of the Dead there are formulae to transform the deceased into the Great Benu. Here, the deceased says, "I am the Benu, the soul of Ra, and the guide of the gods in the Duat." In another verse, he says, "I am pure. My purity is the purity of the Great Benu which is in the city of Suten-henen."
Found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Legend