Stymphalian Birds

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Image:Stymphian.JPG

Common Name: Stymphalian Bird
Scientific Name: Threskiornis stymphaliana

Size: 36-39½ inches (90-100 cm)

Habitat: Europe. Found at Lake Stymphalia in Arcadia, Greece

Status: Mythical. Global population: unknown

Diet: Humans

Nesting: Nesting habits are unknown but probably would be similar to the ibis; The bird nests in tree colonies, often with other large wading birds such as herons. It builds a stick nest and lays 2-3 eggs. Both the male and female take turns in guarding the nest site until the chicks are large enough to defend themselves. In addition, both parents help feed the chicks.

Myths, Stories & Legend: In Greek mythology, the Stymphalian Birds were vicious birds with beaks of bronze and sharp metallic feathers and were sacred to Ares, the god of war. They had migrated to Lake Stymphalia in Arcadia to escape a pack of wolves the Arabs set loose to kill them, and bred quickly and took over the countryside, destroying local crops and eating the townspeople. Supposedly, their dung was highly toxic.

King Eurystheus sent Hercules who had just returned from his success in the Augean stables, to drive away an enormous flock of birds which gathered at a Lake Stymphalian near the town of Stymphalos.

Arriving at the lake, which was deep in the woods, Hercules had no idea how to drive the huge gathering of birds away. The goddess Athena came to his aid, providing a pair of bronze krotala, noisemaking clappers similar to castanets. These were no ordinary noisemakers. They had been made by an immortal craftsman, Hephaistos, the god of the forge.

Climbing a nearby mountain, Hercules clashed the krotala loudly, scaring the birds out of the trees, then shot them with bow and arrow, or possibly with a slingshot, as they took flight. This was known as Hercules’ “Sixth Labor”

Some versions of the legend say that these Stymphalian birds were vicious man-eaters. The 2nd century A.D. travel writer, Pausanias, trying to discover what kind of birds they might have been, wrote that during his time a type of bird from the Arabian desert was called "Stymphalian," describing them as equal to lions or leopards in their fierceness. He speculated that the birds Hercules encountered in the legend were similar to these Arabian birds.

“These fly against those who come to hunt them, wounding and killing them with their beaks. All armor of bronze or iron that men wear is pierced by the birds; but if they weave a garment of thick cork, the beaks of the Stymphalian birds are caught in the cork garment... These birds are of the size of a crane, and are like the ibis, but their beaks are more powerful, and not crooked like that of the ibis.”
-Pausanias

Pausanias also saw and described the religious sanctuary built by the Greeks of Stymphalos and dedicated to the goddess Artemis. He reported that the temple had carvings of the Stymphalian birds up near its roof. Standing behind the temple, he saw marble statues of maidens with the legs of birds.

The Stymphian Birds in Ancient Greek: Στυμφαλίδες ὄρνιθες


Found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Legend

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