Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mythical Animals: Birds: Stymphalian Birds (Greece)

Stymphalian Birds (Greece, Near East)

Known for their bronze beaks and sharp metallic feathers, Stymphalian Birds often killed their prey by flinging their feathers as arrows. Also, these flesh eaters terrorized farms and towns near the marshes of Lake Stymphalus in Arcadia. Living around the lake, Stymphalian Birds nested, by the thousands, in the cliffs and islands. This resulted in the accumulation of their dung, which was toxic.

 Roosting together, Stymphalian Birds were easily frightened by noise, and often flew off in unison. In his Sixth Labor, Hercules frightened them off by shaking bronze rattles. As they flew off, He shot as many of the Stymphalian Birds as He could. The remainder of the flock returned to Arabia, where they had originated. Some birds flew to live on various islands in the Black Sea.

 The lifestyle of Stymphalian Birds resembled modern day ibises, which live in marshes and semi-arid areas. Ibises have sharp curved beaks to spear frogs with, and to poke into the hard ground searching for food. Both are marsh birds, roost in large numbers, and are easily frightened. Places, where many large flocks of ibises congregate, accumulates a lot of bird dung. Though ibis droppings are not known to be toxic, bird dung, in general, considered to be a health hazard since it harbors fungus and parasites. 

Meanwhile the waldrapp (northern bald ibis) resembled a Stymphalian Bird with its spiky feathers and bronze coloring. Also, the waldrapp once lived throughout the Near and Middle East, like the Stymphalian Birds. However this bird did not hunt by shooting its feathers.

 There are other differences between ibises and Stymphalian Birds. While ibises used their beaks to poke the earth, Stymphalian Birds used theirs to stab people. Ibises fed on carrion, while Stymphalian Birds preferred fresh meat.

 Works Used: 

Allan, Tony, “The Mythic Bestiary,” Duncan Baird: London, 2008.
Atsma, Aaron, “Stymphalides,” The Theoid Project, 2008,
Nigg, Joseph, “The Book of Dragons and Other Mythical Beasts,” Quarto: London, 2002.
Perrins, Christopher, ed, “Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds,” Firefly Books: Buffalo, NY, 2003.
Serra, Gianluca, “Mysteries Surrounding the Legendary and Vanishing Oriental Bald Ibis,”, 31 October 2012,

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