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5 Exciting & Unusual Birds From Ancient Mythology

Updated: May 26, 2023

Every year, the RSPB hosts the Big Garden Birdwatch, encouraging hundreds of thousands of nature lovers to keep an eye on the UK’s precious birds by spotting them in our back gardens! In honour of this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch, we’ve put together some fascinating and unusual birds from ancient mythology that might just spark your interest. Luckily you’re unlikely to spot this bizarre bunch in your back garden any time soon!


Does the Caladrius think this person will get better or die from their illness?

Caladrius:


From:


Appearance:

The Caladrius is described as having feathers that are snow-white in colour.


Powers:

The Caladrius is said to have had healing powers and could even predict the future.


If you were sick, it was best to visit the King’s house where the Caladrius lived. The bird would draw the illness out of you just by looking at you. It would then fly away, taking your illness with it. It was that easy! Give me a Caladrius over taking medicine any day!


Some people believed that if the bird looked you straight in the eyes it meant that you would recover from your illness, but if the bird refused to look at you then your illness would kill you! Eep!


The Roc carrying an elephant away to its nest

Roc:


From:

Arabic Mythology


Appearance:

The Roc was an enormous bird of prey. And I mean enormous! Think of the biggest thing you’ve ever seen. And then triple its size. And then make it bird-shaped. And that’s still not big enough!


Powers:

The Roc is said to be the biggest and strongest bird ever to have existed.


It was so big that when it was flying it was described as looking like a mountain floating over the seas! The famous explorer Marco Polo believed he had seen the Roc and described how it was large enough to seize an elephant in its talons and lift it into the air with its massive wings. And just for context, the elephant is the largest land mammal that exists today. Whoa.


This Phoenix is reaching the end of its long lifespan

Phoenix:


From:

Egyptian Mythology (and later the mythology of Greece, Romans and more).


Appearance:

The Phoenix was a large eagle-sized bird with red and gold feathers and a beautiful musical call.


Powers:

The Phoenix was a firebird with the powers of living for eternity and resurrecting again after death.


Mythology describes how a phoenix would live for a minimum of 500 years! Think of all the things you could do with a life that long – you could eat millions of ice creams, do billions of handstands and play countless rounds of Fortnite.


But the magic of the Phoenix doesn’t end there. When it died, it would clap its wings together and immediately go up in flames. Then from the ashes of the fire, the phoenix would be re-born and start a new life (of over 500 more years!).


Could this be the mythological Thunderbird?

Thunderbird:


From:

Native American Mythology


Appearance:

The Thunderbird was a huge powerful spirit bird with colourful feathers, sharp teeth and claws.


Powers:

The Thunderbird had protective powers and the power to bring storms.


It was called the Thunderbird because lightning was said to flash from its eyes and beak and the flapping of its powerful wings made a deafening noise like thunder. Which, let’s face it, is a little terrifying! But along with the storm, the Thunderbird would bring rain that would water the earth and help plants to grow. So it wasn’t that scary after all. This supernatural bird would protect humans from evil spirits with its great power and strength.


Courtesy of Johnny Mellado

Alicanto:


From:

Chilean Mythology


Appearance:

The Alicanto is a nocturnal bird whose wings shine at night with metallic colours and whose eyes shine with colourful lights.


Powers:

The Alicanto eats metal ores and is said to lead miners to hoards of treasure.


The desert that the Alicanto lived in was packed full of different metal ores, such as gold, silver and copper, which the Alicanto used as food. In fact, the Alicanto would eat so much metal that it was too heavy to fly!


The metal in its diet would make the Alicanto’s wings glow in the dark. If a miner spotted these beautiful shining wings, they could follow the light to find the Alicanto’s stash of precious metals.

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