Saturday, April 4, 2009

North American Teratorn

There are a lot of things going on this weeks so it has been a really bad art week.


photo of a California Condor (which should have a very similar build) by bsterling that was then heavily modified.

The North American Teratorn (Teratornis merriami) was the largest flying bird man ever saw they went extinct around the end of the last ice age. While with it's 12ft wingspan it was not the largest flying bird that ever was it was still fairly impressive and it was thought that after went extinct stories about it endured as a supernatural creature. There are theories that it was the origin of the thunderbirds. Thunderbirds are large intelligent bird shaped spirits that can control storms and thunder you find in a lot of forms of them in the mythology of a number of Native American tribes. In Wisconsin there is a lake called Devil's lake (Tawacunchukdah) that I'm very fond of that gets tied into the thunderbirds (Wakunja) mythology of the Winnebago. It was supposed to have been a site where the underwater pumas and the thunderbirds had a fight and threw a lot of large rocks and lighting at each other. I got to spend quite a bit of time a kid crawling around on the spent weapons of old gods there. The Cowichan also had a thunderbird (Tzinquaw) that had a fight with a water spirit this one in the form of an Orca. The Sioux had thunderbird had wiped out the Unktehila a dangerous reptilian water monster,  so there seems to be a bit of theme thunderbirds and water spirits not getting along. Not that there were not other giant birds in mythology that were not thunderbirds but may have been influenced by Teratornis. The Miwok had a giant man-eating bird named Yellokin that was eventually killed by eagle and turned into trees by coyote. The Passamaquoddy had a giant bird Wuchowsen that created wind with it's wings.  Cryptozoologists also love these guys, there are occasionally stories about modern giant bird sightings, though many ornithologists point out if there were physical living Teratorns running around the small army (84 million according to a survey in 2000) of American bird watchers probably would have noticed.

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