The Thunderbird figures prominently in the traditions of many Native American tribes. For some, it is the flapping of the Thunderbird’s wings that one hears during rainstorms rumbling in the skies and it is the Thunderbird’s eyes and beak that flash the lightning. To the Lakota of the prairie, the Thunderbird is an embodiment of the Great Mystery, the Supreme Being, which created all things on Earth. For the tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy of the northeast, Hino, the Thunderbird, guardian of the skies and the spirit of thunder, could assume the form of a human when it suited its purpose. The cosmology of many of the western tribes establish a Thunderbird in each of the four corners of the world as guardians and protectors, fighting always to keep away evil spirits. Many scholars over the centuries have attributed the Native American myths of the Thunderbird to their reverence for the eagle, the largest of indigenous birds in North America.

Interestingly, however, many people have claimed to have seen for themselves a great bird, far larger than the eagle, flying overhead. In fact, even in the nineteenth century, some witnesses were claiming to have seen flying monsters that resembled pterodactyls, the winged reptiles that should have been extinct 60 million years ago. On April 9, 1948, a farm family outside of Caledonia, Illinois, saw a monster bird that they all said was bigger than an airplane. In different parts of the state on the same day, a Freeport truck driver said that he, too, had seen the creature.
A former army colonel admitted that he had seen a bird of tremendous size while he stood talking with the head of Western Military Academy and a farmer near Alton. On April 10, several witnesses saw the gigantic bird. One man said that he had at first believed it to be a type of plane that he had never before seen. On April 24, back at Alton, a man described it as an enormous, incredible thing, flying at about 500 feet and casting a shadow the same size as that of a Piper Cub at the same height. Two policemen said that the monster bird was as big as a small airplane. Giant Thunderbird-type creatures have continued to be sighted in various parts of the United States, from the northeast to the northwest and many points in between.

It show hunters from the 1800s, early 1900s, with a large "thunderbird" they have shot.

On September 25, 2001, a witness sighted a giant bird flying over South Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Researchers soon found other witnesses who claimed to have had sightings of Thunderbirds in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. On November 5, a resident of Bristol, Connecticut, who was out walking his dog at dawn, said that he had sighted a giant birdlike creature the size of an ultralight plane flying over a community center. In addition to the ancient Native American legends of the Thunderbird, there are certain old pioneer records that support the existence of giant birdlike creatures in the skies of North America. From the mouth of the Illinois River at Grafton to Alton (Illinois), a distance of 20 miles, the Mississippi River runs from west to east, and its north bank (the Illinois side) is a high bluff. When the first white men explored the area, they found that some unknown muralist from some forgotten tribal culture had engraved and painted hideous depictions of two gigantic, winged monsters.

Numerous sightings of birds the size of small airplanes were reported in southwest Pennsylvania in the summer and early fall of 2001. On June 13, a resident in Greensville, who said that he was familiar with the wildlife in the area, at first mistook the huge bird for an ultralight aircraft. He estimated the wingspan to be about 15 feet and the body to be nearly five feet in length. In July, a witness in Erie County claimed to have seen a large, blackcolored bird with a wingspan of about 17 feet. On September 25, a witness who said that he had a strong interest in ornithology, encountered a massive bird with a head about three feet long and a wingspan of 10 to 15 feet.

In October 2002, Alaskan villagers in Togiak and Manokotak reported seeing a huge bird larger than anything they had seen before. Pilot John Bouker, owner of Bristol Bay Air Service, said that while flying to Manokotak he and his passengers sighted a large “raptorlike” bird with a wingspan that matched the length of his Cessna 207, about 14 feet. When Moses Coupchiak, a heavy equipment operator from Togiak, spotted the monster bird flying toward him, he said that he thought it was a small airplane until it banked to the left and flew away.

Biologists in the region said that they believed the witnesses sighted a bird known as the Steller’s sea eagle, a species native to northeast Asia, that occasionally shows up on the Aleutian islands and on Kodiak, Alaska. The Steller’s sea eagle can have a wingspan of eight feet and is about three times as large as a bald eagle. Some cryptozoologists have theorized the ancient Thunderbird myth to be based on sightings of a real animal with a mistaken assessment of its apparent size Some skeptics have claimed such a large bird could never have flown, but several flying creatures with huge wingspans are indeed known.

The prehistoric vulture-like Argentavis magnificens had a wingspan of around 7 m (21 feet) and was capable of flight. The massive Cretaceous-era pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus northropi was the largest known flying creature in history, with a wingspan of at least 25 but perhaps as much as 60 feet. Cryptozoologists also posit that the Thunderbird was associated with storms because they followed the drafts to stay in flight, not unlike the way a modern eagle rides mountain up currents. Noted cryptozoologist John Keel claims to have mapped several Thunderbird sightings and found that they corresponded chronologically and geographically with storms moving across the United States.

Angelo P. Capparella, an ornithologist at Illinois State University, argues that the existence of such undiscovered large birds is highly unlikely, especially in North America. There is not enough food, Capparella says, in many areas where abnormally large birds are reported. Perhaps more important, according to Capparella, is the lack of sightings by "the legions of competent birdwatchers ... scanning the skies of the U.S. and Canada" who sometimes make "surprising observations" with cameras at the ready. Were there breeding populations of large, unknown birds, Capparella contends they could not remain unknown very long. No one has ever produced a copy of the "thunderbird" photograph, though numerous people, Ivan T. Sanderson being one of the better known, have made claims to its existence. Sanderson claimed to have once owned a copy of the photo, which vanished after he loaned it to an acquaintance in the 1960s.

100 Most Strangest Mysteries by Matt Lamy;

The Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained by Brad Steiger and Sherry Hansen Steiger

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listen to the rain said...

This is very informative.. I didn't know about the origin of the traditions before.. Thanks for the info!

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alka said...

hey I know this blog is about mysteries and I look forward to it - I have a book by Dorling Kindersly about the world's unsolved mysteries you might find an interesting read. If you are interested in great new ideas there is an amazing side called TED - do look it up.


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