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myth

The Golden Eagles of Ireland

Golden Eagles were once revered as a symbol of wisdom and power by the ancient druids in Ireland. But the Golden Eagle’s voice was not heard in Ireland for most of the Twentieth Century. In the spring of 2007, a Golden Eagle pair hatched a chick for the first time since 1912, in Glenveagh... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

Golden Eagle - The Other Eagle

The Bald Eagle stands proud as our national bird, spreads its wings on our national emblem, and serves as mascot of countless sports teams. So prominent is this iconic bird in our culture that we sometimes overlook a second, equally majestic eagle: the Golden Eagle. While Bald Eagles are confined... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology, myth

Myth of the Wren

December 26th is known in the British Isles and elsewhere as Saint Stephen's Day, in honor of the first Christian martyr. Beginning in the 16th Century, local lads would go forth for a yearly wren hunt. The wren was protected the rest of the year, but the day after Christmas, the "Wren Boys"... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history, myth

Valentine Lovebirds

Cupid, a Roman god of love - who often turns up on Valentine cards - is not the only winged being linked to February 14. Medieval Europeans believed that many birds mated on this day, underscoring Valentine's Day's natural link to affection and courtship. The nine species of lovebirds (genus... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  breeding display, myth

How the Steller's Jay Got Its Crest

The Makahs tell a story about how the bird we know as the Steller's Jay - the bird the Makahs call Kwish-kwishee - got its crest. The mink, Kwahtie, tried to shoot his mother, the jay, with an arrow but missed. Her crest is ruffled to this day. read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

Myth of the Thunderbird

Legend tells of a huge bird called the Thunderbird. Its origin remains a mystery, even to Native Americans. According to myth, Thunderbird was so large and flew so high, it carried the rain on its back and created thunder and lightning. Perhaps Teratornis merriami was the creature that inspired... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  fossil, myth

Swan Song

The idea of the "swan song" recurs from Aesop to Ovid to Plato to Tennyson. Ovid described it, "There, she poured out her words of grief, tearfully, in faint tones, in harmony with sadness, just as the swan sings once, in dying, its own funeral song." But it's based on a sweet fallacy - that a... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth, vocalization

Swallows and Mud - A Myth?

The swallows that make mud nests in spring and catch flying insects all summer are now far south in Mexico, and Central and South America. It's only as recently as the end of the nineteenth century that ornithologists agreed that swallows, including this Cliff Swallow, migrate. Many formerly... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration, myth

Gliding with Tropicbirds

With the strong, direct flight of a falcon, a tropicbird can catch a flying fish on the wing, or plunge like an arrow into the sea and — with its serrated bill — capture a squid. Three species of tropicbirds range through most of the tropical latitudes of the world's oceans, and have done so for... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

The Folklore of Owls

Thanks to Harry Potter, the owl is flying high. But throughout history, the owl has received mixed reviews. The Greeks believed an owl flying over a battlefield foretold victory, while in other cultures, owls were considered omens of death, prophets of doom. Listen to the story again, and you'll... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  myth

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