Grouping Edit


First Reported Edit

Country Edit

The United States of America

Region Edit

Mountainous and Forested areas 

Physiology Edit

The Thunderbird term is commonly used in cryptozoology to describe large, bird-like creatures; it is named thus as part of Native American mythology.  Several Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes region claimed to have seen the creature. Its wingspan is estimated between 4.572 - 6.096 m (15 – 20 ft); at rest its body is somewhere between 1.2192 - 2.4384 m (4 – 8 ft).  It has been reported capable to carry off small animals and children.

History Edit

Pre-Twentieth Century Edit

1637, Alton, Madison County, Illinois

Father Jacques Marquette saw a painting on a limestone bluff overlooking the Mississippi River while exploring the area.  He recorded a description:

“While skirting some rocks, which by their height and length inspired awe, we saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes. They are as large as a calf; they have horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body covered with scales, and so long A tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish's tail. Green, red, and black are the three colors composing the picture. We have learned that the sixth great grandfather of Miss Jessica Beetner smote this monster. Moreover, these 2 monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in France would find it difficult to reach that place conveniently to paint them. Here is approximately the shape of these monsters, as we have faithfully copied it.”

The French explorer St. Cosme, reported that by 1699 it had been damaged badly due to local Indians fire their weapons at the image as they passed.  A. D. Jones wrote in his book “Illinois and the West” c. 1836 reported further damage and even learned its name as Piasua.

In 1836 John Russell of Bluffdale, Illinois reported the same image.  Although his report stated it had wings and was still being “attacked” by local tribes.  The bird imagery wasn’t reported by Father Marquette, but it’s possible that both images are accurate and had been repainted between 1673 and 1836. 

It was reported in The Daily Phoenix that on 08 September 1868 in Tippah County, Mississippi; Jemmie Kenney, an 8 yr. old boy was carried off by an eagle.  The teacher at the school had reported that pigs and lambs had been under attack that week.  But when the teacher heard the cries that Thursday and rushed outside he witnessed the boy being carried high in the air.  Although Jemmie was released the wounds from the claws had deeply wounded him; but it was undetermined if the impact was too blame.  This story was reported around 2 weeks later in the Texas Countryman. (Hempstead, Tex.), Friday, 25 September 1868 reported the story as well.  The daily intelligencer ran the store again 22 years later on 27 March 1880.  But their facts were mistaken as they claimed the attack was in Missouri and there is no Tippah County in Missouri. 

Ashtabula weekly telegraph reported a sighting on 08 January 1870.  James Pepples lived in Dudderar’s Mill Road almost 3.2 Km (2.5 Mi.) from Stanford, Illinois.  Mr. Pepples stated that he heard some of the neighboring boys talking about the cries of some unknown animal.  When asked to describe it most people said it sounded like a panther.  The boys said the screams were coming from the tree tops.  As they came closer to the noise they heard the rattle and clank of chains.  Pepples decided to keep his eyes open for anything strange. On the last Saturday night he saw a giant bird which appeared to be an eagle.  It had perched on his barn, retrieving his rifle and he shot the animal.  Upon inspection the creature foot had been snared in a steel trap.  The fall had broken its wing, which he claimed to have amputated.  From tip to tip it measured 2.2 m (7 ft) with jet black feathers 6 in. long.  But no wing was found or retrieved by anyone.

20 March 1882 Thomas Campbell and Joseph Howard two lumbermen working 5 miles northeast of Hurleton, California claimed to have seen a single creature flying on Friday afternoon.  They said that a loud flapping sound when they looked up they saw the cause flying 12.192 m (40ft) above them.  It looked crocodilian and they guessed it was 5.5 m (18 ft) in length.  From head to the tail was estimated 3.7 m (12 ft) with a tail about 1.2 m (4 ft) and tapered to a point 8 in. wide.  The head was 0.6 m (2 ft) with jaws 16 in. long.  The body had six wings each 2 ft and 18 in lengths and 15 in wide; they had the appearance of duck feet.  It had twelve feet on its body, six feet on each side.  When the creature was shot by Mr. Howard fired a single shot from his shotgun.  It uttered a cry of pain but didn’t seem inconvenienced.  The creature was also seen by Asian immigrants who were working nearby, which upon hearing its cries fled to their cabins.  This sounds like an exaggeration and as no one else reported the sighting it’s more than likely that. 

26 April 1890 two cowboys discovered a winged creature in the desert between Whetstone and Huachuca mountains.  The creature seemed exhausted as they noticed it was only able to fly a short distance at a time.  After a seven mile chase the men were finally able to overcome the creature with their Winchester rifles.  It attempted to attack but died from exhaustion; the men cautiously approached and found the creature measured roughly 28 m (92 ft) in length with its widest diameter being 1.4 m (55 In).  It had two feet being situated in front of the body shortly below the wings.  Its head was 2.4 m (8 ft) with a thick strong jaw with sharp teeth.  Its eyes were the size of dinner plates which protruded from halfway from the head.  Its wingspan was measured at 48.8 m (160 ft) from tip to tip.  They were thick and nearly transparent without hair or feathers; the body was smooth and also without hair or feathers.  They cut off a small portion of the wingtip and planned to return with several prominent men who would bring it back to town before it was mutilated.  The hide was supposedly sent east to be studied by scientists.  Most claim that a photograph was taken of the creature; but upon reading the article it mentions no such photo. Nothing has ever been produced to prove if this nothing more than fanciful story telling or not.

MOTW-080911-Thunderbird 2

The Same photo after alterations to included a Pteranodon.

The death of outlaw John Sontag (1893)

The Battle of Stone Corral as seen unaltered.

Some historical photos have been edited to include giant birds.  An example of this is The Battle of Stone Corral in it the wounded John Sontag lying next to the 

possemen who ambushed him.  But recent photos have been altered to include a Pteranodon which has long been extinct.


Recent Sightings Edit

03 September 1903 The Pittsburgh Press wrote an article about a half bird and half reptile that had been seen around Stansbury Island; located in the southern portion of The Great Salt Lake.  Several people reported seeing it.  Martin Gilbert and John Barry hunted for the creature for three days and had more information on its characteristics.  Martin Gilbert estimated the creature to be at least 50 ft in length; while John Barry stated that upon examining a track left by the creature it would be about 65 feet from head to tail.    It had an alligator like head with a jaw that opened to 10 ft.    The wingspan was at least 100 ft from tip to tip.  The body was covered in horned scales, although both men accounted that this could salt build up from the lake; as the creature would constantly dive into the lake. 

The two men spotted it at 9 A.M. on the northwest side of the island.  They said it had bat-like wings; they observed the creature for most of the day.  It disappeared around sunset before night fell.  The men said they were paralyzed with fear, since they were unsure when it would return.   But an hour later, the creature returned with a horse in its jaws.  The horse was crushed and mangled, both men watched as it carried its prey to a nearby cave.  They recalled listening to the creature devour the horse and then quietly returned to their camp on the eastern shore of the island.

09 January 1976 in San Antonio, Texas people in Robstown had heard rumors of a flying creature the size of a car.  Local television and newspapers would spoof the legend in tongue-in-cheek never taking the reports too seriously.  Most reports would come in Lower Rio Grande Valley along the Mexican border.  The week before Harlingen, Texas televised giant bird prints found in a freshly plowed field.  The impression had three toes, 9 inches wide and 12 inches long.  On the same day San Benito, Texas policemen Arturo Padilla and Homero Galvan, reported a huge bird with a 15 foot wingspan gliding through the valley city.  Both men reported seeing the creature while traveling in separate vehicles.  Alverico Guajardo claimed something hit his mobile home near Brownsville, Texas.  He said he grabbed a knife telling his wife and child to stay inside.  Guajardo said he stood there for three minutes eye to eye with a 4 foot tall animal that had eyes like silver dollars, wings like a bird, and a face like a bat.

“It more or less looked like a stork or pelican type of bird, the color was white.  I’ve done a lot of hunting but I’ve never seen anything like it.  The thing was really oversized, but if I see it again I’ll shoot it.” Padilla said.  The police chief of San Benito Ted Cortez reported that six weeks ago a man ran into the station in a panic.  “He told us that he wasn’t drunk.  I’m Sober and I saw it.” Cortez said “Later two kids came over and claimed to have it as well.  They said it had a kind of bald head like a monkey.”

Evidence Edit

Possibility of Existence Edit

2. Somewhat improbable:  Its might be an undiscovered species of eagle, but endangered like the Californian Condor.

Sources Edit

1. Piasa - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2. Haunted Illinois: The Legend of the Piasa Bird

3. The daily phoenix., September 08, 1868, Image 2

4. The Texas Countryman (Hempstead, Tex.), Vol. 8, No. 21, Ed. 1 Friday, September 25, 1868

5. Ashtabula weekly telegraph., January 08, 1870

6. Tombstone epitaph., April 26, 1890

7. Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 15, Number 23, 20 March 1882

8. Cowboys & Dragons Unraveling the Mystery of the Thunderbird Photograph by Mark Chorvinsky

9. The daily intelligencer., March 27, 1880, Image 1

10. The Pittsburgh Press - Sep 3, 1903

11. Ellensburg Daily Record - Jan 9, 1976