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Cryptid Casefile: Thunderbirds

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Type: Avian / Elemental

Appearance: Bird or pterosaur-like, large black body, 8-14 foot wingspan

Location: North & South America

Abilities: Flight, shapeshifting, weather manipulation, electrokinesis

Deep within the folklore of several first peoples tribes in the americas lays the legend of the Thunderbird. These fearsome, giant bird creatures are said to possess formidable supernatural powers...

It is important to state that while the Thunderbird is a common theme among first peoples folklore, its interpretation varies widely and is unique between each tribe that harbors the legend.

For many indigenous tribes, the Thunderbirds appear to function as a deities. These beings are believed to bring protection, but on the flip side of the coin, they are also an enforcer of morality. Should a Thunderbird be angered, its wrath can be absolute. If real, clearly these beings are not to be trifled with. In one folkloric account, a Thunderbird was said to have turned an entire village to stone due to the wrongdoings of its people. Qhile it is known for is destructive power, it is also seen as a force of nature that nurtures life, such as having the ability to influence the weather and bring much needed rain.

Legend has it, that the Thunderbird has many abilities. Being such large and powerful birds, they are said to be able to lift whales right out of the water with their huge talons. Along with their namesake, when a thunderbird flaps its wings, it’s said the sound is akin to thunder. Additionally they have the ability to conjure lightning. In Algonquian mythology, the Thunderbird controls the upper world and uses its lightning powers to strike the creatures of the underworld. Another important piece of lore is that the Thunderbirds of legend were believed to bring rain and perhaps one aspect of this legend is an attempted explanation of natural phenomena.

Another fascinating ability of the Thunderbird is its apparent ability to shapeshift according to the stories. In some legends, they were able to remove their feathers, like removing a cloak and tipping back their beak over their head. Qhen this transformation happened, they would appear human and could walk among us unnoticed. This particular aspect of the legend makes me wonder of the possibility that we’re looking at some kind of alien technology here. It is said that any sufficiently advanced technology or intelligence would be indistinguishable from magic.

In the modern era, the term “Thunderbird” has generally been used by many cryptozoologists to describe abnormally large flying birds. Most of the time, Thunderbirds are said to be eagle-like, some kind of giant condor, or a species of surviving megafauna. There are witnesses that also describe this mythical creature as looking more like a pterosaur, causing some to postulate that Thunderbirds may be a relict flying reptile population that survived the late cretaceous period, over 65 million years ago. However, skeptics state that a flying animal so large would surely be spotted and properly documented by now.

When pioneers ventured westward across the North American continent, many of the them reported sighting very large birds. Could these have been Thunderbirds, or were they just particularly large birds like the eagle or owl? It should be noted that large bird creatures have also been sighted all over the globe, though they may not necessarily be categorized as thunderbirds. In a story from 1890, two Arizonan men claimed to have shot and killed a large and unusual bird. Could it have been a legendary Thunderbird? According to the report, this bird was said to be featherless and had a reptilian head, like that of an alligator. If that account was true, it suggests there could have been a small population of pterodactyl type creatures alive at least until the 19th Century. Alternatively this story could have been a fanciful tale, done for publicity sake.

As recently as the later half of the 20th Century there is an account of an alleged Thunderbird attack in America. On July 25th, 1977 in Lawndale, Illinois, a 10 year old boy named Martin Lowe was playing outside when suddenly two very large birds came down and attacked him. It was reported that one of the birds picked Lowe up and carried him 30 feet before his mother scared the birds off. There were other eyewitnesses as well which described the birds as having four and a half foot bodies, with four foot wings, a white ring around their necks, hooked bill and a large black body, like some Thunderbird descriptions.

The story of the thunderbird is as diverse as the people who tell it. Could they simply be a case of mistaken identity? Or are these stories the recounting of ancient oral tradition dating back to times when megafauna existed and extremely large birds ruled the skies when the First Peoples arrived in the Americas? Or perhaps, there is indeed a rare population of large avian creatures existing today and evading detection by modern man?

Possible Explanations:

• Modern day teratorns (extinct giant condors).

• Relict population of pterosaurs.

• Large invasive species of bird escape from captivity like the African crowned eagle.

• Simple hoaxes or misidentification of native birds.

Thanks for reading! If you have any stories of sightings or encounters with cryptids or anything dealing with the weird, paranormal, or supernatural, feel free to head on over to my contact page and drop me a line there, or shoot me an e-mail at

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