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Eagles in Myths and Legends

There is an old legend that the eagle alone among animals can look into the sun. According to the translation of St. Augustine, "The sun invigorates the eyes of eagles, but injures our own."

Athapaskan myths portrayed eagles as the deliverers of people from famine. A prince who gave an eagle a salmon during time of plenty was repaid in the lean year that followed by grateful eagles who first dragged salmon, then sea lions, and eventually whales to shore in gratitude for the prince's kindness. Such legends were probably inspired by the sight of eagle parents carrying food to their nests.

Native North Americans believed the thunderbird, a mythical super eagle, was responsible for creating thunder and lightning by beating its wings. Native Americans and Eagles

A Kwakiutl legend has it that the eagle once had very poor eyesight. Because it could fly to the highest treetops, however; a chief asked the eagle to watch for invading canoes. Anxious to assist, the eagle convinced the slug, which in those days had excellent vision, to trade eyes temporarily.

The slug agreed, but when the eagle's sentinel duties were finished, the eagle refused to trade back eyes. Thus, goes the legend, not only is the eagle's sharp vision accounted for, but also the slowness of the slug.

The Navahos have a myth telling how eagles originated when a warrior, Nayenezgani, slayed a monster who lived at Wing Rock. Afterwards, he turned to the beast's offspring, who were now alone in their nest. Rather than have them grow up evil, he turned the youngest into an owl and the oldest into an eagle, who would be a source for feathers for rites and bones for whistles.

The Comanches myth of eagle creation began when the young son of a chief died and was turned into the first eagle as an answer to his father's prayers. The Camanche eagle dance celebrates this legend.

The Pawnee believed the eagle to be a symbol of fertility because they build large nests high off the ground and valiantly protect their young. They honored the eagle with songs, chants, and dance.

Aztecs and related tribes established in the valleys of Mexico, revered the eagle as a strong symbol, with feathers used by that society's elite.

Chamrosh is a bird in Persian mythology said to live on the summit of Mount Alburz.

It is the archetype of all birds, said to rule and protect all avifauna on Earth. According to the Zend-Avesta, Persia is pillaged every three years by outsiders, and when this happens, the angel Burj sends Chamrosh out to fly onto the highest mountaintop then snatch the pillagers in its talons.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife