The Cryptid Zoo: Thunderbird

The thunderbirds of North American legend were almost exact equivalents to the old world rocs, giant predatory eagle-like or vulture-like birds with supernatural powers. Thunderbirds inhabit the folklore of many regions, but are more closely associated with certain locales such as Pennsylvania, the Mississippi River valley, and "The Enchanted Valley" in Olympic National Park, located in the Pacific Northwest. The thunderbird of folklore and the thunderbird of cryptozoology are two different things, though.

Cryptozoologists use the word "thunderbird" as a convenient term for any abnormally large flying bird sighted in the New World. Giant flightless birds are treated separately. Most cryptozoological thunderbirds look at least somewhat like the thunderbirds of legend, but not all of them do. Some are giant owls, for example, even though "big owl" is a separate creature from the thunderbird in Native American legend.

Most thunderbird reports that are taken seriously by scientists working in the field of cryptozoology describe a bird that generally resembles a really huge condor, sometimes with eagle features. This bird is sighted regularly in the same areas, at the same times of year, leading cryptozoologists to conclude that it might be an incredibly rare and highly migratory bird.

The classic type of thunderbird sounds much like an extinct variety of giant bird, called teratorns. Some thunderbird reports involve flying bird-like creatures that do not have obvious feathers or that seem to have bat-like wings. These tend to get classified as giant bats or pterosaurs.

You can find out more about the Thunderbird from the following sources:

Blackman, W. Haden. The Field Guide to North American Monsters New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Pages 80-81, 98-100

Brookesmith, Peter, ed. Creatures from Elsewhere. London, Chartwell Books, 1989. Pages 20-27

Callahan, Kevin L. The Thunderbird Petroglyphs of the Upper Midwest

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 134-135, 236-238

Clark, Jerome. Unexplained!. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1999. Pages 220-222, 511-517, 590-594

Coleman, Jerry D. Strange Highways: A Guidebook to American Mysteries & the Unexplained. Alton, Illinois: Whitechapel Productions Press, 2003. Pages 20, 30-39, 71, 100, 182

Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America: The Revised Edition. New York: Paraview Press, 2001. Pages 19, 22-24, 29, 36, 165
Would you like your nonfiction book indexed
in The Cryptid Zoo? Ask if you can send a
review copy.

Evidence of the Giant Birds

The Giant Thunderbird Returns

Godfrey, Linda S., Hendricks, Richard D., Moran, Mark, ed. & Sceurman, Mark, ed. Weird Wisconsin: Your Travel Guide to Wisconsin's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. New York: Sterling, 2005. Pages 108-109

Hall, Mark A. Thunderbirds: America's Living Legends Of Giant Birds

Johnston, Basil. The Manitous: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995. Pages 120-123

Jornlin, Allison. The Brookfield Thunderbird

Legend of the Giant Bird

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 65-67, 188, 226-227, 360-361, 373, 456-458

Poole, Robert M., ed. The Wonder of Birds. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society, 1983. Pages 30 and 38

Randolph, Vance. We Always Lie to Strangers: Tall Tales From the Ozarks. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1974. Pages 63-66

Shughart, Willie. A Comparison of Certain North American Birds to the Thunderbird

Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Page 142

Thompson, Richard. The Thunderbird Myth

The Thunderbird


Weidensaul, Scott. The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species. New York: North Point Press, 2002. Pages 170-171

Wikipedia, The. Thunderbirds in Cryptozoology

Wikipedia, The. Thunderbirds in Mythology

Williams, Richard L. & Time-Life Books, The editors of. The Northwest Coast. New York: Time-Life Books, 1973. Pages 78-79

Home | Creature Maps | Cryptozoology Organizations | Cryptozoology Links | Cryptozoology Books & Films | Link to Me | Guestbook | Monster Mania

The text on this page is copyright 2005 by Jamie Hall. Please use proper citation if you are using this website for research.