|Posted on July 15, 2012 at 11:10 PM|
Originally Posted on December 23, 2007; Revised July 15, 2012
THE GIANT MYSTERY BIRDS: THUNDERBIRD, KONGAMOTO, RUKH AND MORE! - PART 2
Researched, Compiled, Edited and Illustrated
By R. Merrill
THE MYSTERIOUS PIASA CREATURE
In the spring of 1673, a small group of explorers left the Mission of St. Ignace in what is now northern Michigan. this seven-member expedition set out from the Mission in two canoes and paddled west through the chill waters of the Straits of Mackinac. The explorers left despite warnings from the Indians of many dangers that lay ahead. Among those perils was a monster that devoured all who came near it.
The governor of the French colonies in Canada, Louis de Buade, had authorized the expedition to search for a passage to the Pacific Ocean. And he had appointed a Canadian-born fur trader, Louis Joliet, and a French missionary, Father Jacques Marquette, to lead the endeavor.
It was the 17th of May when the explorers set out from the Mission and began their voyage across the upper end of Lake Michigan. They traveled westward some hundred miles and then turned southwest into Green Bay. The expedition continued in a southwesterly direction, passed through a succession of waterways in present-day Wisconsin, and reached the Mississippi River on June 17. At that point, the travelers turned south and followed the Mississippi downstream.
The explorers had expected to see new lands, people, and animals during their journey and, each day, they realized one or more of those expectations. They could not, however, have anticipated the startling phenomenon they encountered some 15 miles downstream from the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. There, high on the limestone bluff above the east bank of the Mississippi, the travelers saw hideous monsters painted in red, yellow, green, and black. A record of the trip kept by Father Marquette described them:
They are as large as a calf, with head and horns like a deer or goat; their eyes red; beard like a tiger's; and a face somewhat like a man's. Their bodies are covered with scales. Their tails are so long that they pass over their heads and between their forelegs, under their belly, and ending like a fish's tail.
The explorers paused to look at the strange pictures and, as they did, some may have remembered the warnings from the Indians at the Mission of St. Ignace and wondered if the fierce creature that inspired the pictures was about to appear. Fortunately, no monster appeared, and the travelers went on their way. Some time later, however, it was learned that a creature similar to the paintings may have lived in the area.
This creature, according to legend, was a large, flesh-eating animal. The Indians called it "Piasa" pronounced (pie-a-saw), which meant "the bird that eats men." The Piasa Bird lived in a cave in the bluff above the river. Whenever someone came too close to the bluff, it flew down and carried off its victim.
One day, an Indian chief named Quatonga prayed to the Great Manitou for help. In answer, he was told that only his tribe could defeat the monster. Quatonga concealed 20 of his warriors near the entrance to the Piasa Bird's cave. Then he stood in front of the opening to draw the creature from its lair. The Piasa Bird saw Quatonga and swooped down upon him. However, before the monster could reach the brave chief, his warriors killed it with poison arrows. The paintings on the bluff were then made to commemorate the victory.
A drawing of these paintings was made by a member of the expedition of 1673. However, the drawing disappeared later and may have been lost when one of the canoes capsized. The oldest known picture of the Piasa Bird appears in The Illustrated Mississippi Valley, Henry Lewis, Dusseldorf, 1854. This likeness depicts the paintings from a distance and, therefore, lacks detail. In addition, it does not seem to exhibit the fierce characteristics mentioned in Father Marquette's description and looks somewhat benign.
The original paintings on the bluff were destroyed during quarrying operations in the second half of the 19th century. Perhaps the 1854 depiction was made after parts of the pictures were already gone and, therefore, had to be reconstructed to some extent from the memories of those who had seen them in their original forms. In 1934, the central figure in the paintings was restored on a bluff above the Mississippi near the site of the original display. This representation of Piasa incorporated many of the features described by Father Marquette.
Eventually, the 1934 restoration deteriorated and was replaced by an 8,500 lb. metal plate. This, in turn, was removed in 1995. According to the Visitor's Center in Alton, Illinois, a new portrayal of the Piasa Bird was made in 1998 on a bluff near the location of the previous one.
What did Father Marquette's written record of Piasa really represent? Was it the description of a real monster, or of a fictitious animal created to frighten outsiders and keep them from moving into the area? Unless someone uncovers new knowledge, these questions are also unlikely to remain unanswered. History records that the expedition of 1873 did not find a passage to the Pacific. Even so, it did discover the Piasa creature —a mystery that remains to this day.
[Directions: The current depiction of the Piasa creature can be reached via the Great River Road in southwest Illinois and is a short distance northwest of the city of Alton. For more information, stop at the Alton Visitors Center at 200 Piasa Street, Alton, Illinois 62002, or call 1-800-258-6645, or 1-618- 465-6676.]
Similar in description to the Phoenix of the prehistoric southwest, Anka of Arabia, Demaj of Persia, Imgig of Mesopotamia, and Marco Polo's Rukh, the Piasa has its counterpart in almost every corner of the globe both in prehistoric legend and early history. The American Indian version has been described as a monstrously huge bird with a wingspan measuring over fifty feet, able to carry off antelope and humans with equal ease in its enormous talons .
Various interpretations of the paintings have been offered since the expedition of 1673. One of them suggests the mysterious images can be explained by a legend about a large, bird-like creature called Piasa (pronounced PIE-a-saw). According to the legend, Piasa lived in a cave in the cliff above the Mississippi. Whenever it hungered, it swooped down, attacked, and devoured its prey. Some of its victims were human. Eventually, inhabitants of the area destroyed the monster and painted its likeness on the cliff to commemorate their victory.
Although this legend is thought-provoking, by itself it is only scant evidence that the Piasa creature was real. A more convincing argument for its existence could be made if there were additional accounts of this kind of animal. If Piasa did exist, there should also be stories about its ancestors and, perhaps, of its contemporaries and descendants.
Within the category of bizarre creatures, there are a number of accounts of animals that were similar to Piasa. These animals, which were reptilian in nature, seem to have lived throughout the world from remote antiquity to the present time.
Some of the oldest accounts of Piasa-like creatures come from Europe and Asia. One of them is found in Greek mythology and tells of a battle between Hercules and a monstrous reptile called Hydra. The ancient Greeks named this kind of animal derkein, which became "dragon" in the English language.
Chinese mythology is loaded with references to dragons, which are still revered even today by the Chinese as the wisest and strongest of creatures. An interesting description of a Chinese dragon can be found in the Pan Tsao Kang Mu, a collection of ancient Chinese writings about medicinal substances:
It has a head like a camel, horns like a deer, ears like a bull, eyes like a devil, scales like a carp, claws like an eagle, and it has whiskers on each side of its mouth.
A comparison of this description with the description of the Piasa paintings points to some remarkable similarities between the two.
Dragons similar to Piasa also appear in the 5th century A.D. legend of Siegfried and the 8th century A.D. Anglo-Saxon epic poem of Beowulf. Other Piasa-like reptiles were reported in 1349 and 1725. The former described an encounter between a knight named Gozione and a dragon on the Mediterranean Island of Rhodes. This animal was the size of an ox with ears like a mule, eyes sparkling as though flashing fire, sharp teeth, claws, a body covered with scales, and a tail like a crocodile. It also had two wings, which were blue on top but blood-colored and yellow below.
A report in 1725 related an event which occurred some 14 miles from Jerusalem. On November 15th of that year, a dragon was destroyed after it had killed and eaten several cattle and men. The dragon was as large as a horse with horns like a bull, head like a lion, and beak like an eagle. It also had teeth, a body covered with scales, wings, and a tail 4-1/2 feet long.
Reports of reptilian creatures resembling Piasa started to change somewhat after the 1700s. Developments in science began to encourage objective observation and introduced new terms to describe what was seen. Descriptions of natural phenomena were no longer as dependent upon traditional terminology or stylized verbiage or as subject to personal embellishment as they had been. And words, such as "dragon", were replaced by scientific names.
A more scientific approach appears to have been used to describe a Piasa-like creature seen during the winter of 1856 in northeastern France. There, in a partly completed railway tunnel, workmen watched in amazement as a bizarre animal appeared to emerge from a large limestone boulder they had just split open. The creature stumbled toward them on four leg-like limbs, made a croaking sound, fluttered its wings, and died at their feet. The animal had sharp teeth, long talons, and a wingspan of more than ten feet. In an earlier age, this creature might have been called a dragon. In 1856, however, a student of paleontology identified it as a large, winged reptile known as a pterodactyl.
Regardless of whether this animal actually came out of the boulder or had simply sought refuge behind it in the relative warmth of the tunnel, its presence was evidence of the existence of a Piasa-like creature—one that had been born in either ancient or modern times.
Another Old World encounter with a Piasa-like creature occurred on a morning in 1986 on the Mediterranean Island of Crete. There, three hunters witnessed a huge, bird-like animal gliding a short distance above the ground. Its beak was similar to a pelican's, its wings seemed to be made of membranes with finger-like protrusions, and its hind legs had long, sharp claws. As the men watched, the creature flew away into a mountainous area and disappeared. When the hunters returned home, they looked through several books for a picture of the bizarre animal. They found that it closely resembled a pterodactyl.
There have also been a number of accounts of Piasa-like creatures in North America. And, like their Old World counterparts, some of the stories appear to be very old. Perhaps the oldest accounts are found in the myths of the Plains Indians. One of these myths tells of a huge, dark animal with wings and a long beak. Another speaks of a monster that lives beneath bluffs along the Mississippi River. And there is an old drawing of a strange creature that closely resembles Piasa. Each of these accounts appear to describe a different aspect of a Piasa-like creature.
A more recent story about this kind of animal came out of a Plains state in the summer of 1873. There, on a northeast Texas farm five miles from Bonham, several men stared in awe at an enormous reptilian animal as it flew slowly overhead.
Similar sightings continued into the 20th century. Two of them occurred in early 1976 in southern and south-central Texas, respectively. The first took place during the evening of January 14 in Raymondville. There, a man was attacked by a large, featherless flying creature that swooped down on him in the backyard of a relative's home. The creature was as big as a man and had huge red eyes, large claws, and a wingspan of 10 to 12 feet. Although the man's clothing was torn, he escaped unharmed, and the creature flew away.
A second sighting happened on February 24 near San Antonio. There, while driving to work, three school teachers saw an enormous, low-flying, bird-like creature with a wingspan of nearly 20 feet. Later, they remarked how much it looked like a pteranodon.
A third encounter occurred during the evening of July 25, 1977, in Lawndale, Illinois. Six people in this central Illinois town saw an immense flying creature descend from the southwest, seize a ten-year-old boy with its claws, and carry him some 35 feet before dropping him unharmed. The creature continued flying to the northeast with a companion. Both of them had beaks about six inches long and wingspans of nearly ten feet.
Differences in the descriptions of the same kind of animal can also result from differences in human observers and in the circumstances of their observations. In addition, the personal integrity, facility with words, and memory of a given observer can also affect the accuracy and completeness of a description. Finally, some differences are almost inevitable when a description is communicated over many generations or translated into other languages.
With all of the potential for differences, it is not surprising that there were some variations in the descriptions of Piasa-like creatures. On the other hand, it seems significant that there were so many similarities, especially in the principal features of size, head, eyes, beak, teeth, wings, claws, absence of feathers, etc. And it also appears significant that these features were essentially the same for Piasa, dragon, and pterodactyl.
There is an intriguing question at this point. If, according to common belief, pterodactyl-like animals became extinct millions of years ago, how could they have been seen throughout the world since then? Perhaps an answer can be found by considering prehistoric global changes and places where these reptiles have been reported in more recent times.
There is evidence of catastrophic geological change in the distant past in many places around the world. It is possible that ancestors of pterodactyl-like creatures lived through this change because of their ability to fly. And, perhaps, the survivors settled in areas that would turn out to be far from human habitation. This could explain the presence of large flying reptiles today and their relatively infrequent appearance throughout history.
It is interesting to note that contemporary sightings of these creatures indicate they do live in remote areas. For example, the report of a pterodactyl-like animal in Crete in 1986 indicated it flew into a mountainous area and disappeared. And this suggests where the flying reptiles seen from Texas to Illinois may have come from.
One of the least-known areas in North America can be found in eastern Mexico. This remote mountainous region, known as the Sierra Madre Orientale, is only some 200 miles from southern Texas. A line drawn from these mountains to the northeast crosses southern and northeastern Texas, southwestern Illinois (the site of the Piasa paintings), and central Illinois—all places where strange, winged animals have been reported. The line continues from central Illinois toward the Great Lakes and perhaps to an unknown ending somewhere in the far north. If the beginning of this line in Mexico represents the home of large, flying reptiles, what does its end mean? Does this line indicate a migratory route? Do pterodactyl-like creatures periodically leave eastern Mexico in response to some archaic instinct and follow an ancient flyway to the northeast in search of nesting habitats that disappeared in some ancient cataclysm—areas that are no longer suited to prolonged reptilian occupation?
Perhaps many of the large, flying reptiles reported in other places around the world can also be explained in the same way. It may be that they too inherited instinctive behavior that was first ingrained in ancestors that lived in a world vastly different from today. And thus they also may continue to leave remote areas from time to time to seek lands and climates that vanished long ago.
While the accounts of Piasa-like creatures seem to indicate this kind of animal does exist, they also generate many questions and much speculation. Therefore, it is unlikely that the entire matter can be addressed to everyone's satisfaction until hard evidence becomes available.
Perhaps someday one of these strange animals will again take to the air and be seen following an ancient pathway through the sky. And, if it can be studied sufficiently, new light may be shed on Piasa, dragon, and pterodactyl. And, maybe, the mystery of the Piasa creature will at last be solved.
KONGAMATO: FLYING DEMONS OF THE FORBIDDEN SWAMPS
By Cisco Serret
In the Age of Dinosaurs there existed flying reptiles called Pterosaurs. Nearly all the fossils found have been in marine deposits, which means they probably were fish eaters and spent most of their time over coastal waters.
These flying reptiles apparently managed to fly with no feathers, their main aerodynamic feature being wings of membrane supported by an enormously elongated fourth finger. They had hollow limb bones and a large keeled breastbone for attachment of strong wing muscles, needed for true flight and not just gliding. The large expenditure of energy required to remain in flight for long periods of time, and the resultant loss of heat caused by the surface of their wings exposed to moving air, means that they must have had some method of regulating body heat, although it is doubtful they were truly warm-blooded as mammals are.
Although popular media have usually described pterosaurs as huge menacing creatures, most of the pterosaurs were much smaller, from the size of a sparrow to the size of an eagle. There have been some very large species discovered, however: the pteranodon with a wingspan of 27 ft. and the colossal quetzalcoatlus, with a wingspan of 50 ft. (and possibly up to 60 ft.). Some pterosaurs actually had fur, although they were not related to mammals.
It would seem impossible that these creatures could have survived to the present day. After all, if they existed surely people would see them flying about as they hunted for food. How could a flying population of reptiles remain hidden? There are reports that people have been seeing flying creatures that match the description of pterosaurs for a long time. People have even been, reportedly, killed by them.
In 1923 a traveler by the name of Frank H. Melland worked for a time in Zambia. He gathered native reports of ferocious flying reptiles. The natives called this creature kongamato ("overwhelmer of boats"), which was said to have lived in the Jiundu swamps in the Mwinilunga District in western Zambia, near the border of Congo and Angola. It was described as having no feathers at all, smooth skin, a wingspan between 4 ft. and 7 ft., and possessing a beak full of teeth. They were usually described as black or red. It had a reputation for capsizing canoes and causing death to anyone who merely looked at it. When showed drawings of pterosaurs
"... every native present immediately and unhesitatingly picked it out and identified it as a kongamato. Among the natives who did so was a headman from the Jiundu country, where the kongamato is supposed to be active, and who is a rather wild and quite unsophisticated native."
In 1925, a distinguished English newspaper correspondent, G. Ward Price, was with the future Duke of Windsor on an official visit to Rhodesia. He reported a story that a civil servant told them of the wounding of a man who entered a feared swamp in Rhodesia known to be an abode of demons. The brave native entered the swamp, determined to explore it in spite of the dangers. When he returned he was on the verge of death. He had a great wound in his chest. He recounted how a strange huge bird with a long beak attacked him. When the civil servant showed the man a picture of a pterosaur from a book of prehistoric animals, the man screamed in terror and fled from the servant's home.
In 1942 Colonel C. R. S. Pitman reported stories the natives had told him of a large bat/bird type creature that lived in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in a dense swampy region—supposedly to look upon it was death. Tracks of the creatures were seen, with evidence of a large tail dragging the ground. These reports were not limited to Zambia, but also came from other locations in Africa such as Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
Skeptics suggest that these fantastic-sounding tales derived from the fanciful imaginations of natives who were hired to work at archeological digs where fossilized pterosaurs were uncovered in Tendagaru, Tanzania, in the years prior to World War I. These digs, however, took place over 900 miles from Zambia. Why did no reports of living pterosaurs come from Tanzania, where these imaginative natives lived?
Perhaps the most striking report of living pterosaurs comes not from natives, but from white explorers in the employment of the British Museum. In 1932-1933 the Percy Sladen Expedition went to West Africa. In charge of the team was Ivan T. Sanderson, a well-known zoologist and writer. While in the Assumbo Mountains in the Cameroons, they made camp in a wooded valley near a steep banked river. They were out hunting near the river when Sanderson shot a large fruit-eating bat. It fell in the water, and as Sanderson was carefully making his way in the fast moving current, he lost his balance and fell. He regained his balance when his companion suddenly shouted "Look out!"
"And I looked. Then I let out a shout also and instantly bobbed down under the water, because, coming straight at me only a few feet above the water was a black thing the size of an eagle. I had only a glimpse of its face, yet that was quite sufficient, for its lower jaw hung open and bore a semicircle of pointed white teeth set about their own width apart from each other. When I emerged, it was gone. George was facing the other way blazing off his second barrel. I arrived dripping on my rock and we looked at each other. "Will it come back?" we chorused. And just before it became too dark to see, it came again, hurtling back down the river, its teeth chattering, the air "shss-shssing" as it was cleft by the great, black, dracula-like wings. We were both off-guard, my gun was unloaded, and the brute made straight for George. He ducked. The animal soared over him and was at once swallowed up in the night."
Sanderson and George returned to camp where they asked the natives about the creature. Sanderson asked them, spreading his arms, what kind of bat is this large and is all black? "Olitiau!" was the response. They asked Sanderson where they had seen this creature. Sanderson pointed back at the river. The natives fled in terror in the opposite direction, taking only their guns and leaving their valuables behind.
While it may be suggested that the creature that attacked Sanderson and George was merely the mate of the bat they had shot, it is somewhat dubious. Fruit bats are not known for attacking humans, and Sanderson, a highly knowledgeable and internationally respected zoologist, clearly indicated that he did not recognize the creature. Fruit bats are a brownish or yellowish color. Sanderson described the creature as all black. He, however, did describe it as a bat—and pterosaurs are bat-like.
In 1956 in Zambia along the Luapula river, engineer J.P.F. Brown was driving back to Salisbury from a visit to Kasenga in Zaire. He stopped at a location called Fort Rosebery, just to the west of Lake Bangweulu, for a break. It was about 6:00 p.m. when he saw two creatures flying slowly and silently directly overhead. Bewildered, he observed that they looked prehistoric. He estimated a wingspan of about 3-3 1/2 feet, a long thin tail, and a narrow head, which he likened to an elongated snout of a dog. One of them opened its mouth in which he saw a large number of pointed teeth. He gave the beak to tail length at about 4 1/2 feet. After this report came out, a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. D. Gregor reported that they had seen 2 1/2 ft. long flying lizards in Southern Rhodesia, and a Dr. J. Blake-Thompson reported that natives of the Awemba tribe had told of huge flying creatures resembling rats that would attack humans. They lived in caves in cliffs near the source of the great Zambezi River.
In 1957, at a hospital at Fort Rosebery (the same location J. P. F. Brown had reported seeing strange flying creatures the year before) a patient came in with a severe wound in his chest. The doctor asked him what had happened and the native claimed that a great bird had attacked him in the Bangweulu swamps. When asked to sketch the bird, the native drew a picture of a creature that resembled a pterosaur.
Soon afterwards the Zambezi valley was flooded as a result of the Kariba Dam hydroelectric project. Daily Telegraph correspondent Ian Colvin was at the scene, where he claimed to have taken a controversial photograph of what appeared to be a pterosaur. [It was later discovered that the photo was a hoax].
Reports of prehistoric-looking flying creatures are not just limited to dense swampy regions. There are also reports of giant flying lizards from the deserts of Namibia. In 1988 Professor Roy Mackal led an expedition to Namibia where reports of a creature with a wingspan of up to 30 ft were collected. The avian cryptid usually glided through the air, but also was capable of true flight. It was usually seen at dusk, gliding between crevices between two hills about a mile apart. Although the expedition was not successful in getting solid evidence, one team member, James Kosi, reportedly saw the creature from about 1000 ft. away. He described it as a giant glider shape, black with white markings.
There are two species of birds that live in the swampy areas of Zambia that could possibly be mistaken for some kind of prehistoric apparition, especially under low light conditions or at nighttime. The shoebill stork is a dark colored bird with a 8 ft. wingspan and a decidedly prehistoric appearance. They have become rare, and can only be found in the deep recesses of swamps in Zambia and neighboring countries. However, there is no evidence of the shoebill behaving aggressively towards humans, and in fact they try to avoid humans as much as possible. They have large bills, but they are not pointed, and they do not have teeth (no known birds living today have real teeth).
Another odd-looking bird that lives in the area is the saddle-billed stork. These rather beautiful birds have a wingspan of up to 8½ feet, a long bright red bill with a horizontal black stripe ¾ up from the tip and with a yellow blaze from the eyes down and into the stripe, with additional orange stripes on the sides of the head. Their overall coloration is black and white with a black head, and featherless red feet. The beak is long and pointed. Although it would be difficult to confuse this bird with a featherless, monotone-colored pterosaur, its beak is similar, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that perhaps a deranged, sick, threatened, or confused saddle-billed stork could attack a human and plunge its beak into a man's chest.
Both of these candidates are rather poor substitutes for pterosaurs, although they probably do account for some of the reports. Many of the natives are very superstitious, and fervently believe in the stories of monsters in the swamps waiting to attack intruders. It is not difficult to imagine that a quick flyby of one of these large birds in the dark could send one running back to camp with a story of a near miss by a flying demon.
Whether the reports are of actual sightings of pterosaur-related creatures, or if it they represent some unknown (to science) huge sort of bat or bird with a bad attitude, perhaps time will tell. Of all the remote, inaccessible locations in the world where unknown creatures could still exist, probably the best candidates would have to be the deep enormous swamps in Africa. These swamps are so overgrown with vines and undergrowth that human travel is next to impossible. In addition, the ground is often so soft that humans could not even stand without sinking, and the many rivers and waterlogged areas block many avenues of penetration. Vicious insects and other critters that can cause sickness from disease or death from venom accompany the hostile terrain. The area is racked with political instability, patrolled by guerillas and armed bandits with little respect for non-native intruders, which provides a powerful disincentive to would-be explorers. Over flights by aircraft are ineffective since the treetops are so thick in the deep swamps that little or nothing can been seen underneath. Africa is hiding its secrets well. If there are living dinosaurs alive today, Africa is a prime candidate for harboring them.
THE RUKH (ROC)
The Rukh (or as it is sometimes given, roc) is a vast magnification of the eagle or vulture, and some people have thought that a condor blown astray over the Indian Ocean or China seas suggested it to the Arabs. Lane rejects this idea and considers that we are dealing rather with a "fabulous species of a fabulous genus" or with a synonym for the Persian Simurgh.
The Rukh is known to the West through the Arabian Nights. The reader will recall that Sindbad (on his second voyage), left behind by his shipmates on an island, "found a huge white dome rising in air and of vast compass I walked all around it, but found no door thereto nor could I muster strength or nimbleness by reason of its exceeding smoothness and slipperiness. So I marked the spot where I stood and went round about the dome to measure its circumference which I found fifty good paces." Moments later, a huge cloud hid the sun from him and "lifting my head . . . I saw that the cloud was none other than an enormous bird, of gigantic girth and inordinately wide of wing. . . ." The bird was a Rukh and the white dome, of course, was its egg. Sindbad lashes himself to the bird's leg with his turban, and the next morning is whisked off into flight and set down on a mountaintop, without having excited the Rukh's attention. The narrator adds that the Rukh feeds itself on serpents of such great bulk that they "would have made but one gulp of an elephant."
In Marco Polo's Travels (III, 36) ..we read:
The people of the island [of Madagascar) report that at a certain season of the year, an extraordinary kind of bird, which they call a rukh, makes its appearance from the southern region. In form it is said to resemble the eagle, but it is incomparably greater in size; being so large and strong as to seize an elephant with its talons, and to lift it into the air, from whence it lets it fall to the ground, in order that when dead it may prey upon the carcase. Persons who have seen this bird assert that when the wings are spread they measure sixteen paces in extent, from point to point; and that the feathers are eight paces in length, and thick in proportion.
Marco Polo adds that some envoys from China brought the feather of a Rukh back to the Grand Khan. A Persian illustration in Lane shows the Rukh bearing off three elephants in beak and talons; "with the proportions of a hawk and field mice," Burton notes.
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has maintained an archive of Thunderbird reports from the past to the present. You can visit his archive at: http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoology/thunderbirds/