Crane-sized, ibis-like, man-eating creatures with brass beaks, wings, and claws, said to have colonized the Stymphalian marsh in Greece.
The sixth of the 12 great labors assigned to the
mythological hero Heracles (Hercules in Roman myth) was to drive these birds away.
Heracles knew that would not be an easy task because they were protected by the god of war Ares, but Athena, goddess of wisdom, gave him a pair of brass castanets. They made such an appalling noise that the terrified birds rose in flight, and Heracles then brought many of them down with arrows. Just a few managed to escape and find refuge in the island of god Ares, located in the black sea. Latter, Jason and his Argonauts would run into this handful of surviving birds.
The Stymphalian birds have always been considered to be purely imaginary. But in 1987 Swiss ornithologist Michael Desfayes suggested that they may actually have been based upon a real (and harmless) bird, the bald ibis, now restricted in Europe to a single locality in Turkey.
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Sources: Article is scheduled to be reviewed.
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