eagle,Image created by Hope Rutledge

   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.

   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 Navajos 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.

   For those who are wondering if it's true that an aging eagle can go into seclusion, pluck out all of its feathers, shed its beak and talons, and then grow new ones in X number of days; subsequently, becoming renewed and living longer....It's a myth! Perhaps, the "eagle renewal myth/legend" was derived from a biblical metaphor.
   Both science and logic indicate an eagle can not survive for any length of time without his/her feathers, beak and talons. Exposure and starvation would overcome the eagle long before a physical renewal could occur. An eagle's beak and talons grow continuously, because they are made of keratin, the same substance as our hair and fingernails. Eagles molt in patches, taking almost half a year to replace feathers, starting with the head and working downward. Not all feathers are replaced in a given molt.

Biblical metaphors: A figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in "A mighty fortress is our God" or "Carried on eagle's wings."

Eagles do not carry their young. A bald eagle's lifting power is about 4 pounds. At 10 to 13 weeks, eaglets are as large as the parents as well as fully fledged for a first flight, enabling them leave the nest.

"Eagles flying above a storm" - Perhaps, it's depicted in various inspirational stories to relate to a Bible metaphor.

Ask eagle expert Peter Nye - Question and answer at the bottom of the page, "From Lazar."

   The Comanche's 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 Comanche eagle dance celebrates this legend.

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

   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.Back to Menu

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