The Piasa Bird is a legendary cryptid that first appeared in the Native American folklore of the Illiniwek people who lived in the Mississippi River Valley in the Midwestern United States. The word “Piasa” is said to mean “The Bird That Devours Men” or “The Bird of the Evil Spirit”.
|Cryptid Name:||Piasa Bird|
|Location:||Mississippi River Valley, Alton, Illinois|
|Description:||A large, bird-like creature with the body of a lion, wings of an eagle, and a serpent-like tail and sharp talons.|
|Size:||Varies; From 12 to 20 feet (3.7 to 6 meters) in length.|
|Behavior/Characteristics:||Dangerous, predatory, malevolent.|
|Diet:||Predatory; believed to primarily feed on humans.|
|Habitat/Environment:||Cliffs and bluffs along the Mississippi River.|
|Evidence:||Painting of the Piasa Bird on a limestone bluff near Alton, Illinois.|
|Sightings and Encounters:||While there are no documented modern sightings or encounters, the legend of the Piasa Bird has been passed down through generations and continues to be a part of the folklore in the region.|
|Skepticism/Explanations:||The Piasa Bird is generally considered a legend, and there is no scientific or concrete evidence of its existence. Various explanations suggest that it may have been a creation of native mythology or tribal folklore, or perhaps a misinterpretation of actual birds or other animals in the region.|
What Does The Piasa Bird Look Like?
The Piasa Bird is described as a very big bird-like creature with the body of a lion with powerful wings that look like the wings of an eagle. It has a long dragon-like tail and sharp talons or claws that it uses to hunt with.
The Piasa Bird is a fearsome creature that is considered to be incredibly dangerous.
The Legend of the Piasa Bird
The Legend of the Piasa Bird is recorded in the stories and folklore of the Illini tribes that lived in the Mississippi Valley. I found a story about the legend in a book called, “Voices Of The Winds: Native American Legends“. In the story, the Piasa Bird is referred to as Storm-Bird.
Long, long ago, when only animals walked the earth. Storm-bird lived in a cave by the river. His cave was lined with the bones of buffalo victims. He would swoop down upon a buffalo herd and drive his terrible claws into the fattest one, carrying it off to his cave.
After our people arrived upon the earth, Storm-bird captured one of our warriors. From that day on, he was a threat to our whole tribe — men, women, and children. A loud roar and a flapping sound signaled that Storm-bird was coming out of his cave. Everyone agreed that something must be done to destroy the monster, but what?
Ortega was our great Chief of the Illinis. He announced to our people that he was determined to find a way to kill the beast. As part of their tribal ritual, he withdrew in solitude to fast and seek a vision. He prayed to the Great Spirit to reveal a way to conquer the Storm-bird.
When Chief Ortega returned, he directed all of our people to hide in their tepees. He then dispatched his chosen warriors to the brush surrounding an exposed point of land, directly opposite the cave of the Storm-bird.
Dressed in his Chiefs warbonnet, Ortega took his stand upon the point of land, without weapons. Storm-bird could see the Chief. It began to roar! Eyeing our Chief with clenched teeth, it opened its huge weblike wings and charged at the Chief!
Ortega stood his ground, chanting his death song! Instantly, the hidden warriors let go their arrows with sharp, pointed flints. The Storm-bird was struck from all sides with a hundred arrows and fell dead!
To honor Chief Ortega and in remembrance of the event, a sculpture of the flying Storm-bird was carved into the cliffside and painted by the Illini tribe a long time ago, an exact replica of the terrible beast.Voices Of The Winds : Native American Legends
The Piasa Bird Painting
Although stories about the Piasa Bird have been passed down for generations through the Illini tribes in Illinois it wasn’t until 1673 when a missionary by the name of Father Jacques Marquette stumbled upon an enormous painting of two Piasa Birds on the cliff face next to the river. He recorded what he saw in his journal:
As we descended the river, we saw high rocks adorned with terrifying creatures, which even the bravest Indians dared not gaze upon. These figures were the size of a calf, with goat-like heads and horns, red eyes, tiger-like beards, and human-like faces. Their long tails wound around their bodies and under their legs, resembling those of a fish. Painted in red, green, and black, these figures were so well-executed that I found it hard to believe they were created by the Indians. Their purpose remained a mystery to me.”Father Jacques Marquette
Interestingly, the original account did not mention wings. It was only later in 1836 when a man by the name of John Russel claimed that these creatures were in fact enormous birds that lived in the cliffs.
Although there have been no modern sightings or encounters with the Piasa bird, the legend lives on as part of the folklore of the region with many visiting the cliffs to look at the painting of the dangerous creature which once lived in the area. In fact, it is believed that the Piasa bird will return on the first day of spring each year. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made an appearance… yet!