Kwakwaka'wakw totem pole depicting
a Thunderbird perched on the top.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Last week while attending the monthly Fresno Filmmakers Alliance mixer, a friend of mine approached me and asked me if I knew of any thunderbird sightings in the Fresno area as his wife and young son had recently spotted a large bird like creature with a wing span estimated to be over 12 feet in width.
For those who don't know what a thunderbird is term used in the cryptozoological world to describe large bird like creatures that are associated with the Thunderbird of Native American mythology. Most thunderbirds sightings are of the feathered type, although some sightings have reported the creatures to have lizard like features similar to a pterosaur.
Modern thunderbird sightings go back over 100 years with one of the first stories reportedly occurring in April 1890 in Arizona where two cowboys killed a giant birdlike creature with a huge wingspan. It was described as having smooth skin, featherless wings similar to that of a bat and a face that looked like an alligator. They are said to have taken the carcass back to town where they pinned it on the outside of barn with it's wings outstretched the entire length.
Sightings continued into the 20th Century when in the 1940's several sightings occurred in Illinois where witnesses at first thought they were seeing a plane flying overhead until they saw the "plane" flapping it's wings. A few weeks later in another part of the state a man and his son saw a large bird creature flying at a height estimated to be around 500 feet and the shadow it cast was the size of a small passenger airplane.
One of the more stranger occurrences, and one I wanted to share, happened on July 25, 1977 in Lawndale, Illinois. A group of boys were playing in their back yard when two large birds approached and chased the boys. Two escaped unharmed, but the third boy, 10 year old Marlon Lowe, did not. One of the birds clamped it's talons around his shoulders and lifted the now terrified boy about two feet off the ground and carried him some distance before Low was able to fight off the bird, getting it to release him.
Most viewed this as some sort of tall tale made up by the boys, but given the description of the birds one has to wonder. The description matched that of an Andean condor; a large back bird with a white ringed neck and a wingspan of 10 feet. There's a problem though, the condor's talons are said to not be strong enough to lift that of a heavy object (i.e. a 10 year old boy). So what then did the boys see?
So this leads me back to the Fresno sighting. What exactly did the two see? Was it just a normal bird (say a hawk or crane) mistaken for something else? Someone mentioned a Californian Condor, but that is highly unlikely as the habitat for this species is in Southern California. Could a large bird like creature, one that was the inspiration for the Native American Thunderbird myth, be in the Fresno area skies? If there have been more sightings, hopefully those witnesses will hear of this article and share their stories.