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Why The Birds Have Sharp Tails

This version of the legend comes from Katherine Judson's 1914 collection Myths and Legends of the Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes.

Once upon a time, they say, the world turned over. Then the waters rose very high and many people died. A woman took two children and lodged in a tree. She sat there waiting for the waters to sink, for she had no way of reaching the ground.

When the woman saw the Ancient of Red-Headed Buzzards, she called to him "Help me to get down and I will give you one of the children." He assisted her, but she did not give him the child.

The waters were so deep that the birds were clinging by their claws to the clouds, but their tails were always under water. That is why thier tails are always sharp. One of these birds was the Ancient of Yellowhammers. Therefore its tailfeathers are sharp at the ends. The large Red-Headed Woodpecker was there, too, and the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and that is why their tails have their present shape.

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