Native American Birds of Myth and Legend
Birds play a wide variety of roles in Native American mythology. Frequently they serve as messengers
from the Creator, or between humans and the spirit world. Eagle plays a leadership role in the mythology
of many tribes, while Raven is frequently portrayed as culture hero, trickster, or both. Other Native American
birds play the parts of heroes, villains, wise advisors, flighty suitors, jealous competitors, and everything in between.
Birds are common clan animals in many different Native American tribes. Besides the major clans related
to specific types of birds (such as the Eagle Clan and the Raven Clan,) there are also generalized Bird
Clans in some tribes, such as the Bird Clan of the Creek tribe (called Fusualgi or Fuswvlke,)
the Bird Clan of the Cherokees (called Anijisqua or Anitsiskwa), or the Feather Clan of the Mi'kmaq
tribe. Birds are the most important clan crests of most Northwest Coast tribes and are commonly carved
on totem poles (especially Eagle, Raven, and Thunderbird.)
Native American Bird Mythology In Various Tribes
List of Native American Bird Gods and Spirits
Bluejay (Northwest Coast)
Crow Mother (Hopi)
Owl Man (Apache)
Raven (Alaskan tribes)
Thunder-Bird (many tribes)
Native American Legends About Birds
A Mayan Bird Legend:
Mexican Indian myth about how Quetzal became leader of the Indian birds.
When the Animals and Birds Were Created Fisher in Skyland:
Native American legends about the origin of birds.
The Bird Sons Play Ball Loon Loses A Lacrosse Game:
Two versions of an Ojibwa legend about why some birds fly south for the winter.
Raven and Goose-Wife:
Athabaskan legend explaining why some birds migrate and others do not.
The Bird Tribes:
Cherokee legend about the creation and symbolism of the birds.
The Thunder Nation and the Eagle:
Cherokee legend about the powers given by Eagle to the other birds.
Waynaboozhoo and the Great Flood:
Version of the Ojibwe creation story explaining how birds came to sing.
Race Among the Animals How The Buffalo Hunt Began:
Cheyenne legends about the birds helping humans to become chief of all the animals.
How The Crow Came To Be Black How the Turkey Got His Beard:
"Pourquoi" stories about how birds acquired the appearance or behaviors they show today.
The Story of Redfeather:
Chippewa Indian legend about a boy punished by the birds for wasting their food.
Wenebojo and the Dancing Geese Menominee Birds Myth Manabush and the Birds The Shut-Eye Dance:
Algonquian legends about the culture hero tricking gullible birds so he could eat them.
Wisakatchekwa and the Birds:
Native American stories about trickster heroes being carried off by an unwisely lassoed flock of birds.
Bird Myths of the Cherokees:
Cherokee Indian legends about the hummingbird, crane, and buzzard.
The Girl Who Climbed to the Sky:
Arapaho legend about birds helping a woman abducted by sky spirits return to her home on the earth.
Coyote, Wren, and Grouse:
Kalispel legend about birds joining forces to defeat Coyote.
The Eagle's Revenge:
Cherokee Indian legend about a spirit bird that punished a village for killing an eagle.
How the Birds Built Canoes:
Passamaquoddy story about Grouse embarrassing himself while trying to build a fancier canoe than the other birds.
The Warrior and the Eagle:
Lenape legend about a giant bird that punished a warrior for his pride.
The Birds and the Maple Tree Woodpecker and the Sugar Maple:
Lenape Indian legend telling how birds learned to peck trees.
How the Buffalo Hunt Began:
Cheyenne legend about the birds helping humans win the right to eat buffalo.
Leader of the Birds:
Apache story about the Bird People choosing Roadrunner for their chief.
The Dream Fast Opichi:
Ojibwe legends about a boy who turned into a bird.
The Seagull and the Whiskey Jacks:
Chapleau Cree story about the difference between the spirits of birds.
Rainbow Crow Mànàka'has, the Rainbow Crow:
Lenni Lenape myths about Crow bringing fire to the people.
Gluscabi and the Wind Eagle The Wind Bird Spirit The Great Wind-Bird:
Wabanaki Indian stories about Wuchowsen, the giant bird of the wind.
Penobscot Indian legends about humans who married the storm birds of Mt. Katahdin.
Wenebojo and the Cranberries:
Chippewa Indian legend about the origin of the kingfisher bird.
A collection of traditional Northwest Coast Raven legends presented by the Quileute tribe.
Wakinyan Tanka The Boy Stolen By Thunderbird Thunder-Bird Legends Thunder Bird Mountain:
Native American legends from many tribes about thunderbirds.
Oral history from a Cree elder illustrating the importance of treating birds respectfully.
Recommended Books of American Indian Bird Stories
Birds of Algonquin Legend:
Our organization earns a commission from any book bought through these links
Interesting collection of Native American legends and traditional beliefs about birds in Algonquian tribes.
The Great Ball Game:
Terrific picture book for kids illustrating a Creek Indian story about a contest between the animals and the birds.
Shingebiss: An Ojibwe Legend:
Children's book depicting a Native American folktale about a persevering merganser duck.
Northwest Coast Native legend about humans and eagles learning to cooperate.
Spirits of the Earth: A Guide to Native American Nature Symbols, Stories, and Ceremonies:
Book by a Karuk elder about the meanings of Indian animal spirits, including a chapter on birds.
Flights of Fancy: Birds in Myth, Legend, and Superstition:
A good book on the meaning of birds in world mythology, including North and South America.
Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2020 Contacts and FAQ page
Back to Native animal spirit names
Back to Native American legends
Back to Native American characters
Back to Monster stories
Native American jewelry
Native American Cherokee beads
Buy dreamcatchers online
Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?