When I Ride…

Scissortail Flycatcher and Native Animal Legends

Scissortail Flycatcher

There was a bird, in the old tales of the East Cherokee, called tsun’digwûntsu’`gï or tsun’digwûn’tskï, “forked,” referring to the tail. It appeared only once, according to legend, for a short season and was not seen again. It is said to have been pale blue, with red in places, and nearly the size of a crow, and to have had a long forked tail like that of a fish.

It caught and ate hornets in its beak while flying and also ate  larvae in the nests. Appearing unexpectedly and as suddenly disappearing, it was believed to be not a bird but a transformed red-horse fish (Moxostoma, Cherokee âligä‘), a theory created by the red spots under the wings and the long, forked tail.

It is also said that “about the time those birds first appeared some hunters on Oconaluftee saw seven of them sitting on the limb of a tree and they were still shaped like a red-horse fish, although they already had wings and feathers.” More than likely  what they saw was the scissor-tail or swallow-tailed flycatcher (Milvulus forficatus), which migrates through Texas and the adjacent region, but strays occasionally into the eastern states. This bird is also the state bird of Oklahoma, where many of the Cherokees were forced to travel during the Trail of Tears part of their history.

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This entry was published on April 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm. It’s filed under First Nations and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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