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.

One thought on “Scissortail Flycatcher and Native Animal Legends

  1. I hadn’t seen a scissor tail since i was a child. 6 years ago when i was 48 i lost my 21 year old son he had battled a disease since birth and we knew we were going to lose him some day. And i had much anger at God for the sickness i had watched my son battle so long to just end up loosing without relief When i Went to the funeral home the day after he passed. When i looked at my son my faith in God was renewed. My boy no longer looked ill his lips were not blue from no oxygen anymore they were a rosy pink color his nails weren’t blue from lack of oxygen and he looked healthy. And completely comfortable and relieved of any pains of this earth . I knew that day there really was a god and a heaven and he was there. I was a bit envious at the complete different at ease look of my child. As i went outside to see where the grave position was i saw 2 scissor tail birds and they lingered in the trees around me that day also the next few days and the day of the funeral and everytime i go there. I see them and was curious if there is a spiritual meaning of the scissor tail birds.

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