Avalerion or alerion (also erne[clarification needed]) is a term for a heraldic bird. Historically, it referred to the regular heraldic eagle. Later[year needed] heralds used the term alerion to refer to "baby eagles" or "eaglets". To differentiate them from mature Eagles, Alerions were shown as an Eagle Displayed Inverted without a beak or claws (disarmed). To difference it from a decapitate (headless) eagle, the Alerion has a bulb-shaped head with an eye staring towards the Dexter (left-hand side) of the field. This was later simplified in modern heraldry as an abstract winged oval.
An example is the arms of the Duchy of Lorraine (Or, on a Bend Gules, 3 Alerions Abaisé Argent). It supposedly had been inspired by the assumed arms of crusader Geoffrey de Bouillon, who supposedly killed three white eaglets with a bow and arrow when out hunting. It is far more likely to be Canting arms that are a pun based on Lorraine / Erne. (alerion is a partial anagram of Lorraine).
Medieval bestiaries use alerion for a mythological bird described as somewhat larger than an eagle of which only a single pair was said to live at any time. A pair of eggs was laid every 60 years; after hatching, the parents drowned themselves. The term avalerion is used on the Hereford Map near the Hydaspes and the Indus, possibly based on a description by Pliny.
The word's ultimate origin is unclear, possibly adapted from the German Adler or Adelar ("eagle"). It is found in 12th-century French as alérion and in medieval Latin as alariōnem (a large eagle-like bird).
- A. Maquet, Les seigneurs de Marly, recherches historiques et archéologiques sur la ville et seigneurie de Marly-le-Roi avec notes, armoiries et sceaux... préface de Victorien Sardou. Paris, Imprimerie et librairie universelle, 1882. fr:Armorial des Montmorency: or à la croix de gueules cantonnée de quatre alérions d'azur, Bouchard II de Marly: d'or à la croix de gueules frettée d'argent cantonnée de quatre alérions d'azur. The seal of Mathieu II does not indicate the fretty variation.
- Rothery, Guy Cadogan. Concise Encyclopedia of Heraldry. pp.50
- William Latham Bevan; Henry Wright Phillott (1873). Mediæval Geography: An Essay in Illustration of the Hereford Mappa Mundi. London: E. Stanford. pp. 30–31.
- "alerion". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
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- Guillaume de Machaut (1994). The Tale of the Alerion. Translated by Minnette Gaudet and Constance B. Hieatt. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
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