The Stymphalian birds (pronounced /stɪmˈfeɪliən/ stim-FAY-lee-ən; Greek: Στυμφαλίδες ὄρνιθες, Stymphalídes órnithes) are a group of birds in Greek mythology. The birds' appellation is derived from their dwelling in a swamp in Stymphalia.
The Stymphalian Birds are man-eating birds with beaks of bronze, sharp metallic feathers they could launch at their victims, and poisonous dung. They were pets of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. They migrated to a marsh in Arcadia to escape a pack of wolves. There they bred quickly and swarmed over the countryside, destroying crops, fruit trees, and townspeople.
The Sixth Labor of Heracles
The Stymphalian birds were defeated by the hero Heracles (Hercules) in his Sixth Labour for Eurystheus. Heracles could not go into the marsh to reach the nests of the birds, as the ground would not support his weight. Athena, noticing the hero's plight, gave Heracles a rattle called a crotala, which Hephaestus had made especially for the occasion. Heracles shook the krotala rattle (same as Castanets) and frightened the birds into the air. Heracles then shot many of them with arrows tipped with poisonous blood from the slain Hydra. The rest flew far away, never to plague Arcadia again. Heracles brought some of the slain birds to Eurystheus as proof of his success.
In popular culture
- Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca ii.“ 5.6
- Greece: I Ancient,” in The New Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London 2001, vol. 10, 344-348
- Media related to Stymphalian birds at Wikimedia Commons