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These fly against those who come to hunt them, wounding and killing them with their beaks. All armour of bronze or iron that men wear is pierced by the birds; but if they weave a garment of thick cork, the beaks of the Stymphalian birds are caught in the cork garment, just as the wings of small birds stick in bird-lime. These birds are of the size of a crane, and are like the ibis, but their beaks are more powerful, and not crooked like that of the ibis.
~ Pausanias, Description of Greece

The Stymphalian Birds were a species of monster from Greek mythology. They destroyed crops, fruit trees and anyone who came too close to their swamp until Herakles killed them.

History

The Stymphalian Birds were pets of the god Ares (or, in some versions, the goddess Artemis). They were attacked by a pack of wolves and migrated to a marsh near Lake Stymphalia, where they multiplied in numbers and began attacking the Greek countryside, destroying everything in their path.

The Greek hero Herakles (translated as Hercules) was sent to kill the birds as one of his Twelve Labours. To help him, the goddess Athena provided him with a metal rattle to shake. Using it, he scared the birds out of their hiding place and shot them down with arrows coated with the blood of the Lernaean Hydra. Those that survived made a new home on an island in the Black Sea, where the Argonauts encountered them years later. After much fighting, the Argonauts frightened them away by rattling their spears and shields, ridding the island of the Stymphalian Birds.

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