The Stymphalian Birds

Heracles went next to Stymphalia, a little north of Nemea. Here in a great swamp lived a flock of noxious birds with bronze beaks and feathers. The birds could detach these razor-sharp plumes and aim them at predators, upon whom, too, they voided themselves of acidic faeces.

Heracles’ mission was to drive them from the swamp, an awkward problem since it was so marshy that anyone trying to wade out became stuck fast, while its waters were so choked with weeds that no boat could navigate them.

The Stymphalian Birds Photo Gallery

Again, Heracles resorted to guile. Taking a rattle in his hand, he made such a din that the birds rose as one, squawking from the middle of the lake, flapping overhead in great confusion. At once, Heracles strung his bow and soon the birds were falling from the sky.

The survivors wheeled in a great flock and flew off northeast, until they came to the Black Sea, where they roosted on an island sacred to Ares. Today Stymphalia still resounds to rasping squawks, not from birds but from myriad frogs, which share their murky home with writhing water-snakes.

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