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This trope pertains to eagles, hawks, falcons and other similar species of bird. Generally considered to be symbols of freedom, majesty, leadership etc. They often appear as guardians, guides or messengers. They can sometimes also symbolize foreboding danger. Although crows and vultures have this association more.
Eagles, being one of the largest groups of raptor, and having associations with Eagle Land, are usually seen as the Biggest and most Badass of the bunch and carry connotations of power and regality in addition to the usual traits of bird of prey. Hawks and falcons have slightly different associations from eagles, stemming in part from the sport of falconry. They are less likely to be depicted as majestic, more likely to be used as symbols of aggression. Contrasting with the image of freedom Big Badass Birds of Prey typically carry, they may even have association with the idea of servility. A falcon trained to hunt for its falconer would be an example of the power of a Big Badass Bird of Prey being more controlled and restrained, for instance. Even the idea of the dissolution of servitude is played with in some works to represent unrestrained chaos and anarchy. Owls may be considered Big Badass Birds of Prey at times, but they also have a trope of their own that overlaps with doom and foreboding of Ravens and Crows and another trope on top of that, which represents them as a font of knowledge.
Oftentimes creators will go out of their way to make the Big Badass Bird of Prey even more Badass somehow. Usually this is by giving them attributes from another bird of prey, with the most common variant being to have the bird in question make the majestic and frightening scream of a red tailed hawk regardless of species. Another less-common variant of this is to give a smaller and less-impressive bird of prey the body of an eagle. In other cases the Big Badass Bird of Prey will be given traits not common to any bird, such as the ability to set itself on fire, create lightning and thunder with their wings, or carry off whole elephants, which are abilities that are specific to The Phoenix, thunderbirds, The Roc, respectively. The last has no relationship to wrestler Dwayne Johnson.
The ultimate Trope Maker is Imperial Rome, which used the eagle as a symbol. This means this trope is Older Than Feudalism. Its associations with Rome lead to its widespread use in medieval Europe to evoke the glories of the former Byzantine Empire, which eventually evolved into the modern trope. The trope also developed separately in other cultures, such as the Aztec and the indigenous people from the Pacific Northwest in North America. Nowadays they're used as symbols in Egypt, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia, Armenia, Germany and of course America.
Non-symbolic invocations of this trope may rate as Somewhere an Ornithologist Is Crying, as when ordinary eagles are depicted carrying off infants in older works. (See Kidnapping Bird of Prey) There's also a tendency to depict the most powerful Big Badass Bird of Prey in a given work as male, despite female raptors having been known to be substantially larger than their mates for centuries.
- A recent whiskey commercial features a gigantic hawk that carries off a woman from her village, then returns twice for barrels of booze.
Anime and Manga
- Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. All 5 members of the team represent a different type of bird.
- Pell and Marco from One Piece.
- Washio, the eagle homunculus from Busou Renkin.
- In Naruto after learning the truth about Itachi, Sasuke changes his team name from "Hebi" (Snake) to "Taka" (Hawk). He also somehow gains the ability to summon hawks.
- In Yaiba, Kotaro Fuuma's true form is that of a Hawk-Man. Yaiba almost got killed by him.
- The Gliders' giant hawks in Elf Quest definitely qualify, despite being taxonomically suspect.
- Judges in Judge Dredd have a massive eagle for one shoulder pad, and eagles are a prominent symbol in all parts of the Judge System. Carlos Ezquerra says he chose the eagle because it was heavily associated with both American freedom and fascist Spain and Nazi Germany; thus, it serves as a reminder of how something good can be perverted into evil by good intentions.
- There was a giant vulture in Iron Man The Rapture that is in Starkworld that kept on disemboweling Tony Stark much like Prometheus.
- Villain Skroa from Les Legendaires is an Evil Sorcerer from a bird-like Demon species that look like anthropomorphic birds of prey.
- Urthblood, the warlord and titular character from The Urthblood Saga, employs several of these as personal fighters, spies and messengers. Wearing armour, no less.
Films -- Animated
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron has a bald eagle; he symbolises the title character's freedom and homeland.
Films -- Live-Action
- Our Man Flint. The Galaxy organization has an anti-American eagle guarding its headquarters: it's trained to detect and attack Americans. After Flint destroys the Island Base, the last scene in the movie is the eagle soaring over it.
- The film The Nativity Story used a hawk to symbolize the Holy Spirit.
- The Animorphs use these morphs as their primary means of travel. Then of course there is Tobias who is now a red-tailed hawk in his natural form.
- Mercedes Lackey is very fond of birds in general, but particularly raptors. She even has a whole culture of people with avian Bond Creatures called the Hawkbrothers, although some of them have corvids or something more exotic.
- Larry Niven's short story Safe at Any Speed features an alien bird of prey large enough to swallow a flying car whole. Naturally, the people on that planet call it "the Roc".
- Stryk Redkite in the Redwall book Mattimeo.
- The Eagles in Lord of the Rings.
- David, Roland's hawk, in Stephen King's The Dark Tower.
- Jontom from the Spellsinger series once encountered an army of Talking Animal Big Badass Birds Of Prey, led and indoctrinated by a giant eagle (actually the Nazi emblem's eagle brought to life).
- Dirk Gently is harassed by a very large eagle in The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul. The creature turns out to be a British fighter pilot, who was transformed (plane included) by a passing thunder deity.
- Lady Jane in the Discworld novel Lords and Ladies, who takes down one of The Fair Folk. (The elf in question ordered her to kill Hodgesaargh, the falconer, without realising just how vicious and badly trained she was. She immediately went for the elf's throat.)
Hodgesaargh: She's does that to me too. Sorry about that. She's very intelligent...
- The Prophecy of the Stones has a group of them that guard Oonagh's cave, and in addition to being big scary birds they feed on fear.
- In Harry Potter, Ravenclaw's signature animal is an eagle.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story The Hour of the Dragon, the oracle has an eagle companion animal.
- In "The Scarlet Citadel", Conan catches up to Tsotha because an eagle dived at his horse, which threw Tsotha.
- Ice Falcon by Rita Ritchie, about a falconer's apprentice who travels to Iceland to capture a white gyrfalcon and ransom his father with it.
- The Lensmen universe has the Radeligian Cateagle, which isn't their official name but adequately sums up what they are a hybrid of. Though by no means pure bird they are easily capable of powered flight, they are fast, and they are lethal - all claws and fangs. They are approximately the same size as a man, and can kill humans with ease.
- The entire Guardians of Ga'Hoole series and the movie based on it. Mostly owls, but there are the two eagles, Streak and Zan.
- Played with in Dream Park: when the South Seas Treasure Game party is attacked by (holographic) Big Badass Birds, they act out this trope to the letter (Vertical Kidnapping included), except that instead of raptors, they're actually giant hornbills.
- The skraad in Cerberon are basically huge carrion birds resembling bearded vultures. When Aladavan severely pisses off Lama, she demonstrates their natural weapons are just as effective at rending living flesh as dead.
- Quite a few Animal Mecha from Super Sentai/Power Rangers. Notably Choujin Sentai Jetman uses aircraft mecha modeled after birds.
- Both the Romulans and Klingons in Star Trek have warships referred to as Birds of Prey. The Klingon one is pretty small but the Romulan one is massive and both are certainly badass. The Romulans are also associated with eagles, likely due to the parallels with the Roman Empire.
- When Tsuburaya Productions wants to torment their flagship character, they create bird monsters. Some of the most vicious were the Guts Aliens from Ultra Seven.
- Sharak in Beastmaster: The Series, who is extra-badass because he's also immortal.
- In the second season of Buck Rogers in The 25th Century, the crew was joined by an eagle-headed Badass, named Hawk. Originally out for Revenge, Hawk is definately a Big Badass Bird of Prey who pilots a starfighter which is also a Big Badass Bird of Prey. Even after Hawk and Buck become Fire-Forged Friends and Hawk joins the regular cast as a Magnificent Bastard, He's still a Big Badass Bird of Prey.
- The Hellion on the cover of Judas Priest's Screaming for Vengeance.
- Recurring theme on the album covers of Primal Fear.
- Europe's second album cover.
- Eluveitie, a folk metal band, has lots of songs about the historic struggles between the Gauls and the Roman empire. Eagles are sometimes used to represent the Roman enemy, a rare antagonistic case.
Mythology and Religion
- The giant bird Roc from Sinbad the Sailor.
- The Ramayana has two vultures that otherwise fit this role.
- The Ziz of Jewish mythology.
- In Revelation God is said to be surrounded by four, winged creatures covered with eyes constantly praising him. One of them is an eagle, and in some versions of The Bible it replaces an angel congratulating God for sending a plague.
- In The Kalevala, Väinämöinen is rescued from sea by Kokko the Giant Eagle.
- Louhi, the Mistress of Pohjola, transforms herself into one when chasing the Kalevans who have stolen the Sampo.
- Turul is a Saker Falcon in Hungarian Mythology, perched on the top of the World Tree. Statues of it can be found all over Hungary, with the largest having the wingspan of 15 meters.
- The Phoenix
- The Thunderbird
- The Greek play Agamemnon makes use of quite a bit of bird symbolism.
- In Shadow of the Colossus there is a hawk that seems to pop in and follow the protagonist from time to time. Apparently you can jump and hang from him in flight if you time it right.
- The Fifth Colossus is also modelled after a Big Badass Bird of Prey.
- Several Pokémon. They have a specific trainer class who uses them also.
- To be specific, there is Pidgey, Pidgeotto and Pidgeot, Spearow and Fearow, Hoothoot and Noctowl, Skarmory, Taillow and Swellow (based off swallows but with bird of prey aspects), Starly, Staravia and Staraptor, and probably more.
- How about the Legendary birds?
- Skarmory, who is a Chrome Champion.
- And now Braviary, which looks to be an actual eagle.
- In Kirby, there's Dynablade. A big bird that fights you fiercely, and she's a mom, too.
- There's also Falco and Captain Falcon from Nintendo.
- Mordecai's special skill in Borderlands is to summon his pet hawk, Bloodwing. Properly upgraded, Bloodwing is more dangerous while out than the player will ever be.
- Storm Eagle, Storm Owl, Blaze Heatnix, Wind Crowrang, and Mach Jentler from Mega Man X.
- And Jupiter in Mega Man V is this. FROM SPACE.
- Clockwerk, the Big Bad of first two Sly Cooper games.
- Nina has to fight one in Breath of Fire IV when she's shrunken down by the fairies.
- The Laguz of the Hawk tribe in Fire Emblem Tellius can transform into these, and are substantially larger then run of the mill birds of prey when they do.
- There's a reason why the Global Defense Initiative uses a swooping hawk as their emblem.
- The Aska summon in Tales of Phantasia.
- The Mighty Eagle of Angry Birds, which will One-Hit Kill every pig in the level. And most of the level architecture, as well.
- Dwarf Fortress features the giant eagle, which is tough enough to take down a group of recruits by itself. They are very annoying when they run wild, but if the elves bring some tamed ones with their caravans, they are just as useful. Rocs are even worse.
- The people of Skyloft in Skyward Sword commute using the help of large, eagle-like birds called Loftwings.
- Hunters in World of Warcraft can tame eagles as pets. They come with the racial ability Snatch, which damages and disarms targets for six seconds, very handy for fighting humanoids and other weapon-wielding foes, and even some raid bosses.
- Rocs, Thunderbirds and Phoenixes all show up in Heroes of Might and Magic, although the exact combination and just how badass they are depends on the game.
- In Strays, Feral gets a messenger hawk.
- Nahast: Lands of Strife contains the Hawk's Talon fighting style, the Hawk Maidens fighting order and the hawkfolk, a.k.a the Skrii'qek. The hawk is also the sacred animal of Zuze'en, the goddess of the dawn.
- The Fire Nation uses hawks as messenger birds.
- In Brother Bear, the main character's dead brother takes the form of a bald eagle as a spirit guide.
- The Hun leader's falcon in Mulan.
- Marahute in The Rescuers Down Under.
- A few Transformers have bird of prey alt modes. More prevalent in Beast Wars, for obvious reasons.
- BW Silverbolt stands out as being equal parts eagle and wolf.
- Buzzy, Dizzy, Ziggy, and Flaps from The Jungle Book, who are a quartet of vultures resembling The Beatles who help Mowgli fight Shere Khan at the end of the film.
- In the Thundercats 2011 episode "The Forest of Magi Oar" Giant Flyer Viragor is atypically depicted as an ignoble, territorial monster, haunting the titular forest, antagonizing travellers and the forest's protectors the Wood Forgers. Later it's revealed that he is the forests' ancient protector, while the wood forgers are opportunistic industrialists.
- In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash is presented with the possibility of having a falcon or an eagle as her pet, and indeed both make it to the final competition - a race through Ghastly Gorge. The falcon wins the race, but Rainbow's Exact Words dictated that whichever one crossed the finish line WITH HER would become her pet. Since Tank the tortoise was the only one to stop and help her after she was trapped by an avalanche, the falcon concedes defeat.
- The eagle was used as a national symbol by Rome, countries that claimed to be its heirs (Russia, the Holy Roman Empire, Turkey, the United States), and countries which inherited the symbolism from them in turn (Austria, Prussia, Germany)
- The only European Empire not to use the eagle was Great Britain, which picked the king of beasts instead.
- Played with by Hungary, pretty much every country that's invaded or otherwise subjugated them have used eagles as their symbol; in response Hungary uses a falcon.
- Mexico's eagle is actually of Aztec origin, hence it's preying on a snake over a cactus. It had a rather Romanesque pose during the time of the II Empire (1864-1867) and Porfirio Diaz's dictatorship (1881-1917), though.
- Folklore gives a different origin for Poland's white eagle.
- All of this imperial symbolism probably inspired the designers of Warhammer 40000 to pick the double-headed eagle for the Imperium of Man.
- The oldest archeological artefact of the double-headed eagle is Sumerian, circa 20th century BC. The double-headed eagle was a symbol of the The Byzantine Empire, with one head looking East (Constantinople) and one West (Rome). As symbol for the Holy Roman Empire, it represented Church and State. The Emperor of Mankind is known to be from central Anatolia (currently Turkey).
- Egypt's flag also has an eagle on it.
- Hawker Aircraft made a number of Cool Planes during World War II including the Hurricane which was the Royal Air Force's meat and potatoes and the Typhoon which was terrifying at close support and interdiction.
- Naturally, a lot of Cool Plane models are themselves named after this trope, fighters in particular.
- Subverted by the Swedish Air Force, who named their two major Cool Planes between the late 50s and late 80s "Draken" and "Viggen" - which means either "Dragon" and "Lightning bolt", or "(male) Mallard" and "Tufted duck".
- Hunting with trained falcons was once the favorite sport of nobility.
- Though, ironically, most hunting falcons are actually relatively small.
- Kazakhs at least hunt with eagles which they catch themselves climbing in the mountains.
- Haast's Eagle, the biggest eagle ever to have existed.
- The largest vulture ever Argentavis magnificens. It had a wingspan of 7 meters (23 feet for you non-metric people!), and may have been the inspiration for the myth of the thunderbird. Like all vultures, it was a scavenger, not an active hunter, but it's still not a creature most people would want to run into in a dark alley or anywhere else.
- Even today's condors, much smaller than A. magnificens, are pretty formidable critters.
- Several sports teams such as the Atlanta Hawks (basketball), the Baltimore Orioles, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Toronto Blue Jays (all baseball), the Philadelphia Eagles, the Baltimore Ravens, the Atlanta Falcons, the Seattle Seahawks, the Arizona Cardinals (all football), and the Atlanta Thrashers (now knows as the Winnipeg Jets) (hockey).
- The Philippine Eagle, one of the largest birds of prey in South East Asia and one of the national symbols of the country (possibly influenced by the USA.
- The Golden Eagle will attack Grizzly Bears, as demonstrated here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Y Waos Oa U Rf U
- Golden Eagles are so badass, that the Mongols regularly use them to hunt wolves!
- The Secretary Bird, despite the name looks like an vulture on stilts. They kill snakes and other animals by beating them to death.