If the Avengers had Birds

The movie, The Avengers, appeared in theaters on May 4. Photo: Marvel Comics

I love comic-based movies and have seen almost every superhero flick to date, the most recent being The Avengers. Yet what interested me wasn’t the plot—it’s your typical “save the world” type of scenario—but rather the range of personalities among the heroes; Iron Man is a self-obsessed genius; the Hulk is a scientist with a personality disorder; and Captain America is your typical good ol’ boy. So it got me wondering (most likely because I work at Audubon and most definitely because I’m a nerd): if the Avengers had avian sidekicks, what species would they be? We’ve studied these stars and picked their avian counterparts.

One of two captive bald eagles at the Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort, KY. Photo: Pen Waggener / CC BY 2.0

Captain America
He’s the perfect super soldier, a living symbol of the United States. What better bird to pair him with than the bald eagle? This raptor is the national bird of the United States and uses its powerful talons to catch fish (though it’s also known for scavenging its meals from other animals). Like Captain America, the bald eagle had its own run-in with chemicals—though they hindered its survival rather than enhanced it. Pesticides such as DDT weakened its egg shells and limited its ability to reproduce. However, the bald eagle has rebounded and is now flourishing in locations from Florida to Alaska.

Red-tailed hawk in Morriston, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Matthew / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Known for his keen sight and ability with a bow, we’ve chosen the red tailed hawk to pair with this superhero. This raptor is a highly efficient hunter, able to spot something as small as a mouse from almost a half mile away (that’d come in handy for an archer!). Known for its ability to soar, the red tailed hawk usually keeps aloft before swooping in toward its prey— fighting tactics that Hawkeye employs during his own battles.

Southern cassowary. Photo: Tim Williams /CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Hulk
Finding a bird that encompasses all of the Hulk’s traits is nearly impossible, but we’ve come as close as we can, picking the aggressive (and colorful) southern cassowary. Inhabiting Australia’s rainforests and New Guinea, this bird is both large and flightless. However, it’s far from defenseless. When threatened, it kicks out with its powerful feet, and can injure or even kill humans with its sharp, dagger-shaped claw on its inside toe. The bird is also fast, reaching up to 25 mph at a sprint.

 Green winged macaw at the entrance to Tropiquaria, UK. Photo: Dave Rogers / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Iron Man
Both flashy and smart, Iron Man is known for being a bit of a party animal. We’ve paired him with the brilliantly colored macaw. Both an intelligent and social bird, the macaw is found in parts of Central and South America. It uses different vocalizations to communicate with others of its species, and can manipulate objects with its versatile toes—certainly an asset for the tinkering scientist.

Golden eagle in controlled conditions at the Rocky Mountain Raptor Environmental Learning Center, Ft. Collins, Colorado. Photo: Jim Crotty / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A god in his own right, Thor is best known for his rivalry with his younger brother, Loki. That’s why we’ve chosen the golden eagle to serve as a sidekick to our favorite, hammer-wielding hero. Like the bald eagle, the golden eagle is known to compete with its siblings for food from their parents. A powerful hunter, the golden eagle can dive on its quarry at speeds of up to 150 mph.

Raven living at the Randall Museum in San Francisco. Photo: hep / CC BY-NC-ND

Black Widow
Although she doesn’t technically have any super powers, Black Widow uses her specialized training and her agility to assist the team. That’s why we’ve chosen the raven as her bird. This acrobatic flier has been seen soaring upside down for more than a half-mile. It also is commonly seen performing rolls and somersaults, and juveniles often pick up sticks and drop them, only to dive down and retrieve them in midair.

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