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Local legends and lore: Myth or mistaken identity?

Donkey Lady or dog barking? Beware the wildlife sounds that feed your fear of moaning monsters.

By Dominique Silva

La Llorona, La Lechuza and the thunderbird have a long-standing history in San Antonio lore. But are they really monsters or misidentified birds, frogs and insects? Let’s explore and investigate together …

A female ghost known to dwell near waterways around San Antonio at night, La Llorona searches for her lost children while crying and screeching when someone approaches. Fun fact: Woman Hollering Creek in northeast San Antonio is named for her.

What if you’re not hearing a ghost near the water, but something not paranormal at all — like a frog or an insect? American bullfrogs and cicadas could be the source of the weeping and screeching.

The male cicadas produce sound by vibrating special membrane-like structures called tymbals on their abdomen.

One of the loudest insects in the world, male cicadas screeching can be very frightful in the night. It’s a mating call for female cicadas; each male species has its own call that only attracts the female of that species. And, American bullfrogs inhabit waterways, making loud human-like wailing and crying sounds to let other bullfrogs know it’s their territory or if they’re in distress.

For those unfamiliar with these wildlife sounds, wandering at night near waterways can be downright spooky — and feed the fear of moaning monsters.

La lechuza, known locally in San Antonio and throughout Mexico, is believed to be a witch in owl form. With an owl-like pale face and deep black eyes, la Lechuza is said to stalk people from trees, vacant buildings, and rooftops.

People claim la lechuza doesn’t hoot like an owl, but instead screeches loudly before flying at you. Rather than an owl-like witch, it could be an actual owl — the American barn owl. Native to San Antonio, they have one of the scariest screeches in the world, and their pale white face with deep black eyes is unlike like any other owl.

The thunderbird, aka the big bird, has been spotted in the San Antonio area for several decades. Some people report seeing a bird soaring in the sky over vehicles and homes, with a magnificent wingspan and dark feathers. While many hawks, falcons and buzzards in varying sizes call San Antonio home, the size people report seems to be much larger — from three to five feet tall with a wingspan of more than six feet!

What bird could they possibly be seeing? Well, there are two types of eagles that can migrate to San Antonio: The Bald Eagle and golden eagle.

Both have have similar traits with dark feathers, depending on their age: tall in stature with a massive wingspan. One of these could be the monster bird people have reported seeing …

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Guest Author
Our Guest Authors are fantastic former SAWS employees, incredible interns and community leaders in the local landscaping world. They are all as passionate as we are about saving water with beautiful, diverse landscapes.
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