Toruk, the Na’vi name for this creature, translates as “last shadow,” reflecting the belief that if this magnificent flying carnivore casts its shadow over you, that shadow will be the last you ever see. The Na’vi regard the toruk as one of Eywa’s greatest creations. The animal is honored in the Hometree of the Omatikaya clan by a totem built around a toruk skull. Ceremonial dances and songs endow the toruk with mythic power and significance and reflect the Na’vi’s fear and respect for the species. The few humans lucky enough to have survived seeing a toruk on the wing can only marvel at the creature’s grace and command of the Pandoran sky.
The leonopteryx also has an impressive rate of climb and, when it plummets out of the sky, resembles a massive Terran hawk. Its wingspan can exceed 100 ft (30m). The toruk’s preferred prey are mountain banshees. However, this solo hunter has also been known to attack aircraft piloted by humans, probably believing that these strange vehicles pose a threat to its supremacy in the air.
In rare instances, one of the Na’vi manages to link with a toruk. This has only happened during tumultuous eras. The Na’vi who accomplishes this is given the title Toruk Makto or “Rider of the Last Shadow.” Only someone with a pure soul can ride a toruk; some brave but foolish Na’vi have tried to link and perished. It is said that whenever the Na’vi face seemingly insurmountable odds, a Toruk Makto will appear. Neytiri tells Jake that her grandfather’s grandfather was the last. As Toruk Makto he united the clans “in a time of great sorrow.”