A rare and beautiful species of the Scattersand Shoals, the Dragonbird is as mysterious as it is colourful. Found only in the deepest jungle territories, they enjoy long lives amongst the treetops. Possessing a keen intellect, and capable of being trained for various purposes, they are highly sought after as exotic pets to the wealthy but their rarity and remote habitat ensures such uses are the exception rather than the rule.
Appearance. Standing over one ped tall, sometimes reaching one and a half peds, the Dragonbird is a formidable size. Added to that, a tail as long as their body and a wingspan reaching upwards of three peds, it seems mysterious such a large creature can be so elusive.
|Image description. A magnificent male fire-red Dragonbird of the jungles of the Scattersand Shoals. Picture drawn by Tikanni Corazon.|
Despite their size, a slender, almost reptilian body, makes them graceful and
agile, able to navigate spaces much smaller than expected. When they're not
flying, their rounded wings fold up neatly, and they use their tail for balance,
creating a sleek, elegant frame most suitable to the dense jungle habitat they
are found in.
Silky, highly coloured feathers grow over most of their body. Their legs and the diamond-shaped tip of the tail are the exception, covered instead with tiny iridescent scales, tough but smooth to the touch. Their feet end in long talons, sharp to provide a strong grip on slippery branches and for grasping food.
A long neck leads to a surprisingly unthreatening head, lending itself much more towards a domestic bird than the draconic beasts they inherit part of their name from. A golden crest a top of their head grows throughout their mature years, getting thicker and more elaborate in shape and design as they age. Large, gentle eyes, usually of various shades of blue and green (and occassionally purple or violet) belie some of their intelligence. Their ochre coloured beaks are modest in size, but still sharp and capable of both violent stabbing for hunting prey, as well more delicate work such as prising open nutshells and snapping up small insects.
Aside from colouration, differences between males and females are minimal. The females tend to be slightly larger, and have green or blue plumage, while males are typically red or orange, and occassionally a bright pink. With such colour variation between the sexes telling them apart is very simple, although this is only true in the adult bird. Dragonbird chicks are all born completely white, and it's only as they fledge their colour appears. Some of this white colouring, particularly with females, can remain throughout adulthood on the throat and breast.
Special Abilities. The need for speed and manoeuvrability through the forests in which they live, means that the Dragonbirds' wings are designed for such flight. They have large, rounded wings, allowing them to swoop easily and gracefully through the canopy.
Dragonbirds have a unique call, a complex melody, comprising of several seperate tones produced at once and mingled into one. Research is being done in to their song, enquiring whether it might almost be varied enough to be considered a language; it certainly seems to play a crucial role in communication between one another.
|Image description. A typical adult female Dragonbird with its bright blue plumage. Picture drawn by Tikanni Corazon.|
Mating pairs use a distinct and very loud, deep throaty call, capable of
travelling for many miles even in the warm damp
air of the jungle, to stay in touch when out hunting, or seperated for
whatever reason. The cries are unique to each bird, making it easy for them to
distinguish the cries of their mates, from all other Dragonbirds.
During the mating season, and occasionally (when opportunity presents itself) throughout the year, Dragonbirds add meat to their mainly fruit and insect based diet. Due to their bright colouring, which makes it difficult for them to camouflage themselves, they will hunt for meat at night. They have keen night vision, and intellect, enabling them to devise and enact impressive ambush hunting techniques. Remains of hobbit deer, monkeys and other game have been found next to carefully piled stacks of berries, and fruits thought placed there by the Dragonbirds to act as a kind of bait, where they can silently swoop down onto their stationary prey without risking a dangerous night flight through unfamiliar parts of the jungle. Their nocturnal hunting means this behaviour has yet to be witnessed in its entirety although some Dragonbirds have been spotted (unusually) on the forest floor, piling up the fruits.
Territory. Dragonbirds are thought exclusive to just a small part of Sarvonia, around the islands of the Scattersand Shoals in the far south, several hundred strals off the coast of Strata. Although they have been sighted flying between most of the islands, nesting sites have only been discovered on the largest island, Aiden, where their favoured deep jungle habitat is most prevalent. It is here where the trees grow much taller, creating a dense canopy for easy nesting, and also block out sunlight from reaching the forest floor thus making the undergrowth much less dense and easier to fly through.
There's a good chance they may be found deep in other areas sharing similar climates, such as the Jungles of Shar, in the southwest of Nybelmar.
Habitat/Behaviour. Dragonbirds inhabit the tropical forests of Aidan. They make their nests in the upper layers of the canopy, giving them shelter and height as some protection for their eggs and young from the larger predators. Snakes, monkeys and other meat-eating tree climbers still threaten them, so the nest will always remain protected by one of the adults.
They prefer to nest in trees which have growths of white flowers, providing extra camouflage for their pure white chicks. Examples include the waterfruit tree (which comes with the added benefit of attracting a large supply of shimmerwings, a tasty snack for a hungry Dragonbird chick, or even a bored adult) and any tree with a flowering flaming star vine entwined around it.
Finding food is usually not a problem for the Dragonbird, as they jungle canopy provides a wealth of fruits, and insects forming the large part of their diet. They will hunt for meat during the mating season, and these hunts take place at night, when the jewel-like colouration of the bird's plumage is hidden. They use their incredible night vision, to track down and ambush prey
Mating pairs spend most of their time in the inner forests, rather than venturing out towards the coastal regions or the other island. With their canopy home providing all that they need to survive, and their one egg or chick requiring constant protection they devote all their time to maintaining their home. It is the young adults, particularly the males still without a mate, that are seen soaring high between the islands, or hopping curiously amongst rock pools or the palm trees on the other islands. Their intelligence fills them with an insatiable curiosity when young, constantly looking for distractions and new discoveries. An older male may occassionaly be spotted flying to an old haunt from his younger days, to acquire a favoured type of fruit or other food type to return to his mate with. The showing off of such discoveries appears to strengthen the bond between them in much the way the initial offering of meat attracted her when they first paired up.
Dragonbirds are scarce, and, aside from their mates and young, they rarely come into contact with any other Dragonbirds. When this does happen, however, they tend to behave peacefully towards one another, so long as the visiting bird does not intend to steal territory, or pose a threat to the young birds. Any implied threat will be responded to with a warning call at first. If this warning is not heeded, they will launch an attack, using their talons and beaks as weapons, as they would with any other intruder. The fact they recognise a member of their own species enough to offer a warning first, when usually they just attack, lends further credence to their natural intelligence.
Though they are, on occasion, kept as domestic pets, in the wild, Dragonbirds are large and require a lot of upkeep. Without a mate, they can become very restless and anxious in captivity requiring constant care, and a wide variety of activities to keep them distracted and entertained. If they are caught young, and trained well they can become fiercely loyal companions and protectors capable of following a wide range of commands.
Mating. The mating season, for Dragonbirds, takes place after the seasonal heavy rainfall, so as to cause the least amount of disruption to nest building.
Dragonbirds mate for life. Though they are mainly a fruit-eating bird, the male will attract a life mate, using a fresh kill of flittermouse, rabbit, or other choice meat, which becomes a necessary part of their diet for building strength and body fat during the mating season.
Each year at the start of the mating seasion, the female will gorge on meat to grow a thick fold of fat that hangs down from her stomach almost to her feet, covered in a soft down. This will be used to later incubate the egg.
A single egg is laid per season, pale blue in colour with lilac speckles, and this will be incubated for around nine weeks by the female; carefully balanced on her feet and surrounded by the specially grown fold to stay dry in the humid jungle air. Should anything happen to the egg before it is hatched, some females have been observed with a second egg later in the season, but young from such eggs tend to be weaker and less likely to survive to adulthood.
During the incubation period, the male will work to build a special nest, just for the chick, constructed out of mud, saliva and strong, flexible sticks. Over the top, a limit roof of waterproof leaves is woven in to stop it dissolving in the frequent downpours. The nest is roughly circular in shape, approximately a fore across and has only one entrance, through which the parent birds will first line the interior with feathers and soft mosses and later push the newly hatched chick through. Once safe and secure in the nest they can both work to feed the chick, passing a diet of fruit and insects through the entrance for it.
The chick will fledge at around eight months old, breaking through the nest as it grows and no longer requires its protection, but will remain near its parents until fully mature at the age of eighteen months, when it will leave and seek out a mate of its own.
Usages. Owing to the rarity and therefore expense of acquiring anything from a Dragonbird, their basic usages are minimal. There are no common receipts for their meat, as to waste the life of such a beautiful creature for only a few meals, not to mention the expense means it simply isn't done. The same goes for their eggs, although it's likely they are as tasty as any egg if you were desperate. Their feathers make only average quills, being either excessively large from the outer wing, or too hard and unyielding nearer the chest and legs where their scales begin. Only a few feathers near the centre are any real use as a quill. An intricate arrangement of Dragonbird scales glued to the outside of a pot or bowl makes for a very strong, and decorative coating, but again very expensive.
Myth/Lore. Dragonbirds, along with a lot of the native life in the Scattersand Shoals, all add to the tales of hauntings arising from the islands. Their strange, multi-tonal calls create distorted echoes amongst the trees, spreading out for long distances.
Short extract from the Ghosts of Scattersands, by
- "Do you hear that?
- "That noise, it came from the trees. Ol' Baraj was right, these islands are haunted!"
- "Shut your mouth and keep digging, Cap'n wants this stuff buried before sundown."
rough looking men turned back to their shovels as they dug into the sand on the
shore of Aiden, one of the islands in the
Scattersand Shoals. Long shadows
spread out on to the beach, as the sun lowered behind the backdrop of jungle
which spread right to the edge of the sand. Some distance into the trees, a lone
female Dragonbird stretched her long neck and called out again for her mate, the
hallowing cry piercing the evening mist beginning to settle over the jungle.
They also contributed to the stories of monsters and other deadly creatures as they were spotted flying between islands, their large profile seeming much more threatening than their character and not easily dismissed as a gull or 'large' eagle.
It has become something of ambition amongst some of the wealthiest families in South Sarvonia, to own a trained pair of mated Dragonbirds. Aside from the prestige from such incredibly rare pets, the belief goes that for as long as the Dragonbird pair remain together, so too will the couple that own them. As Dragonbirds mate for life, and can expect to live for well over thirty years in captivity if treated well, the commitment suggested by a husband buying such a gift for his wife is considered a great sign of their long term love. The current Mayor of Marcogg (newly married) is well known to be on the market for such.
Researchers. Most of our knowledge of Dragonbirds derives from the work of Genani Tallclimber Ra'nouf, an Eyelian who left her native land and ventured south. She settled in the Scattersand Shoals and researched their varied animal life. G.T. R. is widely respected for the dangerous expeditions she undertook to get close to the subjects of her studies.