The Mirjah (both singular and plural) is a small common bird incapable of flight, from the mid and south regions of the Kingdom of Santharia, and a true culture bird, always to be found in the presence of man, be they elf, dwarf, hobbit or human, from wich they scavenge food and other necessities, such as nesting material, aided by their speed and incredible jumping abilities to avoid both predators and anyone trying to salvage what just has been taken from right under their noses.
The Mirjah is mainly small, fast, and colourful, giving the impression of a
bird-mouse crossbreed as they flit around just to
fast to be seen in detail. The Mirjah stands only about 5
nailsbreath high, (although
some large males may manage all the way to 6, which are considered true giants)
and measure about 6 nailsbreath
from beak to tail. Its wings are even smaller, never reaching beyond half its
body size. As a result the Mirjah is ground-bound, unable to do more than making
rather high jumps, up to nearly two
fores. Its wings are, in
adults, always brightly coloured with blue, green, or in rare cases a peculiar
shade of deep purple bands. Males also sport a vivid red, yellow or white patch
on top of their head, where their feathers grow slighty longer, and gain a
tendency to curl upward during mating season.
The Mirjah has a sharp, short, but strong beak, lined with sharp ridges on the inside. Its feet are adorned with serrated small claws on each toe, allowing the bird to climb and hold on to many things other birds would not be able to.
As noted before, the Mirjah is a great jumper, and this, combined with its
considerable speed have enabled it to escape its predators, such as
cats and snakes.
Another ability worth noting is their song, which may vary from swift, high pitched tunes and chittering, to a complicated warbling song, so high that very few people are able to hear it. It is said they sing this song to call in peace and comfort to their homes, and that any house occupied by singing Mirjah will not suffer pest plagues or disease. However, any magical properties of this little creature have not been confirmed by research, and most scholars believe the protective properties of the Mirjah song is nothing but a myth.
Territory. Mirjah birds are common in almost all permanent settlements south of Rimmerins Ring. Also, several isolated populations can be found in Parda, Milkengrad, Naios, Thyslan, Carmalad, and throughout the island of Dhoranthakar. Only those villages deep within the woods are never populated, since the birds lack of flight turns them into a quick meal for the forest’s predators, while their speed is impaired by the fact that enemies now often come from above, instead of from the side, like most do in the more open areas.
Habitat/Behaviour. This is where the Mirjah are rather different from most birds. Instead of living in the wild, each and every Mirjah documented lives within a house, shed, or other man-made structures. There they make an oddly shaped nest in any usable crevice or hollow area, often within a reed roof, under a closet, or even inside a seldom used cooking pot. The nest is made from just about any bit of soft material they can find, be it loose feathers from other birds, dried grass and leaves, or stolen bits from the occupants' clothing, curtains, or bedwear, torn loose with their sharp, prying beaks. The odd shape is the result of its contruction. Starting with just one globular nest used for sleeping and breeding, it is expanded with several smaller resting places fit for one or two birds within one or two years, as the tiny colony grows by the addition of juvenile nestlings.
In this nest, the main couple will live together with all of their offspring under two years of age. Each year, the oldest young leave the nest, at which time the males leave the house, but the females start looking for a place of their own, provided the population hasn’t become too dense yet. Once that happens, all following young leave the house.
Fortunately enough for the more humanoid inhabitants, death rates among young birds are high. Two out of five of the young live until they are ready to leave the nest forever, but only one in twenty young lives long enough to produce more than one nest of their own offspring. Part of the reason for this is that they are rather shortlived, dying usually at the age of 6 or 7 years in even the safest of environments. Another large death factor is their lack of flight, causing many young birds to get into places they cannot get back out of, where they die.
In case the nest is destroyed, or removed, the Mirjah couple will often move to another building before building a new nest. This is a practice often used by people to get rid of unwanted Mirjahs in their home, or to control their numbers by removing the nests of excess offspring.
Mirjah are not easily scared. Taught by their parents what animals and situations to avoid, at a later age they often grow brave enough to try and take things from right under peoples' noses, even stealing food from their plates. They are also known to drive away mice from the homes they inhabit by flocking them with the entire family, and pursuing them even down their own holes.
Diet. Mirjah eat all sorts of things. They gather seeds from plants found around the house they occupy, steal things from the trash, plunder badly closed storage cabinets, and eat all kinds of insects, spiders, and the like. The diet varies depending on where the bird lives, as one can imagine, city Mirjah rely more on trash and bugs than those on the country, who feed mainly on seeds and ‘wild’ food. Another difference between urban and country birds is the gathering of food for the winter period. While country Mirjah often stockpile fair amounts of seeds and other durable food to make through the cold season, most city birds have abandoned the habit, due to the year-round steady supply of food available to them.
Mating. The Mirjah mate for life in their second year, as in the Month of the Singing Bird the young males travel around the area looking for available females, while singing the same tune repeatedly in every house or stable they enter. Children have over time adapted the song of the searching Mirjah, resulting in various songs and rhymes, such as the Bird Counting Song found in Dasai. Once they find a potential partner, who has by then decided on a suitable nesting site, the male starts collecting as many bits and scraps of soft material as it can find, often braving the inhabitants of the house they live in to get to their clothing, and stores all of it at the nest-in-progress.
If the female is satisfied with quantity, speed, and quality of the materials collected, she will start building the nest, usually accompanied by her new mate once enough material has been amassed. Upon completion of the main nest, the couple mates, often more than once during two or three days. After nine days, up to six eggs are laid, usually consisting of one or two female, and four to five male eggs, wich are then incubated for two more weeks. The chicks are born blind, but feathered, and will gradually develop into little fluffy featherballs able to follow their parents around during the first three days. In times of plenty, Mirjah are known to produce an additional nest, often during the end of Burning Heavens.
People and the Mirjah. The relationship Mirjah have with their hosts varies from place to place. Some think of them as pests, nothing better than the mice they drive away from the house, while others believe they are to be preferred over mice, since they don't smell, leave less droppings, and rarely ever turn into a plague. Others still believe them to be a good omen, and that a house with Mirjah is less likely to suffer misfortune. Of course, cat-lovers will more often than not be unable to enjoy these little fellows, at their pets tend to make short work of most Mirjah trying to colonise their home while the cat is around.
The hobbits of the Elenveran Shire in particular like the little birds, and often reserve small corners for their nests, shielding them off and providing nesting material. Some families even feed their 'pet' birds with leftovers. This prevents the birds from scavenging the house for nesting material and stealing the hobbits food from their supplies, and frees the hobbits from mice, who are less easily detained from their pillaging.
The southern humans in the border cities of the Ráhaz'Dáth tolerate the birds, claiming the ability to ward off mice is valuable enough to allow them to eat some bits of what the mice would have taken. The Shendar on the other hand are usually unfamiliar with the birds. While recently captured Mirjah, living in cages, have become more popular amongst the desert people, they rarely live long in captivity, nor do they reproduce.
The Avennorians and Serphelorians have widely varying stances on the birds, ranging from total prosecution, to the more tolerant ways of the Stratanians.
Eyelians on the other hand have a more hobbit-like take on the Mirjah. Using their legendary animal skills, Eyelians are the only tribe able to train them as pets. In fact, some have taken on control of a whole Mirjah clan of up to twenty individuals, house them in mobile nests, usually on a wagon, and travel around to rid other folk of mice plagues.