|Official Name||Black Feather|
|Common Nicknames||Bard Bird, Bird for Hire|
The Black Feather is a thick-feathered songbird native to the Regalian Archipelago and, more recently, some parts of the wider Corontium. They are known predominantly for their limited ability to imitate human language, which makes them highly distinguishable despite their unassuming appearance. Though they are often dismissed as an odd choice of pet, eccentric nobles have made a practice of domesticating them to employ their mimicry as a quaint party trick.
Historical records of the Black Feather are numerous, dating as far back as the Five Family Rebellion. There, they were used as rudimentary messenger birds which could mimic simple codewords and phrases while being inconspicuous enough to travel undetected. It would appear that Black Feathers have always lived on the Regalian Archipelago and enjoyed something of peaceful coexistence with Ailor society. Though not meaty enough to provide good game, they were adaptable enough to inhabit the increasingly industrial Ailor settlements throughout the first and second centuries. During these years, the Black Feather experienced a boom in population, finding that a vast majority of their natural predators were driven out as the Regalian Empire expanded its reach. This allowed the bird to spread to Etosil, Talamoor, and The Azoras; effectively encompassing the entirety of Corontium.
With their increasing prevalence and population growth coinciding with the Regalian Empire’s own, the presence of Black Feathers in folklore has become increasingly more prominent. Early fables depict them as harbingers of prophecy; representing the idea that great and important things can appear in unassuming forms. Over time this idea mutated into the danger of trusting false prophecies, particularly during the Regalian Pessimism, where their role in stories became that of deceptive tricksters. Nowadays, they are considered much more benign; sometimes viewed as pests, harmless birds, or curiosities.
Black Feathers are small in frame and can reach three and a half inches in height at adulthood, with an average wingspan of six inches. They are easily identified by their striking white eyes. Their talons are short, and they are believed to be generally harmless to humans; preferring to eat bugs and large insects, they instead use their small, sharp black beak on their heads. The Black Feather’s small, rotund body is covered in sleek, violet-glossed black plumage which thins to pin-feathers at the tail, making them exceptionally light in terms of weight. Their ability to mimic sounds is owed to a special fold above the lungs, which allows them to adjust the flow of air to replicate human speech. The Black Feathers’ natural voices are weak chirps and caws, but the birds are frequently observed replicating human chatter. This can either be as plain as a distant, unintelligible conversation or as alarming as a human shriek.
The physical dimorphism between male and female Black Feathers is minimal, and they are roughly equal in distribution. Males boast a light patch of feathers on their chest, with similarly light-colored claws. Females, meanwhile, are dark-colored all over and typically about an inch or two taller than males. The primary difference between the two comes to voices: Males are significantly louder and more talkative, which is important during mating, while females are more chipper and high-pitched.
Life Span and Development
Black Feather songbirds are rather ordinary in terms of conception. Like most other birds they are born in batches between two to seven small black-speckled eggs, and upon hatching, spend their childhood relying on their mother for food. After three weeks, they leave the nest and remain in the same general area for most of their adolescence. Rarely have Black Feathers been observed leaving their flocks, which travel as groups and are highly communal. When it comes time to breed, male Black Feathers competing for the same mate will engage in highly unique battles of song, where they shout at each other using their entire vocabulary of learned sounds until one yields. The eggs hatch a week or so in, with both the males and females taking turns incubating and singing to the unhatched eggs. It is unknown what the significance of this ritual is, but it has been adopted by superstitious Ailor mothers, who will sing for their children when expecting. Black Feathers live for a meager four to six years in the wild but can survive for a staggering thirty years in captivity.
When considering other birds of the Archipelago, Black Feathers are astonishingly social creatures. They are known to fearlessly nest in the heart of metropolitan areas, where they will eagerly hound tavern patrons for free food. Because of their characteristic ability to mimic noises they have heard, including human speech, the Black Feather is typically humored as a fascinating commodity of urban life; being talked at by passersby, who they will then imitate in hopes of being fed. Because of this they are exceptionally easy to tame and are kept as pets by some nobility. They are known to collect trinkets to build into their nests when living in Regalian cities, or webs, twigs, and leaves in the wild, where the females will lay their eggs.
Territory and Groupings
Their status as socialite birds extends to each other, as Black Feathers are known to congregate in large flocks known as ‘Choirs’. They are generally very willing to share territories and even nests, save during mating season.
- While uncommon, thugs and highwaymen have been known to domesticate Black Feathers to act as personal motivators. They will train the bird to yell in support during verbal altercations.
- Black Feathers have a known affinity for shiny objects, such as coins. This has led many to dub them as ‘Bard Birds’ or ‘Birds for Hire’, as they will sing and speak in exchange for regals.
- Avid bird watchers will frequently venture into the wild during Black Feather mating season to witness their competitions, and make bets on who they think will be the winner.