Owls are birds that have long been part of Aloria and the lives of Humans, whether in the Far East among the Sihai or the cold north among the Velheim Ailor. These elegant nocturnal creatures have often been attached to knowledge and intellect, but are also fierce hunters thanks to a variety of bodily adaptations that help them thrive at the top of many food chains. They are uncommon due to their short lifespan and high mortality rate as young birds, but still cast a regal figure when found perched in trees.
Owls have long been a feature of Cultures and Races across Aloria, with many points of reference and appearance over the years. The most well known is the relation Owls have had with the Velheim people of Aloria. Within their terrain, three types of the bird have flourished: the White Owl, Brown Owl, and Throatcapswald War Owl. Over time, each came to represent different aspects and connections to wisdom, winter, and hunting, given the traits of each animal. In addition, more well known (though largely only for the oddness of them) are Owls in Sihai Culture. Owls were once far more common in distant Zhong, as indicated by ancient pieces of artwork, but the region's constant warfare has repeatedly negatively impacted their populations. It has not helped that, as symbols of knowledge and wisdom, they were sought after for the creation of elixers and more to give their powers to others. Finally, it should be noted the total lack of Owls within Altalar society. This has confused some, considering the ancient history of the Altalar and the Allorn Empire, but most point out that despite being such an old people, Daen lacks species of Owl, as do most of the regions around the continent that the Altalar visited most often. Today Owls retain a connotation with intelligence, especially with those who know of the Sihai. But for Velheim and similarly pagan Cultures, they often have much more meaning behind them.
Owls have a diverse range of appearances and size, though many fall on the large scale of the bird kingdom in Aloria. Most tend to have a height of a foot and a quarter to two feet in height with wingspans from between three to four feet, while weights are heavily varied between the time of year and species. Their most notable feature is their heads, which have two large eyes framed in a generally clear face before a small or large pale beak rests beneath. Their heads are unique for being able to turn almost 270 degrees, a skill in the animal kingdom that few creatures can match. Due to their tubular rather than round-shaped eyes, which provides an inability to move them around as much, having the ability to quickly turn their head at a much wider range is imperative for their survival. Their bodies in composition have a prominent flat chest that runs down to a pair of large, grasping talons on their feet. The animal’s body is covered in feathers, while its wings are similarly covered, but instead of just normal plumage, special plumage exists to help dampen their flight. This allows them silence when gliding down onto prey, an extremely useful skill that they make frequent use of. Additionally, their flight is aided by unique bones suited to the task, like many birds have.
As mentioned above, the Owl is a diverse animal. In its spread across Aloria, subspecies have emerged on continents to suit a variety of different needs or climates. In general, their population numbers are equal between the two sexes. Below is a listing of the various subspecies of Owl in Aloria.
- Brown Owl: The Brown Owl is a medium-sized species of Owl native to northern areas of Aloria, though not as north-bound as the White Owl. They are marked out by their “horns” of feathers that proceed diagonally out and up from the sides of the head on either side. Their colorations are routinely in shades of brown, but light patterns of grey can leak into their color scheme, especially in older age. They tend to have a more grizzled and wild look than other species, which often earns them the title as the “elders” of the various Owl species. They are best known by the Velheim as representing the will of the gods as a messenger creature, but also as a symbol of the Union of Earth.
- White Owl: The White Owl, similar to the Brown Owl, is a northbound species, and is well known for living in snowy climates like northern Ellador, Cain and areas of Drowda. The animal is on the large end of Owl size possibilities and is covered in white plumage that helps it to blend into the snowy landscape. When younger they have a great number of dark spots and patches of black feathers on their bodies which fad with age, though many females retain their dark patterning, especially on the chest region. They are most commonly related to the Union of Air in Velheim Culture, though with their mixed color palette of black and white, they are commonly seen to represent the mix of Void and Exist that exists within the Sihndar.
- Throatcapswald War Owl: The Throatcapswald War Owl is a species of Owl very well known within the Regalian Empire as a symbol of Drixagh and the ancient Skagger Horde that once dominated the region, though it can only be found within the Throatcapswald (a major forest in Drixagh). The creature is the most unique out of all the Owl species due to its fine silvery coat of feathers with dark patterning around their eyes and chest that often gets exaggerated in artwork. They also have lengthy tail feathers that form a light train on their bodies when they walk around, though they do not hinder the creature’s hunting ability. The animal is most commonly associated with the Union of Air thanks to its role as a warrior creature. It is well known for its fierce disposition and aggression against those who violate its territory, especially their nests.
- Tytan Owl: The Tytan Owl has perhaps the widest spanning population in Aloria, being far more common in temperate forests from northern Ithania to Essalonia, and once in Ceardia before that continent’s destruction. They are most well known for their striking black eyes contained within a pale heart-shaped face. This paleness continues on their whole underbelly, though their backs and wings are often of varying tones of beige or brown, with light speckling across the chest. They cohabitate alongside humans mostly, often living in barns or other rural structures and serving as useful rodent deterrents. They are most associated with knowledge by the common people of Aloria and in particular, Anglia, though the Ceardians also attached them to a number of knowledge and thought-based creatures. They are also the species most commonly domesticated.
- Dark-Eyed Owl: The Dark-Eyed Owl is a unique Owl native to Zhong believed by many to be an offshoot of the Tytan Owl species. They possess the same heart-shaped face but have large dark brown streaks that run along the inside of the face, creating the impression of two large, far more vertical eyes than they actually possess, in addition to two small bumps at the top of their faceplate. They are also far smaller than most Tytan Owls and have a more beige and brown tone to their bodies than the pales shades seen on that other species. They are perhaps the rarest out of all Owl species as they have been periodically overhunted in the wild and spend many years recovering. However, domesticated ones can be found scattered across the whole of the continent.
Life Span and Development
Owls are laid in clutches of anywhere from two to eight pale eggs with brown speckles. Owl chicklets emerge with pale down fluff all over their bodies and take several months to develop their proper flight feathers while fully shedding this fluffy down. During that time, they are referred to as fledglings and gradually leave the nest, learning about extending their wings and such. Some occasionally fall to the forest floor where their fates are varied, from the gentle to the grizzly. Generally by eight months old an Owl chicklet has sufficiently matured to fly and help hunt, which it does by observing and from guidance by a parent. By the age of one, an Owl has fully matured and is capable of departing to seek a mate of their own, which many do promptly. Among Throatcapswald War Owls though, this often lags and ends up being two to three years due to the familial inclination of that species. When an Owl eventually finds a mate, they are a pair with for life. The birds live together in a nest, and the female may give birth at most twice in a year depending on climate conditions. Owls tend to live short lives, most only surviving some five to seven years in the wild. In domesticated conditions though, the animal can live as long as fifteen years.
The Owl is a bird with a unique mental state and is generally thought to be one of the more intelligent animals in the world. Primary evidence for this is their entire hunting technique, a highly developed skill that puts them up with the best of the raptor birds. First, the animal is nocturnal, and thus operates under the cover of darkness. Next, its body is uniquely adapted to hunt silently and to detect sound excellently. Finally, it appears to be a highly developed consumer with a unique digestive method. Rather than consuming and fully digesting all parts of its prey, it instead clusters fur and bones together into regurgitated pellets, while consuming the majority of the flesh and nutritious bits for itself. The animal’s visage also helps to cast it as intelligent, as unlike most other birds, its humanoid appearance with eyes and a “nose” with “ears” on a few of the species give off the impression of intellect. Among the Velheim, they say that their wide faces help them to hear the words of the world and the gods, and while the traditions are somewhat different among other Cultures, they all ultimately agree on the creature’s capabilities to understand things that Humans do not. As for their nature, they are generally stoic and silent creatures, but are kind to their spouse and offspring, which they help teach flight to and feed them during this learning time.
Territory and Groupings
Owls are generally solitary creatures unless they mate, in which case a nest is shared between the pairing. The animal operates in a relatively large territory that often encompasses wooded areas (a favorite hunting ground) but Owls living out in rural farmlands often make do with hunting in open fields.
- Owls are a common element incorporated into the standards of various northern Houses of the Regalian Empire.
- Some believe that there was a species of Owl native to Farah’deen, a type of unique flightless burrowing owl. Sadly, the Great Storm is said to have killed them all, with fragmented remains having been collected over the past century and a half.