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Blinkbirds are named for their inexplicable ability to sometimes vanish in the blink of an eye. They are found all over the Empire, particularly inhabiting the barren and once-barren lands between regions, and they have started to colonize cities and towns. They are attracted to sparkly objects, though they seem to avoid metal. They are also attracted to bright colors, especially blue and to a somewhat lesser extent, red.
Blinkbirds are 24 to 30 inches in length. The birds are beautiful, with showy colors that one would expect would be a detriment to them in the wild. Their head, neck, and breast are glossy red, blue, green, purple, or black with a bright iridescent sheen. The belly and scapulars (shoulder feathers) can be pure white, pink, yellow, or pale green. The wings match the body color, and the primaries have inner webs that match the belly-color, conspicuous when the wing is open. The legs and bill are a bright, iridescent green. The birds also have a crest of feathers colored much like the primaries, and the tail feathers match the wings, the part nearest to the body the darker colors, and the longer feathers also colored like the primaries.
When the bird lands, the long tail is elevated and is carefully carried clear of the ground. Blinkbirds usually walk on the ground, but they can also hop quickly sideways with wings slightly opened.
The young resemble the adults, but lack iridescence. The male is slightly larger than the female.
Blinkbirds are omnivorous, eating grains and vegetable matter, worms, insects, rodents, and even smaller birds. The birds do not avoid humans unless they are harassed. Sometimes two or more birds display teasing or harassing behavior towards domestic animals such as house cats, skycats and dogs.
Blinkbirds are territorial; when they pass each other in open country, they command attention by rapidly moving their wings and chattering aggressively. No actual fighting between them has been witnessed.
Blinkbirds sometimes nest in tall trees, but they prefer thick brush or inaccessible rocky areas. The nest is firmly attached to a central fork in the upper branches of a tree or to the ground with a cement of earth and clay. A framework of sticks is cemented with earth and clay, and a lining of the same material is covered with fine roots; above is a stout though loosely built dome of prickly branches with one well-concealed entrance. Blinkbirds love all manner of bright objects. and they festoon their nests with ribbons, bits of cloth, crystals, gems, and other stolen shiny things. The nests are huge and plainly visible unless leaves or brush screen them.
The eggs, small for the size of the bird, usually number from five to ten, with about six being most common; they show much variation in ground and marking, but a usual type is blue-green with close specks and spots of dark blue, dark green, and purple. It is rare for all of the chicks to survive past fledging age.
Interactions with Humans:
Enough witnesses have caught the birds messing with the knobs or latches of time devices that it is accepted that blinkbirds are attracted to time crystal devices. Some people claim that blinkbirds interact with the devices in destructive ways, and there are even reports that they will steal time crystals from them. Scientists and licensing officials believe that’s obviously not an accurate report of what happened, since handling time crystals isn’t safe for living creatures, and most reports of such theft are filed as fraud.
Blinkbirds love bright colors, especially blue and/or red, and will run off with ribbons, buttons, hats, crystals, gems, paper—almost anything shiny or their preferred color—to adorn their nesting area or weave into their nests. They steal from laundry lines, porches, open containers, and unsecured luggage, and will even lurk at open windows and doors for an opportunity to dart in. Items made of iron, copper, or another conductive metal are nearly always ignored.
The birds are well-known for disappearing in plain sight; they are very hard to hunt and have eluded efforts to trap them. There are some reports that they actually explode when pierced by an arrow, but these reports are unverified.
There is folklore of one sort or another about the blinkbirds in nearly every region of the Empire. A few examples are listed below:
In Affamarg, It's considered rude to eat walking down the street, unless it’s during a feast day or an outdoor party, and children are told that blinkbirds will come by and steal the food of people who do so. Despite this tale, blinkbirds are seen as natural birds and a nuisance.
In the hills near Tifishranir, they tell stories of an old woman wearing blue who encounters a handsome young man along one of the barren border areas. She asks for his assistance, and flirts with him, and instead of responding politely, he tells her she’s disgusting. She casts off her disguise and is revealed as young and beautiful, and her blue clothes turn into blue blinkbirds. The birds mob him. He gets a glimpse of her beautiful nude form, and then she is gone; he’s left trapped in a whirlwind of birds. When the birds fly away, he realizes he has become an ugly old man. In the hills further away, the story changes; the woman is old but it is no disguise; somehow she grows younger. In Tifishranir itself, the story tells of the blinkbirds stealing away all of his clothes and riches, leaving him no older, but nude and bleeding from multiple tiny wounds.
In the region around Tifanaro, the birds are believed to be the mediators of luck, both good and bad. People are careful not to harm or disturb them, and leave ribbons with shiny beads out as offerings when they have need of good luck of any sort. If people have a string of bad luck, they will commission a statue or painting of a blinkbird, in any material but metal. Lucky blinkbird figures are carried in pockets or license pouches. Stone blinkbirds guard homes and businesses. Baby blankets have blinkbirds on them. Among hard-core gamblers, the custom of carrying a soft-sculpture blinkbird while gambling has spread to a number of nearby cities, including Affamarg, Tifishranir, Tifurara, and Tifamoi. Butterflies are still more popular for good luck in general money matters; blinkbirds are preferred for luck in romance and competition.
In Tifamoi, blinkbirds were known in folklore as the bearers of dreams. In the stories, hunting them or disturbing their nests causes nightmares or madness.
In Faajaffug, blinkbirds are the local trickster figure, and their feathers are highly prized for their beautiful colors. Enterprising young people will set up traps with blue and red ribbons and a great variety of very bright, shiny things as bait. They never actually capture a blinkbird, but a clever snare may snag a tailfeather or two. The feathers are most often used in interior décor, for everything from lampshades and window shades to door-curtains to mobiles.
Purists around Faarar believe blinkbirds travel between the world of the living and the world of the dead. They tie messages and gifts for their ancestors into lacy red cloths. If a blinkbird takes the message, they are assured that their deceased loved ones or ancestors have been received. In that region, including the poorer areas of Faarar, it is a common funeral custom for the family to draw fake funerary money. These bills are drawn to look like money on one side, and the mourner writes a memory or a wish or a tribute of some sort on the other side of the bill before tying it into a red cloth and laid out for blinkbirds.
The Moon Mother Worshipers believe the blinkbirds are Messengers of the Moon Mother. They write prayers on blue ribbons, attach gems, mirrors, or bits of the Mother’s Pearl carved into beads or birds to the ribbons as an offering. The offerings are tied to the tops of poles, trees, or buildings. Almost anywhere high will do, even the top of a shaman’s headdress. Although the shamans teach that the Moon Mother hears all prayers written in this fashion, there is a persistent belief that she favors the people whose prayers are actually taken away by her Messengers.
In Affabreidalam, folklore says that the birds are the ghosts of children, often playful but sometimes angry that their lives were cut short. People who have lost children leave shiny objects as well as bright ribbons and lace tied near their homes and favorite play areas as gifts. Folklore also states that people who mistreat children are most likely to be attacked by blinkbirds, and someone who bears scars from an attack on their face is often treated with suspicion by any child’s caretaker and fear from children.
In Affafilalo, the birds nest on the roofs of tall buildings, and they are seen as joyous tricksters, playing jokes on people who don’t laugh enough.
In the North, blinkbirds are exceptionally rare. They have a few stories of a brilliant, solitary bird that can flit away from any hunter. These stories have blurred with legends of peacocks, and that is the name that the Northerners give blinkbirds. In some stories, the bird can speak, and it may predict the future.
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