THE CHORAKEE BIRD ("JUMPING BIRD", "TREE FOWL")

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY
HABITAT/BEHAVIOUR - DIET - MATING - USAGES - MYTH/LORE

The Chorakee, also known as the "Jumping Bird", or "Tree Fowl", is the jungle's answer to taenish. Fat, tasty, and appearing clumsy as they hop through the trees, these fairly large birds only survive due to their great fertility, and their jumping skills. Found only in large amounts in the Drifting Woods, Chorakee are used by their owners as a reliable source of flesh, eggs, and down, and a holding pen for these birds makes a valuable addition to every settlement or farm.

Appearance. Chorakee are a species obviously related to the taenish and garthook often kept at farms. It shares the fluffy, fat appearance of these birds, and has uses not unlike these birds. Both genders have the same basic build, and are covered with black and brown striped down, which covers everything, including the legs. Reaching up to two fores and one palmspans, with females usually not reaching over two fores, these are fairly large birds, especially considering they are unable to fly in any way, with their short, stunted wings.

The tail is about two palmspans long, and can be folded, changing from a broad fan-shape, which is used while jumping, to a more compact form, that enables the Chorakee to travel the more dense areas of its territory.

These birds are strongly built, with powerful legs of approximately three palmspans long, and a compact body. The legs are incredibly strong when compared to those of the common
taenish, and have a complex and unusual pattern of muscles and tendons running all along the upper leg and the knee, that appears to produce an effect similar to a catapult when the Chorakee jumps. As mentioned, the legs are covered with fine down, and set with three forward, and one backward claw. These claws are quite strong and sharp, and rough patches underneath the toes enable them to clutch on to the slippery branches of the Drifting Woods trees without any problem.

There are a few differences between the sexes, the most obvious of which is the pale white comb and wattle carried by the male, which turns a vivid blue whenever he becomes exited about something. A second difference lies a bit more hidden. Chorakee hens have a special, fluffy layer of down on their abdomen. Called a 'breeding spot' by farmers, this extremely soft and warm layer is used when the hen is brooding, and feathers found here have the ability to crumble into a soft powder when the hen moves too much. This powder is quite dark in colour, and stains the otherwise pale brown eggs a much darker colour when the hen leaves her nest, providing camouflage to the otherwise defenceless eggs.
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Special Abilities. The most obvious of the Chorakee's few abilities is its jumping skill. Their only way of survival, these birds are masters at aiming their jumps, and rarely miss one. Their strong legs allow for extraordinary jumps, reaching distances of eight or nine peds, or at least six times the bird's own height. Indeed, would they fail a jump and fall out of the trees, the bird is usually lost, as its weight and mass rarely allow it to utilize bushes and the like as a way to hop back into the safety of their tree-top realm.

This mastery at precision jumping is obtained by using the short wings and broad, fan-shaped tail as air rudders, controlling length and angle of decline of their 'flight'. Young chicks, not yet able to jump far enough to follow their parents are carried along for the ride on the back of the adults.
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Territory. Chorakee are one of the many creatures that have been domesticated, and as a result have been spread out all over Nybelmar, albeit thinly, compared to the immense amount of
taenish and similar, smaller birds that are kept at nearly every farm on Nybelmar and many other places. In the wild however, they rely on ancient jungles and rainforests, as they prefer to nest in giant trees, such as the Nybelmarian giant marsh-oak. Effectively, this means they exist only in small, isolated populations. They are known to inhabit distant corners of the Krean jungles, where they can be relatively easy found by following the rooster's cries, which wake the jungle every morning. A larger group, and quite likely the largest wild population still in existence, lives in the northern Drifting Woods, where the lack of solid ground inhibits the movement of predators. Return to the top

Habitat/Behaviour. The Chorakee is a bird confined to tree-tops and the upper layers of tropical jungles. Living in colonies of up to twenty-five individuals, they usually claim a large tree, such as a giant marsh-oak as their nesting place, as well as the centre of their territory.

This territory is a rather well-defended area of several hundreds of peds around the flocks nesting tree. Each morning, just before sunrise, the typical cry of the Chorakee roosters echoes across the treetops, once again explaining the bird's name; "Chorr-chorr-chora", "Chrak", and telling other, nearby colonies to stay out of their area. Occasional clashes may occur between troops of Chorakee, usually after some kind of disaster forced one of the parties to leave their home tree. The castaway colony then tries to conquer a new territory, and will attempt to drive off members of rival colonies after selecting a new, suitable home. This often results in a full-fledged 'war' between the two colonies, complete with skirmishes between foraging families and raids on the enemy nesting tree, where the raiders try to dismantle as many nests as possible before the inhabitants return.

After a few weeks, either one side is driven from the area, or a relatively peaceful situation develops, where the territory is split up in two pieces, with only the occasional quarrel on the borders.

The day is mostly spent searching for food. Chorakee are far from choosy when it comes to food, and will usually eat all kinds of insects, fruits, nuts, seeds, and even small animals such as tree frogs and small lizards. They usually spread out from the centre tree in small family groups, with the main couple and their yearling chicks carrying the youngest additions to their family on their backs as they jump from tree to tree.

As the morning passes, and gives way to the afternoon, they will seek out a sunny patch on a branch to take their afternoon nap, enjoying the warmth of the sun. They will take short naps, grooming their feathers, and rest. After a few hours, as the direct heat of the sun subsides, and their main airborne enemy, the magnificent moragith, or coastal eagle, resumes his hunting, the Chorakee once again retreat into the safety of the canopy, for their second feeding period of the day.

When the Injr starts to descend, and the sky darkens, the birds gather back at the nesting tree. Every family group then returns to its nest, and although a few adult birds will take turns to guard the colony against predator attacks throughout the night, the colony quickly becomes silent.

In captivity, the Chorakee becomes less active in general, and will often be happy to spend all day sunbathing or searching for food in the holding pen. In areas without sizable trees, it is possible to let them out of the pen at night once they are used to being fed. However, this may lead to the females trying to hide their eggs in strange places. A large tree in the vincinity of the farm appears to cause the Chorakee to remember its wild ways, and it is often impossible to extract the birds once they have managed to get up into the tree. It has also been discovered that the feeding of common grain to the Chorakee produces a surprising side-effect. Instead of producing only one batch of eggs per year, the hen will continue to lay eggs at a rate of one or two per week. She will attempt to brood on these eggs as well, even though they never hatch, and it is advisable to distract the hens with some food before attempting to retrieve the eggs.
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Diet. The Chorakee is omnivorous, and will hunt insects, tree frogs, and small lizards, as well as eat seeds, fruit, nuts, and occasionally the eggs of other animals. They spend most of their time foraging and sleeping in small groups, and rarely visit the same feeding ground they used the day before, unless an abundant source of food, such as a fruit bearing tree has been found.

In captivity, they are usually fed in the same way as the common taenish birds, and although they will try to eat any eggs the taenish might produce (in which they are, due to their size, often successful), it is quite possible to keep both birds in the same holding pen when they are raised for meat production, instead of their eggs.
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Mating. The Chorakee mates during the first weeks of the month of the Molten Ice. During this time, the males call out frequently during the day, unmated roosters and hens engage in a slow, dance-like mating ritual. The single hen will sit on a pre-chosen branch, indicating this is where she wants to build her nest. Males will gather around to inspect her location of choice, and agree, by sitting down next to the hen, or disagree, and leave towards the next available female.
If the rooster's spot next to the hen is already taken by a previous visitor, the two rivals will first try to push each other away from the site. If this fails, they will start circling around the female, clucking softly, and showing off their feathers, especially their broad, fan-like tail. Now, the decision falls to the hen. If she is satisfied with either of the males competing for the place at her side, she will get up, and join her new partner in another attempt to drive him off. However, if both males have failed to impress her, she will remain silent, and awaits the arrival of a third male, which will turn the balance against one of the competing roosters, and results in a new pair of rivals being formed.

At the end of the mating period, most couples will have been together for a few days, and the endlessly wandering males that have yet to find a partner will cease to challenge new opponents. This signals the second stage of the ritual. Now, the couples made during the past few weeks will start their own dance. Circling around a communal center, they will hop and bow to one another, occasionally spinning around, or stepping back and forth. All this time, both sexes cluck ceaselessly to one another. This dance will continue until the moon has reached its highest point in the sky. At this time, every bird in the nesting tree falls silent and stops dancing at the same time.

Now, the hen sits down on her nesting spot, and allows her mate to mount her. During the night, they will mate several times until Injr rises again.

Six weeks later, the birds will have completed their nest, and the hen will be ready to start brooding. She will lay up to six eggs within the next few days, and from then on, does not leave the nest. It is now up to the male to feed her, and he will spend most of his day carrying food back and forth, skipping his usual sun bath in order to provide for himself and his mate. Older couples that have successfully produced offspring during the previous year will have a lot easier time, as their yearling chicks, already indistinguishable from the other adults, will lend a hand in feeding their mother.

Three to four weeks later, as the month of the Changing Winds draws to a close, the chicks hatch. Equipped with a grey down, and with their eyes opened from birth, they are immediately able to leave the nest, and often a hen must struggle to keep her remaining eggs warm, and prevent the other chicks from escaping into the tree on their own.

After the last chick hatches, the family is ready to head out into the forest for the first time. Since the newborn chicks are not yet able to perform the incredible leaps used by their parents to travel, they are allowed to ride on their backs, safely nested between their parents and older siblings' feathers.

It must be noted that the Chorakee bird mates for life. Couples that have mated do not engage in the first stage of the mating ritual, instead making repairs and improvements to last year's nest. However, they do perform the nightly dance, together with the new couples, during which time the older chicks are not welcome at the nest, but must spend the night further along the branch. Even elderly birds perform the dance, and mate afterwards, although they will not produce eggs after their sixth year of breeding, which is often close to their death.
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Usages. Chorakee are bred in captivity for their flesh, eggs, and down feathers. They are usually held in the same type of holding pen used for the much smaller taenish birds.

The flesh is white, and fairly dry. It is well suited for both roasting and drying, and is also often used as a taenish replacement in taenish-soup. The eggs are about the size of a human fist, and pale brown in colour. Varieties in the exact hue of these eggs are common, but each Chorakee hen will only produce eggs of one specific colour. The down feathers are used as filling for various pillows, playthings for small children, and beds.

An interesting sight is the traditional Chorakee holding pen as it is constructed in the Drifting Woods. There, the pen is always located several peds above ground level, as all constructions of the Ter'ei'Vikh. It is urn-shaped, with an open top of about one ped in diameter, and a double door on the base level to allow people inside. Usually created from living and dead material alike, the inside is a safe, comfortable place for its inhabitants, with ledges and ridges all around to provide nesting places. Near the top the sides curve inward strongly, to ensure that the Chorakee do not manage to jump out from the ledges.
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Myth/Lore. The sound of a tree filled with Chorakee performing their mating dance is perhaps one of the strangest, yet beautiful sounds produced by nature. It is greatly appreciated by the natives of the Drifting Woods, and during that night, all of the Ter'ei'Vikh that can, will leave their villages to gather around the nesting trees, where they watch and listen to the Chorakee performing their "Song to the Moon", as the event is called. Many a marriage proposal is done on this particular night, and many a kiss is shared with a loved one when the eerie sound of soft clucks and rustling feathers stops, and the birds themselves are honouring the moon.
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 Date of last edit 11th Dead Tree 1666 a.S.

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