THE KINGELL GROUND BIRD

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY
HABITAT/BEHAVIOURDIET - MATING

The Kingell is a rather elegant bird, long-necked and wide-winged. His sharp beak denotes him as one of the few hunters among the ground birds of Santharia, and also the only swimmer in this classification. With web-pad feet he can take to the water with ease. His meat is not usually selected for consumption, as the bird is fatty and hard to cook. The Kingell has the ability to swim, and can dive beneath the water's surface to hunt for fish. However, because its wings are not waterproof, this is a rather dangerous practice for the Kingell.

Appearance. The Kingell's body shape is unique, as it has short legs, an oblong body and a long neck. The Kingell is about a fore tall, with a ped-length wingspan, though some specimens have been seen bigger than this. It has a plumage of mostly black with iridescent green-black feathers on its head and tail. The Kingell has yellow eyes and a span-length beak with a small hook at the end. Its feet are slightly webbed, as each of its four toes have wide toe-pads that only connect together at the base. The Kingell is well adapted for water, but if it spends too much time in the water, its feathers become bogged down and he will sink. The Kingell does not make much noise, except for a harsh squawk that sounds much like "Wark", which is heard during fights over food and territory, and in the mating season.
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Special Abilities. None worth mentioning.
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Territory. The Kingells live at the coasts of oceans and lakes. They are very territorial toward one another, but have no qualms about surrendering their roosting spot to a larger bird or predator. They prefer floating rafts, ships, trees close to the water and islands as places to roost.
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Habitat/Behaviour. The Kingell is a unique bird. Its ability to take to the water has rid it of many natural predators; in fact it has become a predator itself. Most of the Kingell's time is spent foraging. They will swim or wade in shallow water and pick at the food there, and if they are particularly ambitious, they will swim out to deeper water ( 5-10 peds) and dive beneath the surface for fish. This does not last long, however. Their feathers will become quite damp after 5 or so attempts and they must swim back to shore to dry off. Kingells gather in numbers, as many as 10-50, and they have a terrible habit of staying close and crowding. They jostle incessantly when roosting and drying off. Drying off takes a few hours for a Kingell. Once they reach shore (or anything above the surface of the water) they will stretch out their wide wings and absorb the sun. They will stand still like this until they are dry, beating their wings and stretching every 15 minutes. This act makes them very vulnerable to predators, as they cannot take to the water to flee during this time.

If approached by a predator, the Kingell will beat its large wings as it runs to the water, then swim away until they are out of reach. If a Kingell is too damp, they will simply stretch their wings and run on the ground. This sometimes speeds up the drying process, and they might be able to return to the water. Stories abound of Kingells not dry enough to return to the water and either drowning themselves or having to be rescued. Kingells are sometimes taken as pets, but rarely. They become chatterboxes if they are kept alone by people, "warking" incessantly.
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Diet. Kingells eat a variety of foodstuffs: Grains, mollusks, fish, amphibians and plants are their main sources of food. They have been known to become carrion-eaters, should a dead animal be found in their hunting ground.
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A Kingell Egg

View picture in full size  A typically large Kingell egg. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.

Mating. Kingells mate all year round. The female, when in heat, will stretch her wings wide and "wark" loudly from her post. Males will come to her, and an odd mating dance ensues; bobbing of heads, stomping of feet, beak-clattering and "warking".

If a rival male approaches, the two males will begin the mating dance together. One will wind up dominating the ritual, and the act of breeding is played out between the two males. The act is only a gesture of superiority and means nothing. The winning male and female will begin their dance again, and when they finish, the male is allowed to mate.

About a week later, 1-3 eggs are laid in a safe place on shore, close to the water. The female will sit on the eggs and occasionally rotate them, and the male will stay around for the month of incubation, giving food to the female as she warms the eggs. When the month ends, the chicks hatch. The chicks stay in the nest for another month, the mother departing several times during the day to find food. She will return to the nest and regurgitate food for her chicks.

All the while, the chicks are playing a deadly game of sibling rivalry, as usually only one Kingell hatched will reach adulthood. The chicks jostle and push for position, and at least one chick will be bumped from the nest by the end of their second month of life. Once the Kingells reach two months of age, they depart the nest. Their feathers are fully developed by then and they can take to the water. The Kingell is not mature until 5 months of age, and usually another chick from the brood will have drowned. Kingells live 4-7 years, usually about 4.
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