THE SHUPSH (TURIK BIRD)

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

A very rare and rather extraordinary bird living in the icy regions of Northern Sarvonia is the Shupsh. For, it does not migrate, nor does it hibernate, rather it spends all year in the frozen northlands surviving the bitter cold and the harsh seas. It received its name from the sound that it makes when it enters the water from the air. This is a common naming system for the local inhabitants. However, in Santharia many people know of this bird as the Turik Bird, so named by the notorious researcher Turik of Barsalon.

THe Shupsh
Image description. A male Shupsh showing its distinctive beak. Picture drawn by Erelen, background Fiorellina.

Appearance. Undoubtedly the most striking feature of this bird is its multi colored beak. One of the interesting things about the coloration of the beak is that the multitude of hues that are commonly seen on the adult Shupsh are not present when the Shupsh is born. When it is first born, it has a dull gray beak that blends into the gray down that covers it. However, as the Shupsh ages the beak first darkens to a glistening black. Then, as it ages it gets a striping of orange along the first half of the beak and also in a thin line where the beak and feathers meet. At first it is a dark orange, which lightens as it ages. By the time it has reached full maturity at six years old it has the coloration as described. After several more years pass it the orange sections nearer the black center of the beak lighten even further until they become a brilliant yellow. The longer the bird lives, the more yellow is imparted to the beak. Coloration on the beak is therefore a great indication of age, with Shupsh over twenty years old being found having beaks with more yellow than orange. The beak is triangular in shape and has somewhat sharp edges, which are used to cut into the fish that it feeds upon

While size does vary from Shupsh to Shupsh, on average they are two fores in length and one in width. They stretch approximately two fores from pinion feather to pinion feather, and on average weigh about two ods. They have a coat of glossy feathers that are so tightly placed in proximity to each other that they cause water to just bead right off of them. The black color on their body is broken up by a patch of white on their chest along with white on either cheeks. This allows their form to be broken up better while they are on the crashing waves, so that they may be safer from any predators on the prowl. They have eyes that are slightly larger than a nailsbreadth in size, with a black pupil and a thin line of orange around the pupil. The people of the area say that this is the fire of the birds soul that keeps it warm. The way that the feathers form around the eye gives the eye a teardrop appearance, which is probably where the myth of its sorrow comes from.

Not only the beak changes colour with age, the feet do as well. Though the change is not nearly as spectacular, nor as colorful. By the age of six the feet are a dark orange. They are wedge shaped and webbed with a thick skin to better allow it to swim while the thick skin made up of small coloured boney plates protects its thin feet from the extreme cold of the northern waters. Small, black toenails end each of the three bones of the feet, this is quite helpful when they are digging out their burrow.
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Special Abilities. Without a doubt this bird is well adapted for its environment and way of life. No other bird has nearly as many feathers placed upon it as the Shupsh does. This inevitably waterproofs the bird, allowing it to weather the ocean swells that it floats upon and flies near. In fact to better get at the fish that it feeds off of the Shupsh ducks underwater and “flies” through the water after shoals of fish. After spending there a few instances it comes back up to the surface, where the fater beads and spills off of the feathers. Not only does the abundance of feathers help it keep water at bay, but it also keeps the freezing temperatures out. There is a thin layer of down under the feathers that aid in protecting against the cold as well. Return to the top

Territory. While it is true that the Shupsh spends most of its time in the aptly named Ice Sea in the far reaches of
Northern Sarvonia, it does come ashore to breed and raise its chick. Due to the fact that it only lays one egg it is very careful of where it lays its singular treasure. The more remote the place, means the harder for predators to find it. Only three different places have been noted as nesting sites for these birds, though others may very well exist. All of the places are islands; this includes two off of the Icelands Coast. The first is on Bower Island; the other is in cliff faces of the Lac Dervan Mountains of Wicker Island. Also the fragmentary Faerin islands of the Peninsula of Iol have Shupsh denizens. Return to the top

Habitat/Behaviour. The Shupsh spends every season in the icy waters that it calls its home. It only leaves during a two-month period in summer to lay their egg, hatch it, and care for the chick. Once that period of time is over they go right back into the water. The most that they may migrate is from the area just above the Peninsula of Iol to the eastern area of the Icelands Coast, so while other birds migrate south, it can be said that the Shupsh migrates east. This nominative migration is not so much due to any change in weather, but rather the following of the shoals of fish on which they feed.

It is rare to see a Shupsh flying in the air. They prefer to float upon the water, riding out the ceaseless waves that moved them on their wyy. They can be seen ducking their head in the water to go after nearby fish. They often get water, lift up their beak and appear to drink the water. It is not known if they can truly drink the salt water or if this action serves some other purpose. Perhaps, they even get all of the liquids that they need from the fish that they eat. When they go underwater for long periods of time they can be observed using their wings to swim much as a person would. In fact several of the more adventurous youths of the ice tribes jump in the water and swim with the Shupsh. Not seeming to categorize the youths as predators the birds are content to let them swim with them.
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Diet. Fish are the main substance of the Shupsh's diet. This includes any fish that it can catch, however silver fish, spearfish, and ice fish seem to be its preferred meal. They have also been seen eating seaweed on occasion as well. It is assumed that they gather some nutrients from this that they do not get from the fish. Sharp edges on the beak help slice through both the fish and the seaweed.
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Mating. At the age of five years the Shupsh can begin mating, though some have been known to do so as early as three years. When the first month of spring comes male Shupsh emit a growling call that is very different from their usual warble. This call will attract nearby females who swim or even fly to where the male Shupsh is located. Once several females surround the male he will fly to one of the nearby breeding grounds. There the females will watch him do a sort of waddling dance. It is this dance along with the colouration of his beak that will make females decide to stay or not. A male with more yellow on his beak is more desirable as he is inevitable older and thus knows more feeding grounds.

After the female and male have mated the female will find either a crack in the cliffs or dig out a small burrow about a fore in length. Shupsh lay only a single egg, after the egg is laid a fifteen day incubation period takes place before the egg hatches. When the egg hatches a small chick comes out covered in grey down with bill and feet of grey as well. For a month to month and a half the mother feeds the chick partially digested food, until the chick is able to gather fish for itself.
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Usages. This bird is usually used most often for a food source to supplement the heavy fish diet of the local people. When cooked over an open fire the Shupsh has a delicious, slightly spiced taste. This is the common way that the bird is cooked. Some of the varying ice tribes use the feathers of the bird to create elaborate headresses and cloaks. Some also use beak fragments as to decorate their pots or into small sections for necklaces.
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Myth/Lore. There is a story that tells of the Shupsh and how it came to be the way that it is today. Many a winter night is filled with stories told by the elders of the tribe to the young ones over the flickering fire, and the tale of the Shupsh is a favorite. Variations of the story exist in each of the different tribes along the Icelands Coast and the Peninsula of Iol, yet they all share a common core to them. One of the stories is something along the lines of that which follows.

"Many, many winters ago now, before even the great darkness came and went, there was a bird. Not just any bird, but a most brilliantly coloured one; so colourful it was to even put a rainbow to shame. They say that it lived far to the south in a land where the sun ever shone and snow was but a myth for children to laugh at. There the Shupsh flourished and knew no fear, nor rain, nor water. It had no need at all for drink for it fed from the light itself and was thus given its fantastic plumage; truly it was a creation of the Sun God himself.

A most horrendous thing then happened to end the life that the Shupsh knew - the darkness came. Not the darkness of winter, though that would have been bad enough as the creature knew no darkness or cold, but rather it was that which is referred to as the bleak night, that time when the night lasted for the whole of the year. It began in the south, first consuming its enemy, the light, in the summerlands, and then it moved north gobbling up more and more light in its greedy desire to rule all. Frightened by the blackness the Shupsh fled with all of its kind racing ever northward trying to stay ahead of the fearful night. They flew and flew until they reached the top of the world, and they could go no further. Islands were heavy with this escaping populace, but in time the night found them there as well.

Many fell, and many died in the harsh cold that came with that long shadow, their bright feathers littered the rocks of Bower Island turning the very rocks themselves red. In fact the lack of light stripped away the brilliant colours which covered them. Over months of huddling together and seeing their kin pass away as flames blown out the Shupsh fled into the unknown sea to drown out the pain of all that had passed. Much to their dismay their lives were not quenched, for no matter how far they dove into the water, no matter how long they stayed under they would not perish. In futility they gave up and forced themselves to ride the crashing waves, knowing they would never find their forgotten homes again.

So there in the icy northlands do the Shupsh stay. There do their eyes appear as teardrops, for ever are they sorrowful for all that has been lost. There they shall stay until the bright day comes and a year of sun comes to renew their plumage once more."

-- "How the Shupsh came North", taken from the "Iceland Tales", collected by Gilmolth Klegth, p. 66 f.
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Researchers. The only known researcher of this animal is a man by the name of Turik of Barsalon. As his name implies he is from the small, and rather unsavory village of Barsalon. When he showed up in New Santhala in 1659 at the door of Artimidor Federkiel, the sage nearly ordered the guard to take him away, as he was so unseemly in appearance. However after presenting a bag of preserved parts of different animals, along with numerous sketches of what the rest of the animal looked like before their pieces were removed, he caught Artimidor’s attention. One of the most fascinating pieces in his stench filled bag was the beak of a Shupsh. Turik quickly became well known around court for his rather eccentric ways and fascinating, if somewhat questionable stories of the creatures and people he has studied in the distant north. Return to the top

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