THE SNOBYRR ("SNOWBIRD")

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

The Snobyrr is a beautiful large bird that lives in certain parts of Northern Sarvonia like the Prominent Mountains. It is native to this area, and is one of the fiercest aerial predators within the lowlands. The Snobyrr is uniquely lovely because its feathers are pure white with a few yellow tinges here and there, reflecting the sunlight dazzlingly.

Other names for the Snobyrr are: Snoburr, Snowburr, Snowbird, Winter Hawk, Winter Owl or White Ghost. Female Snobyrr are called Snobyrette. Plural: Snobyrr. Baby: Byrlet. Group: "Kettle".

The Snobyrr

View picture in full size Image description. The magnificent Snobyrr of the Prominent Mountains. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.

Appearance. The Snobyrr is a large predatory bird, standing slightly under 1 ped when perched or sitting on the ground, and weighing about half to three-fourths of a pygge. The Snobyrr has a broad wingspan, which can range from two to nearly three peds. The light-coloured creature has a yellowish-white back and breast; a white head, neck, and tail; and yellow feet and bill. The wings are pure white and allow the bird to blend in with its sorroundings during snowy winters. Colors vary between sexes; females usually tend to be whiter than the males and also have dull gray feathers on their breasts.

A Snobyrr's short, powerful legs are covered with light yellow scales, and are tipped with broad, taloned feet. The talons of the Winter Hawk are very sharp and can pierce leather and even soft wood.

The Snobyrr has sharp, keen eyes which are very light blue, and almost seem hazy. They possess very sharp eyesight and can see for very far distances, noticing the slightest movement in the short grass.

A Snobyrr's wings are long and broad, making them effective for soaring. To help reduce turbulence as air passes over the end of the wing, the tips of the feathers at the end of the wings are tapered so that when the Snobyrr fully extends its wings, the tips are widely separated. This also has the quality of making the wind over the feathers almost soundless, so that the beat of their wings is much softer than at a similar large bird, probably one of the reasons they have earned the nickname "White Ghost".

To help them soar, Snobyrr use places that usually encourage rising warm winds, such as valley edges or mountain slopes, as take-off positions. Soaring is accomplished with very little wing-flapping, enabling them to save energy. Long-distance migration flights are accomplished by climbing high in a warm wind current, then gliding downward to catch the next winds, where the process is repeated. Several Snobyrr soaring in together are described as a "Kettle of Snobyrr".


It is believed that the tail is very important for flight and maneuvering. While the Snobyrr is soaring or gliding in flight, the tail feathers are spread, in order to attain the largest surface area and increase the effect of the winds. The tail also helps to brake the heavy Snobyrr when landing and assists in stabilization during a controlled dive or swoop toward prey. The strength of the feathers and the follicles holding the feathers is quite impressive when one watches the tail move back and forth and up and down during maneuvers.

Snobyrr have thousands of feathers. Snobyrr feathers are light-weight yet extremely strong, hollow yet highly flexible. They protect the bird from the cold as well as the heat of the sun, by trapping layers of air. To maintain its body temperature the bird simply changes the position of its feathers. While a Snobyrr suns itself on a cold morning, it ruffles and rotates its feathers so that the air pockets are either opened to the air or drawn together to reduce the insulating effect. Feathers also provide waterproofing and protection, and are crucial for flight.
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Special Abilities. Feather structure makes pliability possible. Overlapping feathers can form a dense covering, which the birds can open or close at will. The bird has several layers of feathers, each serving a different function. Under the outer layer of feathers is an inner layer of down or smaller feathers. The interlocking of feathers is an astonishing design of nature. The feathers enable the Snobyrr to live in extremely cold environments. The birds do not have to migrate to warmer areas each year to fulfill temperature requirements; rather, they migrate to available food supplies.

The Snobyrr have external nares, or nostrils, opening on both sides of the bill. A Snobyrr never reaches speeds that would interfere with normal breathing. The bird's lungs and air sac system is adequate for its size. Air moves in through the lungs and on into the air sacs before moving back through the lungs and out again. Air passes through the lungs twice with each breathing cycle - twice that of other animals.
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Territory. Snobyrr can generally be found only in Northern Sarvonia, and most dwell in the Prominent Mountains. They are very territorial towards other animals, except for their relatives. They occasionally fly down to the Shaded Forest and some might even befriend an Injerín or fly to the Eastern foothills of the Prominent Mountains and harass some Losh'Oc orcs with their great size and shrill calls. 
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Habitat/Behaviour. The Snobyrr often develops very close relations with its family. The children will often stay with their mother for many decades before they decide to go off on their own. Spouses and siblings can often be seen hunting together or scouting their territory, and sometimes even large groups - "kettles" - of ten or more Snobyrr can be seen flocking together.

Snobyrr are very curious about orcs, they can often be seen antagonizing a group of wandering or raiding Losh'Oc orcs ("True Orcs") and stealing much of their meals, only freshly cooked meals though. They will often travel in kettles of three or four and they will begin to screech as they near the ground. Once they are directly above the heads of the Losh'Oc they will spread their talons and tear at the flesh of these beings. Many who have seen this sight have been made to believe that Snobyrr are vicious predators, but they are not. Taranka Dormil, the most notable Snobyrr researcher, has thrown light on the true nature of the Snobyrr.

In her studies the Snobyrr have been found to be very gentle and nurturing parents, and they seem to have a mental bond with one another. They often just know where they can find another Snobyrr without having to rely upon a call or sight. It is a very uncanny, yet real aspect of these birds. As to why they attack orcs rather than humans or elves, Taranka has theorized that perhaps they either mistake or recognize the feathers with which many Losh'Oc decorate their body as potential prey. However, this theory has many aspects which are still unexplicable, and perhaps we should not even put it forward here.
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Diet. Snobyrr are mostly rabbit and other small mammal eaters, but they will take whatever prey is available and easiest to obtain. Large Snobyrr have been known to stoop upon small deer, breaking their necks, and then feeding on the carcass where it lies. Snobyrr that live along the coast and on major lakes and rivers feed mainly on fish. Snobyrr can fish in both fresh and salt water.

Snobyrr sit at the top of the food chain for their territory, and because of their size, they have few enemies and require a large hunting area. A Snobyrr's lifting power is about 0.25 pygges. Snobyrr will never take advantage of carrion (decaying flesh that has been dead for some time). Some people believe that a Snobyrr that has eaten carrion will have its feathers corrupted and turned black and brown.

Because of the energy expended during hunting, a Snobyrr has to spend a lot of time resting quietly. It is estimated that only five out of eighteen attacks are successful. Though not as fast as falcons, Snobyrr are fast fliers. When diving, where lift is less important than reaching drag, the Snobyrr pulls in its wings to minimize their surface area. They have been seen hunting in pairs; most times it is with a mate or an offspring, and they have even been seen in hunting kettles of five or six.

A Snobyrr protects its food by partially opening its wings, or "tenting". The Snobyrr steals food from other Snobyrr as well as other species. Chasing another bird of prey is usually enough to persuade it to drop its kill, but occasionally the harassed Snobyrrr will attack. Snobyrr have an outpouching of the esophagus, called a "crop", where they can store food when the stomach is full. The crop also separates indigestible substances, such as feathers, fur, and scales from the meat. The indigestible substance is mixed with mucus and formed into a mass. After the meal, the Snobyrr eventually regurgitates the mass as a dry pellet of grimy felt called a "casting".
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Mating. During the mating season the Snobyrr can be seen in large quantities sorrounding the whole coast of the Dark Sea and they also flock around the Celeste Mountains. Mating occurs during the fall and mating kettles can last for many weeks. Pairs of Snobyrr have been seen whirling through the air with talons locked together. This could be a form of courtship or a ritualized battle between an intruding Snobyrr and one defending its territory. Whichever it is, Snobyrr do not actually copulate in the air, as some people believe.

A Snobyrr Egg

View picture in full size  A Snobyrr egg. Picture by Bard Judith.

Some Snobyrr do not breed every year. Snobyrr are capable of breeding annually from the age of four, but some of the adults, though paired, seem to choose not to breed. It might be an instinctive decision, based on the weather; availability of nesting sites, or food.

Because a Snobyrr may live up to 50 years, it has many years in which to produce offspring necessary to replace itself. Only a few of the eggs hatched in a lifetime will survive to old age. Snobyrr lay from one to five eggs in each nesting. About eight days after a successful copulation, the female Snobyrette lays a speckled off-white or buff colored egg about the size of a fist. The second egg is laid a few days later, followed shortly by the third and then possibly one or two more.

The 45 days of incubation duties are shared by both male and female, but it is the female who spends most of her time on the nest. Trading places on the nest can be a tense time. The brooding parent may have to call for relief, or may be reluctant to leave and have to be pushed off the eggs or young. During incubation, the male Snobyrr regularly brings branches and twigs, and the doridel, a scented flower on the lowlands, to the nest. Why he does this, no one knows, but it could be for deodorizing the nest or possibly providing shade for the Snobyrette.

During incubation, one parent is always on the nest, not only to keep the eggs warm but to protect them from other birds, which will break open and eat the eggs. The eggs usually hatch in the order they were laid. The young Snobyrr, or Byrlets, break through the shell by using their egg tooth, a pointed bump on the top of the beak. It can take from twelve to forty-eight hours to hatch after making the first break in the shell (pipping). Once the eggs begin to hatch, the female's vigilance becomes nearly constant. The male provides the majority of the food needed by his rapidly growing family. Eventually the female will take up her share of the hunting, but in the early days, all of her attention is given to the young Byrlets in the nest.
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Usages. The Snobyrr do not have very many uses to humans or elves, as they are too large and wild to be successfully flown in hawking. They also are difficult to locate and hunt. However, their feathers have been used for fletching arrows, and they have also been used decoratively for necklaces or hair accessories. It is believed by some that a necklace made exclusively of Snobyrr feathers and back vertebrae will confer invisibility upon the possessor - in conjunction with the right spell or enchantment! A Snobyrr feather earring is often used to signify grace and is worn by dancers and entertainers of the northern realms.
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Researchers. Many people do not even dare meddle with these great birds because of their size and prowess both in the air and on the land. Only a handful have taken the liberty to study the Snobyrr. The most notable of these is Taranka Dormil, a 56-year-old Kuglimz female, who has been researching these powerful birds for more than 35 years of her life.

Taranka was only a little girl when she first saw the mating ritual of the Snobyrr. Their unmatchable grace for their size enchanted Taranka and instead of becoming a fighter like most other children had planned to do, Taranka became a scholar. Many of her studies have been on birds of prey and she has also studied the many fascinating cold-water fish and other sea-dwelling creatures of
Northern Sarvonia. We are indebted to Taranka for much of the information in this thorough Compendium Entry! Return to the top

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