Varcosparrow or "Little Rascal", "Little Rogue" or "Flirt Bird" is a brightly-coloured, sociable little bird
found in the south of the Sarvonian continent.
The sparrow has a pleasant, if repetitive, call which starts on
a high-pitched chirp and then falls to a low drawn-out whistle with a short
gulped warble at the end. You may hear this sound quite commonly in the
Santharian province of
Appearance. The Varcosparrow is about the size of a closed human fist and almost as round when it fluffs out its bright feathers. A little round head with shining black eyes is usually tipped to one side or the other as it watches its surroundings with curiosity. A small sharp beak, in a glossy dark black colour, finishes off the front of the head, and soft feathers help define its appealing shape.
Image description: The Varcosparrow on a twig. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.
The legs are nubbled with brown ‘scales’ which continue down onto the dainty
four-toed feet. Each toe is tipped with a tiny yealm-coloured claw which helps
the bird keep its balance on trees and vines.
The tail and wings are short and sleek, with individual feathers about a finger-length laid neatly overlapping, while the breast is full of fluffy light-coloured down which helps to insulate the "Little Rascal" from the worst of the heat.
These birds come in many hues, from a vivid Shendar-orange to a soft emaraud-green, but the traveler to Varcopas, where they are almost an urban nuisance, will most often encounter them in a bright blue that blends in well with the city of Varcopas’ characteristic roof tiles. The breast is always a much lighter shade of the main colour, almost white or off-white, while the top of the back is the darkest hue, absorbing and diffusing the heat of the Injèrá to keep it off the bird’s delicate skin.
The Varcosparrow has a pleasant, if repetitive, call which starts on a
high-pitched chirp and then falls to a low drawn-out whistle with a short gulped
warble at the end. The local humans represent
it as the musical phrase “Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet daaaarlin’ love…” thus
their alternate names of “Flirt-Bird” or “Little Rogue”. They are not notable in
any particular way except for their friendly nature and brash inquisitiveness
which is not typical of the avian race. They are easily tamed - if one would
want to bother since they are so common!
Territory. Found throughout the province of Truban, some parts of Brendolan. Primarily a hot-climate bird, but it can be found as far north as Klinsor. All through the Nirmenith Mountains, around Occen’s Lake, through the Cloudforest.
Habitat/Behaviour. The “Little Rogue” prefers to spend most of its day climbing about treetops searching for its insectoid food, or fluttering in the long grass to dislodge seeds which it will then swoop upon. The blue urban variety scarcely bothers with this activity, preferring to scavenge in the streets or hop down on Varcopasite tables and boldly select what they like of one’s meal. Bold and impertinent, these agile birds can be intimidated only by keeping a cat in the dining room. Varcopasian citizens have called them “Little Rascals” since no-one-knows-when, but one can’t be cross with them for long; their cunning behaviour, sweet call, and endearing head tilt will make most people quickly forget that their bread has been picked at or their newest hat spoilt…
They are sociable and gregarious, seeming to exist without the territorial impulses of many other birds, or at the very least claiming a much smaller territory. The way in which they fly in flocks is quite marvelous to watch, as the whole shimmering mass of birds will suddenly dart in unison to one side or another, shifting like a blue haze cast by some wizard, or drop into a tree with not one straggler left behind.
Diet. Varcosparrows eat small insects, grass seeds, and whatever human food they can scavenge. Stinging flies disappear into their sharp little beaks as readily as the seeán bug and the smaller beetles. They thrive on the bug life around the Oka'Seri Swamp, but are equally fond of crumbled bread, stale grain, or other scraps from urban tables.
A Varcosparrow egg. Picture by Bard Judith.
These birds are active throughout the year, so it is fortunate that the
hensparrow has a clutch of only two tiny eggs at a time. They choose their mates
in typical bird fashion, by singing loudly and making much play with their wings
and head tiltings; then when they are paired up, the female submits on the spot.
After mating, the female briskly flutters off to choose a nesting spot, the
rather subdued-looking male following her. The male builds the nest out of dry
grass stalks, caking it here and there with mud which he brings back one
painfully-small beakful at a time. As soon as it is finished to her satisfaction
the female hops into the grassy cup, smoothing it with her breast and shuffling
around to make it fit her comfortably. The two little eggs are produced in short
order; a pale tan colour dappled with lighter yellow streaks make them almost
invisible against the dry grass of the nest. The nestlings are, luckily for
their survival in the city at least, quite quiet for baby birds, making a soft
hunger chirp that sounds like the first part of their parents’ call: “Sweet
sweet sweet sweet!” Gawky and stippled with almost invisibly-pale pinfeathers,
the rascal chicks are as ugly as most nestlings at first, but quickly grow into
bright fluffy bundles who are ready to try their wings.
Usages. The Varcosparrows have no particular human usage, although they do keep down the flying, biting insects in the city. Larger predators such as hawks feed on them, or on their eggs and nestlings. They are merely part of the great Caelerethian system of life in which everything has its place both above and below. Since they are so common and so tame already, even Varcopasian children do not consider them as pets, but they can be found farther north as inexpensive cage birds. Some jaded nobles of the capital have served what they consider exotic dishes of “Varcosparrow Pie”, or “Aj-Nuvic Stuffed with Rascal Bird” (although we suspect the ‘aj’ to have had antlers and roamed the forest when it was alive – in other words mere venison…), but such effete tastes can hardly reflect common ‘usage’.
Myth/Lore. The local Varcopasite tale is that the Rogue Bird was designed in clay by a day-dreaming tiler’s apprentice one day in the long-ago. The girl shaped the fat body between her two hands, pinched out the short beak, and stuck two knobbly twigs in for legs before dipping it into the bright blue glaze that even then was typical of Varcopas’ roofs. She set it on the windowsill to dry before firing, and the God of Mischief spotted it there. Etherus cocked his head to one side, rather bird-like, grinned wickedly, and blew upon the little clay figurine, bringing it to life. And ever since then it has hung about the city, stealing food scraps, singing seductively, and fouling the shoulders of merchants’ clothing.
Information provided by Bard Judith