The Snow Falcon is a small raptor that lives in Northern Sarvonia. It makes its home predominately along the coast, but can be found inland as well; its territory extends as far south as the Heaths of Wilderon and as far as the Caaehl'heroth Peninsula. The bird is considered a symbol of the Lanruls, the tribal leaders of the Ice Tribes, who have adopted falconry as a sport of the elite.
This bird of prey is mainly a pure white in colour, making it hard to see
against the brilliance of the ice and snow. These compact birds are just over a
fore in height, and have a
wingspan of three fores.
Their handsome heads are marked with intelligent
snogthesheen eyes, and a
strong, off-white coloured beak. The beak has a sharp downward curve, allowing
the bird to tear flesh with ease. The feathers along the bird's belly are two
toned. The main colour is a grey colour, darker than the white plumage of its
back. Beneath these grey feathers, it has a blue coloured layer of feathers.
Special muscles under the skin determine which layer of feathers are pushed
outward, and which ones are retracted back underneath (see
Special Abilities). The layer of downy feathers
under the Snow Falcon's primary feathers are an extra layer of warmth and are
white in colour.
The bird's legs are a pale yellow in colour, ending in very strong talons. Very sharp and very strong, these are formidable weapons for the small bird. They can easily tear flesh, and can hold great weights in proportion to its body size. Its wings are long and tapered, which researchers agree add to its faster flight. It can easily out fly any of the other birds in the north, as it consistently demonstrates during its hunting flights.
Ability to blend in with the surrounds affords any predator an advantage, and
the Snow Falcon is no exception. Its white plumage hides it within the snowy
environment but the feathers along its underside prove its greatest attribute.
Two different coloured feathers, grey and light blue, are able to be retracted
or pushed forward at will. This enables the bird to blend in with the sky, no
matter the weather. With game so hard to come by on the frozen plains, this
ability becomes very important.
Another feature of wings is a waxy type coating, which protects them against the frigid waters of the sea. As well, researchers have noted a second, transparent, eyelid which they assume is used while the bird is underwater. These birds often dive into the water to get at small fish near the surface. The autumn run of the Fire Fish proves a perfect time to watch this magnificent raptor in its full majesty. From great heights, it comes sweeping down at incredible speeds, breaking the water's surface with ne'er a ripple to its credit, then emerges again, carrying its next meal in its talons.
This also highlights two other features of the bird. The Snow Falcon has both marvelous eyesight, being able to spot the slight movements of hrugchuk mice from dizzying heights, and a flying agility matched by few other flying species. Not only can it fly at great speed, dive even faster, but it can linger in the air for short periods of time, notably while fishing and in catching the ever elusive hrugchuk mouse, which burrows under the snow. Some of the most beautiful displays of aerial acrobatics by any species can be found in male falcons during the mating rituals. As well, most other birds in flight have very little chance to evade a Snow Falcon when they begin to hunt them in the air.
Territory. Preferring the colder climes, one can find the Snow Falcon in the far reaches of Sarvonia. The largest populations can be found along the Iceland Coast, where the Ice Tribes make use of the bird and revere it to some extent. The Snow Falcon may also be found as far east as the Wicker Islands, home of the Himiko. To the west, it travels as far as the Caaehl'heroth Peninsula in winter, though in summer most return to the Icelands. This same pattern occurs in the south, where the bird migrates as far as the Heaths of Wilderon in winter.
The birds collect in the largest density in the Gathorn Mountains, where craggy cliffsides give it a perfect place to make nests. The young are protected from predators here, and so it is a natural draw. Most Snow Falcon researchers assume that this falcon, like some types of fish, return to the place where they were born in order to mate and produce the next generation. Because more young survive in the safety of the cliffs, it is logical that a larger population can be found here.
However, this bird is predominately nomadic, traveling to where the food is most plentiful. During the autumn run of the fire fish (Remusian "Fallu-eck-fyrthara"), when countless numbers of these small fish migrate into the Bay of Calinth, hundreds of the Snow Falcons converge on the seashores and gorge themselves profusely to, according to some researchers, get enough body fat to make it through the long and cruel Iceland winter.
While not found in great numbers on Bower Island or Napthos Island, Snow Falcons do gather in large numbers on the Wicker Islands. Along the southern slopes of the Lac Dervan Mountain range, where the snows melt during the short summer, many birds make their home there. The fishing off the southern coast of the islands attracts the falcons to this area.
Very few birds can be found in the Icelands of the Aeh'Os'th'er'oc. Debate rages over this as to the reason why. Most scholars surmise that the bird refuses to fly over or past the Mists of Osthemangar, due to that area's evil presence. Others disagree, but have yet to put forth an alternative theory.
Habitat/Behaviour. "The Snow Falcon is not of the disk, but of the air itself." - These words are found in the journals of Lyrotal Draconall, a renowned researcher of the northern areas of Sarvonia. These birds are seldom found on the ground when not found near their nest in the spring and summer months. They seem to enjoy the freedom of riding the winds, soaring high above the disk. With plumage that blends its form into the expanse of sky, these birds are hard to see. When they are visible, they appear as a small speck in the heavens. They can seemingly spend hours without coming back to the ground.
On the ground, the falcon is a predominately daylight hour bird. It spends the darker hours sleeping. During the day it sits watching the horizon with alert eyes, searching for any predators or prey. If it spots predators, it will take to the safety of the sky, or in the case of protecting a nest, will attack with its razor sharp talons. It can leave horrible wounds in all but the thickest skinned animals.
While hunting prey in the air, the falcon prefers to attack from above. It will dive at other birds, hitting with tremendous force and using its talons to rip and tear feathers and flesh. In most cases, the falcon can fell its prey with only one dive attack, only occasionally requiring a second or third. The falcon concentrates its attack on the wings of its prey, disabling its ability to fly. Once on the ground, the prey becomes helpless to the predator.
They are predominately solitary animals, but with a mate are surprisingly affectionate, preening each other for long periods. When the young first attempt to fly, the parents are on a constant vigil, never straying too far away.
Diet. Food, for falcons or peoples or any other animal living in the Icelands, is a very important commodity. All who call this frigid terrain home must struggle for survival. Still, the habitat provides a wide range of prey for the Snow Falcon to hunt. Other birds prove a good source of food. Klymmers, the aquatic birds along the Bay of Calinth, snow gynnia and the nue'mon are the most common. They will either kill the birds themselves and bring the carcass back to the nest, or they will attack the nest and break open unhatched eggs and eat right there.
Among small land creatures that fall prey to these raptors are hrugchuk mice and snow rats. It is from this benefit to man that some scholars suggest the Snow Falcon acquired its significance to the Remusians. Protecting stores of grain from rodent infestation was of paramount importance. Leapor hares and leveret rabbits are also among its preferred food sources.
Due to its watershedding ability, the Snow Falcon is also a fantastic fisher. Small evoor and varlihn become targets for the bird, as well as the fire fish during their autumn run. During this time, the falcon will gorge itself, building up a layer of fat to help it survive the coming months.
While the Snow Falcon has been observed eating insects and carrion, this behaviour seems characteristic in only extreme circumstance. They seem to much prefer to kill their own food.
Mating. The Snow Falcon has an elaborate mating ritual, displayed in the skies each spring. The male Snow Falcon is much smaller than his female counterpart. To make up for this, the blue feathers on his underside are usually a brighter hue in colour. Researchers think this may be a way of attracting a mate, when he shows off his underside during the acrobatic aerial dances. This dance is performed by the male, who singles out a female in flight and soars along beside her. As he does, he will suddenly dive as if hunting or crashing, then suddenly even out and swoop along the ground before rising back up to meet her. Sometimes, he will fly ahead of her and then linger in air, holding his position in the sky for a few moments, until she passes past him. Among these two main feats, he will also sweep alongside her and do twists and somersaults. The ritual culminates with the male offering to the female a gift of meat or fish. As he suspends himself in the air before her, at the last moment, he flips himself over so that his legs are above him, offering the morsel. If she accepts the proffered meal, then it seems that she has accepted him as a mate.
From this moment on, the two falcons will find a suitable place to nest. Falcon's near the Bay of Calinth, or in the Gathorn Mountains, seem to prefer cliff faces, while those farther inland build nests atop large rocks, trees, or even on the ground, without snow, preferably. The nest can be traditional - that is, built with twigs like most other birds - but the lack of wood in many areas of the north can make this difficult. In these cases, the falcons will use tufts of fur and feathers, frozen into place with excrement.
Into these nests, the female will lay up to four eggs. These eggs are an off white colour with light blue speckles, and equal in size to taenish eggs. The eggs will hatch 5-6 weeks after being laid, bringing forth chicks that are pure white. They will stay pure white until they molt their first feathers and grow their adult feathers, about a month after hatching. During this time, the chicks grow quickly. The female, being larger, does most of the hunting, while the male watches the nest, protecting it from any predators, such as eagles, shirs, etc. When the chicks begin to attempt flight, having nearly reached adult size, the male will start leaving the nest in order to help the female bring enough food back to the nest to satisfy the fledglings.
Unfortunately, mortality in the young is quite high, and about half of eggs/young do not hatch or live to maturity. During lean years, often only their largest, most aggressive chick will get enough to eat and survive. It has even been observed that larger chicks will push smaller chicks out of the nest before they are able to fly, resulting in death either from the fall (in the case of cliff nests) or from predators like the shir. The falcons reach maturity at about two years of age, when they will become capable of mating. They will learn to fly near the end of summer, and will start to accompany the female on her hunts, learning from her. At this point, the male usually leaves, his part of the chick rearing done. They will stay solitary through the winter and take new mates in the spring.
Usages. Food, of course, is the main use of the Snow Falcon along the Icelands Coast. With fresh meat difficult to find in many areas, the people of the Icelands region do not waste any chance for a good meal. The exception to this generalization are the Remusians. Though not completely unheard of, the Remusians tends to revere the bird more so than the other tribes. Instead of consuming the bird, the Remusians use the hunting bird for falconry. While the Remusians consider it a noble sport, it is practiced among the nomadic clans as well. While among the poorer nomadic people, a good hunting bird may be the difference between eating on a particular day or not, the nobles do so more for prestige. King Timeras, the ruling Lanrul of Remusia, claims a large and impressive stock of birds, many of which are bred from animals his father had. The previous king, Araman, was very much involved in the selective breeding of his falcons and, by all accounts, greatly improved the stock.
Other uses include fashioning the talons into sewing needles. The people of the Ice Tribes make holes in the talons, then thread them with leather strips to sew heavy winter clothing. The feathers are used by fletchers in the production of arrows. Additionally, the Antislar and the Remusians sometimes use the feathers as quills for writing. However, most find the Snow Falcon's quills too soft for this and prefer the quills of other birds.
The Himiko of the Wicker Islands use the Snow Falcon not only for food, but place great value on the blue feathers of the raptor. They use these feathers as decorations not only for clothes, but as a sort of jewellery, the women putting them in their hair. In some cases, elaborate head dresses are constructed and worn during more somber and important ceremonies.
The Rhom-Ocs of the Heaths of Wilderon use the talons as crude jewelry for necklaces.
Myth/Lore. There seems to be no myths dealing with the Snow Falcon in Iceland lore. However, the falcon is associated with the Ice Tribe goddess, Weabor, Goddess of Wind. She often takes the form of a Snow Falcon and spends her time soaring the winds watching over the poor creatures that cannot experience the joys of flight.
The Remusians feel that coming across a falcon on the ground is a sign of good fortune. A hunting party that finds one observing them is guaranteed a successful hunt.
Researchers. About the Writer: Lyrotal Draconall, a Remusian who had traveled extensively while researching entries for the Compendium, disappeared in 1666. He has provided much information regarding the beforehand mysterious Ice Tribes. We owe him a debt of gratitude, and our prayers for his safe return one day. He traveled with a group of warriors and used giants from the Stone Fields of Peat as beasts of burden. He found them more useful than traditional mounts, and was once credited with exclaiming, about his successes, “If I have seen further than other Remusians, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” He disappeared during one of his expeditions, presumably eaten by one of those giants he was standing on.
He spent many years studying the different animals of the northern reaches, and once wrote that "No animal has embodied majesty like the Snow Falcon. Not the caracal, the wison, not the thunderfoot or the pack-ox; none of these has become, for me, the embodiment of the Icelands. The falcons show a spirit that I can find myself akin to, and if we come back to this world after death, then I hope that I come back as one of these fabulous birds."