Species: Zilira

Name: zilira [zih-LEER-ah] (plural: zilirai [zih-LEER-ay])

Homeworld: Gisufa

Height/Length/Weight: Zilirai are fairly large animals, with the females being notably bigger than the males. When standing on all fours, females range from 4.5-5.5' high at the shoulder, and males are 4-5' at the shoulder; when standing bipedally, females are 9-10' tall and males are 8-9' tall. Females are 7-9' long when standing on all fours, and males are 6-8' long, plus another 7-10' of tail. Both males and females have wingspans between 30-35'. Males weigh around 175-225 lbs, and females weigh 200-250 lbs.

Physical Description: Zilirai are winged, four-legged, furless mammals. They have smooth, soft hide with no hair, feathers, or scales. Their bodies are slender, streamlined, and light (with hollow bones); their limbs are long and lean, ending in three clawed toes and a thumb-like dewclaw (centered, not to the inside like most dewclaws). They have long (2'), flattened, spear-like beaks with serrated edges; their heads are adorned with a crest of spikes arranged in three crescents - five on top, three below them, and two at the very bottom of the back of the skull, the longest in front and shortest in back. They have wattles from midway on the undersides of their beaks to the backs of their jaws, and one long wattle along the underside of their lengthy, curving necks. Their tails are long, slender, and adorned with ridges of thin cartilage along the top (as well as one on the bottom near the tip) that act as rudders; their tailtips are flattened and triangular, acting as a horizontal rudder to complement the vertical ridges of cartilage. They have huge, soft wings; unlike typical wings, ziliran wings only have a long, thin, jointed bone along the leading edge of their wings - there is no wing arm or muscle to move it on its own. Zilirai use their forelimbs to take hold of their wings and fly; their long-fingered forehands latch hold of the leading edge, two small opposable talons on their elbows grip another portion of the leading edge, and they fly by strength of their arms, not wings. When on the ground, as their wings cannot be folded on their own, zilirai can either stand quadrupedally - with their wings draped loosely around them, pooled on the ground - or they can take hold of their wings with their forearms and wrap the membrane around their torso, holding it there and walking (slowly) upright. For this purpose, the position of their shoulders (bone and all) transition from 'flying' or moving bipedally to 'walking' or standing quadrupedally. Zilirai have no visible genitalia.

Senses/Capabilities: Zilirai are primarily visual creatures, having excellent long-range, full-color sight in the daytime and motion-sensitive vision in the dark. Their hearing is also fairly good, but their sense of smell is very poor. They are physically sensitive animals with a keen sense of touch and a low tolerance for pain. They are very graceful, deft animals, but rather fragile and slow on the ground; their agility and speed is only of use in the air, where they can fly at speeds up to 50 mph and dive at speeds past 100 mph. They are primarily gliders, however, and despite their lean frames are very enduring in the air; however, they are not capable of extremely flexible maneuvres in flight or on the ground.

Coloration/Clothing: Zilirai do not wear clothing. Zilirai have no markings, shading, or mottling; they are a solid color, which is primarily determined by what they eat. A zilira with a diverse diet is likely to be a featureless greysilver in color, which is considered their "natural" hue. Zilirai who subside primarily on freshwater fish are salmon-pink-cream, those who eat saltwater fish tend towards pastel greens, those who eat mostly fruits and foliage are vibrant or dark green, and those who eat small animals or birds (or eggs) tend to be reddish. Their eye-color also reflects their diet.

Races/Breeds: Zilirai don't have distinguishable breeds.

Language: Zilirai speak liran, a harsh, ululating language. Lacking lips or flexible tongues with which to form distinct sounds, they use their throats - most notably by cutting off air while vocalizing to make very rapid off-on noises. They also use the angle of their heads, the curve of their throats, and how wide their beaks are open to modify the sounds. Liran is thought to be an uncouth language and fairly primitive, but the barzen have little trouble gaining listening comprehension of liran - some even learn to (approximately) speak it. Similarly, zilirai find the barzen language easy to learn, making the two species' intelligence comparable, despite the apparent superiority of the barzen.

Technology: Zilirai do not use technology.

Magic: Much like the barzen's affinity with earth and water magic, zilirai have an affinity with air magic. It is not ritualized nor taught, but something that is felt and acted upon, much like natural instincts. They innately understand and can manipulate the wind and air currents, knowing how best to fly and navigate, and knowing when to stay out of the skies. It is unclear if they consider it magic at all, or just a part of how they live; others, however, detect magic being used when the zilirai fly.

Values: Though often considered barely more than intelligent animals, zilirai do have values. They admire strength and grace in the air, dignity while moving on the ground, and the ability to provide food for oneself and one's flockmates. They often have contests of speed, keen eyesight, and sheer volume of voice - most of which are tied into the duties of flock watchers, who guard the flock at all times and ensure no humans or predators get close. Some few zilirai are raiders, those responsible for driving off or distracting any threats to the flock or their flockmates - they are honored above all others for risking life and wing.

Social Groups/Society: Zilirai band together in huge flocks, consisting of 50 to 200 individuals, depending on what their food source can support and how much room they have for each zilira to have a niche in which to sleep. Zilirai mate while flying and have no particular emotional connection between mother and father; the kits are born live and raised communally, even to the point that non-mother females will nurse them. Flocks do not have a noted leader; they act as one and, if there is a rift in opinion, they will split until the next situation comes where they agree. It is rare for zilirai to permanently leave their flocks, but members of different flocks often breed.

Habitat/Settlements: Zilirai live in niches in the sides of canyons or cliffs; some few have made homes out of a particular type of tree, one big enough to carve niches into without killing it. (The tree has been referred to as the zilira tree, or zitri [ZIH-tree], because of this use.) They always have large, flat surfaces nearby - usually the top of the cliff/canyon - for sunning purposes. They do not live near humans, and very rarely live near f'saik'n.

Religion/Beliefs: Zilirai have no particular religion, nor do they seem to have a set of beliefs. They take life as it comes, with no thought beyond the contemplation of what exists.

Interaction w/ Other Species: Zilirai are fairly good-natured towards barzen, since the two species do not pose any threat or competition to each other. Most of them are fairly suspicious of f'saik'n, tending to avoid the primitive creatures, since f'saik'n will occasionally hunt zilirai; however, some f'saik'n have established a truce with nearby zilirai. Zilirai abhor humans and will flee at the sight of one, even to the point of leaving food behind. Humans often try to interfere with the zilirai's flying magic, but rarely succeed.

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