Harpy Species in Arcane Realm | World Anvil
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Classical mix of avian and woman

Harpies are a sapient species of liminal fey found throughout the world. They resemble attractive humanoid women with feathered wings in place of arms and bird talons for feet, who have the ability to fly like birds. Their personalities can also differ, from friendly and chatty, to laid back and forgetful, to intelligent and focused predators.   Historically, harpies were considered a species of monster that should be avoided or hunted. However, studies on harpies eventually lead to better understanding about their capacity for intelligence, wisdom, and empathy. As such harpies were slowly being recognized to have unique cultures and some even integrated into other races societies. This led to not only harpies eventually being considered people but other potentially sapient beings called monsters to be put under more scrutiny.

Basic Information


The dimensions of a Harpy are roughly similar to a human woman, but they possess huge wings in place of arms and long, scaly legs ending in razor-sharp talons. While their upper half is slender and dainty, their lower half is tough and powerful. Their leg-claws have four talon-tipped toes, the three toes face forward and one opposite in direction.   Harpies only have hair on top of their heads, eyebrows, and thin hair on bare patches of skin. For the rest of her body, a harpy will have long, downy feathers growing from her most notably on their wings. Some also have them on their thighs and a set of tail feathers above their buttocks, though it varies between individuals. Most often the feathers and hair are brown, but can be white, red, green or even blue. Similarly, although the majority of harpies seem to borrow their avian features from birds of prey such as eagles, hawks and buzzards, some species take after other birds, such as crows, gulls, and even hummingbirds, creating an amazing variety of them.

Biological Traits

Wing-digits: The digits of their wings are somewhat hand-like due to thumb claw, allowing her to hold certain objects in them. However, a harpy's wing is not as dexterous or coordinated as a species with hands due to being suited for flight.   Sharp claws: Because of their avian legs, Harpies possesses sharp talons rather than toes. Like those of a bird, they are also quite dexterous, and can hold onto objects or creatures with them.   Avian Skeleton: Harpies possess a lightweight skeleton highly adapted for flight. Many of their bones are thin and hollow with criss-crossing internal struts and trusses that make them strong enough to withstand the stresses of taking off, flying and landing. They have a keel extending from their sternum to which their powerful flight muscles are attached.   Avian Respiratory System: Harpies possess a complex set of lungs adapted for their high metabolic rate and oxygen demand in flight. Unlike humans, they do not possess a diaphragm and their lungs are proportionally small. Instead, harpies have roughly eight or nine air sacs that store and pump air through their lungs. This allows for a unidirectional flow of air, which allows them to extract a higher concentration of oxygen, and even take in oxygen during exhalation. Thanks to this, a harpy is able to breathe at much higher elevations than other races could. This efficient lung structure is not without its faults, however. Because the sternum must move during respiration, holding a harpy too tightly around the chest for long can easily cause her to suffocate. Moreover, because they transfer more oxygen with each breath, airborne toxins are more efficiently transferred as well.   Light build: Harpies have a very light weight, when compared to creatures of similar size and stature. The body structure of a harpy is geared towards lean muscle and minimizing weight in order to better maintain an airborne existence. Many harpies have small breasts since they make less fatty tissue than other humanoids while maintaining the mammary gland sizes. Hips are one attribute that harpies have in excess. Due to the size of the eggs they lay, their hips are very wide to allow the egg to pass more easily.     Flight: Harpy wings allow them to fly, although they will be unable to if their wings get wet. The exception to this are nautique harpies who have adapted waterproof oils on their wings.   Regeneration Factor: Harpies can passively regenerate wounds in a short time via biomagical reactions speeding up the process. The extent of this regeneration prevents the development of scar tissue and even regrow entire limbs within a few minutes to hours however these actions do not set any broken bones on its own. In addition, this magical trait is significantly slowed when the subject is increasingly exhausted or when exposed to substances that interfere with the process.   Agelessness: Harpies lack measurable symptoms of aging due to their cells high regenerative properties. As such harpies do not weaken, slow down, or lose fertility with age giving them great longevity, potentially for centuries. However they are not deathless and will eventually fall due to mortal injury or disease beyond their regenerative capability.   Siren Song: Harpies can sing musical notes infused with enough magic power to affect the minds of typical sapient beings. Originally a defense mechanism, their sounds induce sleep, disorientation, or arousal. Harpies have discovered that they can produce other intentional effects with their songs such as fear or even hypnotic infatuation, though like hypnosis it can't force the affected to do something they would never do and can be resisted.

Genetics and Reproduction

They are an all female species, copulating with males from other humanoid races to reproduce. A baby harpy inherits a small amount of genetic material from her father, but otherwise, the offspring of a harpy mother is always born a harpy. The paternal genes mainly effect biochemical traits like their blood type or immune system or cosmetic traits like facial structure and body shape even hair, eye, even feather coloration. Typically after fertilization, a harpy will lay 1 to 4 eggs that are incubated to hatch harpy chicks.   Harpies have a ovulation cycle but instead of shedding their lining, they lay an unfertilized egg every month or so, sometimes two. When an egg is fertilized, they remain within the mother's womb for longer, giving the appearance of a baby bump pregnancy for a few months (3 to 5 average). After this brief internal incubation period, an enlarged egg is laid and taken care of in a manner similar to birds of a similar size.   In the wilderness, each harpy lays a few eggs in a communal nest, fighting with her flock-sisters for the best real estate. Each harpy incubates her own eggs, and in late summer roughly at least half the eggs of any given flock will hatch; the rest are unviable. All the offspring are female, and they mature in about 15 to 20 years. If food is abundant, the young adult harpies stay with the flock; otherwise, they are driven off by the older harpies to start their own flock.

Growth Rate & Stages

Harpy babies, known as chicks or nestlings, are born with down instead of flight feathers, and are entirely dependent on their mother for sustenance and protection.They feed off their mother's milk from her 2 breasts on her chest like female humanoids. Until they grow old enough to develop their flying feathers, the mother is traditionally responsible for teaching everything to her chicks, from how to eat, and how to care for themselves. Once old enough, the mother then teaches them how to fly. If they are part of a larger community, friends of the mother will catch them safely until they master the art of flying. After they prove they are ready to leave the nest and hunt without help, they are considered full-fledged adults and are thus treated the same way older harpies typically treat one another.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Harpies are often opportunistic omnivores who can consume a variety of plant matter and meat. The type of food a harpy of will likely partake is manly dependent on their environment and the culture they were raised in. Raptor and Strigine harpies generally form a hunter culture and thus most of their food consists of meat or carrion. Nautique harpies eat many animals that live in the water or various fruits that grow on trees near the shoreline. Passeri Harpies consume more plant based diets focusing on fruits, nuts and seeds along with smaller animals sources like insects.

Additional Information

Uses, Products & Exploitation

Feathers and down can be used for bedding, winter clothing, fletching arrows, and pens. Unfertilized eggs are typically gathered or sold for consumption.

Average Intelligence


Perception and Sensory Capabilities

Keen Vision: The most important sense for a harpy is her vision and they are known far and wide for their phenomenal visual acuity over other races. From high up in the sky, they are able to spot tiny animals all the way down on the ground with near perfect clarity. This is thanks in part to their lens being able change shape more quickly and to a greater extent than a hominin, allowing them to better focus on an object. Moreover, harpies developed a pecten oculi, a comb-like structure of blood vessels in the back of their eyes. With this structure, far fewer blood vessels are located in front of the retina that would normally partially obscure perceived images. However, because a harpy's eyes are optimized for maximum spatial resolution rather than light perception, they typically see very poorly in low light. With the exception of strigine harpies, whose eyes are better suited to function in poor lighting, most harpies adopted a diurnal schedule. Though harpies possess fully functional human eyelids, they still boast an almost transparent and thin protective membrane to ward off their eyes in flight while maintaining visibility. Harpies also have a fourth UV sensitive cone (in addition to red, green, and blue) to perceive ultraviolet light.

Civilization and Culture

Gender Ideals

Harpies are female only creatures, meaning that females are responsible for everything in their communities. A male presence has traditionally been infrequent at best so they learned to make do without it. Any males mates in a harpy community, typically are there to raise their daughters or peform tasks that harpies can't do since they lack hands.

Courtship Ideals

For most harpies, sex isn't focused on often except during their breeding season, when they are dominated by the urge to become pregnant with offspring.   Traditionally when they spot a humanoid man who will serve as a mate, harpies developed two natural methods of courting: one option is they would sing a hypnotic inducing song that would attract men or women that would bring over men. The other option is that they suddenly swoop from the sky and seize the mate with their legs, and then fly off, taking him away to their nest, both of which likely led to their monstrous reputation. Th latter is especially prohibited in highly developed areas so harpies that live in there have formed their own ways of courtship. Normally, they're blabbermouths who can be loud and annoying sometimes, but when in heat, their tone of voice becomes beautifully enchanting, as if they were singing.   The more they interact normally with a man, the more they'll grow fond of him, which often leads to the man being recognized as their mate and thus increases his likelihood of being seduced when breeding season arrives. Once breeding season is over, they go back to being their original disposition, but their mannerisms often change to be more passionate towards the male they are coupled with.

Common Dress Code

Being a species formed purely by women, harpies don't get flustered much over the female form. Naturalist harpy communities typical have members that are nude without stigma. Harpies within urban settlements, big or small, are more likely to seek out clothing due to adjusting to the values of neighboring species more than their own. Such harpies might grow fond of their clothing design and develop fashion sense.   Due to their wings and scaled shins, harpies are uncomfortable with or incapable of wearing tops with sleeves and pants longer than the knees. As such draped clothing or shorter clothing like tanktops and shorts are commonly worn by harpies.


Harpies were one of the species that came out the rapid diversity of lifeforms known as the Preternatural explosion of life. At the time there were multiple species of harpies and most had the body shape of birds with only a few humanoid features such as a human head or chest, leading to them being categorized by civilizations as beasts or monsters. And like most monsters, they were seen as obstacles to potential heroes or hunted by common folk for a similar status.   Ghulat Wars   After the wars, the deterioration of world's ecosystems meant hardship for medium to large creatures, including harpies. Over millennia, various species of harpies died due to habitat loss from deforestation. As monsters, there was little concern for their well being.   Modernity   Eventually with the rise of natural disasters and degradation of nature, more and more harpy species died out until only one was readily seen. One significance of this harpy was how humanoid its overall body shape was. Although still seen as monsters, their appearance as young women made them more endearing to hominin races. Eventually Manikin scientists did fieldwork on these harpies and found that they had the capacity for sapience and empathy. Some even took some orphaned wild harpies into captivity and successfully raised them in society. Results like this lead to the recently created United Sapient Species organization to recognize the race and give them legal personhood.

Interspecies Relations and Assumptions

This bright and cheerful race is friendly and loves to chat. If there are sapient beings passing through a mountain trail or coastline, they’ll aggressively strike up a conversation, often times treating people with kindness, occasionally helping out by guiding them through the trail, or carrying luggage. ln friendly states that have progressive relations with fay, harpies have been integrated into their economy and society, and they even run transportation businesses providing aerial transport for people and packages.   The exception to this tendency are raptor harpies (less so strigine) who tend to be more abrasive with strangers but can eventually become as endearing as other harpies with those they know or those that complement their lifestyle.   Harpies get along best with the human species which makes sense since their males are their major source of reproduction, though other humanoid and liminal species are befriended as well.
Scientific Name
Pterafata homogene
Passeri, Raptor, Strigine, Nautique, Shratite
240 years
Conservation Status
Least Concern
Average Height
140 cm (4'6") to 157cm (5' 2")
Average Weight
21 to 72 kg (46 to 159 lb)
Average Length
Wingspan: 3.65 to 7 m (12 to 23 ft)
Average Physique
Slender, or Petite
Related Ethnicities

Cover image: by Jonathan Thompson
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