The sandfowl is a large species of ground-dwelling bird native to Sefia. It is widely domesticated within Sefia for its meat and eggs, though wild individuals remain in great number and are a primary food source for desert drakes. In Walker tradition, they are a sacred animal central to the ancient practice of Arigation.
Anatomy & Morphology
The sandfowl has relatively long, very thick legs of greyish coloration. The feet have incredibly thick skin that protect it from the extreme weather variations of the White Steppe. More importantly, however, the thick, grooved skin protects the feet from the spines of cacti, the sandfowl's main food source. Sandfowl exhibit fairly high sexual dimorphism. Females grow up to three feet in length, though males can grow up to five. The body feathers of both males and females are mostly a dull greyish brown, though the feathers toward the back are an iridescent green in males. The head is featherless, and males have a dull reddish color while females have a bluish grey.
Genetics and Reproduction
Sandfowl are polygamous. Generally, dominant male fowl try to mate with as many females as they can. During mating season, their featherless heads flush bright red. Males generally fluff their feathers up at this time to appear larger. Vocalization is also common and quite large at this time— the White Steppe is typically alight with sandfowl cries during spring days. Feather vibrancy is an indicator of health, so generally larger, more brightly-colored males prevail. Strutting is a common courting display. Males may court in groups, often familial, usually consisting of one dominant male and a less impressive relative. Males that court in groups are significantly more successful. Incubation is fairly quick, under a month, and sandfowl young require no parental oversight— they are both precocial and nidifugous.
Ecology and Habitats
Sandfowl do not have fixed homes, and are in fact unusually mobile in order to evade the Qahn. Despite their clumsy appearance, they are relatively agile fliers, and are known to regularly outpace the Qahn when necessary, by air or ground. Though they are not picky eaters, sandfowl prefer to eat from cacti, for which their thick feet are specially adapted. Their favorites are cacti that bear fruit. Sandfowl can go long stretches without drinking water, receiving their supply instead from their food. Sandfowl, particularly young ones, are the subject of great predation from drakes, though their flight abilities occasionally enable them to evade capture.
Domesticated sandfowl, especially females, are paler in color and significantly fatter, particularly in the breast. They also lay larger eggs more frequently. Their meat and eggs are highly valued, especially within the Sifa Republic. Walkers use their blood for Arigation, so it's thought that the domestication of the sandfowl has its roots in ancient Walker tradition.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Sefia, specifically the White Steppe