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Nasar (nə-SAR | /nə sɑr/ | /nə sɑɹ/)

Intelligent, giant predatory birds who hunt in flocks

Nasar are a species of extremely intelligent, giant, predatory birds that cluster in flocks on Caer'Thun . Naturalized to the Iron Hills , they are known for hunting dragons as prey, and for forming bonds with humanoid species as part of the Khel'Nasar.

Basic Information

Anatomy

Nasar are raptors that are about three times the size of a typical sentient humanoid. They hunt and feed on animals that are large relative to their bodies. They have strong feet equipped with talons for grasping or killing prey, and powerful, curved beaks for tearing flesh. They have keen eyesight for detecting food at a distance or during flight.  
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Nasar in Flight by Roy Buri
At a high enough altitude, their profiles roughly resemble that of a falcon, goshawk, eagle, or occasionally, a buzzard or raven. This does not reflect a difference in species, but instead appears to be a natural variation in phenotype. "Falcon" Nasar have thin, tapered wings, which enable them to fly at high speed and change direction rapidly. "Hawk" Nasar have robust bodies and broad wings. "Eagle" Nasar have long, broad wings and massive feet. "Buteo" or "Buzzard" Nasar have sturdy bodies and broad wingspans. "Corvid" Nasar have a robust and slender appearance, a small rounded head, and a short, wedge-shaped tail. Otherwise, most Nasar have sharp beaks with a notable curve at the end. They all possess razor-sharp talons at the ends of their feet.   These variations mean that the birds are specialized towards specific tasks, and they are quite capable of coordinating their flock hunting efforts to take advantage of those various strengths, just like a fleet of starfaring ships. Note that these descriptors are likely to, but not certain to, indicate particular feather patterns that resemble smaller birds of the species from which they take their names; although they are not, of course, "true" hawks, eagles, buteos, or corvids.

Genetics and Reproduction

Nasar fledge at about three months, and take to flying quite early after that. They will still remain close to the nest for the next six months to a year, experimenting with gradually increasing their flight distances. This is usually done in small groups, but particularly independent Nasar might go alone to assert their independence.   A Nasar is physically mature at one year, although they do not come into their full growth until about three years. They are not considered full adults by the community until then. Juveniles begin to court at a very early age, but may not bond for another two or three years. Aerial acrobatics, demonstrations of intelligence, and ability to provide food are key behaviours of courting.   Once paired, tiercels (males) and formels (females) tend to nest together for life. Monogamy is not necessarily expected, however -- Nasar will sometimes mate for fun, even when the formels are not in season. Same sex pairings, while uncommon, are not unknown, either, and do not seem to be regarded as unusual in Nasar flocks.   Nests are deep bowls made of large sticks and twigs, bound with an inner layer of roots, mud, and bark and lined with softer material, such as dire deer fur or the Nasar's own down. Whenever possible, they are wedged into deep alcoves, shallow caves, or other protected areas in mountains, cliff faces, or in some cases, tall towers. Tiercels will occasionally take turns at brooding, to give the nesting formels a break from time to time, but their primary responsibility remains providing communal food for the roost.   Formels lay approximately three to five brightly-spotted eggs in a clutch, and the nesting period lasts between 20 and 40 days. Since they roost communally, all members of the flock present will work collaboratively to protect eggs and chicks, and if Nasar are partnered with a Khel'Nasar, they will expect this of their companions as well. They will fly at and attack potential predators, even resorting to such tricks as dropping rocks on their heads. Nasar eggs tend to have a greater survival rate than those of smaller (and less intelligent) birds.  

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Fledglings' Peanut Gallery by Larry Ridenhour

Growth Rate & Stages

Like most birds, Nasar begin life as fluffy little mouths. Constantly hungry, and unable to fly with their undeveloped wings and fledgling down, they are dependent on their parents and the other members of the roost for just about everything. The first couple of weeks are spent entirely within the nest, receiving regurgitated food from the mouths of their parents.   Being naturally curious, however, they will begin to stick their heads out and engage in social interaction with other nesting Nasar early. About two weeks after that, they begin to toddle out and explore the roosting grounds. This is usually quite safe, since they are surrounded by many watchful, adult birds. When there are those at the roost who are nesting, the Nasar will take turns posting guards and "babysitters" to aid the parents, rather than all flying off to hunt.  
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Fluffy Little Mouths by TJ Arnold
Young Nasar are remarkably playful. They display numerous behaviours often associated with humanoid sentients, adapted for their biology. For example, young Nasar stack sticks and bones in what is obviously a game to see how high they can build such a structure before it collapses, and this game may be played alone or in groups. They also engage in physical "team sports," such as an aerial version of Capture the Flag or Tag.   Nasar in the Iron Hills typically live about 50-75 years. Older Nasar may have difficulty leaving the roost as they lose strength and mobility, but they are still cared for by the other Nasar, and serve roles in the community. They might watch over and teach chicks and fledglings, or clean up the roost or engage in other maintenance tasks, such as aiding in nest-building, and setting windbreaks. Old Nasar have many of the difficulties that face other aging sentients; they might lose appetite, develop issues with skin or feathers, and suffer from stiff joints, heart issues, or even consumptive illnesses.   Nasar in a Khel'Nasar bonding, however, typically live as long as their companions do. The mechanisms of this are poorly understood by scholars. It could simply be a matter of improved quality of life and less stress, or it could be some sort of mystical lifeforce bond. Whatever the case, if not killed by misadventure, a Nasar in a bonding will almost always pine away when their companion dies, regardless of their companion's species. The increased chance for a longer lifespan may be one of the motivators for Nasar making such bonds.

Dietary Needs and Habits

Nasar are opportunistic omnivores. While they are clearly designed for predation, they can digest a wide variety of animal and plant matter, and won't turn their noses up at carrion, either. Their high protein requirements, especially at fledging and molting stages, assures that most of their diet is meat, however.   The giant raptors hunt prey in large flocks, often working cooperatively to bring down animals much larger than any one of them would be able to take on their own. They will also range far and wide to scavenge.   The flock will bring part of the kill back for those stuck at the roost. As a result, there are usually disturbingly large animal bones lying around the roost of a Nasar flock, where they will be allowed to remain until all the nutritional value has been used. Periodically, "custodian" elder birds or an impatient brooding formel will go around the roost, tossing things over the side of the eyrie, and often scolding the other birds as they do so.

Biological Cycle

Nasar are capable of hibernating when temperatures are cold and food is thin. They rarely resort to this, but the depths of winter in the Iron Hills can sometimes trigger this cycle. They will awaken when the temperatures begin to warm up again.

Additional Information

Social Structure

When a Nasar dies, the flock will surround the deceased. This funeral isn’t just to mourn the dead, however. The Nasar gather to find out what killed their member. Then, the flock bands together to chase the killers, or anything in the area that might present a threat. In other birds, this behaviour is known as "mobbing."   Being very social birds, Nasar who travel with their Khel'Nasar companions will often view their friends, family, or Wing Siblings as members of their flock. They expect to be included in everything their companions do, and do not understand why they might be asked to stay out of a building, if their companion and companion's friends are welcome.   Nasar frequently engage in social grooming to display their affection. They may also groom their companions, who get quite used to having their hair pulled by a well-intentioned beak. They also expect to be groomed, and they will not feel secure unless this happens on a regular basis.

Average Intelligence

Nasar are almost certainly intelligent enough to be considered a sentient species. Within their own flocks, they develop customs, traditions, rituals, even music. As companions to the Khel'Nasar, they often learn some of their companion's language. The effect is something like the more intelligent species of parrot -- they learn short phrases and single words, especially ones that their companion repeats often. They can be quite talkative, and often reveal a sharp wit, a sense of humour, even a talent and love for debate. Omen , the companion of famous Wing Lord Lyrissande Verbena, was known for a love of playing chess -- and according to all reports, he was quite good at it.   Nasar display a wide range of personalities. Some are serious and dour, some are focused and intense, some are impulsive, and some are clever or aggressive. A streak of mischief seems to run through many of the birds, however, and most of them engage in some form of play for the entirety of their lives.
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Nasar at Sunrise by Kevin's Photos

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Nasar Chick by Matt Noble

Scientific Name
Accipitridae mundi
Lifespan
50-75 years
Conservation Status
There appears to be no shortage of Nasar on Caer'Thun, although they do not spread far outside of the Iron Hills.
Average Height
1.5 to 2.5 m (4 ft 11 in to 8 ft 3 in)
Average Weight
70 to 114 kg (154 to 252 lb)
Average Length
3.5 m to 4 m (11 ft 6 in to 13 ft 2 in) body length
5.09 to 7.5 m (16 ft 8 in to 24 ft 6 in) wingspan
Geographic Distribution

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Ayrie Peaks by Buddy Nath

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Nasar Egg by AStoKo

Cosmic Raptors

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Khel'Nasar in High Clouds by Willgard


Nasar are, in fact, another stellar lifeform. Like a Starshark or a Space Whale , they have glands in their heads that act like miniature Starfaring Engines. As a result, they are resistant to cold, immune to radiation, do not really require their wings to stay aloft, and are not only not subject to altitude sickness, but they impart that protection to any riders as well.   More Secrets About the Nasar
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Khel'Nasar at Hawkwind Island by J Coope



Cover image: Khel'Nasar by Thomas Wolter
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Comments

Author's Notes

The biggest bird that ever existed on Earth, Argentavis, was my inspiration for the sizes and measurements of a Nasar -- although mine are just a bit bigger and sturdier. The term for the males (tiercels) and females (formels) among Nasar comes from terms for the sexes of falcons. Nasar behaviours were inspired by the behaviours of raptors, corvids, and parrots.


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Sage eccbooks
E. Christopher Clark
2 Aug, 2021 21:02

Great stuff here. I particularly liked the phrase "fluffy little mouths" and the bit about the Khel'Nasar bond and how that might extend the Nasar's life.

4 Aug, 2021 15:27

These guys are a lot of fun! They were originally Erin's creation, and are going to feature in Book 4 or 5, I think -- but if they don't, there are lots of stories to tell about them yet. :)

Author of the Wyrd West Chronicles and the Toy Soldier Saga Eater of pickles, Friend of nerds, First of her name
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
6 Aug, 2021 08:58

Great article, this is really detailed and comprehensive! I really live the idea of giant sentient hawks XD I love how you've describe the children's game or the one playing chess, and their personalities - and all of those pictures of fluffy little birds ♥   You talk about how they can imitate their companions' languages, but unless I miss it there is nothing about their own language. Do they have a speech that we would recognise or is it more something based on cry like normal birds?

Feel free to check my ship challenge article.
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