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BlueGecko
01-01-2012, 08:10 AM
In one of my story ideas, my main character gets turned into a bird, but unless there's only five things to know, I'm not sure how much I know about avians. I wasn't actually sure where I should start researching, so I decided to come here and pester you guys instead. :p

See, though I sort of know how a bird is built (and can look up the stuff about it's anatomy that I don't know), I'm sort of troubled by . . . what being a bird would feel like, I guess (can't think of the term I'm looking for).

One thing the I gleaned off of TV somewhere, is the way bird's lungs work: where a human's lungs . . . er, I probably don't need to explain that. But then a bird's lungs sort of have kind of an extra sort of storgage space to store air, and when they exhale, the air in the extra space goes to the main lung and actually gets used, so basically, even when it exhales it gets more oxygen.

Well, I don't think that's the only thing I might've missed, so I kind of wonder what other things there are that I ought to know about being a bird. Like I said, I'd research this stuff for myself, but I don't know where I should begin. (Shows how much research of things I've done in the past . . .) Anyway, any advice would be nice, be it some facts you'd like to share, some sites I could check out, or maybe just to say something along the lines of "Dude, why didn't you just check out that 'facts about birds' icon that comes default with every computer?"

chevbrock
01-01-2012, 08:47 AM
Well, one thing I can't validate with science, but all that lovely twittering and cheeping in Spring isn't singing the joys of the season. Birds get their colours on and all that's on their mind is claiming turf and girls. That calling is a mixture of warnings, war-cries, and hanging out of the tree with your mates shouting dirty propositions when a nice-looking girl flies past.

Hope that's a start for you!

Polenth
01-01-2012, 08:48 AM
A whale, a human, a kangaroo and a bat are all very different. They're all mammals, but it'd matter which one your character was. Birds are a class of animals, just like mammals. This is why what you're asking is too broad and won't help you, as I'm sure you already know birds are warm-blooded and lay eggs.

The first step is to decide what sort of bird. You can't really go any further until you've done that.

Sea Witch
01-01-2012, 08:49 AM
Hi BlueGecko. That's a pretty far-reaching topic you're asking about. Could you narrow it down a little? I mean a hummingbird feels or has different preoccupations than a parrot or an eagle or a vulture or a penguin.....you get me?

Medievalist
01-01-2012, 09:13 AM
Go watch the David Attenborough Nature series on birds. It's free streaming on Netflix. The public library may very well have the DVDs.

blacbird
01-01-2012, 09:21 AM
Go for a raven. They're among the smartest of birds. Also great acrobatic flyers. And they're vocalizations are complex and sometimes almost humanoid. Native peoples of the far north revere them, for all kinds of understandable reasons.

Corvid birds (ravens, crows, jays, magpies, etc.) are all highly admirable and full of character.

caw

Buffysquirrel
01-01-2012, 03:21 PM
Polenth is right, as Polenth so often is. We can't give you answers that'll be correct for both emus and eagles. Specify :).

Snick
01-01-2012, 08:42 PM
See, though I sort of know how a bird is built (and can look up the stuff about it's anatomy that I don't know), I'm sort of troubled by . . . what being a bird would feel like, I guess (can't think of the term I'm looking for).


In my experience; although I have never been a bird; I believe that the only way to learn what it feels like to be something is to be that thing. I don't think that you will even know what it feels like to be a bird, unless you become a shape-shifter, but you may be able to glean some of it if you observe birds carefully.

BlueGecko
01-01-2012, 09:55 PM
Okay, maybe I should've realized that if I was going to bed in 5 minutes, I should've waited 'til tomorrow to post. . . .

My bad. I didn't really realize how general a question this was until anyone said something. . . . See, the bird I have is one I made up myself (I think the genre of the story would be urban fantasy), an arboreal, child-sized bird. I guess if anyone would know the specifics, it would be me. . . . Yeah, sort of seems like a dumb question now. But basically, like the example in the OP, the way birds' lungs are, I think that sort of applies to all avians. I guess I was looking for general facts that I'd want to know. Like if an ornithologist read it, I wouldn't want him to say "Hey, this is completely unrealistic (though I don't see why I feel the need to point this out in an urban fantasy book anyway)! He completely missed the fact that... (Etc.)" (Back to my birds' lungs example again) Basically, as far as urban fantasy goes, I want to try to make it as scientifically accurate as I can (Let's pretend for now that the concepts of science and magic AREN'T mutually exclusive).


Go watch the David Attenborough Nature series on birds. It's free streaming on Netflix. The public library may very well have the DVDs. Okay, thanks. I don't have netflix, but I do have a library. Maybe I'll see if I can find it.

EDIT: Ninja'd, I think.
In my experience; although I have never been a bird; I believe that the only way to learn what it feels like to be something is to be that thing. I don't think that you will even know what it feels like to be a bird, unless you become a shape-shifter, but you may be able to glean some of it if you observe birds carefully. I see what you're saying (in fact, if someone else was asking my question, that might be the exact thing I'd say). I suppose when I finally get a lucid dream, I could actually shapeshift into a bird (I can't speak for myself, but I've read that anything in a lucid dream can feel very realistic, even shapeshifting. Though I guess that's more how my brain would expect it to feel). Of course, if I somehow didn't know the way a bird's legs were hinged, I probably wouldn't get that, so I suppose I couldn't use a lucid dream for study purposes. :p

Snick
01-01-2012, 10:01 PM
(Let's pretend for now that the concepts of science and magic AREN'T mutually exclusive).


Actually, science is only a small part of all of magic.

shirley40
01-02-2012, 01:30 AM
Many birds have their eyes on the side of their head. This gives them a panoramic view. They also are able to see more colors than we do, for example ultra violet. The sky looks to them probably different than it does to us. Your character would feel much lighter because many of his bones are hollow.
Here is a link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_vision

Hope this helps

Polenth
01-02-2012, 03:53 AM
My bad. I didn't really realize how general a question this was until anyone said something. . . . See, the bird I have is one I made up myself (I think the genre of the story would be urban fantasy), an arboreal, child-sized bird. I guess if anyone would know the specifics, it would be me. . . . Yeah, sort of seems like a dumb question now. But basically, like the example in the OP, the way birds' lungs are, I think that sort of applies to all avians. I guess I was looking for general facts that I'd want to know. Like if an ornithologist read it, I wouldn't want him to say "Hey, this is completely unrealistic (though I don't see why I feel the need to point this out in an urban fantasy book anyway)! He completely missed the fact that... (Etc.)"

The easiest route will still be to pick a bird with most of the features and abilities you're looking for. Then you'll have a reference for any specific questions.

Don't get caught up on the lungs or other internals. Your bird will have the air sacks you're describing. But how often do you think about the functioning of your internal organs? Same for a bird. It won't impact their thoughts much. When they take a breath, that's what they do. They won't be thinking about exactly how it happens.

Eating and pooping on the other hand... it will come up eventually.

A few starting questions for your research:

What does your bird eat? This will change beak shape, talons, the placement of the eyes and abilities.

When is your bird is active? Is it a day bird or a night bird?

What is its social structure? A social bird has different requirements to one that lives alone. Birds where both sexes raise the chicks look different to those where only one sex does. I'll note I mean the species as a whole, not what your MC ends up doing.

How will your bird differ from nature? Some differences, you'll get away with and no one will comment. Others, they'll notice in a bad way.

jaksen
01-02-2012, 04:00 AM
If I were a bird, I'd choose an eagle or osprey. They way they float on thermals is absolutely exhilarating to watch. You can't tell me they don't feel something, some kind of emotion when they're way up there watching the world below.

Yes, the osprey is looking for fish, but he's also just floating. I've watched one floating up there for thirty minutes or longer, coming down, going back up and back and forth over and over. Certainly he (or she's) spied a fish in the water in all that time but they simply stay up there.

Must be sublime, even for a bird.

frimble3
01-02-2012, 12:55 PM
Okay, maybe I should've realized that if I was going to bed in 5 minutes, I should've waited 'til tomorrow to post. . . .

My bad. I didn't really realize how general a question this was until anyone said something. . . . See, the bird I have is one I made up myself (I think the genre of the story would be urban fantasy), an arboreal, child-sized bird. I guess if anyone would know the specifics, it would be me. . . . Yeah, sort of seems like a dumb question now. But basically, like the example in the OP, the way birds' lungs are, I think that sort of applies to all avians. I guess I was looking for general facts that I'd want to know. Like if an ornithologist read it, I wouldn't want him to say "Hey, this is completely unrealistic (though I don't see why I feel the need to point this out in an urban fantasy book anyway)! He completely missed the fact that... (Etc.)" (Back to my birds' lungs example again) Basically, as far as urban fantasy goes, I want to try to make it as scientifically accurate as I can (Let's pretend for now that the concepts of science and magic AREN'T mutually exclusive).

Okay, thanks. I don't have netflix, but I do have a library. Maybe I'll see if I can find it.

EDIT: Ninja'd, I think. I see what you're saying (in fact, if someone else was asking my question, that might be the exact thing I'd say). I suppose when I finally get a lucid dream, I could actually shapeshift into a bird (I can't speak for myself, but I've read that anything in a lucid dream can feel very realistic, even shapeshifting. Though I guess that's more how my brain would expect it to feel). Of course, if I somehow didn't know the way a bird's legs were hinged, I probably wouldn't get that, so I suppose I couldn't use a lucid dream for study purposes. :p
If it's a child-sized bird, and there's any relationship between your made-up bird and reality, it's probably a bird of prey. I can't see a bird that big eating enough insects to keep going. Or seeds. Fruit, maybe, but big fruit, like apples, or oranges or mangos. Again, it's going to take a lot of berries to keep those wings flapping.
Maybe an omnivore, like a reallybig raven?
And, even with hollow bones, he's going to have to be really careful about what branches he perches on. None of this 'little branch near the tops of the trees' stuff. Big, sturdy branches, that won't dump him embarrassingly. And, he's going to have a really big wingspan, so he'd be better avoiding flying into dense clumps of trees.

mirandashell
01-02-2012, 11:03 PM
I have to agree with Frimble. Any bird that big will be carnivorous. Or at least omnivorous.

Friendly Frog
01-02-2012, 11:15 PM
Or flightless.

frimble3
01-03-2012, 02:24 AM
Or flightless.
That would have been my first thought, as well, but the OP talks about 'arboreal' which I think is meant as 'living in trees', rather than standing around in them. I may be wrong. Flightless would certainly allow for more bulk. And, a lot of variety, from penguin to ostrich to kiwi.

BlueGecko
01-03-2012, 02:55 AM
Thanks for all the replies!


What does your bird eat? This will change beak shape, talons, the placement of the eyes and abilities.

When is your bird is active? Is it a day bird or a night bird?

What is its social structure? A social bird has different requirements to one that lives alone. Birds where both sexes raise the chicks look different to those where only one sex does. I'll note I mean the species as a whole, not what your MC ends up doing.

How will your bird differ from nature? Some differences, you'll get away with and no one will comment. Others, they'll notice in a bad way.


If it's a child-sized bird, and there's any relationship between your made-up bird and reality, it's probably a bird of prey. I can't see a bird that big eating enough insects to keep going. Or seeds. Fruit, maybe, but big fruit, like apples, or oranges or mangos. Again, it's going to take a lot of berries to keep those wings flapping.
Maybe an omnivore, like a reallybig raven?
And, even with hollow bones, he's going to have to be really careful about what branches he perches on. None of this 'little branch near the tops of the trees' stuff. Big, sturdy branches, that won't dump him embarrassingly. And, he's going to have a really big wingspan, so he'd be better avoiding flying into dense clumps of trees.

Ah, I have this stuff figured out. See, what we have here is a bird from another dimension. (Er, it sounds weird on paper, doesn't it?) But basically, the area that the bird inhabits is full of a natural (sort-of) mana, which supports large life-forms (Including forests of trees even bigger than sequoias, which make up the bird's habitat), and also encourages the mutations that drive evolution.

The bird (I've dubbed it a "valcon", like falcon, and Valkyrie, though I'm not sure if that'll ever be mentioned in the story) will eat pretty much anything it can swallow. It has 4 extra fingers on it's hands, which are used for killing prey, climbing up the trunks of the giant trees it lives in, and more rarely, (unless of course you've been human before for long enough to learn to use hands for this), grasping items. Actually, it's not as "holy potato chips, Batman! That's impossible" as you might think it is. In theory, one could take a little bit of a bird's DNA, and change it's wing into a saurian arm and grasper, and this is in real-life. Think of it as sort of like an archaeopteryx, it spends a lot of time clambering in trees, jumping and gliding from branch to branch. Though of course, a valcon could fly if it wanted to. As for its size: it was descended from flying ground-birds, like a secretary bird. Actually, I do have a sketch of it, though I don't now have a way of getting it onto the internet.


Many birds have their eyes on the side of their head. This gives them a panoramic view. They also are able to see more colors than we do, for example ultra violet. The sky looks to them probably different than it does to us. Your character would feel much lighter because many of his bones are hollow.
Here is a link:

Aha! Thanks, this is the sort of stuff I was trying to ask for! (Though I suppose I wasn't wording my question very well) Thank you! :D

Fenika
01-03-2012, 02:56 AM
Go watch the David Attenborough Nature series on birds. It's free streaming on Netflix. The public library may very well have the DVDs.

You mean The Life of Birds, or is there another series?


And Moas were large vegetarian birds, as are their rattite cousins. Not big on the flying, but you could have a non-carnivorous, large bird. The benefit of larger size means less metabolism burning through your energy.

And if you want general ornithology info, get a book on ornithology, a kids science book on birds, and check out avian dedicated sites like audobon and cornell's all about birds.

Nature vids on youtube or via your library are also great.

And there are lots of avian shapeshifters in Fantasy. I suggest you start a thread requesting a list of them over in SFF. It will give you an idea of what others have done.

mirandashell
01-03-2012, 02:57 AM
Hmmm.... interesting!

So the wings are attached to the 'arms' with the 'hands' on the ends?

Fenika
01-03-2012, 03:01 AM
Birds have 'fingers' just like we do. The primaries attach to them. Even chickens have a clawed finger as a 'thumb' even if it is pretty useless.

http://www.fernbank.edu/Birding/skeleton.htm

BlueGecko
01-03-2012, 03:05 AM
Thanks for the reply! (Either you type very fast, or I type very slowly. . . . Probably the latter)


And there are lots of avian shapeshifters in Fantasy. I suggest you start a thread requesting a list of them over in SFF. It will give you an idea of what others have done. That's a nice idea. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow. (I can only seem to get myself to post 2 or 3 "big" things a day, apparently)

EDIT: Ah! I do type too slowly!

Yeah, I know about the general anatomy of a bird wing, I just kind of held off on saying hand since, well, valcons being able to use part of theirs like a human hand was kind of a point I was trying to make, and I don't know how to say this without it being a run-on sentence.


So the wings are attached to the 'arms' with the 'hands' on the ends?

I'm not sure if this is what you're saying, but:

Sort of think of a valcon's wings like bat wings, where at the hand, there's and extra finger (or in the valcon's case, 4). Though of course, the rest of the wing is like a normal bird's wing, flight fingers fused together and all.

mirandashell
01-03-2012, 03:07 AM
Birds have 'fingers' just like we do. The primaries attach to them. Even chickens have a clawed finger as a 'thumb' even if it is pretty useless.

http://www.fernbank.edu/Birding/skeleton.htm


I was thinking more along the lines of a dinosaur hand than an avian hand.