A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (2023)

A birdwatching companion for your travels in Azuma

In the United States, the hobby of birdwatching is celebrated on the last Saturday of April, and known as National Go Birding Day. The trouble with holidays with an outdoor element that occur in April, though, is that the weather often does not cooperate. There’s that whole saying about April showers… you know.

Fortunately, WILD HEARTS™ has its own entire ecology of flying creatures even more rare and fantastic than almost anything found in the real world. And sure, some of them might get pretty aggressive with you if you’re seen, but that’s what makes this particular brand of birding so exciting! So if spring rains prevent you from getting out into real nature with your binoculars, join us in Azuma for a very special version of Go Birding Day. Here’s what you can expect to find:


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (1)

Habitat: Akikure Canyon

Notable Features: vast wingspan, deadly claws, rage

Have you ever seen a hawk snatch up a small, cute, furry animal mid-flight and swoop off to devour it at its leisure? Now you have the chance to personally experience the final moments of that small, cute, furry animal for yourself! If you wish to survive this encounter, note that Amaterasu has the ability to absorb celestial thread from its surroundings; this is one of the few times it cannot kill you instantly, so take advantage of the opportunity.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (2)

Habitat: Akikure Canyon

Notable Features: glowing eyes, toxic emissions, sour disposition

The ecology of Akikure Canyon has gotten a bit more competitive as of late thanks to the recent arrival of Deathhaze Gloombeak. This cousin to the (admittedly also pretty fearsome) Fumebeak has turned Deeply Volatile, radiating even more of the deadly fumes that can quickly incapacitate any nearby prey. This creature presents a significantly heightened danger to any Hunter looking to take it down—not to mention any mild-mannered, well-meaning birdwatcher who crosses its path.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (3)

Habitat: Fuyufusagi Fort

Notable Features: skull-like appearance, anti-cuddliness

Known to dive-bomb Hunters who are already actively engaged with other Kemono, the Deathspine Nighthawk is not actually a hawk, but rather a type of horned owl. What it may lack in size it makes up for in threatening aura, because not only does this creature resemble a flying human skull, but its feathers are actually sharp. Yes, it has sharp feathers. Petting is not recommended. Hugging is definitely not recommended.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (4)

Habitat: Natsukodachi Isle, Akikure Canyon

Notable Features: excruciating call, poor balance

This gangly, rooster-like Kemono may look faintly ridiculous at first, but once you stare into its beady eyes as it charges full-speed directly at you, you will likely be inclined toward a more respectful view. While its charge can be deadly, its periodic sequence of kicking attacks are where the real power is. If you manage to avoid them, however, you’ll likely get a breather since these attacks tend to cause it to lose its balance. If you don’t, though, you’re likely to become cock-a-doodle-dead.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (5)

Habitat:Natsukodachi Isle

Notable Features: beautiful plumage, spontaneous combustion

If a peacock could whip you with its tail and set itself on fire just to cause you pain, that would be a problem. If that peacock grew to the size of a small house, that would be a much bigger problem. Well, meet the much bigger problem. The Emberplume is able to target its prey from long distances, so there’s a bit of a good news/bad news situation here: On the one hand, getting up close allows you to avoid a fair number of its attacks. On the other hand, you are now very close to an ablaze Emberplume. And now you’re on fire.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (6)

Habitat: Akikure Canyon, Harugasumi Way, Fuyufusagi Fort

Notable Features: glowing eyes, toxic emissions, slightly less sour disposition

Much like our own crows, Fumebeak can be found almost anywhere. And much like our own crows, they are both quite smart and kind of annoying. Unlike our own crows, Fumebeak can emit a toxic vapor that damages anything that breathes it in too long, making them extremely deadly. But not quite as deadly as their Deeply Volatile cousin above.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (7)

Habitat: Harugasumi Way

Notable Features: affinity for water, possible shapeshifting

Under the boughs, unbowed, stands this regal-looking creature. One of the few flying animals of Azuma that is not actively trying to eat you, the Goldcrysanth Crane can usually be found wading in shallow water. Should you encounter a wounded Goldcrysanth in the wild, be sure to come to its aid, and you may be visited later by a mysterious fair maiden. Choose to ignore it, however, and you may end up hanging your head low.


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Habitat: Harugasumi Way

Notable Features: yellow crest, fondness for bamboo grass

The summertime habitat of this lovely, peaceful creature is not known; it simply arrives from across the oceans each fall to spend the winter in Harugasumi Way. While there, it tends to spend time in the bamboo grass, and so like any Kemono, it begins to resemble its surroundings. These swallows make lovely pets; however, in spite of their resemblance to our own parrots, do not expect them to talk. At least, not while you’re in earshot.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (9)

Habitat: Natsukodachi Isle

Notable Features: lotus petal-like feathers, delightful song

Another migratory bird, the lovely Lotuswing Swallow resembles nothing so much as a white-and-purple cockatiel. It is known for its beautiful birdsong, its resemblance to a lotus blossom, and the fact that it does not wish to kill you even a little bit. It is believed that they were originally the same species as the Grasswing Swallows, but diverged under the influence of their habitat.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (10)

Habitat: Natsukodachi Isle

Notable Features: blinding white plumage, palpable contempt for goth cousin

Science has not yet determined if or how the Pearlbeak is related to the Fumebeak, but there appears to be some connection; how else to explain the fact that they are virtually identical upon hatching? Scholars theorize that the Pearlbeak’s diet of seafood results in its white coloring (while the brooding Fumebeak feeds on carrion, which is to say, death). Alas, neither diet nor coloring determine temperament, and the Pearlbeak is every bit as nasty as its likely relative. Instead of emitting incapacitating vapors, however, the Pearlbeak blasts its prey with blinding light. Technically, one could probably get a tan from the light, if one did not first get dead.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (11)

Habitat: Fuyufusagi Fort, Natsukodachi Isle

Notable Features: confusing crest, sleepytime eggs

There’s a reason Ripclaw resembles Dreadclaw so closely: They’re technically the same species. Well, sort of—when the universally male Dreadclaw discovers that it is time to reproduce, it transforms into the universally female Ripclaw, whereupon it lays its eggs and the circle of life begins anew. There’s just one problem: Some of those eggs are filled with sleeping gas, and there’s no telling which is which. So, uh, watch your step?


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (12)

Habitat: Fuyufusagi Fort

Notable Features: purplish feathers, resistance to cold

This cousin to the Goldchrysanth Crane lives in the bitter cold of Fuyufusagi Fort. It also likes water, though, so it lives a bit of a harder life. Still, at least it doesn’t have to transform into a human woman at the drop of a hat—at least, not as far as we know. Make one a pet and bring it someplace slightly more likely to have unfrozen water and you may have a friend for life.


A Birder’s Guide to WILD HEARTS (13)

Habitat: Natsukodachi Isle, Akikure Canyon

Notable Features: lack of feathers, lack of true flight, lack of birdliness

For the sake of completeness, we feel compelled to point out that if you should see a flying creature on Natsukodachi Isle or in Akikure Canyon that doesn’t actually bear much of a resemblance to a bird, it is probably not a bird. The Spineglider is a fierce kemono who would like nothing more than to pounce upon unsuspecting Hunters (and “bird”-watchers) from a great height. Fortunately it cannot actually fly, being something more like our own “flying” squirrels, but that doesn’t prevent it from trying. Its signature move is to build its own little perch to climb, pretend to be a real bird for a moment, then swoop down on anything below that looks sufficiently tasty.

We hope you enjoyed (and, er, survived) your birdwatching tour of Azuma. Remember: This land is always evolving, so you may find even more fanciful flying creatures in the future! Until then, keep your binoculars handy—right next to your Bladed Wagasa.

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