In their tropical home of Tetzcotal, assassin birds flit through the night on silent wings, searching out hosts from which to steal a small bit of blood. Though not as high in energy as the nectar which other hummingbirds consume, the blood keeps the birds warm in the cooler night and allows them to avoid daytime predators like hawks and eagles. Most of their time is spent searching for food, and because of their high metabolisms, assassin birds rarely socialize except during the mating season. Females are exceedingly picky about their choice of mate, one of many factors driving their peculiar habits and appearances. Males, meanwhile, may attempt to impress many females, for they play little part in the parenting process. Each one had its own sort of showy flight, which is performed during the day and near the canopy, when the birds are most vulnerable, but also when they display their vibrant daytime plumage. Both sexes can produce low whines with their unique tail feathers if they fly in a particular sweeping pattern, and anyone within earshot will start to see disorienting fantasies. Both male and female birds seem able to produce these visions to the same degree, though they are often more intense if produced by a male, perhaps as a way to dazzle a mate.
Small enough to fit in the palm of one hand, few would ever suspect these birds of the grim powers they possess. It is precisely because of their unassuming nature that these shimmering creatures are favored companions of many cutthroats and assassins, as their common name implies. Unlike other hummingbirds, assassin birds fly nearly silent, and during the night, when most other birds of the forest are asleep. Their feeding is quite different as well; like vampire bats, assassin birds feed on the blood of slumbering animals, piercing a small vein with their sharp little bills and lapping up the blood that trickles out. Their beaks are coated in an oil which keeps their victims asleep through the process, one of several reasons they are well suited to aiding stealthy criminals. The other reason revolves largely around the birds’ magnificent tails, which bear long paired feathers, especially on the males. The sounds made by these birds can at best confuse, at worst instill utter terror into any unsuspecting victim. Fed plenty of high-energy blood and kept warm, a trained assassin bird is an invaluable tool for a secretive nighttime criminal. Because they are not inherently dangerous, the Keep does not ban their breeding outsize of Tetzcotal, though they do keep a registry of owners of these birds.
Sprite art: Tekla | Description: PKGriffin