A grown ilikatal is a fierce-looking creature, with red eyes and sharp talons and feathers coated in a substance similar in appearance to dried blood. They feed almost entirely on bone marrow, and though they tend to dislike scavenged meat, they will occasionally take live prey. They access both types of food, living and dead, in the same way: by dropping it from great heights. When feeding on marrow, ilikatal will climb high into the air with a thick bone in their talons, find a rocky site, then drop it until the bone cracks and they can access the fatty tissue within. They use the same technique to bring down living prey, dropping tortoises from the sky, or, more rarely, chasing goats and sheep off cliffs. However, their feeding habits have given ilikatal an undeservedly poor reputation. The blood-like coating on their feathers is actually just dust; ilikatal will roll around in iron-rich sediments or rub mud on their naturally gray feathers to stain them orange or red. No one is quite sure why they do this, but both male and female ilikatal apply their cosmetic tint. Ilikatal owners will often tell about how they waddle around, proudly displaying new patches of orange hue to whomever pays them any attention. They grow quite large, but maintain their gentle dispositions, growing especially close to their magi.
Ilikatal are residents of desolate lands, able to survive in places entirely inhospitable to other creatures, and may sometimes be the only birds around for miles. The birds favor dry mountaintops and desiccated salt plains, and can be found nesting on high inselbergs or monadnocks that rise out of the ground. They can even be found on the highest peaks in the Alasre Mountains. Like all birds of prey, ilikatal have sharp vision and can spot the gleaming bones of a recent carcass from several kilometers away. Though called vultures by some, they are more closely related to eagles, and differ from both of these birds in their feeding habits. Ilikatal possess the ability to consume nearly anything, for their stomachs contain an exceedingly strong acid that can dissolve wood, bone, even metal. Though most of their diet consists of marrow, when prey is scarce, ilikatal can survive by eating vegetation, rock, soil, and other debris they come upon. They get few nutrients from such a diet, and may come out of a famine ravenous for fresh meat. When this happens, they will attack nearly any creature they can pull into the sky, though some of the clever ilikatal have learned how to chase larger animals off of steep cliffs. This trait has given them the nickname ossifrage, or bone-breaker.
Sprite art: Tekla | Description: PKGriffin