Climb 3 in 6, Stealth 1 in 6 (Hook Birds always try to use their stealth).
Hook Birds are fucking disgusting, no one could like them and nobody does.
There are almost no 'natural' species of birds within the Zone. Instead, there are Hook Birds.
It's not clear where the Hook Birds came from or how they managed to drive off or out-compete the other birds since, in almost every respect, a Hook Bird is pretty shit in comparison. One would think that a more efficient, less physically-hideous species with a better flight capacity that does not spend most of its time pointlessly harassing human beings would eventually displace the Hook Birds. But this does not take place.
There might be, and probably are, several inter-relating species of Hook Bird. They look pretty different. Nobody cares about this as they are universally awful. They tend to have the following qualities in common;
They look like crude, badly-designed birds with a little of the lizard in them. A bit vultury-looking, kind of like a retarded toucan, a crack-addicted chicken with little t-rex hands, or maybe like a turkey from a bad family.
Almost all Hook Birds have hooks and these usually protrude from the elbows of their wings. Some have shrivelled wings and what look like weird little secondary claws coming from somewhere near their shoulder. Some have teeth.
Hook Birds use their hooks to scrabble around on the trunks of trees. Mainly you see them scrabbling, scratching, flapping, hanging, pecking, clawing, climbing and screaming rather than flying.
They are capable of flight but rarely seem to do it. Perhaps it takes too much energy. If you ever see one take off it looks like a schizophrenic feather duster trying to fuck itself to death. If you kick a Hook Bird off a branch it simply glides to the ground in the laziest way possible, half falling, looking you in the eye as it goes, before landing in a heap, screaming and wandering about or just lying on its back and refusing to get up, whilst screaming, and staring at you.
Hook birds can put on astonishing bursts of speed when chasing each other about or dashing back and forth on pointless Hook Bird business, yet when threatened, even when one of a flock has been taken out by a slung stone, they only watch with a moronic stillness that may be real stupidity or simply a kind of idiot contempt.
Their colour tends to red. Sometimes a muddy, bloody, crude red, sometimes fading into old-stain brown, sometimes as vibrant as a new wound.
Hook Birds hang around like drunk thugs or under-employed teens. Though they are (probably) insectivores they never seem to actually hunt insects, or to do anything except scream. If you look at them, they are there looking back at you, waiting.
Though they are aggressive creatures, thankfully Hook Birds are also cowards. Despite their omni-presence in the Zone (it certainly feels as if you are never more than a few hundred feet from a Hook Bird) they rarely attack.
Sometimes though, a thrill of malignancy runs through a Hook Bird flock and they set off, dedicating themselves to fucking someone over.
Viscously opportunistic, the Hook Bird will attack anyone, or anything that seems weak. Especially people made vulnerable by circumstance, those, trapped, lost, injured or alone.
(A Hook Bird would certainly eat a person if it could.)
(A Hook Bird would eat a Hook Bird if it could.)
They flee very quickly if opposed but will follow at a distance till the end of the day, watching and waiting for an opportunity to strike.
Handily, following circling Hook Birds can be a good way to find lost workers as flocks usually gather near the bodies, waiting for the Fiddlehead Spiders to finish eating.
Hook Birds like to eat rope. especially rope that people are hanging from They often bite and scrabble at the ropes used to climb Cloudgrave trees and build bridges. Some say they do this to line their nests, others claim that since the Hook Birds steal rope fragments continually throughout the year, it is a learnt behaviour indulged in specifically to put human lives in danger.
Anything in the Zone that's made of rope must have a slinger positioned nearby to drive off Hook Birds in the day. Nevertheless, they sometimes come silently at night and all rope must be continually checked and replaced.
THE CRY OF THE HOOK BIRDS
Hook Birds learn like parrots, they mimic human and natural sounds but the sounds they like most are those of anger and distress.
hook birds can tell when someone is upset and they like the kinds of sound that upset people make this is why hook birds try to make people angry or scared and hang around distressed people, repeating what they say.
If a Hook Bird hears something that it likes, it will repeat it to the rest of the flock, they will repeat it to the forest. This means the dominant cry of the hook bird is the scream, particularly the scream of someone falling from a great height.
If one of them hears this, it will repeat it and then keep repeating it and the cry will quickly be taken up by others.
As a consequence of this, the primary sound of birdsong in the Zone, the chorus that begins at dawn and runs continually until sunset, is the screaming of long-dead people repeated in the harsh metallic voices of birds.
Its important to note that if, when PC's are dealing with Hook Birds, they lose their temper say anything unpleasant, the Hook Birds will hear this and repeat it in their grating idiot voices.