The so-called merbirds are a family of colourful fish native to Mergrove, a great kelp forest underneath the Atlantis Plateau. There are around twenty-three known species, though some researchers disagree on the boundaries between the species.
Merbirds can easily be recognized by their long, wide fins that almost resemble wings, giving them their name. Most merbirds also have a long, slim body, though the crested brown hummer is a well-known exception, with a short body dwarfed by its wings.
Many merbirds additionally have a decorative dorsal fin which is very distinctive. In some species, this fin is present only in the females. Merbird sizes range from the 12cm rainbow trout to the 92cm great crested zioness.
With the exception of the blue whinger, which has almost no sexual dimorphism, merbird females are twenty to thirty-five percent larger than the males of their species.
As fish, merbirds spawn by laying eggs which are then fertilized by a male. Some spawn high in the kelp fronds, gluing their eggs onto the blades. Others spawn on the sea floor, placing the eggs in various nooks and crannies.
After hatching, merbirds grow quickly, reaching maturity within three to six months, depending on the species. Most species do not live longer than two or three years, though some brackish puffballs have been known to live for as long as seven years.
Merbirds feed on the kelp itself, zooplankton in the water, or both. No carnivorous species of merbird are known.
Merbirds have no unusual powers or abilities. They do however produce a variety of vocalizations, from moaning cries to sharp whistles to hoots. The vocalizations are distinct enough that it’s often possible to recognize the species just from the cry.
The merbirds were once a delicacy in the diet of the merfolk royal family, but when the Atlantis Plateau cracked and sank into the ocean during a great quake, the Mergrove was all but sealed off, rendering it almost impossible to obtain such delicacies. However, since then the merbirds have continued to thrive.