The behemoth inaccurately referred to as a “space bird” is an enormous, manta-ray-shaped, space-faring organism. They are pearly white in colour, usually with a hint of green, with most of their mass making up the wings; the head is quite small in comparison, though still usually large enough for a human spacecraft to enter. It’s unknown just how large they can grow, but space birds about the size of the Earth’s moon seem to be fairly normal.
A space bird lays its eggs on the surface of a planet capable of supporting its young until they are capable of surviving the harshness of outer space. The eggs are made of the same tough plastic that makes up the being’s shell, and are laid in clutches of up to 100. A single egg is generally around 30cm long (1ft). They incubate over a period equivalent to roughly 2 Earth years before hatching. The space bird abandons its eggs after laying them.
Hatchlings are a little over 30cm long with a wingspan of 20-30cm, but they can’t fly immediately after hatching. They spend the first few days of their life scavenging on the ground, until they manage to build enough strength in their wings to lift off.
Once they gain flight, they usually feed on a mixture of plant and mineral matter as they slowly grow up. They also ingest seeds of many types of plant, storing them away in their belly for the eventual rise of their own internal ecosystem.
After around a century of childhood, a space bird is finally fully grown. Its plastic shell is fully formed, and the ecosystem within it is thriving, freeing it from dependence on the air of the planet it was born on. Along with its siblings, it forsakes its home of the past century and pushes out into the vastness of space. It’s not uncommon for two or three space birds to stick together for ten or twenty years, but eventually each one goes their own way.
After leaving their planet of birth, the space birds continue to grow for at least a further fifty years. It’s possible they never stop growing for as long as they live; there are rumours of planet-sized space birds drifting through deep space.
Space birds pass from life into death without flare, merely fading away. Their body remains behind after death, drifting undirected, continuing to support its internal ecosystem, unless it falls into a sun or crashes into a planet.
Space birds feed on interstellar dust and debris, sometimes snacking on small asteroids. They need a fair amount of variety in their diet, including a supply of organic molecules, but they’ve never been known to attack spaceships for food. In fact, they’ve never been known to eat meat, even as children; their early diet consists largely of plant matter, sand, and gravel.
A space bird has a thick outer skin or shell of tough plastic and a mouth which it uses to draw in sustenance. Although it needs oxygen to survive, it can go for years or centuries without actually breathing due to the miniature ecosystem that it holds within its belly, which serves to recycle the carbon dioxide that it produces from its metabolism.
Space birds use their wings like solar sails, turning them towards the light in order to move in the direction they want. They are also capable of jet propulsion, expelling waste products under high pressure. This is generally reserved for emergencies, as there is only so much waste available.
In addition to the ability to survive and navigate in the harshness of interstellar space, which is extraordinary enough, space birds have a defensive mechanism. If they contact something with their tail, such as a spaceship, they can emit a jolt of high-voltage, high-current electricity.
Although space birds cannot speak, they are capable of transmitting ideas telepathically. A telepathic conversation with a space bird is different from one with a speaking being, as their ideas are not influenced and structured by the concept of language; it can sometimes confuse those inexperienced with mental conversation, but allows for more efficient dialogue.
Society and Culture
Space birds are very solitary creatures. They can go for most of their adult life without seeing another of their kind, so when they finally do meet another, it’s usual for them to go about mating. Gender is not an issue, as all space birds are hermaphroditic. Mating is a two-way affair, leaving both participants with a reservoir of fertilized eggs. Sometimes they remain together after mating, and lay their eggs on the same planet; however, once the eggs are laid, they once again part ways.