The aarakocra way of life is centered around their worship of the sky and respect for the mountains. In their mind, ascension is the greatest honor that can be granted to any being, with the gods above the sky and the lowest wretches of the world living deep underground. Aarakocra make their homes in mountain ranges, often in crevices and cliff faces that provide easy access to take off points.
Aarakocra are avian beastfolk, with six limbs in total. Their wings are broad and designed for flying on air currents, making them excellent gliders but less adept at flight in closed quarters. Aarakocra are most akin to raptors in appearance, with forward facing eyes and curved beaks, though in some regions these beaks are not hooked due to differences in diet. They vary in feather coloration, with whites and browns being the most common, whilst others can be grey or black. Some individuals have feather crests, which can appear on males and females.
Little sexual dimorphism exists between the genders that is visible to non-aarakocra, though aarakocra natives can distinguish each other based on slight differences in facial structure.
Aarakocra are omnivorous, with the majority of their diets varying between regions. In areas of few civilizations, meat is the primary food source, with aarakocra hunting their prey from the skies much like other birds of prey. In more populated regions where hunting is less viable, aarakocra are more likely to feed on fruits, seeds, and berries, as well as pre-caught meat products. It is in these regions that they show less hooked beaks, as they have less of a need to tear raw meat from bones.
Aarakocra psychology is hard to understand by creatures that rely on facial expressions for communication. The large beaks of the aarakocra mean that there is little room for body language, and as such all communication is done vocally. Their language is large and expansive, with independent words for the same concept under different emotions. For example, a human may distinguish “I like you” and “I like you” through body language and tone of voice. Aarakocra on the other hand would have two entirely separate words. This means that those learning their language must learn a large vocabulary, and as such aarakocra are often found to ‘simplify’ their word choice for the emotionally ‘stunted’ creatures of the earth.
It is easy to see the aarakocra as antisocial, as they require much less interaction with their own kind than other races. It is common for individuals to only see others of their own race once or twice a year, and even mating pairs live in separate accommodation in colony nest sites. Parent aarakocra are seen as the most sociable of their race, and this lasts until their chicks make their first flight. Mates choose each other, and both take part in laying and raising their eggs. The development of magic incubating spells would decrease their time together even further, with parents only meeting to feed their young.
Fledglings are born as all other birds are; small, featherless, and relatively helpless. Over time they develop white fuzzy coverings and become more independent. Whilst their wings are the last body parts to develop, chicks are nestbound, kept confined by fences made of animal bones, wood, and stone. These nests are littered with food and trinkets for the chicks to inspect, as an understimulsted chick can try to escape the nest and find itself at the edge of a cliff.
To the aarakocra, flight is their most prized characteristic. It allows them to keep high in the air, where they can view predators and prey alike. It grants them movement over bodies of water, making them valued transporters and messengers. The sky provides them with air currents to use when flying, rain to nourish their food and chicks, and storms to inspire their art. They worship the sky in many forms, and their culture is based around understanding their homes.
When a chick fledges, they have two main areas of life they are traditionally expected to go to: wardens or watchers. The wardens protect the skies from opposing forces, often taking their wrath out on subterranean races that emerge from the earth. They are seen as almost directionless in their fighting, as each individual determines what they see as a threat to the sky. They typically prefer weapons such as spears and crossbows, which can be used at range to allow the bird people to remain in the sky. Others carry their targets into the sky, dropping them from great heights and letting gravity do the rest. The range of the aarakocra wardens primarily consists of open areas, such as farmland, mountainous regions, and fields.
Watcherhood is a position often taken by older aarakocra, as it is a position that requires less flight without being seen as debasing themselves to a terrestrial lifestyle. The warchers are priests, meditators, and seers, searching for truth in the placement of the stars and movement of the wind in order to understand the reality of the world. Warchers dress themselves in robe-like clothing, and often send for people to build them devices to record the speed of wind or the movement of heavenly bodies. In this sense, the watchers are almost akin to pseudoscientists, combining meteorology, astronomy and religion into one form.
One of the consequences of this perfectionist, pro-flight mentality is that if an aarakocra cannot fly, they are seen as being defective. Offspring with poorly developed wings, or those that do not fly in time, are cast out of society and no longer dealt with if possible. A common wives’ tale is that defective chicks are thrown off of mountaintops; whilst this is rooted in truth, the more socially acceptable method is to send the chicks off to the settlements of other races to either live amongst them. An aarakocra flying low with a bag in its arms is seen as a sign of sadness. This abandonment is also given to those that have their wings removed, such as prisoners of war and those that do not show the proper respect of the sky. These wingless aarakocra- often called fledglings in the same way a human adult could be called and infant- live amongst fellow sub-perfect members of their race.
The fledglings find plenty of livelihoods amongst other races, though are viewed with something between awe (of their race, which is rarely seen on the ground) and pity (from those that are aware why they walk amongst the other races). With their light frames, strong vision, and sharp talons, aarakocra are stereotyped as good candidates as scouts, thieves, and lookouts. They can also find jobs as translators, monks, and messengers. Fledglings typically refuse to take on jobs or leisure activities that result in smoke inhalation; their lungs are not great, and as such their lifespans are significantly shortened by working as blacksmiths or miners.
Flying aarakocra can find many jobs, should they find themselves wanting to associate with the surface dwellers. Their aloof nature, need for space, and antisocial tendencies make them poor candidates for most positions, and as such they often find themselves working delivery jobs, such as guarding trading caravans. Alternatively, they may find themselves as prison guards, able to hunt down escaped convicts from the skies.
Aarakocra art is traditionally carved out of bones or painted on the sides of mountains. Their art depicts representations of the sky, as well as various birds and other flying creatures. A common story told from adult to chick is the tale of the sky hawk and the water snake, where the two creatures had each claimed their domain for their own and had sought to be rid of the other one. To stop this, the sky created mountains, which acted as barriers to stop the sky hawk from pecking at the water snake in case it impaled itself. To stop the water snake, the sky blew away some of the oceans to reveal land, which was later inhabited by the other races. This has led to both a deep respect for mountains and a strong prejudice against serpentine creatures. The history of their people is passed down orally, and written language is only used frequently when working with other races.