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So, I am dealing with a certain trouble that I'll need a help with.

In my fantasy story, there is artificially formed species (magically created, but non-magic anatomy rules apply) of "humanized" secretary birds.

Secretary Bird

By "humanized", I mean:

1: They are able to grasp objects with wings (perhaps fingers). They might be less dexterous than when using legs, but at least should be able to use them to throw stones/spears.

2: They need to be able to bend their wings in a way that would allow them to throw stones/spears they grasped in them.

3: They have intelligence on par with humans. Maybe, they're able to get away with a slightly smaller, more efficient brain, but there's definitely a need to scale up their head.

  1. Slightly larger than an ordinary secretarybird with total body mass of around 8-10 kg.

What I want to avoid:

1: Completely changed "furry" creature - I do not want a creature that is basically a human in feather suit, my goal is to opt for minimal anatomic changes to fulfill my requirements.

2: While my plan for them is to be basically incapable of regular avian flight, I still wish for them to be able to glide for short distances, if they start from a high ground.

My question is this - are these changes anatomically feasible? Or am I making too many changes, and it is not possible for all of these requirements to be satisfied at the same time?

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    $\begingroup$ To be able to both glide and have dexterous fingers will be difficult, as gliding will still require a decent wing-like structure from your bird's arms, plus it'll mean they still have to be relatively light, although it allows a slight increase in weight. It's just that hands good with grasping don't go well with gliding capability unless you're a flying squirrel (and even then, cause they don't have opposing digits) $\endgroup$ Commented May 22, 2020 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyu I am sorry but you're wrong. Brain size does help intelligence. There isn't such tight connection that it would work on specimen level (the smartest genius of mankind could have smallest brain among healthy humans), but there's definitely a need for secretary bird brain to grow in size to be able to reach human level intelligence. There are other factors that impact brain size without increasing intelligence - body size of the animal, amount of sensory information input, etc. Humans, when their brains shrunk didn't lose INT, but they traded other qualities and they still have megabrains. $\endgroup$ Commented May 22, 2020 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ @kyu yeah we do...through the use of special wingsuits or handgliders, both of which aren't part of our bodies. Plus the Wingsuit is much closer to a flying squirrel gliding than it is to bird gliding, which itself is closer to gymnastic Olympics in a more hardcore level. $\endgroup$ Commented May 22, 2020 at 20:56
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, but you can't cut out that much of miscleanous functions without some troubles. Take a look at human brain progression 500 cm^3 -> 1500 cm^3 -> 1300 cm^3 You can't just throw out enough of brain to gain sentient intelligence without increasing brain volume, otherwise you get a dingus that can't even walk, or who has trouble with spacial awareness, or one that is sentiently intelligent, but lacks decently developed language center so it could as well be dumb etc. You probably don't need nowhere near as brain size as human for this bird, but still, bigger than it originally has. $\endgroup$ Commented May 22, 2020 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ Avian brains are believed to be far more efficient than mammal for volume, but again, we do see certain trends within groups. We can expect at least similar volume growth percent-wise for sentient secretary birds. $\endgroup$ Commented May 22, 2020 at 21:22

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To still have some gliding capability while having thumbs, their arms will likely adopt a design similar to this:

enter image description here

found via typing "anthropomorphic bird arm" on google

It's not the best for flight, it's also not the best for throwing stuff and the wrist movement will be much more similar to a bird wing than to your hand (more side to side than up and down), but it's more or less something in between both (tending more to the bird wing but still).

The main problem is that, while clearly not as much as in powered flight, gliding still calls for reasonably strong pectorals, especially if you're relying on the bird type of gliding. This is not necessarily bad however. If you press you hand on the pectoral of you opposite side and do a swinging motion with the other arm, you'll notice that the pectoral play an important role in the act of throwing, so although the feathers might offer some resistance, you still wouldn't want to be the target of a spear or rock thrown by them.

Regarding your brains, I don't find it impossible. Pigeons can understand concepts of space and time to some extent, corvids are extremely intelligent birds capable of making and using tools, many birds of prey have shown to rely a lot on learning rather than instinct (highlight to Harpy eagles, which take much longer to truly leave their nests due to the time they take to learn how to hunt the smart monkeys they prey on) an many are capable of emotion, so a bird with human-like intelligence isn't too crazy (it helps a lot I don't have to talk about how different and relatively distant all the birds I mentioned are. Thank you magic). Your secretary bird will likely have some growth in its brain, but I wouldn't say it'd be too off to the proportions they have now, as that could cause them trouble due to how their necks work (cranium not sustained mostly by spine, but by muscle, so the head can't be too heavy without further changes in their anatomy). Please notice that the brain is extremely complicated (one of the least understood organs in our body) and intelligence isn't that far behind, so saying exactly what it'd take for it to have intelligence like us will always be a guess based on what little information I have.

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    $\begingroup$ Secretary bird roman soldier throwing a philum spear to disable enemy shields, only difference is that it instead pierces 7 enemies in a line. Secretary birds effectively replace guns. $\endgroup$
    – user75689
    Commented May 22, 2020 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Kyu not sure if to that extent but yeah, if those muscles used for flight are now used to throw spears and rocks at you, you're kinda screwed. $\endgroup$ Commented May 22, 2020 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ except that same arm has all the drag of the flight feathers so it is just moving the soldier around an tossing the spear a few steps away. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ @John and that's why I said throwing spears and rocks don't go well with bird gliding, but this problem can be slightly mitigated if we alter the musculature to allow it to lift its arm, thus allowing it to move in a way it's feathers don't interfere as much as in a flap-like throwing style. $\endgroup$ Commented May 24, 2020 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ but then it is not using the muscles that hold the wing stable. there is also a scaling issue the wings drawn would not provide significant lift and would not allow a human sized creature to glide. something with human mass needs around a dozen square feet per wing for reliably survivable gliding. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 3:34

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