Saturday, March 31, 2012

Birds of Prey

A Golden Eagle in Loch Modan.

Birds of Prey are a large group of Cunning pets with a Disarm ability.  Oh, and before I forget--make sure to listen to this song while you read this post--you know, to get into the mood.  Theme.  Whatever.

Birds of prey in the real world are quite varied in appearance and behavior, and this is also the case with World of Warcraft's taloned terrors.  These beasts range from eagle to owl models, and everything in between--including crows and gulls, and even parrots (which in reality are mostly herbivorous!), and have dozens of different skins--so even the most picky hunter can likely find a Bird of Prey they like!  In short, despite being often overlooked, Birds of Prey are one of the most varied and widespread pet families of them all.

Aviana's Shrine in Mount Hyjal boasts a large number of tameable Birds of Prey with various models.

Because their habitat is so varied, you can find a Bird of Prey to make your own in just about every corner of Azeroth.  In dark forests you can find black owls lurking beneath the trees.  Near flooded regions, gulls flock to isolated plots of exposed land, and in the plains regions, one can often find eagles soaring overhead.  Black or brown "Crows" (actually the Night Elf & Tauren 60% druid flight forms) can be found in multiple regions but are plentiful in the Howling Fjord of Northrend.  Ghostly or emerald owls can be found in a couple of isolated dragon- or elven-themed locations.  There's even an "undead" bone-hawk swathed in bandages flying around in Icecrown and the Plaguelands!  A full list of all Bird of Prey appearances and locations would be far too much for this blog post--see the Petopia listing for Birds of Prey if you'd like to know more!

The Bird of Prey is a Cunning pet, good for PvP utility and falling between Ferocity and Tenacity pets in terms of damage, although closer to the Ferocity end.  Their "speccable" abilities include damage and tank talents and Roar of Recovery and Roar of Sacrifice to help you boost your Focus regen & reduce damage on friendly targets (both abilities on a cooldown).  Birds of Prey have both a unique family skill, like most pet families, and a second "gimmick" ability for fun, much like the "Rest" skill for Bears.  The utility ability is a 10-second Disarm--and it's 10 seconds in PvP, too, unless of course the opponent has a weapon chain to halve the duration--and is on a 1 minute cooldown (or 42 seconds for BM hunters).  The "for fun" ability is called "Trick," in which the bird does a flip on command: this looks identical to the druid flight form's /mountspecial.

My hunter and her undead hawk, Derelict
 Birds of Prey are a low-priority pet in PvE.  They bring no useful buffs to the table, although on a gimmick boss fight where a Disarm is useful and no player present has the Disarm, the bird can be brought out to do the trick.  As a Cunning pet, it potentially does slightly less damage than a Ferocity pet anyway, at least until the boss is below 35% (at which point Feeding Frenzy kicks in).  Regardless, if you have a Bird of Prey and (in the case of difficult content) other buffs are covered, a properly-specced Bird would be fine to PvE with.

For PvP, Birds of Prey can be, situationally, quite useful.  In battlegrounds it's an unexpected alternative to a rooting, stunning or disorienting pet; less common, but still fun to break out for an anti-melee surprise.  Which pet you bring to arena will depend on your team composition, but if your team already has stuns and roots, try out the disarm and see if it fits your style.  The Cunning family skill Roar of Sacrifice is always a good thing to bring to the table in PvP, although most PvP pets (at least for MM and Survival hunters) will be Cunning in any case.

Random Facts: 

If you are level 80 or above, and you want a big supply of Birds of Prey to choose from quickly, head up to Aviana's Shrine at Mount Hyjal, a bit south of Nordrassil.  Multitudes of eagles and owls circle the big tree here at varying heights, tameable from the ground, ledges and tree branches; they come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, white and "bald eagle."

At one point, a large number of flying pets had the ability to fly directly to an enemy instead of pathing on the ground.  A few of the Birds of Prey, including the Seagull, shared this ability: in PvP, the bird could path directly to a player atop a tower, or dive down off the BEM arena bridge to attack a player who leapt off.  This ability was quickly removed,  and now Birds of Prey path along the ground like all other pets.

Carrion Birds are a related family in the Ferocity tree. Quite a few birds have moved from Birds of Prey over to the Carrion Bird classification--although one or two vultures still remain.

Some Birds of Prey don't have the ability to use the Trick command; this is likely related to their model.

Different Birds of Prey use different sound files: owls chirp and whistle softly, crows and parrots squawk (the parrots rather hideously, in my opinion!) and eagles and hawks scream and shriek.

Some of the eagles have lighting errors that seem to come and go each patch; when the errors persist, the eagle appears to be shaded and brightly lit in alternating geometric patterns across its body.