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Recently a player asked me if it would be possible to make a PC that had the head of an owl, or was otherwise an anthropomorphic owl. Immediately my mind went to the Aarakocra, even though they are traditionally depicted as being eagle-like (judging by the picture in the Monster Manual and other official artwork).

I looked up their entry in the Monster Manual to see if it made their appearance explicit, but there's not much in there about their appearance. Then I took a look at the Elemental Evil Player's Companion at their player race write up. It says, under the heading "Beak and Feather" (page 3):

Their heads complete the avian appearance, being something like a parrot or eagle with distinct tribal variations.

It doesn't elaborate much on what these "tribal variations" are, but this at least implies that Aarakocra can have the heads of other birds, not just "a parrot or eagle", despite the fact that all the official art I've seen depicts them as eagle-headed.

Is there any further information on whether Aarakocra can look like other birds? Note I don't want an exhaustive list of examples, just clarification on whether "tribal variations" means what my player hopes it means (since it could also be read to simply mean different colour parrots, or some other minor variation like that).

I believe Aarakocra appeared in previous editions of D&D, so any clarification outside of 5e is acceptable, but I'd prefer information from 5e material if possible. Also note that any setting that has a positive answer is fine (i.e. it doesn't have to be Forgotten Realms, especially if FR says no but the answer is yes in a different setting).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Aug 19, 2018 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do Aven count as Aarakocra for this question? They’re basically the same thing for MtG settings, and now that MtG settings are being published as DND books... \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Mar 18, 2020 at 4:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 No, I wouldn't say that Aven count, no more than Kenku or any other avian creature counts as an Aarakocra. That said, that might make a good, interesting question in its own right... \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Mar 18, 2020 at 7:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth looking at Strixhaven's Owlin race, which are humanoid owls. \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurel
    Apr 13, 2022 at 12:05

2 Answers 2

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Any bird is hard to prove, but there are certainly variations

Eagle

The best known variation of Aarakocra tend to resemble eagles.

Parrot

The ones in the Tomb of Annihilation campaign book, where it describes the Aarakocra of Chult, resemble parrots.

However, both of these are mentioned in the description of Aarakocra already, so might not be the kind of proof you are looking for.

Vulture

Aarakocra from the Dark Sun setting resemble giant vultures. As there are no vultures mentioned in the description, and they still exist in some setting, there is a strong possibility that there are owl-like aarakocra in other settings.

Historical

Historically, even the eagle-like Aarakocra looked different. In earlier editions, they looked more like songbirds. (Thanks, Forrestfire)

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Yes. One of the designers for CoS confirmed it.

They basically have eagle/hawk heads, but the aarakocra in your game might have owl heads instead. You could call them hooters. #WOTCstaff

So, per that advice, it's up to you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ AFAIK, Perkins job on 5e was CoS mostly/only, so it would be better to clarify that point (i.e. he's not Crawford) \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Aug 19, 2018 at 20:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Perkins is the lead story designer for all of 5e. In the case of lore, he's more authoritative than Crawford. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2018 at 0:21

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