Surgeonbirds are small, hummingbird-like avians that fulfill the same ecological niche as mosquitoes. They are about the size of a man's fist, plus wings, and they must feed on blood to survive (although they supplement their diet with fruit and nectar at times). Unlike hummingbirds they are a glossy black color with only a few white feathers that ring their large eyes, giving them a sort of owlish face (they are similarly nocturnal). They are a common pest in certain areas, like the salt swamps. They are especially known for plaguing herds of cattle--a flock of surgeonbirds can leave a hundred cows anemic and half-dead if nothing is done about them.
Surgeonbirds have long, needle-like beaks that they use to draw blood from their prey. Like mosquitoes, surgeonbirds also have an anesthetizing substance: their tears. Surgeonbirds weep onto the skin of their prey in order to make it numb by letting the tears run down their beaks. They hover while feeding. Surgeonbirds can easily suck a couple of ounces of blood from a human. If a sleeping human gets several bites in the night, they may wake up feeling faint and weak. Consecutive nights will easily kill a man.
In the wild, surgeonbirds can grow to be quite large (perhaps the size of two large fists). Larger surgeonbirds can move faster than younger ones, and sometimes flocks containing many larger surgeonbirds will not bother with stealth or anesthesia, but rather mob the unfortunate victim en masse, all simultaneously distracting their prey while other birds seize opportunities to dash in, draw a quick pull of blood with their stilletto-like beak, and leave the prey to bleed. If the prey cannot quickly escape or find a way to deter the flock of ravenous surgeonbirds, the prey may find itself quickly dying from dozens of tiny puncture wounds. Surgeonbirds have no aversion to drinking spilled blood. These large, aggressive swarms are especially known to occur in the Londeen Swamp, the Frogwash Fen and southern Bar Chakka.
Back in civilization, surgeonbirds are often used by doctors, in order to take advantage of the known advantages of controlled bloodletting. The surgeonbirds that doctors use are small and well-trained to ensure that no discomfort comes to the patient. Surgeons also use the birds to provide local anesthesia for minor surgeries. In Asria and Meltheria, doctors sometimes carry a surgeonbird in the head of their staffs, which has a sort of miniature birdcage attached to it. In fact, during times of plague, doctors along the eastern coast traditionally wear plague masks that resemble the heads of surgeonbirds. These plague masks operate on the known principle that plagues spread through bad air, and by breathing through the perfumed beak, a doctor may be spared the infection.