Dear Doctor Warner,
It has come to my attention that your department is planning to cut funding to my research into the Alicanto (poecile alicantus). With that in mind, I am writing to urge that you reconsider this decision and continue funding my research, which I assure you will be worth the while.
As I'm sure you know, I first came down to South America looking for the dreaded Titanoboa in the Amazon. I had gone to the established research site, but imagine my surprise when another university had already made their camp there. I met with the chief researcher there—a Doctor William Bright—and it turned out we both had all the proper permits for the established research site. Dr. Bright and I both went back to the research station to try and resolve the issue. Unbelievable, there was a cleric error that led to both Dr. Bright and I reserving the site. While it was good to have an answer, there was still the problem that only one of us could occupy the research station at a time. Since Dr. Bright was already there, it was agreed that I should come and conduct my research next year.
Dismayed, I didn't want to leave empty-handed. With the university's permission, I started looking for another research project, but this proved difficult. The Amazon didn't have many research stations and I lacked any proper equipment for an aquatic research project. Besides which, my only nearby option was the Boraro and I couldn't think of a more disgusting demise than death by poisonous urine. I almost gave up hope when my guide recommended joining a trip out to Chile to research the alicanto. I had never heard of such a creature before, Dr. Hool always says, "if you want to be the top of your field, pick an obscure subject."
After a two week journey out to Chile, I set up camp in a very different environment than I'd prepared for. I was expecting warm and humid jungles, but my short-sleeved shirts weren't appropriate for the chilly mountainside that I now found myself on. I was concerned when I first set up camp within fifty meters of a previously active mining site. Still, my guide assured me that this would be a good environment to find alicanto. The fact that I wouldn't have to apply for a research permit meant I could start immediately. Thank you again for covering my travel expenses.
Within a day, I had my first sighting. I barely saw the glowing blur that dove down into the mineshaft near my campsite. The alicanto's primary diet consists of precious metals. The one at our site ate gold, which became apparent in their plumage when I saw them sunning themselves during the day. Similar to flamingos, alicantos take on physical characteristics based on their diet. They normally eat gold or silver, but there are a few that eat rarer metals or precious gemstones that can create magnificent colorations. The one at my site had a taste for gold. I know it's unprofessional to humanize our subjects, but my guide called her Goldie when explaining how he knew the site would be popular. As you've noticed by my reporters, I started calling her Goldie as well.
Studying an alicanto is easiest after they've fed because they eat so much metal that for an hour or two after eating their fill, they aren't able to fly. This gave me plenty of opportunities to examine Goldie closely. At my guide's suggestion, I would toss her a few gold coins and mix in rare gems for treats. This allowed me to quickly gain her trust and let me study her closely. Again, I am sorry for the misunderstanding and thank you for allowing me to clarify the receipts.
The miners in this region follow them in an attempt to find deposits of ore. They used to have a more symbiotic relationship, but miners were greedy and would attack the alicanto to find deposits. When they're threatened, alicanto will get violent. At the base of the cliff were dozens of skeletons that I could only assume were the miners who had threatened the alicanto in what it considered its lair. Again, I thank you and the university for the stipend to feed Goldie and earn her trust.
When well-fed and trusting, alicanto are surprisingly affectionate. According to my research, the miners who were willing to offer alicanto gold, the birds would lead them to more deposits. By making an offering when one has so little, the alicanto is obligated to help them. I would give Goldie coins and precious stones every morning and when I showed no interest in gold, she would let me measure and examine her.
An alicanto has a wingspan of over two meters and tail feathers that can stretch out up to a meter each. The talons and beak are sharp and curved for digging through the tough layers of earth to get to the precious minerals they feed on. Their coloration depends on their diet, typically silver and gold. There are rare cases where an alicanto will find stores of other minerals, ranging from simple copper to the very rare alicantos that feed on beautiful gemstones and get vibrant colors that match. Goldie had some darker markings on her face and backs. I also couldn't help but notice that she had scars on her face, neck, and chest.
Goldie didn't bring me to gold or silver deposits at first, but the information she offered me was far more valuable. The research I had on alicantos was limited and mostly interested in their diet. There was little on their behavior beyond their violent tendencies and almost nothing on their mating history. After an initial standoffishness—that I'm sure came from years of abuse and mistrust—Goldie was accepting of my presence and prodding. After gorging herself in the mines, Goldie would come out and sun her wings on the cliffside. I would go out to the glowing bird, make my usual offering, and start examining her after she grew accustomed to me.
The first day of contact was practical and sterile: taking measurements, taking notes, and keeping a wary eye of the sharp beak and claws. As time went on, my nature turned from academic to affectionate. Eventually, I would greet Goldie by rubbing her forehead and having her eat from my hand. I stroked her wide wings and cooed while I did my measurements. On more than one occasion, I caught myself singing to her and she seemed to even enjoy it. Once or twice, Goldie would let me fly on her back—a thrilling experience that I have detailed in my research—and have gone to deposits of gold and silver, watching Goldie eat. She would push some gold towards me, but I never took any. A good researcher leaves nothing but footprints and takes nothing but records.
On the ninth day of my study, Goldie brought me something odd. There was a piece of stone, silvery on the inside and hard like a stone on the outside. It was somewhat flakey and crumbled a little on the edges, but I couldn't break the scrap any smaller. I left it by Goldie as I did my measurements, but she left the piece with me. I had taken a few stray feathers before and had plenty of waste material to examine, so I decided to study the shard as well. My only conclusion is that this is some sort of eggshell. Goldie knows that I have no interest in the material wealth her species is known for. Instead, for my offerings, she has realized I seek knowledge.
It was then that I received your letter about cutting my funding. Doctor Warner, I beg you to extend my grant. This research is far too important to dismiss. If I have another week or maybe more, I could find juveniles and learn more about alicantos than anyone else in our university…maybe even the world!
Enclosed is a copy of my research so far with the hope that my discoveries will motivate you to let me continue my study of this rare and unique creature. It's no Titanoboa, but Goldie is unique and needs observation. Additionally, I included a small parcel of gold left from when Goldie would feed in the mines. Perhaps, if my words mean nothing to you, this offering from Goldie will change your mind.
Doctor Amelia Parker
Cryptozoologist, Penton University, 1935