Skarmory is another case where a Pokémon doesn’t seem to be based on a single animal – or even an animal family – but is a mutt of about five different, vaguely-similar-ish birds at once. The series’ very first bird line does the same thing – I guess they just wanted to cover as much avian ground as early and quickly as possible.
It’s not like Skarmory is just “vague bird, but metallic”, though. I mean she’s a “mutt” in the sense that you can tease out exactly which doors she’s knocking on – the long neck and broad wings of a condor, and the pointy beak and overall body shape of a crane, and so on. Long-necked birds in general fill a lot of roles, and Skarmory almost fits her own rugged, predatory niche in there while her neck “ruff” and rudder-like tail keep her from just feeling like a mash-up.
Those don’t feel like they’re just for show, either. That tail looks like a can-opener, probably perfect for prying open shells. And her neck distinctly reminds me of a telescoping stand, making it look like her head can retract inward and extend outward to either “nest in” or get a better view. This girl is a machine.
Sharp and rugged, built either to scavenge or to hunt. This bird scares me, and I like it.
Skarmory has abnormally high defense and resists a whopping eight types, plus bears two immunities. That makes her resistant to more than half of what exists in the games, and she has enough attack to dish out damage while she rides out the opponent. Her other stats are a little below average, and some of her better strategies lean into this slow “outlast the other guy” strategy, but she’s still a chunky and reliable bird.
So reliable, in fact, that she grows back her wings every year like a shark re-growing teeth. Come to think of it, the “fin” crest on her head and sharp rows of teeth are giving me shark vibes, which would help explain why she feels satisfyingly predatory. Add yet another animal influence to the Skarmory Blender.
Anyway, you know how people use bird-feathers for all manner of things? Decorations, arrow-fletching, and padding in textiles? Imagine the many crafts that people could get done if an animal molted metal. With mountain conditions acting as a natural force to temper her wings, it’s like it grows knives and sturdy iron plates for humans to use, which makes them understandably valued and respected – to the point of being House Heraldry.
But not hunted, I expect, because who wants to go to the effort of hunting a living fighter plane?
Especially not when they’re so gosh-darn metal that they make their nests in bramble-bushes. It’s natural protection against all other Pokémon that don’t also have natural armor, and ties perfectly well into how raptors will nest in cliffs as a both a natural defense and also as a mean flex. Ain’t nobody gonna go after eggs cradled by nature’s barbed wire.
The nicer interpretation of Skarmory is that she doesn’t seem totally unrelated to oragami cranes. With her body type and the obviously flat, sheet-metal nature of her feathers (you could even argue that they resemble a hand-held fan), Skarmory seems like she’s at least nodding to the idea.
One last bit – though it doesn’t appear in her actual name, the Japanese words for a crane (tsuru) and a sword (tsurugi) sound remarkably similar. Even when Pokémon isn’t actively making puns, it’s still making puns.
Skarmory isn’t a strictly-necessary bird, but Skarmory is a hella cool and doesn’t exactly have a lot of direct competitors in her niche. I do give a lot of these critters leeway, but I’d like to see her in and out of Reserve. A steel condor cruising over a canyon is just too good of an image to throw out entirely.
Any and all appreciation for Skarmory is welcome in the comments!