Ak-Baba are a species of enormous vulture-like birds. They are known to be ferocious and violent creatures, eating dead flesh and living for a thousand years. Seven Ak-Baba were brought up by the Shadow Lord and are under his command. The Ak-Baba share a magical mental link with the Shadow Lord, allowing him to see what they see and give them orders from afar. They are among his most loyal and most powerful servants.
The Shadow Lord, while he was still a human sorcerer, discovered an egg high on the mountain border of the Land of Dragons and Pirra. Mistaking it for a dragon's egg, he cared for it until it hatched, revealing it to be, to his great disappointment, a strange bird. Though initially intending to kill the creature, he decided to make use of the bird for now if he could not have a dragon. This creature - which the Shadow Lord realised were not native to the Land of Dragons, most likely having come from overseas - eventually produced the seven Ak-Baba, whom the Shadow Lord further altered and "perfected" into completely loyal killing machines.
The seven Ak-Baba first appeared in the skies of the Land of Dragons during the Shadow Lord's first attempt to conquer the land. They were initially named "dragon birds", but were later named "Ak-Baba" due to their resemblance to similar birds of that name sailors had seen overseas. They killed dragons where they could and acted as spies for the Shadow Lord, searching the Land of Dragons from the skies and relaying the information to his forces. Their presence was also occasionally used against the Shadow Lord, as they acted as his heralds. The Ralad built a decoy version of their city after seeing an Ak-Baba in the skies, saving them from conquest. One Ak-Baba nearly finds Adin, as well as the Torans Kayan, Shim and Zara outside the walls of Tora, but is tricked by Toran magic. The seven Ak-Baba later join the rest of the Shadow Army in the Battle for Deltora, but are forced to focus their attention on an Opal dragon early in the conflict. They later retreat to the Shadowlands at the end of the battle.
On the day of the Shadow Lord's second invasion, the Ak-Baba attacked the Palace of Del. They destroyed the tower where the Belt of Deltora was kept and made off with the seven gems. Since it was death to bring the gems beyond Deltora's borders, the Shadow Lord had the Ak-Baba hide them each in fearsome locations that nobody would think of entering. According to Zeean, the gems may have influenced the Ak-Baba to hide them in their respected territories.
Lief, Barda, and Jasmine first encountered an Ak-Baba after obtaining the Opal — observed the ruins of the City of the Rats. It nearly spotted them when they hid in the Broad River, but a school of Wise Fish were able to disguise them until it passed. Later, all seven were present in Del when the Shadow Lord prepared to kill the Resistance members. They retreated to the Shadowlands when Lief wore the restored Belt of Deltora for the first time.
The Shadow Lord used powerful magics to allow his Ak-Baba to defy the Belt of Deltora and battle Hopian and Fidelis when they tried to destroy the grey tide. However, the dragons were aided by Lief, Barda, and Jasmine riding on Fidelis' neck and aided the dragons with swords and the power of the Belt. Hopian tore the throat of one Ak-Baba, but the other six swarmed him. Jasmine was able to find a weakspot at the base of their necks and killed the one gripping the Opal dragon's neck. This freed Hopian, but he and Fidelis were tiring from blood loss and death was certain, until the arrival of Fortuna scattered the Ak-Baba. In their confusion, Joyeu snapped the neck of one and Honora blasted another with her fire. When Veritas and Forta arrived, the remaining three fled back to the Shadowlands.
Two of the Shadow Lord's Ak-Baba appeared in the Skimmer Factory in Dorne. Like in Deltora, they were used as spies and scouts, as well as to enforce the Shadow Lord's presence. When not scouting, they were kept inside a massive cage. Rye freed them during the demonstration of the new Daytime Skimmers in order to allow him and several prisoners to escape.
The book describes the Ak-Baba as massive, monstrous, reptilian birds that resemble vultures. Illustrations depict them as having long necks, with hairless heads, along with sharp beaks filled with teeth. They also have large talons, feathery wings and feathery tails. Their skin was thick enough to repel sword and arrows.
In the anime, the Ak-Baba are far more reptilian, completely lacking in feathers and having long tails. Their wings are flaps of skin connecting their arms and legs, much like the wings of a pterosaur, but shorter. In fact, their design should not permit flight or movement on the ground at all. They also have blue and orange scales with light reflecting off of them, that appear black and red without light. They also do not have beaks, instead possessing reptilian heads.
The Ak-Baba are able to hear and follow the Shadow Lord's orders no matter where they are. They hunt like packs of wolves; they often isolate a target, some act as distractions by charging the target and the remaining Ak-Baba finish the target off from behind. They were so fierce that they were capable of killing dragons, though they never faced more than two at a time because the dragons were much stronger. Battles with dragons often consisted of four or five Ak-Baba against one or two dragons. The Ak-Baba were quick to flee back to the Shadowlands when outmatched, provided their master allowed them to. Though their level of intelligence is never revealed, they seem to understand strategy and plans. They are capable of making observations and reports.
Though Ak-Baba will not hesitate to attack and kill any moving creature, they do not eat the flesh of living creatures. Instead they feed on dead flesh, just as real world vultures do. It is unknown whether they will eat anything they have killed themselves, but it is very likely.
The name Ak-Baba is a reference to the Turkish word Akbaba meaning vulture.
Ak-Baba are surrounded by a foul smell, lingering for hours after they have departed.
Though Ak-Baba are birds and have many similarities with real world birds, such as feathers and a beak, they also possess sharp teeth, an attribute that no real world birds have as they lack any bone structures that can support them.
The Ak-Baba are somewhat similar in role to the Nazgûl from The Lord of the Rings, as the servants of a dark lord who travel far and wide on various errands. However, obvious differences exist in that: the Ringwraiths ride winged creatures starting late in The Fellowship of the Ring whereas the Ak-Baba are winged creatures, with no humanoid characteristics; the Ak-Baba were created by the Shadow Lord from a normal Ak-Baba, whereas the Nazgûl were corrupted by Sauron's Nine Rings; the Ak-Baba were apparently incapable of speech or using magic of their own.