Anyways, enough rambling. Here is the first page of sketches and references for the first bird and culture, the Firebird which comes frim Russian/Slavic beliefs.
Sorry for poor photo quality. Taken with camera, not scanner.
In Russian folklore, the firebird often appears as an object to be quested after because of it's beautiful glowing feathers, or it is the prize for defeating a great and terrible magician. It is generally described as having feathers like flames(Go figure), a beak and claws of gold, eyes like rubies; and it's tail feathers are like brilliant streamers. In some tales, the firebird can also change into a woman.
In images of the bird, it is usually depicted as looking very similar to a peacock. So I get to draw nice big pretty tail feathers :)