How can I describe an unconventionally part-humanoid character, so the reader knows clearly what they look like, while in a world where these people are normal and it's not unusual at all for characters to see (or be) such a person?
The character/species I'm having trouble with are my winged people, and to give you an idea what I'm dealing with, here's a rough sketch: Their bodies look generally human and they have huge feathered wings connected to their shoulder blades and a feathered tail. They walk kinda differently from humans though, and their neck is longer and farther forward (for flight). They have huge chest and upper back muscles to be able to fly. They average 5'11"-6'1" (measurements in feet/inches).
I'm asking this because I've written excerpts with such a character in it for an online writing course and my peers have seen this character as many things from a monster to an animal with thoughts. That is not what he is.
I know that characters shouldn't be defined by their physical characteristics. They should be defined by their personality, mental characteristics, motivation, etc. A good way to do that seems to be not to focus too much on the physical characteristics and just bring it up when it can be smoothly slipped in. This seems hard to do in this instance because I have to make it very clear what this character looks like so that he is not misunderstood.