Every project starts from sketches. I do lots of skeches before starting modeling - it helps to visualize not only model itself, but also problems which might arise during modeling or animation process. But for toonish character like that I use just side view skech for modeling. So if you have your sketch ready (make background light grey, it will be easyer to see in workspace window) choose Panels >Ortograhic > side view, then go to View > Camera Attribute Editor and click on Environment. There you will see a button - Create image plane, click it and point to your sketch image file.
We will start modeling from the body. Create poly sphere with 20 subdivisions along both axes. Then scale and rotate sphere, so that it would fit the body like in the Image1. Especialy important is rotation angle - we will use polygon edges to extrude feathers, so it's quite handy that polys would be originaly oriented in the right direction.
You will have to triple some polygons to get possibility to overlap some feather polygons, as well as you will need to ad some edges around eyes and beak. Unfortunately mayas built in triple poly function is somewhat unrelyeble, so the best way is to do thet manualy, using split polygon tool from Edit polygons meniu.
Also you will need to create "trowsers"-part of the body where legs will be attached. Best way to do thet is to select 4 polys at the bottom part of the sphere and extrude them few times. Remember to set "Keep Faces Together" in Tool Options in Polygon meniu.
Now the funny part - making feathers. It's actualy very simple, if somewhat time consuming - just select polygon edge and Extrude polygon edge tool from Edit Polygons meniu. Use tool manipulators to position feathers the way you like. Dont forget that pressing keyboard shortcut "g" repeats last polygon operation, so you don't have to navigate to meniu or use hotbox for every feather. In some places I extruded the same edge few times, making feathers standing with the different engle to the body, this way geting better coverage, especialy arround eyes.
Don't forget that you have to make feathers just for one half of the body, when you are happy with the side which you where working on just cut away side without feathers (change selection to faces, and in front view rectangular select polys you want to get rid off, when they are highlighted make sure that selection is correct) and then go to Plygons > Mirror geometry, specify x axis for operation, and here you go - you have full body. If you don't have Maya 3.0 you will have to do mirroring manualy by choosing Dublicate from Edit meniu, and seting scaleX to -1. After that you will have to stich sides together by using Merge Edge from Edit Polygons meniu.
We will use subdivision surfaces for beak. It will be much easyer to create real nice blend shape targets with subD, and it gives much less trouble than NURBS. But we will start modeling it with the polygon tools. This is very simple technique, and I realy use it often. Select Create Polygon tool from Polygon meniu and draw the polygon in the side view by placing points on the beak outline in the sketch. Don't put too much points, just enough to roughly repeat shape - remeber, we will use subD, and it will smooth beak perfectly, but if you will create too much points in initial shape, you will finish with very dence mesh.
When you are finished with drawing initioal poly, you will have to extrude it 3 times, every time slightly moving, rotating and scaling extrusion. You might want to add some edges and detail with split polygon tool, just as Isaid don't overdo it. Also try to think about different beak blend shapes you will want to make for animation and try to make sure that polygon edges are aligned to the bends you have imagined. It will make your life much easeer afterwards. Last step to do is to delete initial polygon, select the rest and By using Mirror
Now it's a time to create subD out of it. Select polys, and from Subdiv Surfaces meniu select Create Subdiv with default options. Now you have smooth beak. If you dont like something you can adjust easy by puling points, or while right clicking on the model you will get options meniu, where you can select polygon mode, and work on your subD beak as on any other polygon model.
Legs & feet
For the legs we are going to use NURBS. In the side view create NURBS cylinder, then scale it so it would be about right thickness, and little bit longer then legs on your sketch. We need that for middle toe, which is the part of the same cylinder. Now you will need to add some isoparms - you will need few around the knee, another few aground ankle to create nice bend and form back toe. You can add isoparms by selecting any existing isoparm (just right click on your NURBS cylinder and from popup menu select isoparm), while isoparm is selected you can move it to any location and when you are satisfied with new location click on Edit Surfaces > Insert Isoparm
When you have enough isoparms in right locations, you should change to CV selection mode and pull, rotate and scale CV's to get shape indicated by your sketch. Most complicated part is back toe, but with some patience you can achieve nice result. You will find out that with extreme CV moving some of the CV are getting hidden inside so you should use X-ray mode which you can find in Shading > Shade Options menu. In some cases it might be easier to select CV's aground the ankle, change menu to Animation and from Deform menu create deformation latice, with minimum spans (3 in each direction would work well) this way you will have fewer points to pull.
Other two toes are made from NURBS cylinders too with some CV scaling and pulling. Then they where intersected with foot - Edit Surfaces > Intersect Surfaces and trimmed. Make sure that history is on before intersecting - this way if you still do some slight changes to the toes or foot the trim will adjust automatically.
Nails where modeled by using NURBS cone primitive with some slight CV puling. When you are finished with one leg with all it's parts, create empty group fro Edit meniu Call it Leg_Left or any other way you prefer, open outliner window and drag all the parts of the leg to this group. Select Leg_Left in outliner and by pressing "Insert" key on your keyboard move pivot point of the leg to the very top of it, where it enters the body. What's left is to duplicate Leg group with scale -1 in x direction, and rename it to Leg_Right.