Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Friday, September 21, 2007

Interesting birds-in-the-movies commentary

Probably every single birding blogger is linking to Graham Chisholm's review of 3:10 to Yuma in the Washington Post. Chisholm, Audubon California's director of conservation, knows his bird sounds from around the world, and justifiably criticizes movie makers for their sloppiness in putting impossible birds or bird sounds in movies.

Hollywood's general neglect of birds can be downright jarring. We birders are enjoying the movie as much as everyone else in the theater, and then something happens.

Take the movie "Ever After." While reveling in Drew Barrymore's alfresco lunch with the queen of France, we suddenly hear the cry of a . . . North American alder flycatcher? Brad Pitt might as well have flashed his Hanes boxers beneath a Trojan tunic.

But he does note an important exception:
Sound editors for "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" asked Cornell's Macaulay Library at the Lab of Ornithology to help track down authentic sounds of the chiffchaff, burrowing owl, European robin, song thrush, common nightingale and rook.

Tragically, Chisholm himself doesn't realize, or the Harry Potter producers didn't realize, that Burrowing Owls are not found outside the Americas. Their close relative, the Little Owl, may sound like them, but I haven't spent time in Europe to know. For a while the Nature Conservancy's Harry Potter webpage was saying that Ron's owl Pigwidgeon was a Little Owl, but the drawing in the Scholastic version of the books clearly shows an owl with feather tufts on its head, so I'm presuming Pig is a Scops Owl. (My Owls of Harry Potter page is here.)