Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Website Wednesday: The Owls of Harry Potter

Laura Erickson and Archimedes share their love of birds
and Harry Potter with children. 

Laura Erickson, seen here as “Professor McGonagowl,” is a well-known author of The Bird Watching Answer Book: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Birds in Your Backyard and Beyond, 2009, Sharing the Wonder of Birds with Kids, 2002, and For the Birds, An Uncommon Guide, 1993. Her web page, The Owls of Harry Potter, packs a lot of information into a small space. Designed to appeal to young fans of J. K. Rowling’s books, “The Owls of Harry Potter” introduces each owl that’s a character in the novels, then provides a photo and its proper name. She discusses the natural—as well as magical—range of each owl.

The owl people most often associate with the Harry Potter movies and books is Harry’s own messenger owl and pet, Hedwig. Hedwig is a Snowy Owl, a bird of the Arctic tundra. Hedwig is of course female, but Erickson points out that she is played by a male bird—actually, 7 of them—in the films. Female snowies have black barring on the crown, back, and chest. Young males are barred, but usually not as much as females. As they mature, the plumage grows white. Presumably the director felt that a pure white bird would look “snowier.” They are magical birds, especially when the French horns and celesta of John Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme” play in the background.

Whether Snowy, Great Grey, or Scops, an owl is a wizard’s letter carrier of choice, but we notice there is no junk mail in the wizard world. Muggles like ourselves are annoyed by it and, more to the point, millions of trees are destroyed so that our mailboxes can be filled with useless, unread messages. As you would expect from the author of 101 Ways to Help Birds (2006), Erickson includes ways to help owls by precycling, that is reducing the stream of junk mail and excessive packaging. She even includes a link to a publisher that uses 100% recycled paper in the printing of Harry Potter!

Really—which one is cuter, Laura or Archimedes? I contacted her to ask for permission to use this photo and inquire after her Screech Owl. She replied, “Archimedes is my own licensed education owl—I’ve had him since 2000. He was unreleasable after an illness as a nestling, and the rehab center had to find a safe place to transfer him right when my license had been approved but I didn’t yet have an owl. He’s still doing well.” Erickson maintains 2 blogs worth visiting too: Twin Beaks, and Laura’s Birding Blog.

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