Hello all, NBB here. Sharon is in the middle of deadline hell so she's asked me to write a guest post while she gets caught up. The podcast will also be slightly delayed. Since I long ago depleted my limited store of bird knowledge, I thought I'd just indulge in some shameless pandering by writing a Harry Potter post, since I've had to watch the movies prior to the release of Deathly Hallows pt 2. Birds are a big part of the Harry Potter world, not just in the obvious way, but there are lots of little things that lead me to believe that J.K. Rowling is a birder. Of course, the most compelling evidence is the one that everyone notices:
Hermoine's cat. Right? It's named "Crookshanks." Which is a homophone for Allan D. Cruickshank, who produced a photographic guide to Birds of America. See? See? It's right in front of you, people!
Ugh, you probably want more.
Half-horse, half bird of prey, Buckbeak was probably the most impressive special effect in the movies, if only because the effects artists managed to somehow match the two different creatures so well. Buckbeak had the graceful power of a horse in his body, but his head carried all the curiosity of a raptor. "Is that food? Can I kill that? Can I eat that?" Kudos to the actors for managing to interact with a special effect that wasn't there when they filmed. Buckbeak is sentenced to be put down after he mauls a student, but the student involved was a total jerk, so our heroes decide to save the creature, who now realizes how easy people are to kill. Uhm, five points for Griffindor!
A Thestrals is kind of like a Goth Pegasus. A flying horse without skin and batlike wings, they can only be seen by those who have witnessed death. They're basically the creepiest My Little Pony ever, and are used at Hogwarts to pull carriages. They use invisible flying horses to pull carriages. Okay! The really odd part is that Pegasus exist in the world of Harry Potter anyway: they're used to pull the flying stagecoach of the Beaux Batons school. And that's all they do, except drink single malt whiskey as their only sustenance. Does drunk flying horses sound like a recipe for disaster? You bet! My guess is that Pegasus crashes are a regular occurrence, spiraling into the ground in a fiery wreck, which produces Thestrals, who as I mentioned look like they've had their skin burned off. Ecology!
Question: Why would you get an owl for a pet if its primary job is delivering mail and you have no one to send messages to? Seriously. I know it's supposed to be a familiar, but Harry doesn't use it in magic, his parents are dead (OH SNAP! Spoiler alert!), he hates his aunt and uncle and they certainly don't want to get a message that has owl saliva and bits of mouse on it. Add to the fact the number of people who got owls for their child as a pet (legal in the UK) and then didn't take care of them once they realized that raptors don't like to cuddle, and the whole Hedwig thing just makes me so mad I should probably stop thinking about it.