The Birds of Harry Potter

With all the hoop-la of the next and final Harry Potter book (which a little E-mail from Barnes and Noble just told me has shipped!) I’ve decided to take a look at the bird life which is woven into the Harry Potter story.

First we have Dragons.  Though only distantly related to birds, Dragons are common in the Potter universe.  In the books several different species of Dragons are listed and they must be at least partial migrants, since many of the species can be found in cooler countries such as Norway or Romania. 

Griffons are only part bird, but have a lot of bird tendencies.  Few details about individual species have been given in the books, though there are rumors.  One such rumor is actually a hybrid called “Brewster’s” Griffon which is a cross between and Blue-winged and Golden-Winged Griffons, in which the Blue-winged aspects dominate.  There has also been sightings of a “Lawrence’s” Griffon which is also a Blue-winged and Golden-winged Griffon hybrid, only this time with the Golden-wing aspects being dominate.  Otherwise little is know about the range and migratory patterns of Griffons.  This is an area that Cornell should research more.

Dumbledore’s Phoenix, Hawkes is a rather curious and remarkable bird.  You think most birds have difficult molts, well how many other birds do you know of have to burst into flames, crumble into a pile of ashes and then be born again? 

Obviously the most prominate bird in the Harry Potter story are Owls.  The most famous of the Owls is of course, Harry Potter’s own Snowy Owl.  The Snowy Owl is known all across the cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere occuring both in North America and Europe.  Normally these birds are only seen away from their nesting grounds in the dead of winter in the northern U.S. and Southern Canada.  Now I’ve personally have had the great fortune to not only see these birds, but to get within 10 feet on one (actually if flew to the fence post adjacent to me).  But whenever a Snowy Owl appears, it usually draws a crowd.  They are simply majestic.

Another Owl species you see, at the very least in the Movies, is the Great-Gray Owl or the Lapland Owl for our European friends.  This very large and often very tame Owl, rarely ever leaves it’s deep boreal woods haunts, but when it does it often does it in great numbers.  The reasons behind these ‘invasions’ is not clear, although the periodic fluctuations of small rodent populations likely play a major role.  In North American this species primarily breeds in Canada, south to Northern Minnesota and through-out the higher elevations in the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas.  It is very rare in winter elsewhere across the northern states.  In Europe this species breeds in Scandanavia (Dragon food?) and much like in North America is rare in winter on mainland Europe.

The other two commonly referred to Owls are Tawny and Eagle Owls, both European Species, which look superficially similar to the Great-Horned Owl here in North America.

Ron’s Owl, Hermes, is a type of Pygmy Owl, to which there are many different species through out the world.  In Eastern North America the smallest owl is the Northern-Saw-Whet Owl, while in the west you have species such as Ferriginious Pygmy Owl and Elf Owl. 

While we are on the subject of Owls…  I doubt that any of the kids at Hogwarts have permits to have the owls anyway.  As a result I will start a letter campaign to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation demanding that these kids, their parents and school be punished for illeagally holding not only state, but federally and internationally protected birds!

JK Rolwing is a master storyteller, she has the ability to weave a story better than a Baltimore Oriole can a nest, but it also comes across clealry that she is also observant of the real natural world around her and especailly birds.  This allows here to merge the real and book worlds together and I think that is a major reason why her stories are so popular, they are fantasies within the frame work of our own worlds.

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3 responses to “The Birds of Harry Potter

  1. Great post!
    The Nature Conservancy has a whole section online about the owls of Harry Potter. Anything that popularizes birds is great in my book.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I’m doing a scientific report for my biology class on chickens. However, because my biology teachers dislikes reading repetitive introductions about the history of chickens, and there is little information on the subject, everyone had to pick a topic on birds. Me, being an English person, I chose “Birds in Literature”. I wanted to include something about Harry Potter and his world of birds and your entry has certainly helped.
    Thank you,
    Heidi

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