A few weeks ago, I settled down into the couch with my husband to watch a little television before bed. One of my favorite shows is The Big Bang Theory, a quirky sitcom about scientists living in California. In addition to owning the first few seasons, I adore re-runs, and luckily TBS obliges me with regularly scheduled new and old episodes.
The theme of this particular episode was Sheldon’s fear of birds. Opening a window, a Blue Jay flies in to take up residence within his apartment; antics ensue. There was only one problem: it was absolutely not a Blue Jay.
Actress Kaley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory.
While the colors were similar, the actual bird they had on their set was a Black-throated Magpie Jay, native to Mexico (for a photo, see James’ post on the jays of Mexico). As I watched, I couldn’t help rolling my eyes. Come on, how hard is it to correctly identify a Blue Jay?
Of course, Hollywood is notorious for misidentifying birds. How many times have we, as birders, watched a western, only to hear the call of a Common Loon in the background? Last time I checked, they don’t live in the desert. How many times has a raptor called, any raptor, and we hear the distinctive voice of a Red-tailed Hawk?
My favorite example, however, is courtesy of the famous Steven Spielberg. He loves the Willow Ptarmigan so much that he often uses their calls in his movies, such as Jurassic World and Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, he didn’t check their range maps: Willow Ptarmigans – the state bird of Alaska – are only found in Northern Alaska and Canada, not the tropics.
Do you have any favorite instances of Hollywood’s tradition of misidentifying bird species? Let me know in the comments!
There’s a fantastic episode of the British cop procedural Midsummer Murders (A Rare Bird) all about a Ugandan Blue-winged Hoopoe turning up in Midsummer and all the murders it triggers. I highly recommend it.
I once watched an old movie – probably from the 1960s or 70s – about the ancient Roman empire and the Roman emperor kept a few Macaws as pets. Maybe Thor Heyerdahl was right after all…
The movie “Kill the Messenger” about the Iran-Contra scandal has a scene where the protagonist goes to the jungles of Nicaragua and the piped in bird sound is of an Asian Koel. Very tropical sounding, not very local. My wife was entirely unimpressed by my ID and unconcerned about the filmmaker’s grave error…
The new (great) Netflix series “Stranger Things” has the call of a Yellow Warbler in the woods of Indiana in November.
Too many to think about a favorite mistake although it’s always funny to hear Screaming Piha in so many Hollywood locales, including the Pacific Northwest in the movie A. I.
Does anyone remember the American Robin in London? Mind you it was in Mary Poppins (Spoonful of sugar), so it was probably magic!