As a birder, one major pet peeve of mine…Hollywood’s (mis-)use of birds in movies! It seems that Hollywood typically has about 3 different bird vocalizations that are used in any situation a bird is present. One is the ubiquitous Red-tailed Hawk screaming cry, something they use for ANY raptor that happens to even tangentially appear on a screen. Conan O’Brien wasn’t alone when making this erroneous use of a Red-tailed Hawk call, but he WAS called out by birders for his actions!! Bald Eagles are often shown in movies and TV, but the more iconic Red-tailed Hawk call is usually used instead of the real Bald Eagle cry.
The second iconic call that’s heard ALL the time is the haunting call of a Common Loon. Occasionally it’s used in the proper setting and context, but there are SO many times when movie characters are out “in the wild” and the call of a Common Loon is dubbed in the background. What’s that? Your favorite character is roaming the forests of the Appalachians? Perhaps it’s a wild setting, but NOT EVERY WILD SETTING SHOULD HAVE LOON CALLS PLAYING IN THE BACKGROUND!! This site notes several “misplaced” birds in TV and movies, including the mis-use of Common Loon calls in Murder She Wrote and Raiders of the Lost Ark (presumably while in Peru!!). The Common Loon has also been mis-used visually…something I noticed IMMEDIATELY when watching Finding Dory. “Becky” is the loopy Common Loon that plays a role in the rescue scenes in Finding Dory, along the California coastline. The presence of a Common Loon along the California coast isn’t out of place IN WINTER. But “Becky” in Finding Dory is a Common Loon in full summer breeding plumage…NOT LIKELY!!
The third call that’s heard in EVERY jungle scene is the laughing call of a Kookaburra. They’re a bird found in Australia, but listen to any jungle scene supposedly set in Africa, South America, or southeast Asia, and you’ll STILL likely hear the wild calls of a Kookaburra.
Given how often birds are mis-used in movies, I always get a bit of satisfaction when I see a movie that gets it right! Tonight my wife and I went to see “GameNight“, starring Justin Bateman and Rachel McAdams. It’s a really funny movie!! We both greatly enjoyed it. The only time birds were evident (and surely ONLY to me, among the movie crowd) was a scene late in the movie. It was a setting in a relatively dense urban setting, on a bridge over a large river and fairly out in the open. Large buildings could be seen in the surrounding area, and it was night. As the scene played out (I won’t spoil the movie for you here!), I could CLEARLY hear Common Nighthawks giving their typical flight calls.
PERFECT!! You often DO hear Common Nighthawks as they fly through the night skies in and around urban areas, picking off flying insects in flight with their massive, gaping maw. One of the places I’ve heard them the most is at the airport here in Sioux Falls. They typically use rocky areas to breed, and the rocky roofs that many urban buildings use work perfectly for their purposes.
WELL DONE GAMENIGHT!! You get a rare GOLD STAR for proper use of a bird in a movie!!
i’ve heard loon calls in MANY completely erroneous places in films and tv — including showng mallards in a pond in central park…and over and over in all the wrong sites in murder she wrote. i wondered if maybe (this is a stretch) it’s a sort of leitmotif for the MAINE character.