Monday, August 27, 2012

Raptor vocalizations

I don't know if you remember, but last week when I wrote about Red-Tailed Hawks, I promised a blog entry dedicated to the Red-Tailed Hawk's notable scream and how it's used in Human media.  Well, I couldn't find any actual examples of the misusages, but you all know what I'm talking about:  the Wild Western movie focuses in on a desolate cabin in the hills....something isn't right, death is in the air...overhead the vultures are circling, and one of them calls out, "Kreeeee-aaaaaaa!"  Or the truck commercial that ends with a waving American flag and the majestic call of a Bald Eagle, "Kreeeeee-aaaaaaaa!" 

Yeah, right.  Bald Eagles sound about as majestic as mourning doves sound dangerous.  It simply isn't true.  The call you're most often hearing in the movies, the one that's attributed to almost any large bird except seagulls (thank goodness) is actually a Red-Tailed Hawk.  Does this sound familiar? 

So, you may be asking yourself, if that sound in the movie isn't actually what an Eagle or a Vulture sounds like, what do they sound like?  Well, I sorted through all the horrible YouTube videos out there to give you the best-available video clips of raptor calls.  Here, for instance, is the majestic Bald Eagle...clucking:

It's a wonderful sound, isn't it?  But it's just not what the Hollywood producers are looking for.  It doesn't strike fear or awe into the hearts of many the way the Red-Tailed Hawk does.  How about the Golden Eagle?  Any more majestic?  Not really.  Here's a pretty common sound from one:

Again, really interesting, but not awe-inspiring.  Then again, does an Eagle need to be any more awe-inspiring?  They're pretty darn impressive to begin with. 

Finally, what's with the Red-Tailed Hawk call being played when Vultures are circling?  As a critic of Human movies, I'm always noticing this error.  Turkey Vultures are mostly silent birds.  The only time you'll hear one vocalize is if you really disturb it, which, of course, is something you shouldn't do.  And when they vocalize, it is the farthest thing from a scream that you can imagine.  It's more of a hissing roar.  Honestly, I think Humans should use Turkey Vulture vocalizations in movies about dragons!  Here's an example:  

So there you have it.  Next time you hear an impressive, piercing call from a bird in a movie, be it an Eagle, a Vulture, a Hawk, or any other bird, maybe you'll notice it's the wrong bird entirely, then laugh at the ridiculousness of it.  And, on that note, I leave you with the chattering call of an American Kestrel.  This bird is not often depicted in movies, but it certainly has the voice and attitude for the silver screen! 

Please note: all these videos were found on YouTube and are not the property or responsibility of the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program. 

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