Saturday, July 16, 2005

Hedwig Choomba

Hedwig Choomba

Hedwig Choomba (2005)

Today's image celebrates (mutates?) the arrival of the new Harry Potter novel that comes out of bookstore security bunkers today.

From the Information Database of slang terms at the Cyberpunk Project:

Choomba (Choombatta): Neo-Afro-American slang for a friend or a family member.
Harry's owl Hedwig is a Snowy Owl. She's a female but, in the movie, the actors playing her are males. (One of the owls playing Hedwig was also the very first cast member to be chosen!!) You can tell that the owl playing Hedwig in the photo is really a male because his plumage is so white -- female Snowy Owls have dark markings. Females are also bigger and heavier, and so would be a little harder for human actors to handle. Healthy males average about 4 pounds, females almost 4 1/2 pounds. They have powerful talons.


Snowy Owls are predators, and eat only animals, never plants. Their main prey species is the lemming, a fierce little rodent smaller than a chipmunk. Lemmings have enormous population fluctuations from one year to the next. When lemmings are abundant, Snowy Owls may eat hardly anything else. They usually swallow each lemming whole, head first, but if they're not too hungry, they sometimes bite off just the head, or even eat parts in small bits. But when lemming numbers are down, Snowy Owls eat a lot of other things. Depending on where they live, they may eat a lot of snowshoe hares, grebes and ducks (especially Horned Grebes), ptarmigans, ground squirrels, rats, partridge, and even fish. When a Snowy Owl's face gets gooped up with blood and guts, it sometimes cleans up by wiping its face in the snow.

Wooo. Based on those predatory traits, it sounds like Hedwig's ready to close a contract with her cobbers. Think you'd like Hedwig for a choomba? National Geographic has its doubts:

British animal protection groups fear that Harry Potter's lovable messenger/pet will steal the show and lead to a surge of interest in keeping owls as pets.


They [animal advocates in Great Britain] fear that when people realize the difficulty of keeping an owl as a pet, the raptors -- known to be temperamental -- will be abandoned to a barn or released into the outdoors where they most likely will starve to death.


The concern has been an issue mainly in the United Kingdom, where it is legal to buy and keep owls. In the United States, keeping owls as pets is illegal under most circumstances due to their protection under various federal, state, and local laws, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.


"The snowy owl is featured in this particular movie [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone]. We understand that Harry Potter keeps it in a parrot cage, which is against everything we know," said Jenny Thurston, a trustee at the World Owl Trust at Muncaster Castle near the village of Ravenglass, England. "That is horrendous. It will foul up people's imagination."

"To keep [a snowy owl] correctly, you need the biggest aviary you could ever build," said Thurston. "It is a big heavy bird, and in the wild it would fly for miles. We are talking an aviary of a minimum 20 to 30 feet (six to nine meters) long and as deep as you could make it and at least ten feet (three meters) high."


The concern of animal rights groups is that people will go out and buy a snowy owl, keep it in the wrong conditions and feed it the wrong food and it will die. "Where do you buy lemmings?" asks Thurston. "You can't."

If you can't afford the lemmings bills, could you pal around with an artificial Hedwig? Think of him like the plastic parrot on a bad Long John Silver impersonator:

I don't do impressions, weefle...

I'm as cuddly as a lunch tray.

[Photograph from]

Other "Hedwigs" have come and gone -- eclipsed by the pop culture popularity of a pet owl. Remember this, um, person?

I'll give ya the bird...or a headless lemming...

Hedwig from Hedwig and the Angry Itch

Or do you recall this beatified person?

St. Francis has that bird gig all hooked up.

Saint Hedwig, Queen of Poland

And if your pet owl mistakes your kids for a lemming snack, I suppose it's some comfort to know that Saint Hedwig is the patron saint of the death of children.

Tomorrow, another movie pet, more Sierra Hotel with a chaol bent, turns up to config and cause static.

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