Artistic License - Ornithology
aka: Somewhere An Ornithologist Is Crying
Only after Philosopher's Stone had been accepted for publication did I realize that Snowy Owls are diurnal. I think it was during the writing of Chamber of Secrets that I discovered that Snowy Owls are also virtually silent, the females being even quieter than the males. So all of Hedwig's night-time jaunts and her many reproving hoots may be taken as signs of her great magical ability or my pitiful lack of research, whichever you prefer.Cartoon birds in starring roles tend to be the more recognizable species; anatids (ducks), galliforms (chickens and turkeys), strigiforms (owls), and spheniscids (penguins) are particularly popular and will all look pretty generic. In some cases, you will have to take the writer's word for it what species they are meant to be. Parrots (psittaciforms) are also popular and they'll sport generic chicken-like bird feet and will either be pure green with huge yellow beaks, or have cockatoo crests and a bizarre mix of rainbow colors. Diurnal raptors (falconiforms) tend to look like an odd combination of any carnivorous bird; in particular cartoonists seem to get hawks and vultures confused with each other (and sometimes corvids are tossed into the mix too). Almost all generic small cartoon birds will behave like robins, hopping around on the lawn and eating worms. And they will appear as a Palette Swapped sparrow, often bright yellow or blue, with a yellow beak and legs. While this is the case for some passerines (like the common yellowthroat or the chickadee), for others it's not the case. A major subtrope is the idea that all birds are chickens. Even today, when your average person is unlikely to see live chickens on a regular basis, all birds seem to act like domestic fowl. They make neat nests out of straw. They spend most of the day there and all of their time sleeping there. They lay loads and loads of oval, white eggs, and these contain babies who will emerge fluffy, yellow, adorable, and constantly chirping to their mom. Mom will then immediately lead them out of the nest to hunt for worms, of course. If the show takes things far enough, the birds will hang out in a large, somewhat organized group made up mostly of females and chicks who are led by one dominant male. Whatever the birds look or behave like, they will all spend most of their time on the ground. Unless, of course, they are up in the trees or sky, caroling their little hearts out for the sheer joy of it. Barring the possibility that it really is the hardest thing in the world to crack open a Peterson Field Guide, there may be a reason for the chicken thing. This is largely a problem of Western Animation, and Disney's shadow is extremely long. Most of his characters were farmyard animals; hence the popularity of chickens as a model for all of our flight-capable theropod friends. Furthermore, many books on animal drawing will focus almost entirely on mammal anatomy — and you might get a tiny section on the chicken to cover birds. This may or may not have to do with the fact that birds are far less diverse morphologically than mammals. Thus the phrase "birds (them) and beasts (everyone else)". Can certainly extend to other flying creatures; many are the pterosaurs and other Giant Flyers that are shown constructing chicken-like nests. See also Feather Fingers, Noisy Nature, Toothy Bird, Ostrich Head Hiding, and Acrophobic Bird. See also No Cartoon Fish and All Animals Are Dogs. The grandchild trope of Artistic License – Paleontology and sister trope of Raptor Attack.
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List of Common Inaccuracies
- Whoever coined the term "eat like a bird" knew very little about ornithology, and depicting them as eating sparingly (or being fussy) is very inaccurate. Birds are actually Big Eaters, some of them eating twice their weight a day because they use up so much energy flying and preserving themselves. These are prey animals (even ones who are themselves predators) so not only do birds have to keep moving to find food, they also have to keep moving to keep themselves safe from predators. To be fast, agile and quick, you need to have energy and that energy comes from food. Birds will constantly eat to maintain that energy so that they have fuel for energy to survive.
- The belief that ostriches stick their heads in the ground to hide from predators. First off, ostriches don't need to hide and are actually more than capable of fighting off their enemies (they can disembowel a lion with one kick from their hindlegs) let alone being able to simply outrun them. Second, if they did this they would suffocate.
- It's been suggested that this old wives' tale started by people seeing ostriches investigating the burrows of small animals for food (i.e., that the birds were hunting the current occupants).
- Anytime owls are depicted rotating their heads an entire 360 degrees. At most, an average owl can only turn its head about 270 degrees. As for the particulars, owls turn their heads as far as possible one way then turn them all the way in the other direction, they don't simply make a full circle from facing forward like in virtually every depiction.
- Birds being regarded as different animals than dinosaurs. Strictly speaking this is excusable—humans are not generally discussed as being great apes, even though they are—and in common usage "bird" means "the feathered dinosaurs with adaptations for flight". But if a work discusses birds' or dinosaurs' evolution, it really should come to grips with the fact "birds" are just derived theropods.
- Turkeys will always be depicted as hesitant to fly in media like domesticated turkeys, when wild turkeys are quite agile fliers in spite of their weight.
- The common myth about owls being wise is just that, a myth, probably brought about because they appear to be thinking very hard when looking for prey. As it says on that Trope page, they are no smarter than any other bird, and many are smarter.
- The belief that a bird eating another bird or their eggs is cannibalism, and sometimes birds will be shown freaking out at the concept. A bird eating another bird is the same as mammals eating other mammals, not to mention some like eagles and owls prey on other birds. And let's not get started on the fact that some species of birds indeed have cannibalistic tendencies. Chickens are particularly known for this, contrary to popular belief.
- This is odd though, there are several scientific papers regarding snakes, that describes one species eating another species as cannibalism.
- Portraying buzzards and vultures as one and the same. This may be because buzzard is a term for vultures in the New World.
- Anytime ostriches are portrayed with three or four toes on each foot. Real-life ostriches have only two toes, which actually aids them in running.
- Similar to the above, when birds are depicted with incorrect toe arrangement. In fiction it is common for all birds to have three toes in the front and one facing backwards, which is known as anisodactyly. In real life there is also zygodactyly and heterodactyly (two toes in the front, and two in the back; known in parrots, cuckoos, woodpeckers, and owls), syndactyly (two toes are fused; known in kingfishers, rollers and bee-eaters), and pamprodactyly (all four toes point forward; known in swifts and mousebirds) among others, but in fiction it's likely they'll all have anisodactyl arrangments.
- Most people think hollow bones like those of birds are fragile. In reality, thanks to a complex honeycomb structure, bird bones are no more fragile than those of mammals. In the case of the now extinct dinosaurs and pterosaurs, both having pneumatic skeletons, fragility would mean death, and they obviously had quite strong yet light bones.
- Apparently, it is commonly believed in India that peacocks are asexual and the female conceives by drinking the males tear. This belief is not only incorrect, but ironic, because the birds are actually quite promiscuous. The entire reason the male bird fans his feathers is because he's trying to attract mates.
- It is a very, very common belief that mother birds will reject fallen babies that have been returned to the nest by humans, due to the human scent. A few problems with this:
- Very few birds have a sense of smell even worth mentioning (kiwis, albatrosses, and some vultures have a good sense of smell).
- Most mother animals don't care if the baby has had contact with humans, unless that contact has been prolonged. Mama Bear wouldn't be much of a trope if mother animals abandoned any and all young touched by strangers.
- If humans or other animals are hanging around watching the nest, the parents will be reluctant to return until the "threat" has left.
- Disturbed eggs will likely cause parent birds to leave a site for good. The reason being that eggs don't move on their own, and if they've been moved around it's a sign that a predator has been nosing around.
- In some cases, the parents (or the other chicks) might have pushed it out of the nest. It could be sick or food could be too scarce for all the chicks. If a chick looks healthy (breathing normally and with no discharge from the eyes or nose) you can attempt to put it back, but there's no guarantee it will stay there. If it's been pushed out again when you get back, either leave it be or take it to a wildlife shelter.
- If a young bird seems to be fully-feathered, leave it be. It's nearly full-grown, and it's very normal for a young adult bird to spend a few days on the ground until it figures out how to fly.
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- Captain Morgan would like to remind us that "The Parrot is Calling◊". Said parrot has horribly deformed feet just to make the "T" shape in the slogan.
- The bird in the logo of American clothing brand Hey Chickadee is a Dark-eyed junco◊ rather than a chickadee◊.
- State Farm's ad in which an American husband crows about having bought a falcon with the money he saved on their policy takes a major artistic liberty, as it's illegal to simply buy birds of prey in the United States: all species are protected under law, and captive-bred birds can't be bought without falconry training and a license, so the idea that it was bought on a whim falls pretty flat. Considering the other ludicrous things other people in the commercial were shown having bought with their saved money, this can be chalked up to Rule of Funny.
- There's a cosmetics commercial which shows a speckled, tan-colored bird's egg being coated with a tan liquid to conceal its spots: a feat viewers are expected to regard as a wonderful improvement. But speckled eggs use their markings for camouflage, and coating a fertile egg with anything can suffocate the embryo inside, which rather spoils the positive imagery the advertisers surely intended.
- A Geico commercial features a team of men trekking to the South Pole, only to find that Dora the Explorer beat them to it. The ad shows penguins, but they're African penguins, a species that wouldn't be able to survive in the extreme cold of the Antarctic.
Anime and Manga
- Bleach: When Ichigo has to rescue the soul of a little boy who has been trapped inside a bird for a very long time, the bird is persistently referred to in English, including the official manga and anime English translations as a "parakeet". It's not. It's a cockatiel, a bird more closely related to cockatoos than grass parakeets (such as the budgie).
- Coco the parrot in the 80s version of Kimba the White Lion averts this. He has two toes in the front and two pointing back like a real parrot does.
- Arrietty also averts this by demonstrating corvid intelligence. A crow spots Arrietty, caws, and looks away, so Arietty turns away as well, to talk to Sho. Several minutes later, the "harmless" crow suddenly attacks from her blind side. Only the cawing of another crow gives the attack away at the last second.
- Ollie, a seagull from Piers Baker's Ollie and Quentin: whenever the character is drawn with his mouth open (he and Quentin, the lugworm, are usually mouthless) we can see that his mouth is not in his beak but below it. As if his beak was some kind of nose.
Films — Animation
- That falcon from Mulan. Normally he acts like a falcon (albeit with a red-tailed hawk's call) until the very end after getting all his feathers burnt off. He promptly starts to cluck like a chicken. He can also run around on the ground as swiftly as a chicken, which, while funny, is very hard for a falcon to do due to their anatomy. note
- Finding Nemo features beautifully-rendered and researched Great Barrier Reef fish, but used American species of gulls and pelicans when there are perfectly good Australian examples they could have used.
- The pelicans really look more like a mixture between the Australian and brown pelicans, though their colouration mimics that of juvenile seabirds like albatrosses and gulls, which are brown until white feathers replace the brown ones. The storks in the short Partly Cloudy are also worth of noting for their somewhat flat beaks, which resemble more those of ducks than storks, but this is probably because they are easier to animate.
- The gulls are actually based on the Australian endemic species Pacific Gull, which has an absurdly oversized beak. However, they are quite uncommon in Sydney, but occur further south and west
- At the end of A Bug's Life (also by Pixar), a passerine bird that constantly attacked the main characters actually hatches out several down-covered chicks with completely-opened eyes, that proceed to eat Hopper alive. In real life, baby passerine birds are born mostly naked◊ (aside from a few hairy feathers in a few species) and blind, and would look nothing like they do in the film◊, which look more like baby chickens.
- The movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole is one of the least obnoxious examples, and goes well out of its way to avoid this trope. For the most part the birds looked, acted, and moved like owls. The film even avoids the dreaded Acrophobic Bird trope ("We're on the ground! The worst place for an Owl!")...
- Aside from their eyes. The fixed raptor glare wouldn't have cut it in a visual medium.
- One odd bit: Nyra, a female Barn Owl (Tyto alba) is nearly solid white, with a few gray patches and spots. In real life, only male Barn Owls could have this coloration. Females are considerably darker. Then again, her plumage is more due to Color-Coded for Your Convenience. Soren's mother and father represent the normal colour dimorphism for barn owls. It's also stated in the books that one of the defining traits of Nyra is her very white facial mask and body. Several times it's stated there that her face looks like the full moon came out of the sky and down to earth. Which means the film-makers actually got that part right.
- Another sexual dimorphism aspect, and probably the most glaring error in a film that managed to get things mostly right, is the fact that for many owl species, the females are significantly larger than the males. In no scene is this more glaringly wrong than the scene with the king and queen snowy owl, where the queen is smaller and more slender than the king, because Women Are Delicate. In reality, the sizes would be reversed, with the female a good head taller and heavier, as well as heavily spotted. This mistake is particularly unusual considering that the books this movie was based on does get this aspect right.
- Rio deals with this with mixed success. The parrots are referred to only as "blue macaw", but they are a real species, Spix's Macaws note , which really are nearly extinct in the wild, had lived in Brazil, and are currently the subject of a captive breeding program. The other birds in the movie are also real Brazilian species. But:
- The macaws' and toucans' feet are generic cartoon bird feet with two toes pointing forward and one pointing back, when they should have two pointing forward and two pointing back, like real parrot-types do. Blue and Jewel also sport Cockatoo-like crests, although much smaller ones than Nigel, the actual cockatoo.
- Rafael the Toco toucan has a mate who more closely resembles a Keel-billed toucan. Interspecies Romance, maybe, but they have kids.
- While blue macaws are portrayed as cavity nesters (accurately for a parrot), there's a yellow parrot in the opening scene who nests on a branch instead.
- Zazu in The Lion King is supposed to be a hornbill but looks an awful lot more like a toucan; almost all hornbills are black, white or brown.
- The Three Caballeros - While the birds are either Funny Animals or slightly cartoony, the Disney animators did show their work, showcasing many obscure species. The one major misstep is the Aracuan Bird. Aracuans are real, but look and act nothing like their Disney equivalent, making the Clown of the Jungle a "take our word for it" case on par with Chuck Jones's Roadrunner.
- The ostriches in the "Dance of the Hours" sequence of Fantasia are supposed to be female... but the plumage is that of a ''male'' ostrich. Females are brown.
- Gloriously averted in Up: Kevin acts pretty much like a bird would in real life; even her eating Carl's cane before spitting it out is a typical avian reaction to testing something for edibility and finding a negative result.
- The (in)famous peeing baby penguin in Happy Feet 2. Penguins are birds, they not only don't have a urethra (just a cloaca), they don't even have urine. Their bodies use uric acid instead of urea, and uric acid (the white paste in pigeon poop) doesn't have to be diluted in water.
- In The Rescuers Down Under, there's an eagle that's a Giant Flyer big enough for a small boy to ride on. Wedge-tailed eagles are impressively large, but they're still not big enough for that.
- In the same movie, the bird chart Jake looks at when Wilbur is about to land shows such Seldom-Seen Species as scrubbird, lorikeet, honeyeater, butcherbird, galah, noisy miner, rufous whistler (misspelled as "rufus whistler"), crested bellbird, freckled duck and flowerpiercer. However, almost none of these birds are the right shape and size (for example, the dove seems to be smaller than the wren, the crested bellbird looks more like a cockatoo), and flowerpiercers are native to South America - a flowerpecker would have been more accurate for Australia.
Films — Live-Action
- In the So Bad, It's Good film The Giant Claw, the eponymous bird... thing has a mouthful of some other animals' teeth, human hair, and can flare its nostrils. This would be excused because it's an alien, but it's already so fake-looking that the nostrils just compound the silliness.
- Howard the Duck: A great many things, some of which can be explained by the fact Howard is an alien and some not-so-much:
- Small potatoes compared to some of the other weirdness in the movie, but on Howard's homeworld, duck hens have breasts.
- Later on, a parody of the (in)famous "rise of man" evolution sequence is shown and Howard's earliest ancestor is... an egg. Well, at least we now know which came first.
- When the eponymous character freaks out over being offered eggs at a restaurant, shouting about how he's not a cannibal. This is despite the fact that as an alien, there's no way he could be even remotely related to any terrestrial bird species.
- In the remake of Clash of the Titans, Zeus' totem is a bald eagle. Bald eagles live in North America — not Greece. Contact between the two continents was not formally established until many centuries after the movie is supposed to take place. The nearest plausible analog would have been the similar-looking, but lesser celebrated, White-Tailed Eagle, or the similar-sized and equally impressive Golden Eagle.
- Mary Poppins features the title character singing with a robin during "Spoonful of Sugar"; however, it's an American robin, while the story takes place in London. It's also a pair of male robins building that nest.
- In the 1990 Haruki Kadokawa samurai film Heaven and Earth, one scene features a singing White-crowned Sparrow, which is a common enough bird in Alberta, where the film was shot ... but essentially impossible to come by in medieval Japan, where the film is set.
- Classic horror film The Birds suffers from this once or twice. Not so much from the birds' behavior, since it's kind of the entire point that the birds are behaving very oddly, but from two specific scenes:
- The first is when the seagull smashes into a door and kills itself. One character states that it must have lost its way in the dark, while the other points out that there's a full moon. Really, most birds have atrocious night vision, and will only take flight at night if they have no other choice. Even with a full moon, the gull likely couldn't have seen much.note
- The second is much worse in that it's an ornithologist speaking. She states that birds are quite stupid due to their small brains. Not only are many birds reasonably clever, but brain size and mental ability are two factors that actually don't correlate nearly as well as most folks expect. Ravens, which are exceptional problem-solvers and widely considered the smartest birds in the world, have very small brains.
- In Jungle 2 Jungle, Mimi-Siku points out a bird and says "hoko." His father interprets this as meaning "bird," but Mimi-Siku corrects him by saying "hoko" means "toucan" and that "bird" is a different word. The problem is that the bird pointed out was a scarlet macaw, not a toucan.
- In the first Charlie's Angels movie, Natalie (Cameron Diaz) pinpoints the Big Bad's fortress by listening to a bird call over her connection to Bosley, being held captive there. She pinpoints the bird as a pygmy nuthatch, which she says is only found in Carmel, California. Two problems: 1) The bird depicted was not a pygmy nuthatch, and 2) even if it were, the nuthatch's range goes from Mexico all the way into British Columbia.
- Alien vs. Predator features a Cat Scare where a penguin steps out from behind some crates, which is fine, except that it is an African Penguin. In Antarctica.
- The cover art for one edition of Preston Blair's seminal animation instruction book has a veritable flock of Palette Swapped Sparrows, some of which are downright psychedelic.
- The Bartimaeus Trilogy is normally correct on this and parodies this trope when Bartimaeus transforms into a raven for the first time and it was in the dark. He winds up almost normal but with a bright blue beak.
- Italian 18th century poet Ugo Foscoloassociated the colourful bird Hoopoe and graveyards in his famous work "Dei Sepolcri" (roughly translated as "About the Tombs") because he felt that it was poetically fit. This may have been inspired by Estonia , and to a lesser degree in neighboring areas, where the hoopoe has traditionally been considered to be a harbinger of death. Across the sea in Scandinavia it is a harbinger of war.
- Both averted and lampshaded in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar novels (the author is a falconer). While certain tribes have raptors with near-human intelligence, this is explicitly the result of a generations-long breeding program and a psychic link between handler and bird — wild raptors are nothing like the Hawkbrothers' Bondbirds.
- Harry Potter:
- In addition to Hedwig, a snowy owl, being depicted as hooting and flying at night, the cover of◊ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets clearly depicts a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) in the owl cage during the Ford Anglia drive. It is well known the owl, Hedwig's species is the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus formerly Nyctea scandiaca).
- Draco Malfoy's eagle owl is far bigger than one would expect, as demonstrated here◊. Eagle owl's have a range or different sizes, the Eurasian Eagle-owl is currently the largest owl living in Britain. (It's the largest species of owl in the world, actually.)
- In Babylon Rising by Tim La Haye and Greg Dinallo, villain Talon trains hawks to serve as instant messenger pigeons. Furthermore, his trained hawks can unroll scrolls, kill a man by dive-bombing his back, and fly around carrying big snake statue bits.
- Victoria Hanley's The Light Of The Oracle crosses this trope with Animal Motifs. In the Oracle world, certain people are granted magical powers by birds, and the type of bird that chooses you determines what power you get. Clea- the resident Alpha Bitch- was chosen by a vulture, and spends the book bullying and plotting against the protagonist. Much is made in-universe of how fitting it is that such a cruel girl should be chosen by such an ugly bird. Except...vultures aren't cruel. Most of the time, they only eat what's already dead, scavenging off the kills of other predators. This- while disgusting- does not make them the emblems of vice and malice other characters hold them to be. If anything, they clean up the world.
- Averted in Animorphs: Tobias' iconic "TSEEEEEEERRRRR!" is a decent onomatopeia for the classic "bird of prey" sound in movies... because he is a red-tailed hawk.
Live Action TV
- In a Disney adaptation of Swiss Family Robinson (a series spun off from their film adaptation) the family meets a falconer and his... bird. A bird that is played by at least three different species over the course of the episode. She is shown flying (via stock footage of a falcon), landing on the ground (suddenly, she's a Red-Tailed Hawk), and then landing on the man's wrist (now she's a Golden Eagle).
- Hysteria, the woeful TV movie about the rock band Def Leppard, features shots of American bird species in its very first scene, despite being set in Sheffield, Yorkshire.
- Wheel of Fortune has trouble with bird-related puzzles, most often by putting two completely unrelated birds in the same puzzle. Twice they've had SPARROWS & PARAKEETS as a puzzle, and another time, they had CARDINALS & CANARIES — which is doubly wrong, as cardinals are a family of birds, and canaries a distinct species.
- In-universe example: On "The Bloodhound Gang", a series of kids' detective shorts, a slimy lawyer re-wrote his bird-loving client's will to leave his fortune to a charitable organization the lawyer would run. Said organization's declared purpose was to finance the care and protection of the American passenger pigeon, a species that's been extinct since 1914.
- An episode of Rome has an Australian sulfur-crested cockatoo kept as a household pet. In ancient Rome, more than fifteen hundred years before European contact with Australia. The DVD commentary explains that they asked the animal suppliers for an exotic-looking bird and that was what they got.
- Some fun with falconry - Henry VIII in The Tudors is shown handling a Harris's Hawk, a North American species that would be utterly alien to 16th century falconers and in fact, only popularized in Europe from the late 20th century onwards.
- On Bones, a park ranger in an East Coast nature reserve once urged Brennen and Booth to finish up their investigation quickly, as their presence might disturb the migration of boobies through the area. This line, aside from existing solely so Booth could make a cheap boob joke, must've caused facepalms among birdwatchers everywhere, as boobies are only rarely found in the Pacific and they certainly don't migrate anywhere along the East Coast. There may be some Fridge Logic here though, as the Northern Gannet does migrate up and down the east coast, and is from the same family of birds as the boobies (and very similar in appearance to them to the point where immature gannets can be confused for adult Brown Boobies).
- One episode of The Big Bang Theory has Sheldon being terrorized by what the cast calls a "blue jay." It's really a black-throated magpie-jay, which on top of that is not native to Pasadena. Justified since Sheldon has a crippling fear of birds, and wouldn't be expected to know enough about them. Also, the bird was established as an escaped pet.
- Beast Legends (a 2010 series about reconstructing mythical creatures based on the biomechanics of real animals) had a giant bird that launches quadrupedally like a pterosaur. Aside from the fact that it has too many fingers (4 instead of 3), no real bird has a hand remotely appropriate for such a launch. Although it's technically not a real bird, that is no excuse.
- This got Alice Cooper into trouble once. Someone threw a live chicken onto the stage at a concert. Cooper, as he admitted later, had never actually seen a living chicken, and assumed it could fly. So he lofted it back at the crowd, only to see it fall into the audience, which promptly tore it apart, much to his shock.
- Karl Pilkington from The Ricky Gervais Show told the story of how Plato died, incredibly incorrect. He stated that there's a species of bird (or that there used to be) that dropped its eggs onto rocks so they would hatch, and as Plato was bald and from above his head would look like a rock, the bird dropped it and the egg killed him. Ricky and Stephen just laughed and didn't bother trying to correct him, though they said he was wrong on so many levels.
- The Colbert Report: And there's always that wonderful moment, known to all birdwatchers, when you're watching a movie and it shows a shot of a bald eagle... while a Red-Tailed Hawk screams in the background. Presumably they thought sparrow-like chirping wasn't manly enough for the mascot of Eagleland. Once an Episode on The Colbert Report, the eagle in the opening credits (whose name is Liberty, if you were wondering) makes precisely this noise. This makes sense in the context of the show, as bald eagles should sound like that.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The Limpkin, a mostly unremarkable bird found in Central and South America, plus Florida, has a very distinctive and indeed downright bizarre cry that's impossible to mistake for anything else. The hippogriff in the movie is voice-acted for by one of these little brown birds.
- Comedian Brian Regan told a story about a golf tournament that was caught inserting non-indigenous bird sounds by a savvy bird enthusiast. "I guess I'm supposed to believe the blue-breasted whipper willow has decided to alter its annual migratory route to enjoy a little golf!"
- Sadly the David Attenborough documentary Life Of Birds got some things wrong. While showing species endemic to the south-west of Australia, a Pied Currawong can be clearly heard in the background - this is a species confined to the eastern seaboard of the country.
- FurReal Friends has a new line of baby animal animatrons that you feed fake milk. Unfortunately, that line contains a duck and a parrot. When did baby birds start drinking milk?
- Chocobos are functionally ostrich-like horse analogues. In some games like Final Fantasy Tactics, they have a vaguely plausible, though friendly appearance, but traditionally are cute'd up and somewhat resemble chicken-like moas. Some can also fly, despite being as big as a donkey. Baby chocobos are pure "baby chick" though.
- The Spiteful Crow enemy in EarthBound has the same problem as cartoon crows (mentioned in the Western Animation section below), in that it has a yellow beak instead of a black one. It's doubtful this was intended to be realistic as said enemies wear sunglasses and a bow tie.
- In a weird version, the Moas of Guild Wars look nothing like the real moa, but are fairly accurate phorusrhacids...
- In The Sims 2 Pets, there's a birdcage with fairly accurate-looking models of several different species, including an African Gray Parrot, a Crested Cockatoo, and...an American Kestrel. They're all roughly the same size and can be interacted with the same way, including Play With and Teach to Talk. An American Kestrel is a small falcon. Not only is it smaller than an African Gray Parrot or a Scarlet Macaw, it is absolutely impossible to teach any falcon to talk, and if you play with one you should definitely be protecting your hand. (Somewhere, an ornithologist and a falconer are crying on each others' shoulders.)
- Averted in SimAnimals, where herons will eat small mammals. Too bad about the omnivorous owls.
- In a case of All Long-Legged Birds Are Herons, the flash game Treasure Madness recently offered a map that depicts black-crowned cranes standing around in a lake, as if wading for fish. Cranes of this species are savannah birds that feed on land.
- The Babylon Rogues of the Sonic the Hedgehog series are neither shown to be able to fly (rather, they ride upon sky-surfing hoverboards). They also generally resemble one another, despite Jet, Wave, and Storm being a hawk, a swallow, and an albatross respectively; all very different species. Oh yeah, and the second game they're in implies they're the descendants of aliens.
- Tails Adventure gives us the Battle Bird Armada, a paramilitary organization whose ranks include Doctor Fukurokov, an owl with a beard. Interestingly enough, the the comics connected both them and the Rogues to one another, along with the more Daffy Duck-like Bean the Dynamite and the comic-original villain Predator Hawk.
- In Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, the villains are crows who want to bring about an eternal night. Crows are diurnal (active during the day) and like most birds have awful night vision, so why they'd want an endless night is perplexing. One wonders why the game-makers didn't just go with owls.
- Surprisingly averted in Donkey Kong Country Returns. Squawks (an otherwise nondescript cartoon parrot) has two toes pointing forward and two pointing back, as a real parrot does. Earlier games in the series gave him two toes pointing forward and one pointing back.
- The ostrich villagers in Animal Crossing have generic bird feet (three toes with a hallux) instead of only two toes like in real life.
- In the bonus chapter of Grim Tales 6: The Vengeance you need to get an owl out of a hollow tree by offering it a treat. Said treat is a piece of candy.
- In Scribblenauts, summoning a hamerkop (a small pelecaniform) summons a woodpecker.
- Summoning a tropicbird (a small seabird) gives you a swan.
- Writing "frigatebird" (another seabird) gives you a robin.
- The secretary bird (a terrestrial bird of prey) is treated as a crane (a close relationship between the two was once suggested, but was long-abandoned by 2009).
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, it is implied that Molly the Monster's pink coloring comes from her having some genetic material from a flamingo. In real life, flamingos' pink color comes from protiens in the plankton they eat, and their feathers turn drab without it.
- Light was made of this in Freefall when the crew's pet emu was outfitted with speakers to allow it to vocalize, and wakes up the genetically-enhanced wolf AI with a meep meep! ..."Can our roadrunner outrun our coyote?"
- Not Always Right:
- ARKive's bird taxonomy is a mixed bag, as relatively cutting-edge ideas (placing the hamerkop as a pelecaniform) are used along with older, discredited theories (flamingos are allied with storks, ignoring the wealth of evidence uniting them with grebes).
- Real Life roadrunners are omnivorous, gray, about one foot long, and look like little Velociraptor when walking. But the object of Wile E. Coyote's obsession more closely resembles an ostrich (if anything).
- War and Pieces features a roadrunner on the wrong side of the Pacific.
- Daffy Duck has been heard to quack and have a white neck ring like a mallard, but has all black plumage more like a black scoter.
- In his very first cartoon (back when he actually looked like a duck) Daffy had a light blue ring around his neck. Make of that what you will.
- Hatta Mari from Plane Daffy is a pigeon with cleavage.
- Actually parodied at the beginning of a Daffy cartoon where he's seen floating in a pond with a group of mallard ducks that act and look realistic. He comments that he always seems to stand out in a crowd.
- Donald Duck never flies like an actual duck at all, but whenever we actually do see him flying, he for some reason flies like a hummingbird.
- One episode of Johnny Test has penguins referred to as "flightless furballs".
- Iago from Aladdin (a macaw) has two toes in front of the foot and...one toe in back? Oops. Also, despite for all appearances being based on a scarlet macaw, he's a fifth the size and somehow in Arabia centuries before the continent they're native to was discovered.
- Another All Birds Are Chickens toe error: On The Mysteries Of Alfred Hedgehog, a woodpecker was depicted with three toes in front and one in back, rather than the proper two-and-two. Rather disappointing for a show intended to advance science/nature education.
- Woody Woodpecker. A garishly-colored feather duster with goggly green eyes and a beak that occasionally exhibits teeth, he's no doubt been the cause of many an ornothologist's tears. Then again, the species he is in theory, the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, entered urban legend status around when they started making these cartoons.
- Margaret from Regular Show. The official site calls her a robin. She's bright red like a male cardinal, but really looks more like a Palette Swap of Mordecai (a bluejay). And she has lady pecs.
- One episode of Family Guy features a gag where two stoned seagulls are talking about how KFC is delicious, and one of them freaks out when the other one points out that he's eating bird. Never mind that there are plenty of other animal species which will eat their own kind—a gull eating chicken is no more cannibalism than a person eating a cow. That, and some species of gulls will prey on other birds.
- Pelicans in Warner Bros. cartoons seemed to have oversized pouches under their bill tops, leading Daffy in 1938's Porky and Daffy to quickly quip "Funny thing about the pelican, his beak can hold more than his belly can." (The pelican in question here is the referee in a fight in which Daffy is competing.)
- Timon & Pumbaa
- One episode claims that toucans have serrated bills for crushing, and the antagonistic toucan character was even shown crushing a snail shell. While the bill of a toucan is certainly serrated, it has weak muscles and is incapable of crushing even soft fruit.
- Another episode had a female ostrich and a hatchling that both have black feathers of an adult male ostrich and three-toed feet.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
- In one episode a woodpecker carried off a mouse with the intention of eating it.
- The bald eagle in "May the Best Pet Win!" screams like a red-tailed hawk.
- Toucans are portrayed with generic bird feet with three toes in front and one in back, when they should have two in front and two in back like parrots.
- "Inspiration Manifestation": Robins make their nests out in the open and not in hollowed out trees and therefore don't use birdhouses. Robins also do not eat birdseed so would have no interest in the rather copious amount of it Fluttershy provides.
- One episode of The Flintstones had a dodo (which looked nothing like a real dodo) that mimics speech like a parrot. This is lampshaded by the main characters. Then again, it is a Running Gag on the show that prehistoric things act just like their (very) loose modern counterparts.
- The Jonny Quest episode "Treasure of the Temple" had a toucan that can mimic human speech like a parrot.
- Ralph from Martha Speaks was revealed to be female duck in "his" second appearance upon laying eggs, in spite of having the colorings of a male mallard.
- The Adventure Time episode "One Last Job" averts this by showing a male bird with beautiful plumage with extravagant tail feathers while the female is drab and plain-looking, a reference to males of some bird species being more vibrant to attract possible mates (especially true when it comes to peafowl).
- One episode of Johnny Bravo had an emu being fed avocados, which are poisonous to birds.
- The ducks in Breadwinners eat nothing but bread, which would kill a real duck.
- The ostriches in Phineas and Ferb have three toes on each foot, instead of two like in real life.
- Done in-universe in Ed, Edd n Eddy where they make a bet by taking on the others' personality quirks and behaviors, with Eddy trying to unsuccessfully imitate Edd's Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness by claiming chickens to be mammals just because they can't fly.
- The taxidermy ostrich seen in the Gravity Falls episode "Northwest Mansion Mystery" has a hallux.
- Surprisingly averted in The Simpsons episode "The Musk Who Fell To Earth", which had a bald eagle that made realistic chirping noises (even named "Squawky" by the family). Previous episodes, however, had it scream like a red-tailed hawk like in many portrayals.