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Fun Facts About Harry Potter's Owl (and other Fantastic Beasts)

The Harry Potter films have no shortage of spellbinding creatures. From dragons and giants to the winged Hippogriff, readers and filmgoers have been captivated by these fantastic beasts for decades

But maybe the most intriguing and popular of them all lives among us in the real world. The snowy owl has always been a huge part of the Potter saga. As fans know, the boy wizard received a snowy owl (named Hedwig) as a birthday gift and it stayed by his side ever since. And rumor has it that these feathery scene-stealers will play a major role in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Snow Owl Iceland

Iceland plays host to the snowy owl, and as you’d expect, it is one of the reasons people (ahem) flock to the most hospitable country in the Arctic. Be sure to read our beautiful Icelandic wildlife guide to learn more about the other exciting animals which live in Iceland.

Here are some fun facts about our feathered friends…   


Real snowy owls were used in the Harry Potter films

Many of the animals you see in films are computer-generated. However, while special effects were used in some owl moments in the Potter films, Harry’s friend Hedwig was played by a number of real snowy owls. We even know these performers’ names: Gizmo, Kasper, Oops, Swoops, Oh Oh, Elmo and Bandit.

The reason why the filmmakers were able to use real owls in many scenes is because these birds are very intelligent and able to respond to instructions as well as memorize complex tasks – they make surprisingly good actors!

Snow Owl Iceland


They like the cold more than you do

As you might imagine, the snowy owls favor cold climates. They can be found in chilly climes like Alaska, Northern Canada, Greenland and (the next stop southeast) Iceland.

The best places to spot them in Iceland are in the Central Highlands or in the Eastfjords. Snowy owls are regular visitors to Iceland all year-round, but are not technically native here, so birdwatchers are always eager to catch a glimpse of these beautiful birds.

East Fjords Iceland mountains in winter


They don’t live in trees

It’s hard to picture an owl not sitting on a branch (or wearing glasses or reading a book for that matter). Contrary to what you might think, snowy owls live in tundra, those vast, wide landscapes where trees and cities don’t tend to grow. They spot their prey from the ground or short posts, keeping their eyes and ears open for small rodents to snack on (especially poor lemmings).


You can tell males’ age by their coloring

Snowy owls are famous for their thick white feathers, but they’re actually a mix of colors, with white at the fore. If you’re lucky, you might spot an aging male: Their plumage gets whiter as they get older (much like humans!). Females stay the same colors throughout their lives – white and brown.

Fantastic Beasts Iceland


They’re not nocturnal

When you think of owls, you probably imagine them sleeping during the day and doing their hunting at night. And in most cases, that is correct. Not so for the snowy owl, though: Unlike many of the species, they prefer to hunt during the day and sleep at night.

This is another reason for their popularity among bird watchers: They’re considerate enough to maintain the same hours as humans!


They’re not the only strange creatures you’ll meet in Iceland

Compared to many countries, Iceland is relatively untouched: Its population is small, its countryside vast and its animals are varied and endlessly captivating.

Whale Watching from Dalvík

Popular wildlife in Iceland include the Icelandic gyrfalcon (a possible influence on the Hippogriff from Harry Potter, which it resembles in appearance and name), the color-changing Arctic fox, puffins, seals and more than twenty species of whale.

In Iceland, the sky changes appearance as the Northern Lights emerge, the biggest creatures on the planet emerged from the water, and Harry Potter’s flying friend might be spotted swiveling its head in the tundra. Just like in a busy train station, where the steam engine to Hogwarts is hidden in Platform 9 ¾, magic is everywhere if you know how to look!

Northern Lights Iceland

You can find out more about Iceland’s incredible wildlife, including the snowy owl, in this Icelandic wildlife guide. (Don’t forget to enjoy with sound on for a full wildlife documentary experience!)

If you’re keen to experience the real thing, check out more info on all kinds of animal activities, from horse riding to whale watching here.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens worldwide on November 16th, 2018.

Harry Potter's Snow Owl

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