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Harry Potter movie success was really bad news for owls, here’s why

It seems that plenty of people watched the Harry Potter movies back in the 2000s and took a fancy to some of Harry's feathered, mail-delivering buddies.

Harry Potter's success was bad news for owls

The success of the Harry Potter movies made a lot of people very happy, and a lot of people very rich. But while the box office triumphs of Harry Potter worked wonders for the Harry Potter cast, the best movies in the franchise were less welcome for a particular group: owls.

Our feathered friends played a crucial role throughout the Harry Potter movies in order, sending messages between the best Harry Potter characters. And, of course, the snowy owl Hedwig was one of Harry’s closest friends, until that unforgivable moment in Deathly Hallows. We still haven’t recovered.

But just as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone, for those of you in the States) arrived in cinemas as one of the biggest new movies of 2001, owl conservationists issued a warning about these animals being kept as pets.

Caroline Screech – a great bit of nominative determinism – from Cornwall’s Screech Owl Sanctuary in the UK told The Guardian: “Many children may quickly become bored with their new acquisition, especially when they realise how frequently they have to clean out the aviary, and that owls can’t be cuddled.”

Ray Lowder of the Kielder Water Bird of Prey Centre in Northumberland, UK agreed that there was a problem and said that, even before the movie’s release, the center was being “left with unwanted [owls]”.

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The Harry Potter author even weighed in on all of this with a tweet in 2017, in which she wrote: “I’ve just read a very disturbing story about owls kept as pets. Much like making Horcruxes, this practice belongs in fiction. Please don’t.”

However, an investigation by Forbes in 2018 discovered that many of these stories may have been over-stated and that there was no discernible increase in the pet owl trade in Britain after the Harry Potter movies were released. Elsewhere in the world, the demand for owls increased, but this could not be definitively linked to Harry Potter.

It’s a complex story around owl ownership and the success of the Potter franchise, but the take-home message is clear. Owls are not ideally suited as pets, however much Harry loved Hedwig.

For more from the world of Potter, you can learn about Dumbledore, Voldemort, Luna Lovegood, and Hagrid, as well as our list of the best Harry Potter spells. Elsewhere, we’ve explained the secret inspiration behind the Deathly Hallows symbol and why Harry Potter is the OG nepo baby.

Or to see what’s next from the Wizarding World, find out about the Harry Potter TV series release date, the Fantastic Beasts 4 release date (if it ever happens), and the possible Harry Potter and the Cursed Child release date.