I held forth on the fake eagle video thing at some length over here at KCET yesterday, but there was something I didn’t mention there that irked me about the hoax: in the recap part, where the “amazing footage” of the “eagle” “catching” the “child” gets “replayed” in slow “motion,” the filmmakers dubbed in a bit of sound effect right at the moment where CGI talon hit virtual toddler.
And of course it was a red-tailed hawk call. It always is, It doesn’t matter what bird of prey is in a film: the SFX guys will always dub in a red-tailed hawk call.
Not that the red-tail sound was a dead giveaway: during the 45 minutes or so in which I was somewhat taken by the hoax in I was prepared to grant that perhaps the videographers just did a clumsy, misguided dubbing job, for much the same reason that nature YouTubers always seem to want a horrible music track to cover up their occasionally interesting footage. But it was the same kind of mistake as inflating a CGI osprey to eagle size and calling it a golden and expecting birders to believe it for a second.
In case you’ve never seen a bird of prey represented in video and have no idea what I’m talking about, here is a red-tailed hawk’s call:
By way of comparison, here’s what golden eagle vocalizations sound like:
Bald eagles have calls you might well mistake for a gull’s:
[Update: in comments, otrame offers a more characteristic adult bald eagle call.]
Almost without exception, the red-tailed hawk call is what the sound engineers will use. I do know of one such exception. In the 2010 remake of Clash Of The Titans, which I suspect most people here watched solely for the Kraken and the releasing thereof, there was a scene where Zeus and Perseus were having a difficult father-son moment. Perseus is recalcitrant, whereupon Zeus transforms himself into an eagle and flies away. And that eagle doesn’t “keeeer” — he peeps. Like a golden. Honestly, that one moment of verisimilitude was worth the preceding hour. I was impressed that they got that one detail right. Though the Kraken did disappoint.
Exemplary efforts like Clash Of The Titans aside, it seems like there’s a secret world law governing natural sounds in TV and film that requires all raptors sound like red-tailed hawks. All rats squeak incessantly. Horses whinny while chewing placidly. Tropical rainforests in Africa and South America always have kookaburras in them. And as soon as you start to pay attention to how things actually sound in the real world, that kind of mistake unsuspends your disbelief pretty damned quickly. It’s a bit like having a scene where John Wayne is leading a wagon train westward to Oklahoma City, and they pass the Tetons on the way.
It’s the natural world version of illiteracy, and it makes those of us who know a few things wince.