Tuesday, January 7, 2020

(Some of) The Birds of Super Mario Odyssey

 Thanks to my three-year-old son Ryan, Super Mario Odyssey is now the only game I have ever 100% completed...twice. We had a bit of a rough patch this year where he decided the most fun thing to do in Mario Odyssey was to restart from the beginning, and even though the kid can't read, he did figure out how to navigate through four submenus to delete my save file and start a new game. And then Nintendo very helpfully overwrote my cloud backup with his new game.

So, we played the whole thing again. This was probably for the best, because my boy is very into Mario, and it's much more fun for him when there are moons to collect. It's so boring after you finished the whole game and already found all 999 of them. So, yeah, let's start over!

When you play a game as much as I've played Mario Odyssey, you start to notice little details you didn't see before. And when you're me--especially this year--the little details you notice are birds. Shockingly, I was not able to find a list anywhere on the internet identifying the real species behind the birds in Super Mario Odyssey, so it is now my moral imperative to create it. Here we go.

  • Species: Blue Jay
  • Home in Mario Odyssey: Wooded Kingdom
  • Home in real world: Eastern North America
  • Cool fact: Blue Jays often imitate the call of hawks, maybe as a warning, maybe to scare other birds.
  • Confidence in my identification: 100%
  • Learn more about Blue Jays here.

  • Species: Orange-chinned Parakeet
  • Home in Mario Odyssey: Sand Kingdom
  • Home in real world: Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela
  • Cool fact: Like other parrots, this little guy can imitate simple human speech.
  • Confidence in my identification: 60%
  • Learn more about Orange-chinned parakeets here.
I actually put the Mario Odyssey screenshot above into Merlin Bird ID's photo identifier, because I couldn't figure this one out and I wanted to see what the app would do. Orange-chinned parakeet was one of four suggestions, but is was the only one that lives in Mexico. Since the Sand Kingdom in Mario Odyssey is clearly based on Mexico, and since the little guy does have some orange under his chin, this is my best guess--even though most orange-chinned parakeets are much more green than yellow.

  • Species: Release Dove
  • Home in Mario Odyssey: Mushroom Kingdom
  • Home in real world: Weddings
  • Cool fact: Most white doves are domesticated Barbary doves, which in turn might be domesticated Eurasian collared doves of African collared doves. The Vatican used to release white doves but stopped because predatory birds would often swoop in and kill them while people were still watching. In general, demand for release doves is waning.
  • Confidence in my identification: 90%
  • Learn more about Release doves here.
Doves aren't normally this white in the wild, so I'm pretty sure this is just a release dove, but I could be wrong.

Image source
  • Species: Brown-headed Gull
  • Home in Mario Odyssey: Seaside Kingdom
  • Home in real world: Southern South America, Falkland Islands
  • Cool fact: During breeding season, this gull's head turns dark brown.
  • Confidence in my identification: 80%
  • Learn more about Brown-headed Gulls here.
I used Merlin again on this one. I'm not entirely sure but coloring, the black dot/streak behind the eye, bill and leg color, and black tail tip all match, so I'm pretty sure on this one.

  • Species: Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  • Home in Mario Odyssey: Bowser's Kingdom
  • Home in real world: Pretty much all of Europe and Asia, with another tiny population in Missouri/Illinois/Iowa in the United States
  • Cool fact: This species has as many as 33 subspecies across Europe and Asia. In 1870, 20 tree sparrows were brought from Germany to the US to help settlers in St. Louis, Missouri feel more at home. That population has survived to this day, but it's likely that House Sparrows (another invader from the Old World) keep them from spreading further throughout the US.
  • Confidence in my identification: 100%
  • Learn more about Eurasian Tree Sparrows here and here and here.
This bird is common in Japan, and Bowser's Kingdom is obviously heavily influenced by Japan.

  • Species: Rock Pigeon
  • Home in Mario Odyssey: Metro Kingdom
  • Home in real world: Everywhere. Look behind you.
  • Cool fact: Domesticated pigeons are featured in Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back 5,000 years. It's likely they can navigate using the Earth's magnetic field. They've literally been spies (that Will Smith movie makes more sense now, doesn't it?). They've adapted to living in cities all over the world. They're often called "flying rats," but make no mistake, the humble pigeon is probably humanity's best (bird) friend.
  • Confidence in my identification: 100%
  • Learn more about Rock Pigeons here.
Image source

Image source
  • Species: Scarlet Macaw
  • Home in Mario Odyssey: Cascade Kingdom
  • Home in real world: Central and South America, Trinidad
  • Cool fact: Because of this bird, I have now learned the word aviculture. Thanks to aviculture, when most people think "parrot," they see this guy.
  • Confidence in my identification: 100%
  • Learn more about Scarlet Macaws here.

  • Species: Not a thing. But let's call it a "Diamond-browed Pinkwing"
  • Home in Mario Odyssey: Lake Kingdom
  • Home in real world: Only our hearts
  • Cool fact: While I'm pretty sure this thing doesn't exist, it's more believable than you might think. Look at this thing or this thing or this thing.
  • Confidence in my identification: 70%...maybe this thing is out there somewhere.
  • This bird is standing in for a few birds in Mario Odyssey that I'm pretty sure are just fake. It is a game with sentient plants, monster turtles, and living lava blobs, after all. It's allowed some fake birds.
This concludes our study for the day. There are a few more birds in Mario Odyssey that deserve more attention--especially the larger birds flying around in some kingdoms carrying moons--that I'm pretty sure are eagles and/or other raptors, but are much harder to photograph well in the game. The author recommends further research into this important area of niche-beyond-belief study.

I hope you've enjoyed our journey through this one random little aspect of this game. If you need any help completing any part of Mario Odyssey, do let myself or my son Ryan know--we've got the whole game down pretty well by now.


Quick note--birds are cool, and they are in real danger. A report came out this year that even among common birds, population is down 29% since 1970. There are simple things we can do. You could also consider donating to any of the bird-related organizations I've linked to throughout this post. Or consider donating to any of the organizations fighting the effects of  the Australian bushfires, as the death toll among both humans and animals is rising, with the latest estimates saying over 1 billion animals have been killed.

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