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The Bird Error In The Big Bang Theory You Never Noticed

A common problem with television's portrayal of scientists is that they often seem to know everything science-related, including information well outside their area of expertise. However, The Big Bang Theory's Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), a noted theoretical physicist, proved he's no ornithologist when a bird showed up at his window. 

The season 5 Big Bang Theory episode "The Ornithophobia Diffusion" tackles Sheldon's fear of birds when he finds one standing innocently outside his apartment window. Despite the bird having no way to come inside, Sheldon is appalled at its mere existence. He tries to ignore it, but that doesn't work, so he then calls animal control and incorrectly identifies the bird as a blue jay. Sure, the bird is blue in color, but it's not a blue jay.

Sheldon then calls Dr. Amy Fowler (Mayim Bialik) and Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski (Melissa Rauch) to the scene. As a neuroscientist and microbiologist, respectively, neither of them know enough about birds to correct Sheldon on his error. This isn't the show's first onscreen mistake, but it did bother a particular subset of fans: the birders.

Birders caught the mistake immediately

Birder and Big Bang Theory viewer Sharon Stiteler (who tweets under the handle @birdchick) took to Twitter on the day the episode aired to notify the series' executive producer and co-creator Bill Prady that birders were "buzzing" about Sheldon "misidentifying a blue jay." 

Prady responded the same night the episode aired, confirming that Sheldon did make a mistake and clarifying what type of bird it actually is: "The bird was a black-throated magpie jay. Sheldon misidentifies it because he doesn't know birds." It clearly wasn't a huge issue amongst casual, non-bird-watcher fans, though, as the tweet only got ten likes.

For the uninitiated, one clue to identifying a blue jay from a black-throated magpie-jay is in the tail. The magpie-jay's tail is very long — longer than the rest of the bird's body. The blue jay, however, has a much shorter tail with black markings on it.

Generally, the two birds won't be anywhere near each other. Black-throated magpie-jays live along the west coast of Mexico, while blue jays live in the northwest and eastern half of the United States. So, what exactly was a magpie-jay doing in Pasadena, California, where The Big Bang Theory takes place? Well, Bernadette said it may have been a pet, and this species is occasionally kept in captivity. After all, Sheldon himself was ready to keep it by the end of the episode. Sounds like we'll have to chalk the bird's appearance in California up to someone keeping a very uncommon pet and rather than an oversight on bird species.