Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally” Video: That Owl!

Because we give a hoot about birds

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The video above is a new teaser for Katy Perry’s upcoming “Unconditionally” music video, which premieres on MTV on Nov. 19. But, at the 0:22 mark, it’s also a showcase of the glory of owls — and one owl in particular.

Experts from the National Audobon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have independently confirmed for TIME that the owl used in Perry’s video is Bubo bubo, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl. Like the Great Horned Owl — the well-known species an owl amateur might confuse with the one in the video — the owl in question is large, with ear-tufts.

Though the bird in the video appears to have red eyes, that’s just a trick of the light or some filmmaking magic; in the wild, its eyes appear orange-yellow. Cornell’s experts suggest that one reason the Eurasian Eagle-Owl may have been chosen to appear in the clip is that, like most owls seen on film and as might be guessed from its common name, it’s not native to the U.S.; native species are illegal to own. The Audobon Society confirms that the Eagle-Owl is common in captivity.


But, no matter the species, an owl isn’t just any bird — it’s an animal rich with symbolism.

It’s possible that an owl could represent knowledge or bravery. The bird is associated with the Greek goddess Athena, who would sometimes appear in the guise of an owl; Athena was goddess of both wisdom and war. Her analog in Roman mythology, Minerva, is also associated with the owl. Up through the King Arthur legends and Winnie-the-Pooh, owls have long represented smarts.

An owl could also represent death as well as the darkness of the night during which they hunt. For Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth the owl was “the fatal bellman, / Which gives the stern’st good-night” and Wordsworth wrote in “The Waggoner” that the owl’s screech was “worse than any funeral bell.” Nor is that belief limited to Europe: among the Apaches, for example, the owl is to be feared as a bad omen. (Owl’s can also be good luck, though, if you look to Hindu mythology.)

It’s also possible that an owl could represent Perry’s ex-husband Russell Brand. According to a 2009 news item, the then-married Brand and Perry used the nicknames “Owl” and “Pussycat” for each other, in reference to the 19th-century poem by Edward Lear, “The Owl and the Pussycat.” The report may not be true, however, as rumors that the couple recorded a duet of the poem set to music did not actually result in the release of such a track. (And the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, unlike Brand and Perry, often mates for life.)

Or maybe Perry and the video producers merely used an owl because it’s a majestic sight, and because music and birds are a natural fit — though in this case that’s unlikely, since the Eurasian Eagle-Owl can’t exactly carry a tune:

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