Study Guide

Hoot Birds

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It's a bird…it's a plane…it's a symbol for freedom and independence!

It doesn't take an ornithologist to figure out that birds imagery is all over the place in Hoot. After all, burrowing owls are the stars of the show. And there are other obvious references to cockatoos (10.46) and parakeets (15.71).

But Hiaasen sneaks in some less overt allusions to our feathered friends.

- Any Baltimore baseball fan will know that orioles (as in East and West Oriole) are members of the avian club.
- Also, Police Chief Deacon's first name, Merle, is another word for blackbird (6.19).

Still the best reference in the entire book comes when Roy encounters some ospreys in Florida and thinks back to his experiences with them in Montana. This is the first moment when Roy thinks that if the ospreys can exist in both environments, than maybe he could do the same (8.71-72).

If we didn't know any better, we'd say he's warming up Coconut Cove.

But that's not the last comparison between Roy and the winged species. When researching the burrowing owl, Roy learns that they are "shy little bird[s]" (17.130). We recall someone else being described as shy (hint hint: it's Roy).

So, why birds?

Well that brings us back to the symbol for freedom and independence. Birds can fly wherever they want (whenever they want)—and yet the burrowing owls are threatened by Mother Paula's. They could literally be flattened by a pancake house, which is as close to the opposite of flying and freedom as you could get.

But the burrowing owls have something unique about them in that their homes are nestled in the ground. And in order to help the burrowing owls, Roy needs to get nestled in Florida. Or maybe it's because he cares about the owls that he becomes attached to Florida.

Either way, it's not a coincidence that the little birds have deep roots in Coconut Cove and that, by committing to help them, Roy adjusts to life in his new home.

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