While the UK’s royal family is enjoying a lot of attention globally, here in Helsinki a completely different “family” is gracing the pages of the local newspapers almost every day. They live in the trendy and central Forum building, and have their own paparazzi photographing their every move (including a recent angry outburst by the matriarch). Passers-by snap photos of them with the mobile phones when they are out on the street, and security guards have had to save them from the adoring crowds (and recently three home invaders!) more than once. The city loves this family, accepts whole-heartedly their unusual diet of rabbits, crows and seagulls, and just can’t get enough of them.
OK, so these celebrities are not human, but are a family of two adult Eurasian Eagle-owls and their three chicks, living on a ledge near the top of the Forum shopping centre in central Helsinki. The three chicks are just starting to fly now, and one multiple occasions individuals have been “rescued” from the street level when their flights have not been as successful as required (you can see automatically [i.e. sometimes incorrectly] translated headlines here). But when they do get it right, they also make news – the largest local newspaper loved it when one of the owls visited their headquarters. One of the adults (presumed to be the female) made news when she attacked a small dog being walked down the street under her nest. It was really interesting to read the online comments about the article – some readers were even suggesting that dogs should be banned from the city centre so that the owls could have it to themselves – such is the dedication of some to these owls! There are estimated to be seven pairs of Eagle-owls in the Helsinki area, but these are definitely the “royals” of the city.
We recently spotted one of these celebrities from the tram – it was easy when we noticed the photographers opposite the Forum centre with their gigantic lenses pointing in its direction.
However, there is another, much more famous, Eagle-owl in Finland’s recent past. He was named Bubi, and made headlines in the summer of 2007 when he staged a one-man (um, one-bird) pitch invasion during Finland’s Euro 2008 soccer championship qualifier against Belgium. In the 17th minute of an apparently lackluster game, the owl flew onto the field, causing a six-minute suspension of play (you can read rather a beautiful account of the event here). Bubi (inheriting his name from a local sports commentator) had been seen around the Olympic stadium (where the game was being played) since January of that year, but achieved national celebrity for his efforts on behalf of the Finnish football team (if GoogleTranslate is working correctly, it appears that some members of the team said that they thought his intervention helped them win the game) – the Finnish soccer team was promptly nicknamed the Eagle Owls (the Huuhkajat). Bubi fame was cemented when he was named the “Helsinki Citizen of the Year” in December 2007. Like all celebrities, Bubi’s life was closely examined by the media – there was much speculation about where Bubi roosted and if he would nest in the stadium. However, two locals suggested that there was no need to be concerned about Bubi nesting in the stadium, as he appeared to be a batchelor since “[he] has time to go to football matches and concerts” (source cited here, and you can visit his FaceBook page here).