When the Internet netizens of Facebook recently uncovered the rarest of owls, they were quick to go viral with the news. However upon closer scrutiny, the origins of said bird appears to be suspect. When Snopes.com reported that the Rainbow Owl hailed from both U.S. and China, one would have to wonder how the same unique species (unheard of before now) could have possibly popped up on opposite hemispheres of the globe, at the same time?
The report went on further to state, "long coveted for its colorful plumage, the Rainbow Owl was nearly hunted to extinction in the early 20th century. However, due to conservation efforts, recent years have seen a significant population increase, particularly in northwestern Montana."
Then to embellish the mystique, Dr. Claudia Weatherfield from the University of Toledo went on to describe some of the bird's proclivities - one of which was its odd preference for a certain type of American music.
She noted, that a leading Rainbow Owl research team from the University of Montana had earned the nickname "The Disco Squad" for their creative use of disco music in the field. "People think it's crazy, but we are about twice as likely to encounter (rainbow) owls in the field if we bring along a portable stereo," says Herman Roark, a doctoral student working with the Disco Squad, "And they are most responsive to disco. So far, we have had the most success with 'The Hustle.'"
Hustle indeed! That's exactly what this write-up was all about. It was a spoof cleverly written to dupe thousands on Facebook followers into believing it was the real McCoy. The Facebook herd mentality that's been satirized in graphic novels like "Facebucks & Dumb F*cks" was in overdrive. With only half the facts and a urgency to spread the word versus understanding its original intent, this is very typical of how "groupthink" often takes over ,while checking logic at the door.
In actuality, the brilliantly feathered "rainbow owl" is not an ornithological wonder at all. It's not been hunted nearly to extinction, nor does it live in the U.S., China, or anywhere else. It's a digitally created mythical critter, an altered photo-shopped version of an ordinary "hoot owl", a bird found throughout much of North America.
Oddly enough, Snopes did not even try to hide the fact that this was a spoof. It clearly stated it by including a "FALSE" icon under the header, and then descrubed the actual origin of the "digitally created mystical critter" at the end of the report. Fool us once, shame on me, fool us twice, shame on you! Will Radik an Oregon blogger probably put it best when he described it as " a bad mark on our scientific literacy report card." Oh well, on to uncovering the next rare evolutionary find!