In both the Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as well as The Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire, there is a mutated bird that plays a pivotal role in each plot called a jabberjay. While these creatures may seem like a singular issue in both projects, they’re actually vital to both stories, and the history of the bird and its impact is fascinating. So, let’s connect these dots and do a deep dive into these talking birds and their impact on The Hunger Games.
What Is A Jabberjay?
In short, a jabberjay is a mutation created by the Capital during the First Rebellion to spy on the rebels. The birds could record conversations without their suspects realizing it. However, once citizens became privy to what the birds were doing, and began sending the Capital false information, they gave up on them.
Then, they were left to die out. The male jabberjays went on to mate with female mockingbirds to create the franchise’s signature bird, the Mockingjay, per The Hunger Games via NYT.
Throughout both The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and the Hunger Games trilogy, the jabberjay plays an essential role in the story at one point or another – much like the Mockingjay – so, let’s break down the creatures’ impact on the franchise.
How The Jabberjays Are Used In The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes
In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, both in the novel and the book-to-screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ prequel, a jabberjay is defined as a “failed experiment.” In Chapter 8 of the book, Snow explains this, noting:
Considering these birds “failed” the experiment, when Coriolanus Snow is sent to District 12 as punishment for cheating in The Hunger Games, he and the other Peacekeepers are tasked with capturing and returning the jabberjays to the Capital.
However, the future president of Panem uses the birds for its intended purpose to betray Sejanus and clue Dr. Gaul into the escape his friend and other members of District 12 were planning.
At the end of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the evil doctor tells Snow she received his message. Then, when Sejanus is hung for his actions, you can hear his screams as the jabberjays and Mockingjays in the trees mimic the horrific noise. And this leads me directly to how the mutated birds are used in The Hunger Games trilogy.
How Jabberjays Are Used In The Hunger Games Trilogy
While jabberjays are mentioned in The Hunger Games, they are a pivotal challenge in Catching Fire as they are used as a mode of torture rather than intel collection.
During the third Quarter Quell – the 75th Hunger Games – the birds are used as part of the clock to drive the tributes crazy in one of the 12 sections. Finnick and Katniss both get stuck in this sector, and they are led to believe that their loved ones are being tortured because the birds are mimicking Annie’s, Prim’s and more screams.
It’s absolutely brutal how the birds are used in Catching Fire, and the creatures’ connections to Snow through Songbirds and Snakes makes it even worse. However, the deep lore surrounding the creatures is one of the reasons why The Hunger Games is even better now.
To see how these fascinating birds impact both Katniss’ and Snow’s stories, you can see The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which just premiered on the 2023 movie schedule, in theaters, and you can stream all four Hunger Games movies with a Peacock subscription.