HARRY Potter’s closest companion in the young wizard’s first big-screen adventure has moved to the north-east.
Hedwig, the world famous snowy owl now retired from the movies, has arrived at a bird sanctuary at Maud, west of Peterhead.
The bird was joined by another feathered star of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, a great horned owl called Errol, who delivered letters from Hogwarts in the first part of the 2001 film.
Their role at the haven will be to befriend local youngsters with learning issues.
Owner Ruth Hickling opened the Owl and the Pussycat Centre at Brucklay after a high-profile split with Aberdeen City Council.
Two years ago, the 54-year-old former social worker won her case against the local authority, claiming unfair dismissal, and was awarded more than £90,000 following an employment tribunal.
It ruled the council had failed to make adjustments at Mrs Hickling’s workplace to ease her ongoing back pain.
She is hoping the Harry Potter owls, as well as other birds of prey and cats and dogs at the sanctuary, can give therapeutic help to people with autism and ADHD.
The centre was launched at Mrs Hickling’s home at Brucklay with some of the money from the tribunal payout, and a £4,000 boost from First Port, an organisation which funds social enterprise projects.
The feathered stars were among 18 birds sold to the centre by their former owner from Orkney, who had to give them up because of ill health.
“Initially we didn't realise they were from the film,” said Mrs Hickling. “It was a real boost when we found out. They are beautiful birds.
“Their previous owner had signed a confidentiality agreement with the film company.
“We haven’t signed anything, so we’re allowed to talk about it.”
She added: “We aren’t open to the public yet, because money is still tight, but people can call and book an appointment to come out and see them.
“They are also very therapeutic and calming for people with ADHD and autism.
“We are aiming to offer the centre as a therapeutic retreat.”
Any profits from private visits will go towards setting up the therapy project.
Mrs Hickling said she plans to tour schools and summer events with some of her birds and animals.
For more information visit www.owlandpussycatcentre. co.uk