A bald man believes he may have been targeted by a huge owl because it mistook his shiny pate for an egg.
There have been many sightings of the eagle owl in Exeter and it has been photographed in a tree in the city.
Bus driver Richard Clevedon Smith, 49, said the owl went for him with its talons out as he was on his way to work in the early hours. He said his shiny head may have attracted it.
Experts said the bird would be unlikely to attack humans.
The bird swooped on Mr Clevedon Smith as he was walking through Southernhay to the bus depot at about 04:00 BST.
“I heard the hooting first and just happened to look round and this great huge bird came down with massive wings and its talons out.
“It came towards my head so I ducked down and it flew off.
“I reckon it was the light shining on my bald head that attracted it – it could even have thought my head was an egg.
“It’s something I will never forget.”
The eagle owl
- Eurasian eagle owls are one of the biggest species of owl in the world
- They can have a wingspan of about 6ft (2m)
- They are easily identified by their large stature, prominent ear tufts and bright orange eyes
- In the wild the bird has been known take foxes and even small deer
- An RAF squadron called the Eagle Owls protected Exeter during World War II
Karen Andriunas of the Devon Bird of Prey Centre in Newton Abbot said: “It would be an escaped owl because eagle owls are not native creatures and as such it would be used to humans.
“They are indifferent to people, so it would not be dangerous at all. If anything it would stay away from people.”
She said small animals such as rats and rabbits were its usual prey, so pet owners should make sure they were put away at night when the owl is on the lookout for food.
When eagle owls escape…
- February 2016: Brian, the Eurasian eagle owl went missing in Plymouth after strong winds blew off its enclosure’s roof.
- November 2015: Benny the eagle owl went on the loose in Peterborough
- August 2013: Zeus, a Eurasian eagle owl, flew away from his aviary home in Whipton, Exeter
- September 2011:An eagle owl escapes for one night in Worcester before being recaptured
Artist Catherine Cartwright, whose son Jack captured the bird on film, said she had seen it several times over the past couple of months and it was currently roosting in a large fir tree near the city’s St James Park football ground.
“It hoots a lot; most people have seen it in the area,” she said.
“It’s a low hoot, quite booming.
“It’s a beautiful creature. I feel privileged to have seen it.”
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