Exeter eagle owl swoops on shiny bald 'egghead'

Richard Clevedon Smith
Image caption Bus driver Richard Clevedon Smith was walking to work when the owl swooped on his bald head

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.

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Image copyright Jack Cartwright
Image caption The eagle owl has been seen roosting near St James Park football ground

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...

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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