A GIANT eagle owl has been causing a major flap in a city centre by terrorising passing pedestrians.
• Two men report being attacked by giant sea owl in Inverness town centre
• Bird is believed to have escaped from aviary or released by domestic owner into wild
Police have warned the public to keep clear of the large bird of prey, which is being blamed for two attacks in Inverness.
The owl, which has a wingspan of 6ft, is believed to have escaped from an aviary or been released into the wild by an owner not willing to pay for its expensive upkeep.
Crowds have been drawn to Castle Street in the Highland capital, where the bird has regularly been keeping residence, particularly on the roof of a kilt shop or in the backyard of a local pub.
Two pedestrians claim they have been attacked by the owl in recent days and local raptor expert Tommy Horne, who runs an owl sanctuary, has been trying to catch the creature.
He has been attempting to grab the bird with a large net and has been offering it dead rabbits as bait, but has so far had no success.
Mr Horne said: “I will keep trying. I’ve never failed yet, but he seems to be well-fed at the moment. There is a plentiful supply of pigeons about.”
He said the bird may have been looking for food when he swooped on the two men who were attacked.
However, he added: “I’ve been working with birds for 25 years and I’ve never heard of an eagle owl attacking anyone.
“They are not a danger to the public. A bird of prey will not normally attack anyone.”
The two men who came forward to report being attacked within minutes of each other said it happened in the city’s Gordon Terrace, near the Masonic Club, on 19 January.
John Mackay, 58, of North Kessock, Inverness-shire, said he was knocked out and left in a pool of blood after the 2ft-high predator swooped and tore a 3in cut in his head.
Minutes earlier, Noel Hill, 50, of Inverness, said he had a fist-fight with the same bird of prey.
Mr Mackay said: “I thought I had been hit on the back of my head by a brick. I didn’t hear a thing, not even the flap of a wing. It was only when I stumbled back on to my feet and I saw the owl perched on top of a van that I then knew what had happened.
“I couldn’t believe how much blood there was. People were asking for more towels. I went into shock straight away. It’s not the kind of thing you expect to happen on a Saturday night.”
Mr Hill said: “It hit me from behind. I never heard it coming and it hit me in the head. It flew up to the Redcliffe Hotel and then flew down at me again. I saw it coming at me for the second time and I had to beat it off with my fists.
“I did not expect that to happen in the centre of Inverness. I’m just concerned that it could be a child that is attacked.”
Mr Horne, who runs the Birds of Prey Rescue Centre in Croy, Inverness-shire, stressed the public must stay away from the bird if they spot it. He added: “If a member of the public sees it, they need to phone us, but I wouldn’t go near it because they are a big, powerful bird. Eventually, it will come down and we will catch it.”
Mr Horne has previously caught eagle owls in Inverness in 2009 and in 2006.
The latest bird of prey on the prowl in the city became the centre of attraction perched on the roof of Chisholms Highland Dress, in Castle Street.
Owner Ian Chisholm described it as a lovely-looking bird, adding: “I have been trying to encourage it down to the back court between the shops, but it has got very little life about it and does not seem to want to move.”
It has also been visiting the backyard of the Number 27 pub and restaurant, opposite Inverness Castle. Proprietor Grant Skinner said: “We have seen it about, but it seems harmless enough despite its size.”