Outdoorsmen Beware! When Owls Attack – These Birds Are Not Always Just Wise And Old

Barred Owl. Photo: MDC

Note: This story is a follow-up to Environmental Echo’s Feb.15 story on owls and how reports of owl attacks seem to be on the increase. Experts say ill-effects from owl attacks on humans are rare – and they may be increasing because humans are in closer proximity to owls due to habitat encroachment.

by Don Corrigan

Owls sport reputations for being shy, wise and old. However, social media accounts and tabloid TV stories are now portraying these feathered fellows as dangerous. Are wise, old owls in attack mode?

Dr. John Galgani used to laugh about stories of owl attacks. No more! He has a bike helmet and an umbrella ready for any rambunctious barred owls that might go after him this spring.

“We live on Gray Avenue in Webster Groves and we’ve known owls live in our neighborhood,” said Galgani. “I didn’t give it much thought to it until last April. Apparently, April is nesting season and that’s when they can get real aggressive.”

The Webster Groves pediatrician goes to work around 5:30 a.m. When he was first hit on a Friday morning last April. It was dark and he thought he might have just closed the car door on himself.

On the Sunday after the first dark encounter, he witnessed his assailants. Two owls swooped down on him. The first one knocked him to the ground, but he was able to wave off the second attacker.

“The next attack came the next Saturday,” recalled Galgani. “I actually got scratched pretty bad on the ear and I bled for a while. I started going to the car for several weeks after that, with an umbrella in hand and a bike helmet on my head.”

Galgani was attacked one more time, but the owls apparently called a truce when the month of May arrived.

“These little animals may weigh less than two pounds, but they pack quite a wallop if they hit you. They can knock you down,” Galgani said.

Everybody needs to be careful with another owl nesting season upon us, according to Galgani. He said he’ll keep an umbrella close.

“Owls can and do attack,” explained the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Shelly Colatskie. “If you get close to their nests, especially when they have young, they will swoop down on you.

“An owl coming at you with their talons can be scary,” added Colatskie, who works at Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center in Kirkwood. “But the truth is we have not had calls here about problem owls. We get more calls about problem skunks, deer, and bats.”

People anywhere in the outdoors do need to have a healthy respect for owls and all raptors, according to Daniel Cone, general manager of the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park. He said owls can have sharp talons to rip apart prey when they hunt.

Cone said owls, with their excellent hunting skills and extremely sharp talons, are at “the apex of the food chain among birds.” They attack other birds; no birds attack them.

Owls are great hunters, but they were once hunted in America for prize money and sport. As an endangered species, that is now illegal. Owls may occasionally give humans a scare, but it may be time for humans to give a hoot about endangered owls.

One response to “Outdoorsmen Beware! When Owls Attack – These Birds Are Not Always Just Wise And Old

  1. Owls also enjoy dining on chickens. For those folks who tend a flock of chickens, be watchful when your chickens are allowed to graze outside of the coop. The very first chicken we lost to birds of prey involved an owl here in Kirkwood.


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