Owls and attacks on humans

Subject: Owls and attacks on humans
From: Chris Tzaros <>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 18:35:59 +1000
Greetings all,

In responding to Lorne's earlier posting on Powerful Owls, and his request
for information/confirmation of attacks on humans by this species.  

1)  Speaking from personal experience, Powerful Owls most certainly do
display aggressive behaviour towards humans, especially when close to the
nest, in the most intense breeding period (around May/June and July), and
especially when tapes of their calls are played back.  For a very
interesting and humorous but somewhat cautionary and alarming account of
this behaviour, one can refer to the Powerful Owl species account in the
superb publication by David Hollands (Birds of the Night; Owls, Frogmouths
and Nightjars of Australia).  Mention is made in that account of a pair of
birds (known to me) in central Victoria, where the
observers/researchers/photographers were repeatedly attacked, to the extent
that on return visits, a motorcycle helmet was a must.  Despite this, the
attackee still suffered a talon up his nostril, and some facial damage!!
(fortunately for him, minor).

2)  All of the Ninox (hawk owls) can be show aggression towards humans
close to their nests.  Barking Owls are renowned for this behaviour, and
even cheeky little Boobooks have been known to have a go!!

3)  The important message I think everyone can learn from this is that
constant activity around owl nests, and indeed some distance away from the
actual nest tree (but still within the heart of their breeding territory),
can be dangerous.  All may be not happy camping!  But I think far more
importantly, this must upset the owls themselves.  For them to show so much
aggression in attacks and nest defence, quite blatantly they do not like
it.  Such events can (and have on several occasions) resulted in nest
desertion.  Owls are secretive and easily disturbed creatures, and where
they are known to nest, should perhaps be left be to do what they do best.
Kill possums and not humans!!

4)  Last but not least, I personally would suggest not playing owl calls
'just for the hell of it'.  I know it can be an exhilarating experience as
I have worked on a scientific-based project mapping the distribution of
forest owls in the Victorian high-country, and it involved playback of
calls in the breeding season.  But one-off instances (and for
scientific/management purposes) are far less-damaging that repeated
recreational events, despite everyone's (including Lorne's) best intentions.

Bye for now,

Chris Tzaros

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