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Owl home to roost after life on the loose

Richard Best of Acres Wild Falconry with the eagle owl. Picture: GARY BROWNE
Richard Best of Acres Wild Falconry with the eagle owl. Picture: GARY BROWNE

AN EAGLE owl that has been on the loose in a Kent village for 18 months is now safely in captivity.

The rare bird, which has a 5ft wingspan, was first spotted in Charing last summer and has been both a welcome addition and a nuisance to local residents since roosting in a private garden.

But after sustaining a serious eye injury, the animal has been rescued and given a place to roost in an Ashford owl sanctuary.

The European eagle owl is only usually found in Scotland and isolated parts of Yorkshire, and was thought to have escaped after being bred in captivity.

Nature lovers in Charing initially kept the news of the owl quiet, fearing 'twitchers’ would arrive and scare it away.

But the male bird hit the headlines in November, when the Kentish Express reported it had been swooping on people and surviving in the wild by catching small animals.

The bird was found in the garden it had roosted in for the past 18 months, suffering from a severe eye injury.

The RSPCA collected the sick bird and after initial treatment at its shelter in Leybourne, near West Malling, the owl was taken to bird expert Howard Stewart of Acres Wild Falconry in Kingsnorth, where it is now recovering.

Mr Stewart said: “We don’t want to go into details of how it was injured at this stage, but a vet has examined it and it’s not clear yet whether the eye is permanently damaged.”

Mr Stewart added: “He’s a cracking little guy. I’ve been keeping these eagle owls for over 28 years and this is a beauty. To know this bird has survived in the wild is an unbelievable feeling when you’re holding him.

“The story has come to a nice climax. The bird’s safe, the people of Charing are safe and the whole thing has worked out nicely for everybody in the end.”

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