Owls are wise and beautiful, and they can do amazing things with their heads. But sometimes they can be touchy — or downright mean.
A barred owl that earned notoriety last winter for terrorizing joggers in an Oregon park is back. The angry bird (or at least a bird that looks and acts just like the original angry bird) is now directing its ire at government employees, having clawed at least three people outside the state Capitol in Salem since November, according to city parks department spokeswoman Tibby Larson.
“It’s silent. You’re just walking along, minding your own business, and an owl comes silently at you from behind,” Larson told Reuters. “If you’re in that neighborhood, we’re advising you to wear a hat or carry an umbrella.”
Dwight French, who works for the state Water Resources Department, was attacked in late December when he was leaving his office and jogging to his car. He said he felt a bump on the back of his head. He turned around and saw an owl fly into a tree and just stare at him.
"I thought, 'That's weird. I just got bumped on the head by an owl," French told the Statesman-Journal.
He crossed the street and the owl hit him again, but harder this time. Then the irate bird came back again and hit him a third time.
"At the moment it was just really bizarre and kind of scary for a minute," French said.
Dubbed "Owlcapone" by Salem residents, a dive-bombing bird earned national attention for its aggressive antics early last year. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow picked up the story, suggesting bright yellow "attack owl" warning signs be placed around the city. Salem officials liked the idea so much, they installed signs around Bush's Pasture Park where the owl first surfaced.
Sales of “attack owl” street signs have raised more than $20,000 for local parks, according to Reuters, and a local brewery paid tribute to the bird by naming a pale ale “Hoot Attack.”
"Everybody loves the owl – well, I’m sure those whose heads are clawed up don’t, but everybody else,” Larson said.
Salem doctor Ron Jakes likely isn't a big owl fan after his close call with the bird last year.
"All of a sudden my cap was sucked off like a vortex and it was like a tearing, shearing sensation when he latched on to my head, " Jakes told KOIN-TV in January 2015. He said he thought he was having a stroke or an aneurysm while he was jogging in the park, but it was an owl that had silently swooped down and attacked his head.
Why does the owl have a bee in its bonnet? David Craig, a biology professor and animal behavior specialist at Willamette University, told the Statesman-Journal that this is the time of year when owls are courting and establishing their territory, which can make them aggressive.
Or maybe the owl just didn't like the look of these people's headgear.