The Washington Post recently reported that a juvenile owl was attacking early morning joggers on a trail near Bethesda, MD. Signs have been put up on a section of the trail reminding users that the trail is open from sunrise to sunset only.

Officials said they believe the attacker is a juvenile owl that will eventually outgrow its habit of attacking runners if it is left alone.

There was also a report from Salem, Oregon, of an owl attack on a very early morning jogger.

My third reference is from Holland. A Eurasian Eagle Owl was attacking residents of a town north of Amsterdam in the night. Town officials recommended that people go out at night under the shelter of an umbrella.

Owl experts have said the bird’s behaviour was unusual, meaning it was either raised in captivity and associated humans with food, or had heightened hormone levels because of the start of the breeding season.

Owls hunt at night, and an argument can be made that the people were intruding on the owls' time and space.

My question: Have attacks on humans by other raptors been documented, excluding cases where the raptors were defending their nests?


2 Answers 2


I looked at the links in your article. That is a barred owl according to the photo linked to the news story/webpage.

Like most other raptors, the male owl can be 2/3 the size of a female. So, it can appear to be an immature bird. Having seen these owls here in Northeast Ohio, I can tell you that the male of this species looks more compact than a female - especially in height.

There is a park here in NE Ohio where hikers were also attacked by a male barred owl a couple of years ago. There was a nest nearby. The owl would dive-bomb people who passed by the area. In particular, the male didn't like one hiker's red baseball cap.

I used to participate in a raptor nest survey. Owl nests are very difficult to find because they used cavities in trees. So, unless you see one go in or come out, you may never find the nest. I was VERY lucky one year to have spotted a barred owl going into a large hole in a tree. It was really great to go there in the very early morning to watch the owls. And, at that nest, the male perched about six feet off the ground. I would pass right by him when I was on my way to the area that gave me the best view of the tree with the cavity. So, in this case, the male was very accommodating towards me. I would talk to it as I passed it by. The female would always be perched on or near the nest tree. It would often glance down at me. I never felt like the owls were bothered by me. I do believe they understood that I was no threat to them. And, even when the three young owls came out of the nest, the adults were never aggressive towards me.

Great horned owls are an exception to this. They often nest on top of large broken off trees or use old hawk nests. What is fascinating about these owls is that, they will start pairing up and nesting in December and January. They will use a hawk nest, raise their young, and leave the area. Then, later in the spring, a hawk will use the same nest.

I have also watch other raptor nests: screech owls, Cooper's hawks, red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, broad-winged hawks. I can tell you that each adult hawk is different. Some were extremely tolerant of me. Some would start screaming when I was a long distance away from a nest. I always learned where the hawks'/owls' comfort zone was. And, I kept a respectable distance to the nests at all time. Birds are vulnerable when they nest.

One more thing: Wildlife today is being forced to deal with human development. So, wildlife-human encounters are going to happen. The wildlife has no where else to go. So, some species will adapt and some will not. A good book about this subject is "Welcome to Subirdia" by John M. Marzluff. (The link to a vendor is purely to learn more about the book, not a recommendation as to where to purchase it.) It covers more than just birds. It uses a lot of current research studies. Highly recommended.

  • +1 and thanks for this fascinating account of your experiences with nesting raptors. So there are not only differences among species, but among individuals, which should not be surprising, especially for raptors.
    – ab2
    Dec 11, 2017 at 19:16
  • This is so interesting! I hope you don't mind that I added a link to the book. I chose that site because people can look inside the book. There's also a brief biography written by the author. Thanks for the important reference to wildlife having to deal with human development. It troubles my conservationist's heart. In my suburban town, large areas of woodlands are being decimated in order to build houses. Animals are being forced out. They end up in our yards or streets, and patterns of behavior are altered. Dec 11, 2017 at 23:25
  • I don't mind the link at all. I hope people get the book or check their local libraries for it. This is a relatively short version of what I could have written. As you can probably tell, finding and watching raptor nests was very enjoyable for me. I used to go out in the winter when the leaves were off the trees, as well. I could find hawk nests and cavities that were hidden during the late spring, summer and early fall. I would make a note of the places (GPS location) so I could revisit them in the spring to see if they were being used again.
    – user14513
    Dec 12, 2017 at 17:00

New Zealand falcon - Wikipedia claims they have attacked people, and I have been fortunate enough to have been 'challenged' by one in the wild. I changed my planned route preference to finding out if this one was bluffing. Its well known to be an aggressive bird but one you are so privileged if you see it you forgive the odd 'indiscretion'.

Council warning: threatened falcon species launch fists of fury against walkers

NZ Birds Online

  • It sounds like the falcons thought their nest was threatened (even if it wasn't), with their nest on the ground. And they are a threatened species. Go, falcons! Love that phrase, "a bolshie bird". From Kipling!
    – ab2
    Dec 10, 2015 at 9:17

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