Owl on earth did that get there- Eagle Owl takes up residence in King’s Lynn churchyard

A eagle owl is on the loose around the grounds of All Saints Church in the middle of Hillington Squa

A eagle owl is on the loose around the grounds of All Saints Church in the middle of Hillington Square, in King's Lynn. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

In the wild, its 6ft wingspan and vice-like talons make it a formidable predator capable of tackling a small deer.

But anti-social behaviour appears to be the last thing on the mind of a giant eagle owl which has made its roost on a former King's Lynn council estate.

All Saints Church, in the middle of Hillington Square, has become home to an escaped Eurasian eagle owl which was first spotted in the area in May. The 4ft-high bird has made its roost in a tree in the church's tiny graveyard.

Birdwatcher and Hillington Square resident Louis Hutchinson, 22, was surprised when he first heard about his new neighbour.

'I've spent all these years looking for beautiful birds and now there is one in my back garden,' he said. 'If I look out of my bedroom window I can see it perfectly.

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'Everybody has been talking about it, I can't believe it and I can't believe it took me so long to find out. I've been a bird watcher since I was six or seven so it's a bit exciting for me.

'I've seen a lot of birds in the wild but nothing that impressive, I hope it sticks around for a while.'

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Another resident Dawn Read, 65, was shocked to discover the owl on her balcony one morning.

'I opened the door at about 7.30 on Sunday morning and there it was, I was stunned,' she said. 'I shut the door quickly and it flew over to the church. It's not something you expect to see. Everyone is fascinated by it, it is quite exciting really.

'The owner has been around with some dead chicks or something hoping it will go for it.'

Not everyone has taken so kindly to the newest resident however as the crows who live around the church have attempted to push the predator off their territory.

Residents have also been warned to keep their cats inside in case the owl takes a fancy to them however experts think that this is unlikely.

Lin Murray, press officer at the Hawk and Owl Trust, said: 'I think it is very unlikely that it would be a danger to a cat. Firstly this bird is probably hand reared and not used to hunting.

'If the owner is now feeding it that is even less reason for it to hunt.

'They eat everything from beetles, worms and fish to small mammals but to catch a cat would be something. This bird has never hunted, it wouldn't know what to do.

'These birds, if they are raised in captivity, are used to being handled, they are pets, it is probably not very good at looking after itself.'

Although there are a number of breeding pairs of eagle owls in the UK there is debate as to whether the species is native to the country.

Nick Moran, who runs the British Trust for Ornithology's BirdTrack scheme, said: 'Eagle owls are widespread across continental Europe and Asia but they are not particularly known for crossing large water bodies. Some work has been done on the feathers of specimens and the suggestion is that they are not making it across here on their own steam.

'There is a very small breeding population which almost certainly originates from escaped birds.'

All Saints Church's Father Adrian Ling said how surprised he was to hear that the owl had taken up roost in the trees. 'It is a great surprise and a lovely one,' he said. 'I do take an interest in wildlife, we get muntjac deer in the rectory garden which always excites visitors but an eagle owl, that really is something.'

A man, believed to be the bird's owner, had tried to to tempt it down from the trees, but so far it had remained aloof. Some said the escaped bird was called Delilah.

If you've lost an eagle owl or believe this to be your owl please email doug.faulkner@archant.co.uk

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