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    Aggressive eagle owl terrorises Belgian town

    The European eagle owl, with a wingspan of almost two metres. © Peter Trimming, Wikimedia

    A large and aggressive eagle owl is terrorising the inhabitants of Erpe-Mere, a town near Aalst in East Flanders.

    The owl has already attacked and killed local ducks, punctured a children’s paddling pool and terrified local dogs.

    This morning I saw him standing in the middle of the road,” resident Peter Van Geem told the VRT. “I picked up my phone and started filming. Instead of flying away, he looked straight at me and opened his wings wide. Pretty impressive.”

    The European eagle owl, known to scientists as Bubo bubo and to Dutch speakers as the oehoe (pronounced oo-hoo), is the largest of Europe’s owls, with the larger female reaching a length of 75cm, and with a wingspan, as Mr Van Geem remarked, an impressive 188cm.

    The bird is identifiable by its orange eyes and ear-tufts tipped with black.

    The eagle owl is found in the wild in the Ardennes and parts of Limburg province, but is no stranger to more inhabited areas of Belgium.

    In May this year, one pair built its nest on the window sill of 63-year-old Dutchman Jos Baart living in Geel in Antwerp province, where a planter became home to three owl chicks.

    The habitat seemed to suit. The nature conservancy agency Natuurpunt paid a visit to ring the chicks, and found they weighed between 1.3kg and 1.7kg.

    This is a 24-hour a day movie for me,” said Baart. “When you wake up in the morning they’ll be sitting there in front of the window again. They’re so relaxed, they’re not afraid.”

    The owls also appear to watch along when he watches TV. “Then they sit at the window and watch the sparkling lights,” he explained.

    Elsewhere, an owl that had been flying over Vilvoorde just outside Brussels since last autumn was finally captured by a local man in June this year, and handed over to the bird rescue centre in Malderen 20km away.

    Like the Erpe-Mere specimen, that bird was ringed, and both birds are thought to have escaped from a place where they have become accustomed to – and unafraid of – human beings.

    The Vilvoorde owl, sadly, was found to be suffering from pigeon trichomoniasis, a disease caused by a parasite, and it died days later.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times