View Full Version : Agressive bird stories

12-18-2005, 09:44 PM
The "Forest Mystery" thread about a probable owl attack on a jay has prompted me to share my own personal owl attack story and wonder if others have had similar experiences. A few years back, late in the fall, late one afternoon, I was jogging along a trail in West Hartford, CT, on MDC reservoir land. Suddenly I felt talons attempt to grab my head and saw a large owl flying in front of me (it came from the rear). It settled on a tree branch and looked down ominously at me. I yelled at it and ran by without repeated attack. It drew blood but no stitches necessary. Just very unnerving to say the least.

I wondered about infection or rabies, but my Dr. minimized this issue. (He did ask me if the own just clawed me or actually tried to bite me--great question, how the heck did I know???). I reported this to the MDC and evidently it is something that has happened very periodically to others.

The consensus was that my bare head (with hair) must have looked like some sort of prey and stimulated the basic attack and grab response. It wasn't breeding season or anything so I don't think it was a protective issue. Perhaps the owl was just as surprised as I was.

Aside from being a unique experience, this story has certainly given my friends and acquaintences something to rib me about for years.

So, anyone else out there the victim of a raptor attack?

12-18-2005, 09:58 PM
We had a screech owl in the family when I was a kid. Although she never "attacked" a person in her 14 years, she would take the occasional swoop at the cat. The cat was a lion to the neighborhood dogs but always left the owl a respectable distance.

12-19-2005, 02:24 AM
There's an excellent book about owls by Bernd Heinrich called "One Man's Owl." He believes that the owl will not attack if it thinks you see it coming, so you could try to put a couple false eyes on top of your head to ward off the next attack. Susan got some nice false eyes at that taxidermy shop in Keene a few years ago, so that's one place to try, if you want. (She wasn't trying to ward off bird attacks, so I can't say how will this idea may work.)

Years ago I was hit several times on the head by a bird (not an owl, I don't believe) while I was riding my bicycle. It was before my helmet-wearing days, so it couldn't have been any later than 1981.

After the first couple times, whenever I neared the spot where it would happen, I would roll up the newspaper I was carrying and grasp it as a weapon, scanning for the bird, in anticipation of its attack. As soon as I would relax—nothing having happened and figuring I was past the danger zone—BAM! it would hit me on the head and I'd start wildly swinging the paper around and cursing. One of those times, I went off the road and nearly ran into a fire hydrant. "That bird wanted me to hit that fire hydrant head on!"*

The attacks ended as suddenly as they began, and never happened again, so I don't know what I did to set them off in the first place.

* à la Dennis Weaver in "Duel."

Pat T
12-19-2005, 04:32 AM
In the woods near my home, a hawk (I forget which species) built a nest right over a trail. For an entire summer it was impossible to walk through the area without the hawk defending its nest. A couple of people were pinned to the ground for a scary minute or two before they could escape. I know of one person who received a shoulder cut from a talon.

In Alaska, I unknowingly approached an Arctic tern nesting site (they nest on the ground near water). It was like a scene from "The Birds", minus the eye-pecking. They just kept flying at me, about eye-high, and then swooping upwards at the last moment. Very scary.

Pat T

12-19-2005, 05:13 AM
Mockingbirds can be very defensive of their young. I was out gardening. luckily with a hat, and it swooped and knocked the hat right off my head. For several more weeks that spring, I had to fend that mother off, though she never touched me again.

On the flip side, my father got a mockingbird so accustomed to him with offerings of chopped apples that she would come right in the kitchen window and perch on the table. He took care not to feed her daily, though. The next year she came around with her young, but my dad sadly acknowledged that it wouldn't be fair to all of them.

12-19-2005, 06:31 AM
Jessbee and I had a gray jay fly right in our faces a few times only to swerve away at the last moment when we were coming down the Avalon Trail a few weeks ago. More of a friendly aggressive, but good for a quick scare nonetheless. :D

Bob Kittredge
12-19-2005, 07:12 AM
One June up on Garfield Ridge I encountered a male Spruce Grouse strutting about on the ground. Thinking he might have picked up bad habits from the gray jays, I hunkered and held out some gorp. He circled warily and then flew at my arm, pecking my sleeve and beating his wings for a second and a half. And then he was gone.

I've heard similar stories from other hikers that took also took place in June for the most part. My theory is that the female is sitting on a ground nest in the vicinity, and the male is trying to send you packing.

12-19-2005, 07:33 AM
While trail running here in Vermont, I've had a couple of instances of being (bluff?) charged by a mama spruce grouse, who have come running straight at me with outstretched wings, squaking (sp?) loudly. One of them seemed aggressive enough that I did a 180 and took another route. (Okay, so I'm a wimp when it comes to PO'd birds.)

More often, a grouse w/babies will do the broken-wing thing, trying to divert attention away from the youngsters. I wonder what possesses some to get aggressive and confrontational?

I've also been dive bombed by red winged blackbirds. :D

A few years ago there was an aggressive bird of prey--don't know exactly what kind of bird but it was big--at Wachipauka Pond, on the AT. There were many reports of "attacks," including one by a friend of mine, who reported talon-on-scalp contact. :eek:

12-19-2005, 08:01 AM
I'm waiting for a nice post from Pete Hickey here. ;)Am I being mocked? Just because birds seem to enjoy attacking me? I suspect that I was a cat in a previous life, and the birds are just getting their revenge.

There are so many times, the most recent, a few weeks ago no field. Hiking on the sandy beaches of Long Island one time, and dozens of birds started swooping down on me. Why do they always go for my head?

One time at my house in the Adirondacks, a loon had flown down the chimney, and
was caught in the house. I returned, and had a 15 minute battle with a loon. I was just trying to help him(her? hey.. why does a tom turkey have big breasts). I would not want to fight a loon again. Not only are they aggressive, but they are LOUD!

Several times, while hiking, I have had birds swoop down on me, grabbing my hair/head. I have no idea what kind.. heck, I can't tell the differecne between turkey and chicken!

I think the first time was when I was just under 2 years old, in my carriage in the yard, and my older brother spilt peanuts around me. My parents found me crying in a carriage, filled with birds. Scared for life? Irrational fear? You decide. All I know is that birds will attack me whenever they have the chance!

12-19-2005, 08:47 AM
My parents found me crying in a carriage, filled with birds. Scared for life? Irrational fear? You decide. All I know is that birds will attack me whenever they have the chance!

Is there trail mix in your beard? :o

I was working at a banding station this past fall. One of the other volunteers took a cardinal out of the mist net and put it into the cloth bag. She didn't tell the master bander. that little critter bit her through the bag drawing blood. Her finger looked like a lobster had grabbed it.

Also, for terns, Go to Machias Seal Island the terns dive bomb peoples heads. Many people leave with blood trickling down thier temples.

Tom Rankin
12-19-2005, 09:10 AM
Is there trail mix in your beard? :o

LOL, I wonder if he was born with all that hair he has now!? :D

I'll have to add Pete to the list of people to never hike with! :eek:


12-19-2005, 09:11 AM
A few years ago,we were sitting in the square at Old Orchard Beach and a seagull flew in from behind me,hitting me in the head and yanking a fried clam right out of my hand. An Alfred Hitchcock moment? :eek:

Big angry birds? Just get a Canada Goose upset-they run fas,and they bite hard!

12-19-2005, 09:31 AM
Once when we were hiking to Crypt Lake (Glacier N'tl Pk, off Waterton Lake), we were warned that a hawk sometimes bluff-attacked hikers at a certain spot on the trail. It was protecting a nest. Defense was to hold your pack up over your head. We were also told that it had never attacked anyone on horseback. Perhaps it perceived the person + horse as a non-threatening funny horse (or elk etc).

I was charged by a grouse on Osseo Tr, somewhere near the junction with the old trail. It had young spread out on both sides of the trail ahead of me.


12-19-2005, 09:59 AM
LOL, I wonder if he was born with all that hair he has now!? Beard? What beard?



I'll have to add Pete to the list of people to never hike with! Birds ain't nuthing. Talk about blackflies, sometime!

12-19-2005, 10:15 AM
Pete I do think you really need to work on this Bird thing. There have been comments in other threads about Canadian Jays being "not nice" in the Whites and "nicer" in the ADK. What about Maine. Personally I think their all quite nice but you might want to try a different State. Here's one I saw In Baxter. Like I've said: Don't forget the donuts,leave your nuts at home!

Mr. X
12-19-2005, 11:35 AM
Mike 'Bird' Mammy is the most aggressive bird I don't know!

12-19-2005, 12:40 PM
Dugan four-legs and I were charged by a turkey on Northfield Mountain. She followed us for a couple hundred yards before returning to her brood.

A late hiking dog and I were charged a few times by various ground birds doing the broken wing act.

While out trail running early one morning several years ago, a Great Horned Owl swooped down in front of me from behind, only a few feet over my head. You really can't hear their wings. I had to walk until I recovered a heartbeat!

Killdeer, too, can be aggressive about protecting their nests and will swoop around in an attempt to drive off invaders.

Tom Rankin
12-19-2005, 12:46 PM
Mike 'Bird' Mammy is the most aggressive bird I don't know!

Nah, he's just a Mammy's Bird! :D

Jim lombard
12-19-2005, 12:51 PM
I was attacked by a Kite in Ngorogoro crater, we were sitting there having a picnic lunch on the shores of a beautiful pond warily keeping an eye on nearby hippos and elephants when the hawk-like bird swooped down, missed my face by inches and grabbed the chicken leg I was preparing to take a bite of. I can still hear the talons whistling by.

12-19-2005, 02:21 PM
Turkeys have been very aggressive in many areas!



Mike BIRD Mammy
12-19-2005, 02:35 PM
Being a 'BIRD' I must say that my prey is one of the female 'hottie' form. I tend to swoop down at them at local drinking establishments. Sometimes I get to peck em.

If they are lucky, I'll share my worm with them :p

12-19-2005, 02:40 PM
:) They don't call me grouseking for nothin....

It never fails, I see a grouse every time I hike. In the low elevations I see ruffled grouse and at the higher elevations I see spruce grouse. I've seen spruce grouse as low as 2500 feet near Shoal Pond in November. That one bluff charged me and my hiking partner and we couldn't get by it. We even tried to poke a stick towards it but it always stood its ground. Then I somehow got its attention away from Brian and he ran by. So now it was brian in front, the grouse in the middle and myself in the back walking slowly in the same direction.....quite comical to say the least. Finally I found the guts to run thru the trees a little bit and blow by it....and then the damn thing flew a few inches over our heads and landed about a foot in front of us!! :D :mad: After that whole production, the grouse walked off trail and left us alone about 10 feet up the trail....quite territorial


12-19-2005, 07:19 PM
That's funny, I've never encountered spruce grouse that were aggressive. They held their ground and were curious, but I have never seen defensive behavior. Ruffed grouse, on the other hand, have burst out at us from undergrowth and done the broken-wing and squealing-like-a-pig routine in circles around us.

Mark Schaefer
12-19-2005, 11:14 PM
Big angry birds? Just get a Canada Goose upset-they run fas,and they bite hard! I was once photographing a field of several dozen Canadian Geese who were making a brief stop during their autumn migration. There were several of us photographing from a modest distance with telephoto lenses. One of my friends had the not-so-bright impulse to move in for some up-close-and-personal photos. He would not be deterred by our warnings. The geese were not pleased and ended up knocking him down. :eek: He did manage to escape with his photographic equipment intact, and with just some wounded pride. The rest of us were not much help during his retreat -- we were ROTFLOAO. :D :D

I had a somewhat similar experience photographing a school of butterfly fish while snorkeling. Only one of the school had this nasty habit of nipping at me and my companions. Perhaps he had been fed a few too many times. I unwisely took a mock swing at him. Didn't strike him, just wanted to shoo him away. I was the one who got shooed out of the water as a result. :o :o

12-20-2005, 02:44 AM
Pete, I suggest you start wearing a pith helmet and sunglasses.

I remember also being buzzed several times by a hummingbird while I was camping in the North Cascades. Knocked me off a log.

12-20-2005, 05:15 AM
I had a somewhat similar experience photographing a school of butterfly fish while snorkeling. Woooaaa. Don't get me started on the killer fish in Pharaoh Lake. Thousands of them, thinking the hairs on my legs were little worms!

12-20-2005, 06:38 AM
That's funny, I've never encountered spruce grouse that were aggressive. They held their ground and were curious, but I have never seen defensive behavior. Ruffed grouse, on the other hand, have burst out at us from undergrowth and done the broken-wing and squealing-like-a-pig routine in circles around us.

The ruffed grouse broken wing act always has seemed far more theatrical than aggressive, at least to me. I always am amused at the sudden healing of the wing that occurs when Mama Partridge figures she has led us far enough away from her brood, and thunders off through woods.

One of the funnier episodes like this in recent years involved a pat that jumped out of the bushes on one side of the trail, did her broken wing thing while bouncing along my dog’s back, from rear to front, up over the dog’s head and finally back to ground right under the dog’s nose, flailing that wing around all the way. Pooch just stood there with a sort of “What was that?” as the bird flopped off into the forest on the far side of the trail, got healed and flew away. My dog is one of the hunting breeds, a Springer Spaniel. It was then I suspected she was born to be a "consumer" and not a "producer."

As for outright aggressive grouse incidents, I had one a few years back, along a country road after a hike. Cock bird jumped out in front of the van I was driving, puffed out his breast, fanned his tail and did that little Japanese Kabuki dancer thing male pats do when squaring off to defend their mating ground. He sure cowed the van, which quickly came to a halt. My bird dog sat in her seat and watched quietly in awe as the bird did its dance, making me wonder about her heritage and instincts again.

I never actually was hit by the goshawk that used to nest alongside a trail I frequently hike, but got buzzed many times. The first pass usually would come from behind, then the thing would circle back through the woods, line up on me again and swoop in from the front. Occasional assaults would come from the side. All assaults were accompanied by demon-like screeching. Very intimidating -- enough to make me duck -- but I don’t think the bird ever actually got within a trekking pole’s length of me.

Many years ago I awoke one morning in an Adirondack leanto along the Raquette River and noticed something “twitching” in one of the rafters over head. Didn’t have my glasses on, and coudn’t really make out what I was looking at, but it seemed like a bird’s tail. A bit later, sitting on the front riser of the leanto and drinking some tea a darned swallow swooped in at me, and also at my partner. It would come within a couple feet or less of our faces, put on the air brakes and “brandish” its little “talons.” Scary, I’ll tell you. This happened repeatedly, and even a frying pan wielded like a tennis racquet would not discourage the beastie.

Eventually my partner and I put two and two together and realized the swallow probably had a nest inside the leanto. So when we saw it circle around for one of its shots at us, we moved out of the way. Sure enough. The bird glided into the shelter and up to its nest. We got along famously after that.

There have been roosters (chickens), geese and swans in my life, too. But the grouse, goshawk and swallow provided favorite episodes.


12-20-2005, 07:24 AM
For a few years in a row, a family (or families) of mocking birds nested in a thick bush next to my neighbor's house. Whenever we walked along that side of the house, the parents would pop out and dive bomb us. I almost lost a crew of painters who were tormented for days by the birds. (Not fun when you are 25 feet up a ladder!)

Another time, my teenage son thought it would be fun to chase away a flock of wild turkeys off our driveway. The Tom in charge really didn't like having his hens teased, so it was my son who ended up getting chased - right back into the house.

12-20-2005, 08:20 AM
One night this fall camped near a swamp and river in Mass. We were startled to hear a loud "Heeeeeeyyyy" about 30 feet out in the darkness and brush. It sounded like a person messing with us possibly a friend sneaking up. The voice sound just like Arnold Horshack from the old Welcome Back Kotter TV show. It would be quiet for 5-10 minutes then we would hear it again. In the distance out by the River "Heeeeyyy", then back up close to camp "Heeeeeyyyy". Then faintly way off in the swamp "heeeeeyyy". It was moving in and out from our area and circling low all around but not showing itself. We started yelling back and went out to find it. We were sure by now it was not a person. And figured some kind of bird. It would go away for a while and then comeback. Then it seemed like there was more than one. Late at night when going to bed I could hear it way off in the distance and waking up a couple of times around 3 and 4 am I could still here it "Heeeeeyy". In the morning we saw a large white bird flying pretty low to the ground through the trees. For a couple of weeks after this we tried figureing out what it was with internet searches on bird calls and bird books, even calling the Audobon then finally we found that the Snowy Egret can Make a "Heeeyyy" call, can live in large groups and will protect its turf. The Snowy Egret is a little smaller then one you see mostly near the ocean. We were quit a distance away form the river and swamp and did not see any nesting areas and had been going to that spot for years.

Mr. X
12-20-2005, 11:29 AM
Dude, I got attacked by my neighbors domestic turkey while mowing the lawn a few years back. I was pretty scared, but it was sweet revenge the following Thanksgiving.

12-20-2005, 12:28 PM
While doing trail work in the Sandwich Range I had to repost signs warning of a Paragan (sp) Falcon nesting area. While posting I was really scared watching the Daddy circle above screaming at me. He was like "hey man get away or I'm gonna get ya". No doubt if I tried looking down the cliff at the nest I would have been destroyed by the giant bird.

Such bullies!

12-20-2005, 12:36 PM
Dude, I got attacked by my neighbors domestic turkey while mowing the lawn a few years back. I was pretty scared, but it was sweet revenge the following Thanksgiving.

There I was minding my own business when all of a sudden this wild turkey decides he is going to interfere with my lawn mowing operation. I stopped the lawn mower and backed away because he wouldn't let me near it. So finally after about 20 minutes I ran after it with a baseball bat. Didn't even have to swing it once.... :) :D ;) I'm such a wuss, but in my defense, I was 11.


12-21-2005, 02:19 PM
I was on Fair Isle in the Shetlands a couple of summers ago and was out jogging when I ran through a skua nesting area. The results were predictable. The one thing I can say is that the bird is massive enough and dives so hard that a direct hit would probably produce a skull fracture. Fortunately they are very good fliers and even though you feel the woosh of the air past your head they never make contact.

Here's how a Brit bird watching site describes them:

Catharacta skua
The great skua is an aggressive pirate of the seas, deliberately harrassing birds as large as gannets to steal a free meal. It also readily kills and eats smaller birds such as puffins. Great skuas show little fear of humans – anybody getting close to the nest will be repeatedly dive-bombed by the angry adult. These birds migrate to the northernmost isles of the UK from their wintering grounds off the coasts of Spain and Africa. At a distance they look stout and dark and show white wing flashes in flight.


12-22-2005, 11:04 PM
a friend and i were once chased a couple hundred yards by a spruce grouse on the ethan pond trail in the whites. everytime we turned our back it attacked our legs. not wanting to hurt it we decided to run at which point it took flight at our heads. the caretaker at the shelter said it had been doing it all summer and he had thoughts of taking it out a couple of times. that said most spruce grouse i have encountered have been much more cordial. either way, we are visitors in their homes so we take what we can get.


12-23-2005, 09:05 AM
Mike 'Bird' Mammy is the most aggressive bird I don't know!
:p No doubt! Here's some proof of that...He got really aggressive on me on Rocky Peak, Catskills (http://www.birdheadstudios.com/funsite/video/catskills/rocky.wmv)

Tim Seaver
12-23-2005, 09:27 AM
Years ago there was a VERY aggressive Northern Goshawk nesting on a local multi-use trail ( East Montpelier Trail (http://trails.mtbr.com/cat/united-states-trails/trails-vermont/trail/PRD_170674_4584crx.aspx) ). I had heard about it, but not having experienced it for myself, didn't really take the warnings and tales of terror that filled the sign-in book at the trailhead seriously.

My friend and I ran for awhile on the trail until we were below the nesting site, where, sure enough, there she was. Jon said "keep running, and don't look up". Of course, not ever seeing such a magnificent bird, I dawdled for a few seconds and gazed upwards while the bird screeched angrily in the treetops.

Big mistake!

I started running again, thinking nothing of it, when "SWOOSH", down came the talons raking across my skull from behind. Evidently, one pass was not enough to satisfy the creature, and even my newly found speed was not enough to relay to this beast that I was truly sorry for even looking at him. The chase went on for another 1/2 mile, until I finally found cover for a long enough time to snap off a large sapling to use to fend off his amazing swoops.

Lesson - if you are among the tall softwoods and see a very large and very pissed off bird with huge white underwings trimmed in black circling like an F-16 - KEEP MOVING, and whatever you do, DON'T LOOK UP!

I take what I read in the trail registers a bit more seriously now :o