Kew Gardens is a fine place to be at sunset, but if you go in the next month or so, check the trees to see who’s watching you first.
A Beach resident says he was pecked by an owl there last Tuesday after he sat down on a park bench just north of the Gardener’s Cottage.
“I noticed the owl fly up into the branch just to the left of us,” he said, asking to not be named.
“The next thing I knew, I got whacked in the back of the head, and I saw it fly away.”
At first, the man wondered if the owl had hit him by some “pilot error.” It wasn’t large, he said, and it hadn’t hit him very hard.
But then came strike two.
“I felt like it scratched me,” he said. Heeding the message, the man started walking home.
It was only when he reached back to pull up the hood on his sweatshirt that he realized the owl had drawn a surprising amount of blood.
“I showed my wife and she said it was just a tiny little wound – a puncture wound,” he said. “As far as I can tell, it was done with its beak.”
Nathalie Karvonen is executive director of the Toronto Wildlife Centre, which runs a wildlife hotline for reporting any sick or injured animals, or animal conflicts.
Karvonen says she hasn’t heard of an owl attacking people in Toronto before, but other birds, especially Canada geese, redwing blackbirds and crows, have been known to swoop down on people who get too close to their nests.
“That would be my guess,” she said. “Most wild animals really are good parents. They will defend their nesting area quite vigorously.”
Karvonen said at this point in the spring, the owl in Kew Gardens may be protecting eggs or owlets that are still “branching” – walking out on branches to test their balance before they can actually fly.
“Hopefully the owl won’t be vilified in this situation,” she said. “I think it’s important for people to realize that these animals are just trying to get by, doing what they naturally do.”