Hattie Atkinson Smith, 27, said the bird of prey seized her hair during her daily workout on a riverside path in Norwich. The data scientist explained she was jogging near Norwich City’s Carrow Road ground when she felt what she thought at the time was a hand on the back of her head.
She turned around and saw to her horror a “massive bird” attacking her. She managed to shake it off before sprinting to safety.
Unhurt, Hattie searched the raptor on the internet and discovered it was a missing Eurasian Eagle-owl which has been on the loose in Norwich.
She said: “I think it thought I was an animal and tried to eat me – it was so weird.
“It was just so big – that was what was scary – and I’ve never seen a bird as big as that in the wild, not in a zoo.”
“I sprinted away because I was obviously a bit scared it would try again.”
Hattie had her headphones in and was minding her own business at about 6.10am on Monday when she said the owl attacked.
She explained: “My head was down and I had my headphones in and I was not really taking much in around me.
“Then I felt something on my head and it felt like a hand that went down over my head.
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“I was sure it was a bird of prey as it was so big and it had the hooked beak and stuff.
“Its feathers were two different shades of brown, and then it had these feathers above the eyes that kind of poked up.
“I thought it was a Eurasian eagle owl from just the pictures on the internet.”
She also saw it was not native to the UK so she googled Norwich eagle owl and it came up with a number of articles.
Hattie said she has not contacted the bird’s owners and, despite her ordeal, she felt quite glad her attacker turned out not to be human.
She said: “I’m kind of relieved it wasn’t a person.”
Called Alfie, the escaped owl has been swooping over the streets surrounding the home of Norwich City with regular sightings reported by neighbours.
Eurasian Eagle-owls have distinctive, orange eyes as well as feathery ear tufts. Their wing span can measure more than 6ft making it one of the largest species of owl.
They are native to parts of Europe, Asia and north Africa.