Kansas City early birds, be wary of these early … owls.
They’re attacking people. In the city. Leaving puncture wounds in the scalp of at least one unfortunate early morning runner — the hapless victim of a dive bomb fly-by carried out by a humungous owl — one with wings massive enough, a powerful “whoosh” was audible to the man as the predator struck his head, nearly toppling him to the ground.
He’d only seen the owl for the first time in Kansas City a few days before, during a morning run near Meyer Circle and Ward Parkway — but he didn’t manage a photo in time.
This 5 a.m. blow to the head — with dawn yet to pierce the dark — took Mark Zapien well off guard.
“It was enough to stun me for a moment,” he recalled for The Kansas City Star, which noted Zapien’s “initial thought was that a newspaper carrier had inadvertently beaned him.”
But there was blood.
Then, something swooshed by — and, as it slowed and came to rest, Zapien continues, “I could see the silhouette” of a huge owl. “It was a big one.”
Taking pains to avoid the winged pugilist, he returned home; his wife, discerning several small wounds at the contact site on Mark’s head.
Amusing though this pre-dawn incident may sound, owls are attacking people in Kansas City — Zapien’s harrowing encounter marked the sixth in about a month. And, if testimony from a victim speaks volumes, Zapien insisted later,
“This one was all business.”
All of the incidents occurred around dawn or dusk, and have been grouped in an area around Pennsylvania and Summit, north of 63rd Street. Curious, the Star continues,
“Zapien contacted Larry Rizzo, natural history biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. Rizzo consulted with Mark Robbins, ornithology collection manager at the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas.”
After study, the scientists contend, “It is likely a barred or great horned owl defending a nest containing eggs or fledglings. That is not unusual behavior for owls.”
But the timing of this behavior, is.
“It’s pretty strange happening this time of year,” Rizzo asserted, adding the adult may be protecting an older fledgling still in a nest nearby. That the elder owl might have had a second nesting — while rare — also isn’t inconceivable.
A remote chance exists the owl ingested a rodent or other prey, which consumed poison, according to a veterinarian who spoke with Zapien’s wife. Robbins offered, “It could be that you’ve got a crazed individual.”
Without many options, signs now adorn lightposts and other structures in the clustered area of the attacks to warn morning and nightly passersby to stay vigilant for … well … ornery, overprotective, opportunistic owls.
Heads up, out there, you early birds and night owls of Kansas City.