22 Sept 2011

Eagle Owl beside Yuen Long Highway, Hong Kong

Around midday today I travelled back to Sheung Shui from Tuen Mun (along Yuen Long Highway) on a Public Light Bus. 

I was gazing at the unfamiliar surroundings in Lam Tei when I noticed what looked like a rolled-up piece of matting at the base of the perspex sound barrier beside the carriageway.  The "matting" had bright orange eyes and ear tufts....  it was an Eagle Owl !

I was reminded of Jemi spotting an Eagle Owl by the roadside once, on Lantau Island.

The minibus didn't stop until it got to Sheung Shui.  I was reasonably confident I hadn't imagined the owl, but if it really was an owl my presumption was that it must be injured and need help.  However, Eagle Owls have sharp talons, and I didn't want to try to pick it up by myself.

After discussions with a couple of people I decided that the only thing to do was to go back, make sure the bird was still there and report the location accurately to the police, who should then call out AFCD.

With mixed feelings I returned to Lam Tei in a taxi (an hour or so later) to find the bird still there. After I dialled the police, two officers from the Traffic Section arrived very quickly.

I was not carrying my camera, and these photos were taken by one of the Traffic officers - "Dicky" on his mobile phone. 

The owl showed no sign of physical injury, but sat quite still, watching our every move.  However, with the traffic thundering past, one of us must have stepped too close to it, because it suddenly took off and flew across the road, disappearing into the trees beyond.

It really seemed to have no trouble flying, and so, in a way, I was glad to see it go.

How did it get there ?  Why did it stay so long in such a dangerous place in bright daylight?  

It might have flown into one of the translucent sound barriers, - these take a steady toll of birds locally, especially migrating ones unfamiliar with the landscape. 

Or it might have been hit by a vehicle on the road....but this seems less likely, as the impact could have caused more serious injuries. 

We'll never know for sure.  

But one thing IS for sure, - Eagle Owl is now on my 2011 year list !


  1. What an unusual creature for such a place. Anyhow, it escaped the position unharmed.

  2. Wow, maybe it was an escapee like the ones in the UK? Are they kept as pets in HK/China?

  3. Russell - Yes, it seemed to be in good condition, and flew strongly away, so it should be able to look after itself.

    Stu - Although it would be illegal here, people DO sometimes import big owls to eat or to keep as pets. These often have clipped wing or talons. or show snare or "Gin Trap" damage on their feet. My feeling is that this is a wild bird, though. We do get them here, on rocky hillsides.

  4. Great sighting John, glad that you took the time to go back an see that it was OK. Wildlife in HK needs all the help it can get.