Data scientist Hattie Atkinson Smith was running along the river near Norwich City’s Carrow Road soccer stadium at 6:10 a.m. when she thought she felt a “hand” on the back of her head.
The 27-year-old did not know what she would face when she turned around.
As she turned around, Atkinson Smith came face-to-face with a “massive bird,” Mail Online reported.
The runner recalled, “My head was down, and I had my headphones on, and I wasn’t taking much in around me. Then I felt something on my head, and it felt like a hand was coming down on my head.
“I looked up and there was just this massive bird that had obviously descended. I think it thought I was an animal and tried to eat me — it was so weird! It was so big — that was what was scary — and I ‘ve never seen a bird that big in the wild, not in a zoo!
“I ran because I was obviously a little afraid that it would try again. […] My hair was tied back in a ponytail, which is why I think he might have thought I was a rodent or something.”
“I was sure it was a bird of prey because it was so big, and it had the hooked beak and everything. Its feathers were two different shades of brown, and then it had these feathers above the eyes that were sticking out.”
Atkinson Smith noted how “huge” the bird’s wingspan was. “I would say the wingspan was as big as me — it was really big. I’m 5’5”,” she explained.
The runner discovered that the bird was a Eurasian screech owl with a wingspan of almost 6 feet.
However, after seeing that the barn owl “was not native to the UK,” Atkinson Smith “googled the Norwich barn owl, and he published all these articles about it.”
From her research, the jogger discovered that the bird had been roaming Norwich for some time and had been spotted regularly by several residents, however, she did not contact its owners about the attack.
The owl, reportedly named Alfie, subsequently continues to fly freely around the city.