Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Friday, 5 June 2009 14:18 UK

'Birdman' reunited with his owl

Eagle owl and hadler
The eagle owl was found starving after four months trying to survive in the wild

A hand-reared eagle owl that escaped from its handler in February has been found alive after coming within hours of starving to death.

The bird, which was kept at an aviary in Braco, Perthshire, fled while being weighed by Falconer Steve Burdett.

He had given up all hope of finding her alive after searching for weeks because she cannot hunt.

However, the Scottish SPCA said the animal was discovered in a garden in Aberfoyle, 20 miles from home.

Mr Burdett, known locally as the "Birdman of Braco", said he had searched "high and low" for the eagle owl for two months before assuming that she must have died.

I was out day and night looking for her and following up on various sightings. Eventually I accepted she was probably dead
Steve Burdett, owner

He has cared for the animal since she was left on his doorstep two and a half years ago as a small chick.

He said: "I've looked after her ever since, hand-rearing her and she wasn't used to hunting.

"She was being weighed when a dog came in and opened the door, and she got a fright and flew off.

"I was out day and night looking for her and following up on various sightings.

"Eventually I accepted she was probably dead."

'Magnificent bird'

Mr Burdett said the bird had probably been surviving on road kill.

Rescuers said that the bird was just hours from death when she was found and was so weak crows were attacking her.

Scottish SPCA manager Colin Seddon said: "We are delighted that we have been able to reunite this magnificent bird with its owner.

"The majority of the injured and sick wildlife that come in to our centre are treated, rehabilitated and then released back to their natural habit.

"It's not often we have people coming forward to claim a lost mammal or bird.

"As luck would have it, the owners got in touch."

European eagle owls, which have a wingspan of up to two metres, became extinct in Scotland in the 19th century.

They prey on rabbits, hares and other birds, but are known to feed on creatures as big as foxes and small deer.



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