Date: 4/1/18 3:21 pm
From: Jonathan Center <jbcenter...>
Subject: [MASSBIRD] An encounter between a boy and an owl (probably) in snowy woods

In today's Boston Sunday Globe's Globe Magazine section is an article titled "Frozen Flight" by Mark Shanahan. I thought people might find it interesting if they get the newspaper or read it online. It recounts what happened to his 12 year son, Beckett after returning from sledding alone in the woods at Middlesex Fells Reservation near their home in Medford. The author spots his son standing dazed in the middle of the street. He goes to see what is matter with him and is shocked to see half his face is bloody and swollen. He asks him what had happened to him and all he can utter is "A bird" and something about it taking his mother and sister. (They were fine and were not with him at the time.) He asks what happened to him he says he does not know.

The father drives Beckett, who appears to be still in shock, to Winchester Hospital where he is seen right away. A nurse cleans his bloody gashes on his face. The nurse is doubtful that a bird could have done that and thinks a sledding accident is more likely. A CAT scan is negative for a fracture. Leaving his son with his mother, the dad retraces his son's foot prints in the snow in the woods and finds a large bloody spot where he must of laid unconscious for a few minutes. After he woke up, he remarkably found his way home. The father is doubtful that his son had a tree even though the doctor thinks that is more likely than a bird.

The hospital allows Beckett to go home to rest. That night his son is unable to sleep, eat, and is glassy eyed. He also throws up several times in the night. I am not a doctor but that sounds like a concussion. First thing in the morning they take him to see his pediatrician. After looking at his wounds, they tell the parents to take him to Boston Children's Hospital where he is admitted immediately. He is given pain medicine and antibiotics. Also rabies shots to his face. He is seen by several specialists. The doctors agree based on his puncture wounds, the force of the blow, and the swelling that a bird of prey is more likely than mammal such as a fox (or a tree trunk). He remains in the hospital for several days being allowed to go home. His concussion improves gradually.

Andrew Vitz, state ornithologist, is consulted. He thinks that a Great Horned Owl would attack with such force if near the nest. This is uncommon, but he receives a couple of reports of bird strikes annually. I would have guessed that the culprit would of have been a Northern Goshawk, but they do not nest in the winter and owls do. They will never know for sure if it was a GHOW and Beckett has no memory of it. His face has healed after a year. There is a gruesome photo of his bloody, swollen face after the attack and another photo of a smiling, attractive boy after his recovery. The article says Beckett is reluctant to take a stroll in the woods unless with an adult. Psychological effects still linger.

If it really was an GHOW than I have continued awe and fascination for this majestic and large bird of prey. I thought people would find the article interesting. I am just paraphrasing it here. Has any heard of an owl this size attacking a person before? Goshawk yes, but GHOW unsure about.

Jonathan Center

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