Search to rescue escaped Norfolk barn owl

Whisper the barn owl Image copyright David Gook
Image caption Whisper's condition will deteriorate within days as he cannot feed himself, his owner says

A tame barn owl that went missing during a falconry display at a Norfolk school could die within days if it is not found, its owner fears.

Whisper flew off after being mobbed by seagulls at Cliff Park Ormiston Academy in Gorleston on Tuesday.

The bird, which has never learned to hunt, disappeared into a nearby housing estate near Kennedy Avenue.

Owner David Gook warns the owl can only survive in the wild for about five days.

Three-year-old Whisper has been raised and trained since he was a chick by Mr Gook, who runs falconry company Hawking Experience in Acle.

'Best-trained bird'

He was taking part in a regular after-school session for pupils when he took flight across the playing field. As well as being frightened by the seagulls, Whisper was also startled by a barking dog.

Mr Gook said: "I can't get my head around what happened. Whisper's one of my best-trained birds.

"He's so good we use him for weddings to deliver the rings, and already have him booked for next year. It's not possible to get another chick to train in time for those."

Image copyright AP

Barn owls

  • Barn owls (Tyto alba) are found throughout the world
  • They emit a screech rather than a hoot, and are also known as screech owls
  • They prey on rodents and other small mammals but can also catch small birds and frogs
  • The British Trust for Ornithology estimates there are about 4,000 breeding pairs of barn owls in the UK
  • Their conservation status is listed as "amber" indicating the species is, or has recently been, in decline

Source: BBC Nature/BTO

Posters have been put up in the area and Mr Gook said school staff and pupils had been helping with the search together with members of the local falconry club.

He added: "I'm beyond worried. The estate is so big and Whisper doesn't know how to fend for himself.

"At this time of year, as the weather closes in, we usually have to feed them more.

"He only weighs about 9oz (255g) so it's vital we find Whisper."

Whisper is about 30cm (12in) high and was equipped with tan leather anklets when he escaped.

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