In the wild, owls are keen hunters, using sharp eyesight to locate prey. But Adelaide Zoo’s sooty owl Oscar has now become the hunted, after going missing following a routine show.
The 10-year-old bird flew up into a group of trees after being spooked during a public display of his aerial prowess on Monday.
“He got a bit of a fright. He’s a very clumsy bird,” Adelaide Zoo’s Nicholas Bishop said.
“His feet are so equipped with these big talons that he slipped off his perch, landed on the ground and then flew up into the tree.”
Keepers waited below until dusk hoping to lure Oscar down but, after a nap, the creature flew further into the zoo grounds and disappeared.
Oscar is a fairly new addition to the zoo’s menagerie, after arriving from Cairns Tropical Zoo last year.
Mr Bishop said Oscar could be in the adjacent Adelaide Botanic Garden, where staff have been asked to keep their eyes peeled.
“What we’re looking for out there is an unusual owl, a lovely slate grey back with white spots and a greyish belly with a beautiful face, enormous dark eyes,” Mr Bishop said.
“He really looks rather mystical like he’s just flown out of a Harry Potter movie, or maybe Dark Crystal.”
The zoo said Oscar was an “experienced free-flight bird” and, during the day, would most likely roost high up in a local tree.
Mr Bishop is still hoping he returns home of his own accord.
“The thing about the species, the sooty owl, is that it comes from far north Queensland and it’s actually a rainforest bird,” he said.
“This is not a bird that flies very great distances and it also has distinctive home range preferences, so it’s hopeful that he’s hanging around in our local area somewhere.
“He’s a rather cryptic bird and he’ll hang up in the sub-canopy of trees sleeping and being very, very still during the day.”
Zoo staff have asked anyone who spots the owl to contact them.