TWO giant eagle owls have been spotted in Huddersfield - and they may attack small animals in their hunt for food.
The pair were spotted in Highfields by a man out walking his dogs.
Les Sutherland, 57, who lives in Highfields, said he was amazed when he saw the birds on the roof of a building near allotments and playing fields at 9.30pm on Monday.
He said: "My attention was attracted by the noise. They were at opposite ends of the roof and seemed to be calling one another. It was quite a shock.
"I can only think they have escaped from somewhere or someone has let them out and they have not flown back.
"They are massive creatures, about 2ft tall and with an incredibly large wingspan."
Mr Sutherland added that he feared there would not be much prey about and the owls could attack small pets in their desperate need for food.
Malcolm Ogilvie, of the RSPB's rare breeding birds panel, said: "They are voracious predators and will eat just about anything."
Birds of prey which are lost or escape can be reported to the Independent Bird Register.
Spokesman Philip Wray said: "Eagle owls will go for rabbits and hares, but they are very good at catching pigeons.
"We have had 126 misplaced birds of prey reported to us in the UK over the last month. The nearest places to Huddersfield where European eagle owls have gone missing include Scunthorpe and Skegness.
"The thing is that birds have a nasty habit of flying a long way. I know of one case where a bird of prey lost in mid-Wales was found a couple of days later in Denmark.
"We don't know about every bird of prey which goes missing. I reckon the number could be double what we know about."
No eagle owls have been reported missing to Huddersfield police.
* EAGLE OWLS are the biggest owls in the world and dwarf Britain's most common owl, the tawny. lThey have a wingspan of almost 7ft. lTheir feathers are flecked in shades of brown and black. The mottled appearance means it is camouflaged and is less likely to be disturbed when roosting during the day. lThey have two tufts, which look like ears, on top of their heads, but their ears are actually on the side of their faces. lThey have orange eyes, excellent vision and can swivel their heads 270 degrees. lThey are found in the wild in Europe, North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. lThey are extremely rare in Britain, but there are reports of some being seen in the Scottish Highlands. lFemale eagle owls are heavier than males and can weigh up to nine stone. lLike most owls, they hunt at night, swooping down on any small animal that ventures into the open. lFavourite food includes mice, voles, hares, young deer, crows and gulls. lEagle owls are usually solitary birds that fiercely defend their territories. But males and females pair up during the mating season and can be heard calling to one another.