Antrim bird sanctuary owner's distress after disappearance of golden eagle
The owner of a Co Antrim bird sanctuary has issued a desperate appeal for information after one of his birds of prey escaped.
The golden eagle called Griff has been missing from World of Owls in Randalstown for the past five days.
It escaped from its enclosure at the sanctuary, and despite the best efforts of Mike Gibb it has yet to be located.
He is asking the public, especially those living within a five-mile radius of Randalstown, to keep an eye on the skies and trees and contact him if they spot the magnificent raptor.
Mr Gibb said his concern is that the animal is not used to fending for himself in the wild and will be growing hungry.
"We have had Griff for around seven years, but he is 10 years old. He is a fully trained golden eagle so he doesn't pose any threat to anyone," he said.
"It was a freak accident that he got out from his enclosure. It has never happened before so I am really worried about him.
"He is more than likely within a five-mile radius, but it is not impossible for him to go further.
"He doesn't have any natural hunting instincts so he will be getting very hungry at this stage, although he will be fine up to two or three weeks.
"Golden eagles are natural scavengers so although he is a trained bird, mother nature might kick in and he might find himself a dead rabbit lying in the field.
"I have been out looking for him every day from early morning, but still haven't seen him."
Mr Gibb believes if he could find out where Griff is he would fly straight to him "because he has bonded with me".
"He is very close to me and likes to be with me, so he is a bit like a family pet in that respect. I am sure if I found his location he should come right to me," he added.
"I have had some reports of people seeing him but so far these have turned out to be, I think, buzzards which are around the same size as a male golden eagle. We are trying to follow up all leads because I would hate if anything happened to him.
"World of Owls is a rescue centre, but Griff wasn't really a rescue bird. He came here from a friend in Scotland and he is part of our display team, which helps raise funds for the centre.
"Golden eagles are very intelligent so I am sure if a member of the public does see him and we can get to his location we can bring him home."
Despite the lack of golden eagles here, Mr Gibb said that there are tell-tale signs people can look out for which could help him be reunited with feathered fugitive Griff.
"Golden eagles are large birds and they are very dark, but the most notable thing people can watch for is other birds mobbing him," he said.
"Crows will attack him, magpies will attack him and even buzzards will attack him, so that's what people should be on the lookout for - other birds in distress or acting strangely around a tree.
"Golden eagles sound very distinctive too. Buzzards do a high-pitched scream whereas eagles do a high-pitched beeping sound.
"If anyone is in and around Randalstown and they see a massive big bird, but are not sure what it is, I would like them to contact me."
Anyone who thinks they may have sighted Griff can phone him on 077 1388 7551.