The world's biggest owl is secretly and successfully breeding in England, conservationists have disclosed. Knee-high to a human with a two-metre (6ft) wingspan, the eagle owl is returning after centuries of absence. Ringing of chicks confirms that a pair of the birds has reared 23 offspring on the North York Moors since 1997. The first footage of a family of wild eagle owls in this country will be shown on 16 November in "Natural World - Return of the Eagle Owl" on BBC Two.
The owls are thought to have arrived from continental Europe, but the programme reveals there is controversy over their future here as they continue to spread. Some experts and conservation organisations say eagle owls are an alien species that could prey on existing rare wildlife. In areas where there are shortages of smaller mammals, the eagle owl will sometimes prey on larger ones, including other birds of prey. It is even said to be capable of carrying off cats and small dogs.
Lock up your Chihuahuas, the Eagle Owl is back!