User Submitted Cryptid Sighting: Giant Owl
Name: Daniel S.
Number of witnesses: 3
Location of sighting: 41.6152350, -72.7220130 (Wilcox Park, East Berlin, CT)
Date of sighting: Around 2006
What you believe the creature was: A large owl (new species or hybrid)
Message: “I am a male, 23 years old now. This happened roughly around the year 2006. I was around 9 years old and I think I was in 3rd grade. (I'm not good with dates/times.)
I was in Richard D. Hubbard Elementary School, located in East Berlin, CT. Every recess, my two female friends and I would venture past the playground into the field. We would stick around the edge of the field, along a fence that borders some woods and a pond. We were not allowed to go past the second light pole, so we would linger around that pole, talking, playing, looking at the woods and pond. One day, it was either late spring or summer because the canopy was green and the temperature was mild, we were walking out to the pole as usual. I was absorbed in conversation, but before we got to the second pole, my friend said, 'Oh, look at that bird!' As I scanned the woods, my other friend spotted it before me and was saying something like, 'Wow! It's huge!' Finally, I noticed it, and it WAS huge.
It was perched on a very thick sycamore tree limb and its talons nearly wrapped completely around the limb's circumference. It was so big, in fact, that it looked like someone cut it out and pasted it on a background that was too small. I immediately looked for its eyes. This is the first thing I always do when I encounter an animal. Any bragging aside, I'm a very good animal “whisperer” if you will, and initial eye contact is very important for me to connect with any animal. But I could not find this thing's eyes because they were evidently concealed by a face-full of down or very fluffy, small feathers. I assumed it was molting season and it was losing its winter plumage because it seemed to be too large to be a baby bird of any kind. Its head was just like that of an owl's - rounded, with an indented 'v' on its forehead. I don't remember the exact colors, but it was mottled with typical bird-of-prey colors, not one solid color.
I had only been looking at this bird for maybe two seconds when there was a loud snap and the limb it was resting on fell off the tree. I don't know if the bird had shifted its weight when we spotted it, or if this was just coincidence. Well, when the limb came crashing down, all I saw was a blur as this bird struggled to stay airborne. I think one or both of my friends may have screamed, but I was just taking this all in. After that very brief blur of flapping, it flew (mostly glided) directly toward us. That's when my friends took off running but I stayed watching it. I was not scared at all, just intrigued.
I instinctively knew this bird was not in attack mode, but it was annoyed that we had disturbed it. But as my friends kept running, one of them was desperately calling out my name and the other was anxiously shrieking because I had not moved. And as I watched it fly toward me, its yellow-skinned talons were outstretched as if to pounce. It really looked as if it was not going to stop. So I pulled away from my instincts and ran toward my friends, looking over my shoulder as I did. I distinctly remember the chill in the air as its huge shadow fell upon me. But at the last second, it pulled its talons in and swerved back up over the treeline, and it was gone, just like that.
Now, while I was intrigued and grateful for having experienced this, I didn't think there was anything unusual about this. It was years later that I found out this couldn't have been any known species, as it was much too big, even to be an abnormally large specimen of a known species. The wingspan was at least 10 feet, probably around 12 feet. Its height was harder to ascertain because I didn't have a good reference point when it was perched up in the tree, but I would say it was between 3 and 4 feet tall. If I had known this was not a known species, I would have kept a tighter hold on the memory.
Another detail I remember is that I think I saw the center (not the tip) of its beak, amid all that fluff. If it was indeed the beak, then it had a yellow, owl-like beak. Now, for a while I thought there must be a great forest behind that fence if there was such a big bird living there. But it turns out that it takes one minute to walk from the fence to some condominiums on the other side. I then tried to find the limb that fell and see if there were scratch marks on it, but I knew it would do little to prove anything. Discouraged, I went on Google Maps to find out what was in the direction it flew off to. I quickly found a place called Owl's Lair Cliff in Ragged Mountain State Park, which is in the exact direction it was heading. I was excited but also realized that it has been so long and it probably never lived around here anyway because I doubt there would be enough food to sustain it. I've never heard any similar reports in CT, either. However, I did plan to hike to Owl's Lair Cliff, but have since developed an autoimmune disorder and I can't get out much. I still wonder what this place looks like, but I can only speculate.
Approximate location the bird was perched - 41.6152350, -72.7220130
Owl's Lair Cliff - 41.6160690, -72.8158740 “
Daniel, thank you so much for sharing your encounter! Right off the bat I must say, I absolutely love giant bird sightings, and for two specific reasons. The first is that out of every cryptid reported both historically and in modern times, I feel that giant birds (or Thunderbirds if you will) are the most plausible. The reason for this is that it is not unheard of for a larger than normal, known species to be captured or encountered while in the wild. We hear stories all the time of gigantic rogue alligators or crocodiles that have taken up residence in a pond that backs up to some poor homeowners property. We see photos of larger than life wild pigs that have been shot by hunters while out in the deep woods in the south. We read stories of fishermen who do battle with absolutely massive fish that prove to be larger than the boat they are fishing in. So why wouldn’t it be easy to believe that there are gigantic known (and unknown) birds flying around out there as well?
The second reason I love gigantic bird cryptids is because they are just cool. There is something so awe-inspiring about imagining a giant bird slowly gliding through the sky, large and powerful enough to destroy anything below it, but choosing to mind its own business and glide wherever the wind takes it. There is pure joy in reading the ancient Native American legends describing how these giant birds were mortal enemies of Lake Monsters and the two frequently engaged in battles to the death above the water. And lets get serious for a minute, who could pass up the opportunity to hear stories of giant Thunderbirds swooping down and picking up terrified kids in order to bring them back to their far away lairs in order to do god knows what to them. Plain and simple, these creatures are just cool!
But you sir, you weren’t reading a story or hearing a legend, you got to experience one of these massive birds up close and personal, and that is quite rare. What exactly you encountered that day I cannot say, but it certainly does sound like you saw something that was out of place. Now, I am not an expert by any means on owls, but two species came to mind while reading your description. Before I say what they are though, let me state that I am in no way saying that without a doubt, one of these is what you saw. Neither of these species is known to live in Connecticut and one of them is considered an endangered species so that lowers the bar even more on that one being the culprit. So, with that said, here are the two species of owl that popped into my mind after reading your encounter.
The first species of owl that came to mind is the Great Grey Owl. This is the worlds largest owl based strictly on length and they typically stand around 2-3ft tall. The average wingspan measures in at nearly 5ft long and they weigh roughly between 2lbs and 3lbs. This owl is noted as being primarily “made of” feathers because the body plumage is so thick that the actual body underneath is usually 3 times smaller than what it appears to be. They have grey, brown, black, white, and tan feathers. Typical distribution is the Northwest United States and Canada, as well as Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia, and Mongolia. This species is not considered endangered or threatened.
The second species that comes to mind is Blakiston’s Fish Owl. This is the largest overall living species of owl in the world. The typical weight of this owl is between 6-8lbs, although some have clocked in around 10lbs. The average height for this species is between 2-3ft tall and the wingspan ranges from 5ft to nearly 6.5ft. It is believed that larger specimens can have wingspans that reach nearly 7ft, but this is rare. Appearance wise, this species resembles an eagle more than it does an owl, although it is bulkier and has prominent yellow owl eyes and thick head plumage. Their feathers are mostly various shades of brown while the throat feathers are white. Typical distribution ranges from Japan, Russia, and China. This species is considered endangered.
Id suggest taking a look at images of both these owls and seeing how they compare to what you saw that day. Maybe the head resembled one and the body shaped resembled another. Perhaps the feather color was similar to the Great Grey Owl while the beak appears more like the Blakiston’s Fish Owl. Or maybe, they don’t look anything similar to what you saw and that day and these just take you back to square one! Either way, helpful or not, I hope that one day you are able to solve this avian mystery that has stuck with you for nearly 15yrs now. Thanks for sharing your story!
-The Pine Barrens Institute
*Image Credit: Google