The aggressive eagle owl wreaked havoc as it launched a succession of silent swooping attacks under cover of darkness in Purmerend, near Amsterdam. Some victims were so bloodied and bruised that they needed hospital treatment, and so great was the danger posed by the terror owl that residents went out armed with umbrellas to protect themselves from being gouged.

The bellicose bird was eventually out-tuwitted by a falconer who was hired by the local council to catch it. The owl was not harmed, and is now awaiting transfer to a new permanent home.

A recent attack on two runners left one man needing six stitches in gashes caused by the bird’s talons. One owl-attack victim, Niels Verkooijen, told Dutch news programme Hart van Nederland: “It was like having a brick laced with nails thrown at your head.”

The nocturnal predator is also responsible for 15 stealth attacks on residents and staff at a home for the disabled. Spokeswoman Liselotte de Brujin told AFP: “During the day there’s no problem, but at night we now only venture outside armed with umbrellas, helmets and hats; anything really to protect ourselves. The problem is that you don’t hear the owl before it strikes. Its claws are razor-sharp.”

City council member Mario Hegger said he had mixed feelings about the owl’s capture – which required a special licence. “On the one hand you would of course rather leave such a magnificent beast alone,” he said, according to The Guardian. “But on the other hand the situation could not continue. We had to do something.”

The bird is one of the largest species of owl in the world – weighing about 3kg, and with wingspans of more than six feet. This is not the first time that humans have been the victims of owl attacks. Warning signs were recently put up in Salem, Oregon, after an owl developed a penchant for swooping on joggers and stealing their hats.