A swooping owl which alarmed visitors at a country estate as it struggled to adapt to the wild has been saved by a team of office workers.

The young tawny owl has been startling young and old alike at the St Ives Countryside Estate in Bingley by diving out of the sky towards them, sometimes even perching on their heads.

The owl was first spotted at the estate three weeks ago, as it observed a team of ecologists at the Sports Turf Research Institute, based at the estate, from a windowsill outside their first floor office.

Staff were at first thrilled to see it at such close quarters but they soon realised it was whimpering through hunger.

Bob Taylor, 49, of Haworth, a senior ecologist at the Institute, was urged to act to help the owl by his colleagues.

He said: "It was sat there watching people go by in the yard in front of the coach house and it swooped down and landed on people, including young kids, several times.

"It came straight for me as I was taking a picture of it and scratched by head and made it bleed.

"When I heard it crying, my first reaction was to feed it. There are very few voles and mice for it to feed on until March because it is so cold and it would have starved to death."

Mr Taylor said he started feeding the owl on liver bought from a butchers before providing it with three mice a day and dale chicks.

"It has a voracious appetite, it wants to eat all the time. We had hoped to feed it until March but it's not going to get to that because it keeps landing on people, so I got in contact with conservationists and the Barn Owl Centre."

There was a risk of someone being seriously injured by the bird so Mr Taylor captured it in a cage.

Now named Ollie by the staff, he was given a home on top of a filing cabinet in the office, until Mr Taylor took him to the Centre in Gloucester yesterday.

Mr Taylor said: "People say they don't imprint but this is completely imprinted and thinks it is human. It's been so at home with us, it loves the company of humans and loves to be stroked."

Vincent Jones, centre director at the Barn Owl Centre, said: "This is a problem with tawny owls because they leave the nest early and with the countryside being open, people do tend to find babies.

"They should contact a rescue centre but some people, through lack of experience or education, take them home and this is illegal.

"This owl has been hand-reared and either released or escaped. Young owls are taught to stay still during the day time so they don't get picked off by day time birds. This bird is active during the day and lands on people and shows it has been humanised.

"We'll fully assess it, mix it among its own and see how it gets on. If it starts beating them up it may sadly have to remain in captivity."

Ollie's progress will soon be able to be monitored online as the Barn Owl Centre is placing a webcam in the aviary where he is staying. Log on to www.barnowl.co.uk and follow the link.

e-mail: ben.barnett @bradford.newsquest.co.uk