An expert has revealed that owl attacks on humans are becoming more common due to the diminishing number of dense forests on the planet, after a woman was 'punched' in the back of the head by the bird.

Wildlife biologist Jonathan C Slaght made the assertion after a bird attack on American victim Kirsten Mathisen, detailed on Reddit, led to fellow users close to her home in the coastal community of Hansville in the US state of Washington to share similar stories.

Mathisen was left with five or six deep cuts to her head after she was ambushed by a white barred owl during a walk in local woods with Slaght reasoning: "The more you reduce the places where an owl can nest, the more likely it's going to be nesting somewhere in close proximity to humans.

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"If they're kind of amped up and a fox walks by, a deer walks by, a human walks by, whatever, they'll pop down and try to chase it off."

There was no prior warning when Mathisen was attacked and her assailant was quick and quiet.

"It felt like getting punched in the back of the head by someone wearing rings," Mathisen told US media outlet National Public Radio.

Slaght was then able to identify the breed of owl after he examined pictures and videos that she took of the animal having been left with a bleeding head following two unprompted attacks.

She had come across the bird before and never had any issues, but the scientist explained that barred owls, who traditionally nest in the cavities of trees, are "aggressive and highly territorial" and that its actions could be explained by seasonal pre-breeding.

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Mathisen has now changed her walking path to avoid further encounters with the owl and carries an umbrella or wears a hat to protect her from the possibility of a repeat attack, but she feels no malice towards her aggressor, declaring: "I don't want the owl to be put down or something. It's very beautiful."

Her Reddit post led to the uncovering of many more stories of aggressive barred owls from people living in Washington state.

A runner in West Seattle revealed that she has even resorted to donning an owl mask on the back of her head to avoid being attacked again, while the city of SeaTac has erected a sign in a local park to warn visitors about the violent birds.

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