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Owl rescued during setup of Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

saw-whet owl
This Northern Saw-whet Owl was transported to a wildlife center after being discovered in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Workers setting up this year’s Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City got quite a surprise when they discovered a small owl among the 75-foot Norway spruce’s branches. It was a Northern Saw-whet Owl, one of North America’s smallest owl species.

Adult saw-whets top out around 8 inches long and weigh from 2.3 to 5.3 ounces. That’s roughly between the weight of a tennis ball and a baseball.

No one knows why the owl didn’t fly away when the tree was cut down and wrapped up for the trip from Oneonta, New York, to Manhattan. After it was found, the spouse of one of the workers called Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties, New York, to ask if they take in owls for rehabilitation. Here’s the rest of the story, from the Ravensbeard Facebook page:

I replied, “yes we do,” there was silence for a moment, and she said “OK, I’ll call back when my husband comes home, he’s got the baby owl in a box tucked in for the long ride.”

I asked where her husband was when he found the owl. She said he works for the company that transports and secures the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

She lived about an hour south so we met in the middle to do the transfer. Once secured, I peaked in the box and saw this little face looking up at me. He/she was a little Saw-whet owl, the smallest owls we have in the northeast. All baby owls are born in the spring so the idea that there was a baby owl in November didn’t make sense.

Back at Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, we’ve given him fluids and are feeding him all the mice he will eat. It had been three days since he ate or drank anything. So far so good, his eyes are bright and seems relatively in good condition with all he’s been through. Once he checks in with the vet and gets a clean bill of health, he’ll be released to continue on his wild and wonderful journey.

Our hearts go out to all those “behind the scenes” workers. Great job and thanks for saving “Rockefeller”!

A very capable owl

The center added a follow-up about the plan to release to owl:

Hello everyone! Thank you all for your interest in this little owl and Ravensbeard. Your likes, shares, comments, and donations are very much appreciated. We noticed the shared concern for the owl to be returned to where he came from in Oneonta, NY and would like to address this. Saw-whet owls find a new mate every year and are resilient in finding safe places. This owl is a full grown adult and is very capable of finding new territory. We believe it would be even more traumatic to transport him yet again when he can be safely released here on the grounds of Ravensbeard Wildlife Center where there are acres of trees to choose from. Saw-whet owl numbers are dropping though, so if you have an interest there is plentiful information on bird society websites showing how to construct owl boxes to help give these precious creatures a safe home. Thank you all again for showing your support and we wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. -Ravensbeard

If you’re able to donate to Ravensbeard, you can do so via PayPal

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