This past Saturday, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree arrived in Manhattan with some extra cargo. To the surprise of tree transport workers, a small Saw-whet owl had hitched a ride from Oneonta to Rockefeller Center inside the branches of the tree that it had called home. Little Rockefeller, as he has since been called, is now being cared for by the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties, New York, in preparation for his release back into the wild.

Courtesy of Ravensbeard Wildlife Center

The Ravensbeard Team recounted the tale of Little Rockefeller’s journey to the big city on their Facebook page. On Tuesday, the team received a call from a woman who wanted to know if the wildlife center took in owls for rehabilitation. The caller’s husband, a crew member on the transport team who secures and delivers the Christmas tree to Rockefeller Center, had found what he thought was a tiny baby owl. The feathery stowaway was put in a box and picked up by the Ravensbeard team.

The tree arrives at Rockefeller CenterLitte Rockefeller rode with the wrapped up tree as it was transported from Oneonta, New York to Manhattan

It turned out that it wasn’t a baby, but a fully grown adult male Saw-whet owl. Mistaking it for a baby is understandable since Saw-whet owls are the smallest owls in the northeast. The birds are nomadic and don’t mate for life, so Little Rockefeller will have no problem being away from Oneonta. The average lifespan of a Saw-whet owl is ten years. Since the news of Little Rockefeller’s arrival broke, another owl has been spotted in Manhattan. Dubbed Barry, the Barred owl has taken up residence in Central Park and has been seen in the North Woods.

When Little Rockefeller arrived that the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center he was given fluids and fed mice. It had been three days since he ate or drank anything. After being seen by a veterinarian, the team reports that Little Rockefeller is doing well, his eyes are bright and his x-ray is clean. The Christmas tree owl will stay at the Wildlife Center for a few more days while they monitor his health and get him back up to a proper weight. Eventually, when the weather is right, Little Rockefeller will be released back into the wild.

Image Courtesy of Ravensbeard Wildlife Center

The Ravensbeard Wildlife Center has been a refuge for injured and orphaned wildlife for over 20 years but in 2015 was forced to relocate to a temporary rehab shelter. The organization is currently searching for a permanent home and fundraising money to pay for it. The Wildlife Center is looking for space where they can have more room for heated and open-air cages to house the more than 100-hundred birds they take in, a real clinic to store supplies, freezers for food, and space for students and guests to come visits and learn. You can donate to Ravensbeard’s fundraising efforts on this Go Fund Me page!

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