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Hitching a Lift

According to a traditional carol, it’s partridges in pear trees we should be on the lookout for at this time of year, but one man found a very different kind of holiday surprise this Monday—a teeny owl hiding in the Rockefeller Center’s 2020 Christmas tree.

When a worker helping set up the iconic New York tree discovered a tiny bird tucked among its giant branches on Monday, he called his wife. “The owl’s not flying away,” he said. “We need to get some help.”

His wife called the experts at Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in the USA and asked if they took the owls in for rehabilitation. “Yes we do,” a staff member in Saugerties replied on the phone. There was silence for a moment, then the wife said, “Okay, I’ll call back when my husband comes home, he’s got the baby owl in a box tucked in for the long ride.”

When a staff member met the husband halfway between New York and the refuge, they peeked in the box. It wasn’t a baby bird. It was a tiny male saw-whet owl—which grows to be only 8.3 inches tall at full size.

Rescuers fed the owl and gave him fluids. Having made a 170-mile journey in a trailer from Oneonta, New York, to Manhattan on Saturday, it definitely needed the TLC.

Ravensbeard Wildlife Center director Ellen Kalish said the owl was seen by a vet on Wednesday and given X-rays, and has since been declared fit and healthy.

“It’s just a story out of a movie,” said Kalish, who is now caring for the bird.

Over the past few days, the little bird has “had a buffet of all-you-can-eat mice,” she said, so now “he’s ready to go” back in the wild.

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