A stowaway owl made its way to New York City via the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree! About 170 miles from his home in upstate New York, the owl was rescued from the tree and is recovering at a wildlife rehabilitation facility.
"We’ve been in existence for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this," Ellen Kalish, director and founder of the wildlife center, told WNBC, an NBC affiliate. "The wife of the person that found the owl was calling around to try and get help for this little guy. He saw these little eyes looking at him and reached in and grabbed it. He didn’t fly away so he wasn’t sure if it was injured."
"He seems to be doing very well, eating and drinking," Kalish added of the owl's condition. "I have an appointment with the vet later on today so we're hoping that he gets a clean bill of health and he can go right back out there."
On how the bird got in the tree that was cut down Thursday in Oneonta, roughly 80 miles southwest of Albany and around 170 miles north of New York, Kalish guesses that he was trapped when the branches were tied for transporting.
"With all the commotion, I highly doubt that it flew in," she said. "What I suspect was that it was in the tree when they cut it down and it probably got trapped when they wrapped the tree in some of the branches. It was there for I think what was a three-day journey to New York City and wasn’t found until they released the branches."
"They’re very resilient. The fact that he wasn’t crunched was a miracle. The fact that he made the trip alive... waking up in New York City with hundreds of people around? They’re very quiet and shy little creatures and are extremely nocturnal and very rarely seen. So it's totally understandable that he wasn’t seen when they were transporting the tree."
Kalish promises the owl, though "small and cute" in stature, is not a baby, but likely an adult Northern Saw-whet or Eastern screech owl. Oh, and his name? Why Rockefeller, of course.
A spokesperson from Rockefeller Center confirmed the stowaway story and sent TODAY this statement:
“We inspect each branch of the tree individually before it’s wrapped, but birds sometimes can find their way into it on the journey.”
Kalish added that the owl's journey was once in a lifetime.
"We’ve never seen anything like this. ... This was just such a sweet story to be shared."
CORRECTION (Nov. 25, 2020, 9:30 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this story incorrectly called the director of Ravensbeard Wildlife Center Helen Kalish. Her name is Ellen Kalish.