A Christmas miracle came early this week in the form of a tiny owl, plucked from the branches of a felled 75-foot spruce on its way to becoming New York’s annual Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
The Norway spruce was chopped down last Thursday in central upstate New York and then carried 170 miles south to Manhattan, where, this Monday, a worker tasked with unfolding its limbs discovered a fluffy little owl tucked snugly into the base of the tree. The feathery stowaway, which workers initially thought may have been injured, was rushed to a wildlife rehabilitation clinic in nearby Saugerties, New York.
Although he hadn’t had any food or water for days, the owl—who has since been dubbed Rockefeller—is recovering quickly after eating and drinking fluids, according to the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center. And aside from arriving hungry and dehydrated, he was blessedly healthy, having survived what was likely a long and bumpy road trip squished with a tightly wrapped pine tree on the back of a truck.
Because a return to his upstate New York home would probably be too traumatic, Rockefeller—who is a saw-whet, the smallest variety of owl in the Northeast—will be released on Ravensbeard facility grounds as early as this weekend.
“He’s had a buffet of all-you-can-eat mice, so he’s ready to go,” Ravensbeard director Ellen Kalish told USA Today.
Since Monday, Rockefeller’s rescue has inspired over $5,000 in donations to the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center. And it’s also been a ray of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy debut for the iconic Rockefeller Christmas tree, to which transportation had not been kind. Onlookers who caught first glimpses of the tree after it emerged from transit this week described it as sparse and bedraggled, with limp needles “as if the tree had just climbed out of the shower.” On social media, it was branded “a metaphor for 2020,” a year of apocalypse and decay.
According to a Rockefeller Center spokesperson, the tree is expected to “spruce” up in the next few days, following its rough journey. Let’s hope that’s the real metaphor for 2020!