On a wing and a prayer: Tiny owl found hiding inside the Rockefeller Christmas tree in New York City is released back into the wild

  • The tiny saw-whet owl was found on November 14 nestling in the branches
  • On Tuesday the bird, nicknamed Rockefeller, was set free in upstate New York
  • Rockefeller had been nursed back to health on a diet of mice ready for release
  • Footage posted on Ravensbeard Wildlife Center’s account showed the moment 

A tiny owl found nestled inside the branches of the Rockefeller Christmas tree in New York City was released into the wild on Tuesday, having been nursed back to health. 

The saw-whet owl, nicknamed Rockefeller, was found on November 14 when the tree was hauled into position in Manhattan.

The little bird is believed to have traveled in the branches all the way down from Oneonta in upstate New York – a perilous three day voyage.

Rockefeller the owl was released into the wild on Tuesday evening in upstate New York

The tiny creature initially clung to the hand of Ellen Kalish, director of the Ravensbeard site

Rockefeller was seen sitting in a tree shortly after being freed

The little owl was cared for by experts at the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center

When workers unwrapped the 75-foot tree and began moving it to its vertical position, they found the little bird.

Saw-whet owls live in conifer forests and only grow around eight inches tall, weighing under three and a half ounces.

She was cared for by veterinarians and fed a diet of mice while they made sure she was fit for release. 

On Tuesday wildlife experts at Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, near Saugerties, released the owl into the wild.

Rockefeller was unsure at first, perching on the hand of the Ellen Kalish, director of the wildlife center – the little owl only about the same size as a human hand.

After looking around, Rockefeller realized she was free, and soared off into the surrounding forest.

‘Rocky’s release was a success!’ the center tweeted. 

‘She’s a tough little bird and we’re happy to see her back in the wild. She will feel your love & support through her journey south.’

Saw-whet owls live in coniferous forests in the northern United States and in Canada

Rockefeller, the star of the wildlife center, flew off into the forests of upstate New York

Back in New York, the tree in which she had traveled was having branches added to it, after it was mocked on social media for looking scraggly.

Workers at Rockefeller Center said that it is ‘normal’ to add ‘extensions’ to the tree and that this is done every year to make it look fuller.

They were spotted last week giving some ‘extensions’ to the Norway Spruce. 

The tree, located in midtown Manhattan, is currently having five miles of lights added to it ahead of the annual tree lighting ceremony, taking place on December 2. 

Crews were spotted on Thursday adding branches to the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

Workers at Rockefeller Center said that it is ‘normal’ to add ‘extensions’ to the tree

Thousands took to social media to slam the three after it arrived in New York City on Saturday (pictured) following a two-day and 185-mile journey

The tree is seen where it stood in Oneonta before it was cut down on Thursday. Homeowner ‘Daddy Al’ Dick said that while the tree was beloved, he was glad to donate it due to the difficulties it created for yard maintenance 

In a TikTok video, one Rockefeller Center employee likened the extra limbs being added to hair extensions or a weave.

‘This happens every year we’ve done this. In my 19 years, this is what we do,’ he said.

‘We gotta make a pretty tree and all the parts to make a pretty tree, we’ve gotta add extensions. Simple as that.  

‘Once you got the extensions, you take the mask off the face and then, the next dy, she is gorgeous.’ 

‘I expected nothing in 2020 to be good nice, or pretty and this tree confirms my dire expectations,’ one Twitter user wrote.

Another said it has the ‘same energy’ as Charlie Brown’s famously sad tree in the Peanuts cartoons.

The Rockefeller Center clapped back in a tweet written in the voice of the tree itself.

‘Wow, you all must look great right after a two-day drive, huh?’ the tweet read. 

‘Just wait until I get my lights on! See you on December 2!’ 


Twitter users called it ‘the perfect tree for 2020’ and other users compared it to the tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas

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