Rocky, the stowaway owl who hitched a ride last week from Upstate New York to midtown Manhattan with the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, was released into the wild Tuesday night by the Upstate wildlife sanctuary taking care of her.
"Rocky's release was a success! She is a tough little bird and we're happy to see her back in her natural habitat," Ravensbeard Wildlife Center posted on Facebook, along with a video of Rocky's release. "We are sure that Rocky will feel your love and support through her journey south. #RockefellerOwl Please help us continue our mission to help birds like Rocky for years to come."
And yes, Rocky is a "her," not a "he," as previously reported. Ulster County's Ravensbeard Wildlife Center posted on Facebook earlier on Tuesday, "yes, we determined Rocky is a girl!"
In a Facebook post earlier Tuesday, Ravensbeard wrote, "We have exciting new to share! Rockefeller has been well cared for, and she has been cleared by specialists for take off (yes, we determined Rocky is a girl!) Rocky will continue on her migratory journey south today at dusk. The release will happen at sunset so that she can find safe cover by nightfall. We have found just the right quiet cluster of conifers to give her the safety she needs. We can't wait to share the footage with everyone, so we can all celebrate Rocky's return to nature together
Rocky had been scheduled to be released into the wild as early as this past Saturday, but her departure was bumped to Sunday or Monday, because Ravensbeard said Rocky needed more time at the facility.
Along with a new photo (BELOW) of Rockefeller, Ravensbeard wrote on Facebook Sunday, "We’ve been working hard to ensure that Rockefeller is well taken care of. We always consult with experts & avian veterinarians before the release of a bird, to ensure they have the best chance of reentering the wild. That's what we've been up to these past few days. We will continue to keep you posted, as we know we all want the best for little Rocky."
On Saturday, Ravensbeard wrote that Rockefeller had been moved to "an outdoor location so that he can acclimate to the weather. Today we are scouting locations and determining the best timing for his release, which will likely be tomorrow or Monday."
The facility also took the opportunity to solicit donations. "We are a small non-profit, and your support helps us to be able to continue our work making sure birds like Rockefeller are properly cared for before their return to the wild."
On Friday, Ravensbeard director Ellen Kalish gave an update, telling the Daily Freeman, "He's in great condition. He had an X-ray yesterday, and there are no fractures ... His muscle tone, everything is good, and so he's got the green light."
She added, "I just want to make sure he’s well-fed before he goes. He was a little on the thin side when he came in. He probably hadn’t eaten in a number of days. So I just want to make sure that he’s at his best weight and health, and then he goes." (And not surprisingly, he's been given the name of "Rockefeller.")
A man who works for the company that transported this year's Rockefeller Center Christmas tree from Oneonta to Manhattan found the small owl tucked away inside the 75-foot-tall Norway spruce.
The man's wife called Ravensbeard Wildlife Center and brought the Saw-whet owl to Ravensbeard.