A small burrowing owl that flew onboard the world’s second-largest cruise ship in Florida unwittingly ended up on a two-week Caribbean vacation and has since made headlines.
The burrowing owl boarded Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas while the ship was docked in January. When passengers who were sailing around the Caribbean spotted the brown-feathered bird perched on railings, exit signs, and planters on deck, even scouting out the luxury shopping section, they alerted the crew, and a plan was hatched to rescue the owl when the ship returned to Florida.
However, with only an hour between passengers disembarking from the ship on Jan. 21 and new passengers arriving for a week-long trip to Mexico, the ship’s environmental officer called ahead to secure the help of Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologist Ricardo Zambrano.
FWC shared the rescue mission that ensued on Facebook, writing: “With some of the crew’s help, Ricardo placed mist nets around the owl’s perch of choice, the exit signs by the door. Two unsuccessful attempts later, the owl was now sitting on the balcony of a tenth storey cabin.”
While crew members stood below the balcony making noises to distract the little owl, Zambrano crept up from behind and made the catch by launching a net gun. He then transferred the bird to a transport crate for return to dry land.
“It was trap-weary and onto us,” Zambrano told The Washington Post, calling the net gun a “last resort” since they “didn’t want to hurt the owl.” FWC shared footage of the bird’s “Caribbean Owliday” and eventual capture on Facebook, adding: “He had nothing to claim in customs.”
Burrowing owls are one of the smallest owls in the state of Florida, measuring up to nine inches tall. They spend most of their time in the wild in their burrows or open shady areas. They’re also considered to be a threatened species in the Florida region by the FWC.
The cruise ship’s little stowaway would have been at risk without rescue since a burrowing owl’s staple diet consists of insects, small reptiles, birds, frogs, and rodents, many of which could not have been hunted onboard. Nonetheless, the owl appeared to be in good health after two weeks at sea but was later transported to the rehab facility of the South Florida Wildlife Center as a safety measure.
On Feb. 18, the bird was released by the Center’s Project Perch in Davie, Florida—which is 25 miles north of the cruise terminal—after being fattened up with a mixture of bugs and small rodents.
FWC advises anyone who finds a burrowing owl where it shouldn’t be first to open doors and windows since owls can often find their own way out. A trapped owl should never be caught or handled without the help of a qualified wildlife expert.
Watch the video:
(Courtesy of MyFWC.com)
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