- A burrowing owl marked a week of tropical vacation after embarking on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials finally captured the bird in January.
- Although it had been oceanbound for weeks, the bird appeared to be in good health, officials said.
A burrowing owl unwittingly boarded a Caribbean cruise ship earlier this year, marking herself a two-week tropical vacation before wildlife officials rescued the fugitive flier and ended her jaunt unpaid.
Passengers aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas began spotting the bird around the ship in January, according to a Facebook post from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The owl could be seen all around the massive boat, which is the second largest cruise ship in the world, perched on exit signs, hidden in planters and overseeing group activities from towering railings, the agency said. . The animal was apparently a fan of life’s luxurious treasures – photos from the rescue mission show the owl hanging above the ship’s Cartier store.
Over the course of at least two weeks, the bird grew in popularity, appearing in passengers’ social media posts and eventually prompting the Wildlife Rescue of Dade County to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission about the incident. a rescue attempt, Ricardo Zambrano, a wildlife biologist. with the state agency told the Washington Post this month.
Zambrano arrived in Miami on January 21, where the ship was briefly moored between voyages, with trap nets in tow.
His mission was clear and the countdown was on. Zambrano and the cruise crew members had just a one-hour window between the disembarkation of one group of passengers and the arrival of another for their week-long trip to Mexico to capture the stowaway, the wildlife commission said.
“It was tired of the trap and on us,” Zambrano told the Post. “We had to do it quickly, before the passengers got back on board.”
With the help of crew members, Zambrano placed mist nets around the owl’s perch on an exit door panel, hoping the bird would be afraid to fly directly into the enclosure. But two failed attempts later and the owl was still free.
As the rescue team prepared for its third try, the bird flew to a 10th-floor balcony, the wildlife commission said. Helpful crew members created a diversion below, making noise to distract the owl as Zambrano snuck up from behind and managed to knock the owl off the railing.
“I was lucky,” he told the Post of his hour-long operation.
The bird’s capture marked the end of his free vacation, which lasted at least two weeks. He was escorted off the ship and had “nothing to claim from customs”, the agency said.
Although it had been at sea for half a month, the bird appeared to be in good health, officials said, although it was transported to the South Florida Wildlife Center as a precaution. Staff members at the center told the Post that the owl was “very thin” after its cruising ordeal.
Burrowing owls, which are an endangered species in Florida, typically feed on small reptiles, birds, frogs, and rodents; it is unknown how the bird sustained itself during the cruise or if it participated in the ship’s all-you-can-eat buffet.
The owl was released Feb. 18 in Davie, Fla., according to the Post, just 25 miles from the terminal that housed its former getaway ship.