Yo, Owl! Think 2020 Is Going To Let You Roost For the Winter in Peace?

Most of us, I’m pretty sure, never expect to identify with a Rockefeller.

Leave it to 2020 to change even that.

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I’ll explain.

New York’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree task force selected a tree this year from Oneonta, New York. You may have heard the hoots of laughter when it arrived in Manhattan, because it doesn’t have a classic shape.

One whole side doesn’t have much shape at all.

My guess is that the tree task force knew that and is already at work on fixing it. On any number of Christmases, the Rockefeller Center tree team has quietly added branches to its trees, affixing them to the trunk so that once the lights go on, no one notices.

The practice is known in the biz as “stuffing” the tree, and one imagines it will be employed as needed again this year.

But the initial derisive skepticism from a Christmas tree-loving public didn’t produce this tree’s most interesting hoots.

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Those hoots came from a small saw-whet owl who, unbeknownst to the team that felled the tree, was roosting in its internal branches when they cut it down.

He apparently kept roosting as the saws took it down, because he was still roosting away when the tree started its journey to Rockefeller Plaza.

Happily, the wife of an employee of the tree transport outfit spotted the owl and called the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, a rescue organization about two hours north of the city.

She reported a “baby owl” in trouble, though it turned out that this particular owl was not a baby. Saw-whets — who got their name because their call reminded someone of the sound a sharpener makes when it begins to whet a saw blade — are just naturally small, about the size of a soda can.

Ravensbeard liberated him and took him to their place, where he was found to be dehydrated and hungry, but otherwise wide-eyed and apparently fine. He’s been drinking up and chowing down on mice, and assuming nothing goes wrong, he will soon be released into the local forest where he can resume roosting.

Saw-whets are migratory and roost in dense conifers — or, apparently, semi-dense conifers — for the winter.

Now you might think this owl would be disappointed he didn’t get to see New York City. Don’t feel too bad for him. Because of the virus and all, a lot of attractions like Broadway are shut down anyway. Even if they weren’t, The Owl and the Pussycat wasn’t playing.

Perhaps as a consolation for having his trip cut short, the owl was nicknamed Rockefeller, which is where the rest of us come into the story, at least metaphorically.

Here’s a guy who back in January pretty much knew what his year would look like. He’d find a mate, they’d nest in some deciduous forest and then he’d find a suitable conifer and roost there for the winter. A solid owl year.

Instead as we approach year’s end he finds himself hungry and thirsty, after his whole world crashed to the ground. All he could do was hang on and hope someone helped him out before things got worse.

Welcome to 2020, Rockefeller.

It’s worth noting that not everyone suffered in 2020. A bunch of the rich got richer, and the stock market performed the remarkable feat of behaving as if the tens of millions of people who lost their jobs and much of their lives either didn’t exist or didn’t matter.

But a whole swath of America was Rockefeller in 2020, Rockefeller the owl, and it would be lovely if in 2021 we gave them food and drink instead of cutting down their trees.

David Hinckley wrote for the New York Daily News for 35 years. Now he drives his wife crazy by randomly quoting Bob Dylan and “Casablanca.”

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