In late January, a burrowing owl caused headaches for Florida Fish and Wildlife officials when it decided to stow away for two weeks on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The small owl, named for its habit of nesting and roosting underground in locations like golf courses, is well-adapted to living around humans and tends to be a beneficial predator, feeding on insects and small mammals like rodents. The Washington Post reports that this owl also appeared to adopt human vacation habits and tagged along as a nonpaying guest on the Symphony of the Seas as the ship cruised around the Caribbean.
In a post on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Facebook page, the department notes that for biologist Ricardo Zambrano, capturing the Symphony's owl was particularly challenging—he had only one hour between passengers disembarking and new ones boarding. The crew helped Zambrano as he scrambled after the owl, eventually making noises to get the bird of prey's attention so he could capture it with a net as it stood on a balcony railing, per WFLA. The biologist described the experience to the Post as "kind of stressful, especially after missing it twice," but also felt he "got lucky" when he finally snared his prey.
The owl was taken to the South Florida Wildlife Center for a health assessment, which determined that it was in good shape, though underweight. The owl was released back into the wild about a month after its capture, 25 miles away from the Symphony of the Seas' Miami berth. (Read more nature stories.)