In a Shoebox, an Owl and a Mystery

A man walked into the parks department’s headquarters in the Arsenal in Central Park on Friday afternoon and handed over a shoebox.

“He didn’t stay, he didn’t give a name,” said Vickie Karp, a parks spokeswoman. “He just said, ‘Here’s an owl.’”

The man said the owl had flown onto his property in Sea Gate, Brooklyn, several days ago and had been sitting on the ground for a couple of days, Ms. Karp said.

The owl (see video below) was small. At first, parks workers thought it was a fledgling.

But Rob Mastrianni, an urban park ranger for the department who specializes in raptors, immediately recognized it as an adult northern saw-whet owl, a species that only grows to a height of 7 or 8 inches and to a weight of about 3 ounces. Saw-whets live in Canada and sometimes spend the winter in New York.

The owl refuses to fly, but the reason was not immediately clear, Ms. Karp said. Sometimes when saw-whets are frightened, she said, they will simply stay very still and appear very calm. The owl, dubbed Owl Jolson, has been turned over to rehabilitation experts at the Wild Bird Fund.

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