Owl accidentally boards Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Florida, gets two-week vacation

A burrowing owl unintentionally took a two-week vacation at sea when it went aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Florida.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said its office in Dade County, Florida, received a call about an owl that had accidentally flown onto the Symphony of the Seas ship.

The FWC sent one of its biologists, Ricardo Zambrano, to rescue the wayward bird, but, he only had one hour to do so! That's the only window of time he had between passengers disembarking and new, excited passengers boarding for a vacation to Mexico, officials said.


With the help of the ship's staff, Zambrano was able to place mist nets around the bird's seemingly favorite part of the ship – the exit signs by the door. 

(Credit: MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Facebook page)

After two failed attempts, the owl ended up on the balcony of one of the ship's 10th-story cabins.

(Credit: MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Facebook page)

The ship crew stood below and made noises to distract the owl, allowing for the FWC biologist to sneak up and safely net the owl from the balcony railing. 

"After the amazing rescue, the cute little stowaway was safely assisted with the disembarkation process, the FWC said in a Facebook post. "He had nothing to claim in customs."

(Credit: MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Facebook page)

According to officials, burrowing owls are a threatened species in Florida and are one of the smallest owls in the state, only reaching nine inches in height. Their diets consist of mostly insects and sometimes small reptiles, birds, frogs, and rodents, so a vacation on a cruise ship was not the best habitat for the bird. 

(Credit: MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife Facebook page)

The bird did appear in good health after spending two weeks at sea, officials said, but as a precautionary measure, the owl was taken to South Florida Wildlife Center.

What to do if you encounter a burrowing owl

Burrowing owls may find themselves in buildings or garages by entering doors that are left open. 

If you see one out of its ideal habitat, the FWC says do not try to capture it yourself. Instead, call professionals or an FWC office near you.