Rockefeller flies free: Owl found hiding in New York Christmas tree released into wild

The owl was found clinging on to branches having been transported 274 kilometres to New York City

Rockefeller, or Rocky, the tiny owl found hiding in one of New York City's most famous festive landmarks has been given a new lease of life.

The saw-whet owl, rescued last week from the Rockefeller Centre's Christmas tree, has been released back into the wild after being nursed back to health by a rehabilitation centre.

Named after the tree in which he was discovered, the owl was found clinging on to branches after the large spruce had been transported 274 kilometres from Oneonta, New York, to New York City.

In a tale that warmed hearts around the world, Rocky was found dehydrated and hungry but otherwise unharmed.

The Rockefeller Centre's Christmas tree is an annual festive tradition that takes place in Manhattan. The towering tree is put in place in front of Rockefeller Centre, a large complex housing a number of commercial buildings, and then decorated over weeks before being lit for the public in early December.

Rocky relocated to the Ravensbeard Wildlife Centre in Saugerties, New York, where he was given a clean bill of health. After days recuperating at the centre, the stowaway owl was released into woodland at dusk on Tuesday, November 24.

"I always get choked up when I release birds because it's such a labour of love. It's beautiful and it's what we live for – all the rehabbers –seeing them go back to the wild," Ellen Kalish, who runs Ravensbeard, told National Geographic.