A US family found fame online this week after they discovered an owl living in their Christmas tree and started documenting the bizarre experience on Facebook.
The Newmans, from the US state of Georgia, bought their festive fir back in November and had already decorated it in their living room when they realised the unexpected guest – a small screech owl – had taken refuge among the branches.
Katie McBride Newman said her 10-year-old daughter India first spotted the stowaway bird one night just after they had finished dinner.
“She comes very dramatically into the dining room and goes, ‘Mama, that ornament scared me,'” the mother of two told CNN. “Then she bursts into tears.”
Coincidentally Ms Newman is a big fan of the birds and had a number of owl decorations on the tree, so assumed India had been startled by one of them.
But when she went to check the tree, she realised it was a real owl which turned its head to look at her as she approached.
The stunned family opened windows to try and encourage it to leave, but the next morning it still remained perched on the tree.
They contacted their local wildlife centre, the Chattahoochee Nature Center, who told them they needed to leave out some raw chicken for the owl as it may not have eaten for days.
The saga unfolded on Ms Newman’s Facebook page, where she posted regular updates, including videos of her returning home from work or school to see if the bird was still hiding inside their large three-metre tree.
Eventually, experts from the Chattahoochee Nature Center were able to visit the Newmans and safely capture the owl.
The refuge told CNN their employee identified the bird as an Eastern screech owl, which is common place in Georgia. They checked it for injuries and fed it, noting that the owl was quite thin, and speculating that it could even have been hiding in the tree since the family bought it.
After dark, the family took the owl into the forest in a carrier and released it back into the wild.
In a final Facebook update with a picture of the now empty carrier, Ms Newman wrote a tribute to the owl and thanked those on social media who had been following the tale.
“Thank you for the honor you bestowed on our family – for making the magic & mystery of advent come alive in our home, and for inspiring connection among all who followed the adventure.
“God’s peace to you as you make your new home outside our home. We hope to see you again. . . And to all a good night.”