For Short-Eared Owl, There Are

Worse Places to Get Lost

Strange creatures fit right in on Miami Beach.

So maybe it makes sense that something rare, special and just plain stunning came plopping down out of nowhere on one of the streets in this playground of a city. This creature has become a scientific mystery, a short-eared owl that landed in a place where such owls have never been seen.

Greta Parks, director of the Falcon Batchelor Bird of Prey Center at the Miami Museum of Science, is trying to unravel the mystery. But first she had to get over the shock of seeing an employee walk in soaking wet from a Florida downpour with a soaking wet mystery bird.

"I said, 'Oh my gosh,' " Parks recalled.

She believes the owl, which is probably less than 1, might have gotten blown this way from Cuba, unable to navigate tricky winds because it is a novice flier. Or, it might be fleeing shrinking habitat in the Caribbean.

If that's the case, the Antillean short-eared owl that was nursed back to health and released may have forged new territory in an appropriate place. Short-eared owls that live farther north in the United States tend to be modest types, with feathers covering their feet and toes. But the flashy thing that Parks saved likes it skimpy, just like the people at the beach -- bare feet, bare toes. But, of course.

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Elizabeth Golden releases an Antillean short-eared owl that appeared in Miami Beach.