TORONTO -- A New York Christmas tree that earned widespread scorn online for its scraggly appearance was met with wonder days later after a tiny owl was found among its branches.

The little bird, now named Rockefeller, wasn’t in great shape when he was found Monday. Dehydrated and hungry, the male owl likely hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in days, according to the wildlife rehabilitation centre where he was taken.

Rockefeller made the journey out of Manhattan in a cardboard box with a clipping of spruce branches tucked beside him. When Ellen Kalish opened the box, the director and founder of the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center in Saugerties recognized the owl as a Saw-whet owl, one of nature’s smallest.

“It had been three days since he ate or drank anything,” Kalish said in a Facebook post.

Rockefeller’s condition has rapidly improved since then. He’s feasted on a buffet of all-you-can-eat mice and received fluids, and Kalish said his distinct yellow eyes seem brighter. Soon, he’ll be ready to head home.

“Once he checks in with the vet and gets a clean bill of health, he’ll be released to continue on his wild and wonderful journey,” Kalish said.

It’s unclear how Rockefeller ended up in Manhattan. Saw-whet owls are nocturnal forest birds known for roosting in the trunks of evergreen trees during the daytime. One possibility is that the owl was transported along with the Christmas tree, a 23-metre Norway spruce, when it was chopped down in central New York and brought to Manhattan on Saturday.

Before the owl was discovered, the tree had been criticized on social media for its appearance. Commenters pointed out the tree’s unusually scraggly state, with one calling it “on brand” for 2020.

It was hardly the first tree to get slagged by the internet. In 2016, Montreal’s Christmas tree drew spectators far and wide for its lopsided, patchy appearance, decorated with miniature red logos from Canadian Tire. The tree earned its own Twitter account, @sapinlaid, which translates to “ugly fir.”

In Rome, a $74,000 tree earned a reputation as the world’s saddest after it continuously lost needles, with some locals nicknaming it “baldy.”

With files from The Associated Press