'No joke, we just found a live owl roosting in our Christmas tree'

One Georgia family's viral owl Christmas saga started began on December 12, with this Facebook post: "No joke, we just found a live owl roosting in our Christmas tree."

In the photo, an owl tucked in to the tree branches among lights and ornaments.

The local paper identified the critter as an Eastern screech owl, and the family says the bird was discovered when Katie McBride Newman's daughter was trimming the tree with owl ornaments. The girl "was both terrified and delighted," the newspaper wrote.

From the Associated Press:

Katie McBride Newman said Friday that she and her daughter spotted the bird on Dec. 12. They had bought the 10-foot (3-meter) tall tree from a Home Depot, brought it back to their Atlanta area home and decorated it with lights and, coincidentally, owl ornaments.

"It was surreal, but we weren't really freaked out about it," McBride Newman said. "We're really outdoorsy people. We love the wilderness."

The family opened windows and doors near the tree hoping the owl would fly away, but it didn't.

"The owl seemed to be pretty comfortable, and I thought, 'Hey buddy, it's not going to go well if you just stay here. There's no food, I'm sorry,'" said McBride Newman's husband, Billy Newman. So the family called a nonprofit nature center for help. The Chattahoochee Nature Center caught the bird and helped the family release it.

More: Family finds live owl while decorating indoor Christmas tree with owl ornaments in GA [star-telegram.com]