Owl (vis) has left the building

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:58 16/05/2014
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MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
FLYING VISIT: The morepork at Mitre 10 Mega.

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Nelson's Mitre 10 Mega morepork has flown away, leaving a clutch of disappointed fans in its wake.

News of the morepork nestled in the rafters and flying low over the checkout line generated huge interest locally and from around the country, but it had now left the building, the store's marketing co-ordinator, Murray Leaning, said today

He admitted the store was missing the mega profile it had created.

"Everyone has been inquiring about it. We've had schools turn up to see it, crowds of people have dropped in. People on the street have inquired - and at quiz night the other night, everyone was asking how the owl was."

The morepork turned up in the store on Monday morning, confounding staff and customers as it swooped low and silently above their heads. Staff reckoned it got into the building while chasing one of the sparrows that dine on crumbs from the outdoor seating area at the store's cafe in the garden centre. Small birds are part of a morepork's diet.

It managed to leave on its own accord, after management sought advice from various animal and bird experts, but then it came back, leaving staff to wonder if it might have been a "homing owl".

"He flew out the door, flew around for a while, and flew back in. He doesn't like the rain," Leaning said on Tuesday. He figured the morepork was a "he" because it appeared apparently happy with its newfound roost in the rafters above the trade department.

Leaning said today the new entrants class at Enner Glynn School turned up to see the owl during the week with pictures they had drawn and suggestions on how to encourage it to fly away home. They ranged from building a remote-controlled owl to fly around and attract the morepork to follow it out the door, to covering the store in black paper.

"Put black paper all over Mitre 10 and the morepork will think it is nighttime and he will fly out the door. Then slam the door!" wrote Kaleb.

Young pupil Ethan suggested making a morepork kite the children could fly, so the morepork would fly after it.

"They were disappointed they did not get to see the morepork. We're sort of hoping it might come back . . .I'm tempted to go out a buy an artificial one I can move around. It's been priceless for us," Leaning said of the profile it had given them.

It had also attracted reminders of cultural protocol, including an email from a woman in Wellington's Department of Justice who wrote a personal note from her workplace informing Mitre 10 that feathers from the ruru - New Zealand's only surviving native owl cherished for its haunting, melancholic call, were sacred. If any dropped to the floor they could be gathered only by local kaumatua. "I'm fully aware of cultural obligations and was able to tell her the morepork flew off without dropping any feathers," Leaning said.

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- The Nelson Mail

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