Advertisement

Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl who escaped captivity, is dead

Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl who escaped captivity, is dead

Flaco the Eurasian eagle-owl, who captivated New Yorkers after escaping from Central Park Zoo last February, has died.

The 13-year-old bird was found unresponsive on Friday by staff from the Wild Bird Fund wildlife rehabilitation centre after he apparently collided with a building on Manhattan’s West 89th Street, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards. The Wild Bird Fund notified zoo staff who took the bird to the Bronx Zoo for a necropsy.

Flaco’s escape after a vandal broke into Central Park Zoo under the cover of darkness and cut a hole in his steel mesh cage transformed him into one of New York’s most beloved celebrities.

Zoo officials initially tried to recapture the majestic owl, before abandoning their efforts after Flaco appeared to thrive in the urban wilds of Manhattan.

Frequent sightings of Flaco hunting around Central Park and perched atop building fire escapes were met with great excitement.

Flaco’s dramatic escape and survival captured New Yorkers’ hearts (David Lei)
Flaco’s dramatic escape and survival captured New Yorkers’ hearts (David Lei)

Flaco had initially defied fears that he would be unable to survive outside of captivity by learning how to hunt New York City’s abundant rat and pigeon population.

Wild Bird Fund director Rita McMahon told the New York Times that Flaco may have died from eating poisoned rats, which are sluggish and easier to catch.

Central Park Zoo officials said that they hoped whoever had cut open Flaco’s enclosure would be caught and prosecuted.

“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardised the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death,” zoo officials said in a statement.

“We are still hopeful that the NYPD which is investigating the vandalism will ultimately make an arrest.”

Flaco initially survived by hunting rats around Central Park (Associated Press)
Flaco initially survived by hunting rats around Central Park (Associated Press)

Flaco’s death led to an outpouring of grief on social media.

“So much joy you brought to us all. I know I am not alone in my sadness tonight. RIP Flaco,” Sheryl Checkman wrote in a post on X.

Valerie Block wrote in a post that Flaco was a “gift for the short time he roamed free”, adding: “May he live on in our memories.”

The Manhattan Bird Alert social media account noted that Flaco had not been heard hooting around his usual roost on the Upper West Side for the last four days.

It said that the bird may have been ill, and hoped that the results of the necropsy would provide answers.