Eurasian Eagle-Owl ‘Flaco’ Dies After Escaping Central Park Zoo: Vandalism Suspected

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The Eurasian eagle-owl “Flaco”, who escape from the Central Park Zoo and later in life, loose in Manhattan attracted public attention, officials said, Flaco died Friday night after apparently striking a building on the Upper West Side.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, who operates the zoo, had given a statement that Flaco had been found on the ground after hitting a building on West 89th Street.

The residents of this buiding contacted the Wild Bird Fund, which is a rescue organization, whose staff members responded early, rescued him as dead a short time later, the society told.

The employees of the Zoo took him to the Bronx Zoo, Where a necropsy is performed to determine the cause of death. His age would have turned 14 year in the next month.

As a free bird Flaco’s year began on the evening of Feb. 2, 2023, in the small enclosure where he had spent almost all of his life, when someone tore the mesh off of it. According to the police’s January statement, the investigation is still ongoing, . No arrests had been made.

“Wildlife Conservation Dr. said in the society’s statement, “The vandals who destroyed Flacco’s exhibit, jeopardized the bird’s safety, and were ultimately responsible for its death.” “We’re still hoping that someone will be arrested soon by the NYPD, who is looking into the vandalism.”



Flaco started to gain a following. The night he was let loose, he turned up on the sidewalk along Fifth Avenue. With the police standing nearby and Bergdorf Goodman just a short flight away, he appeared out of place.

The New York Police Department’s 19th Precinct posted on social media, “Well, that was a hoot” . “We tried to help, but he had enough of his growing audience & flew off.”



Flaco had settled in Central Park

Central Park

He remained free as the days passed. Could he make it outside the zoo alive? After a lifetime, that question transformed his situation into one of an underdog.

Once he demonstrated his resilience, he turned into a beloved feathered comfort figure during difficult times, being followed in person or, frequently, through online accounts by regular New Yorkers, ornithologists, and bird watchers.

However, even without the risks posed by the urban environment, every day spent outside of captivity was dangerous. Eurasian eagle-owls in the wild can live for over 40 years in captivity.However, in their natural habitat, their average is just 20.

Among the many deadly threats he faced was striking a building, particularly a window. The other two were a deadly car crash and poisoning from the rodenticide in the rats he consumed.

Flaco proved immune for more than a year though.

An adult eagle owl perching on a tree branch








After leaving Central Park at the end of autumn, he, at the rooftop, water tower, and other advanced features of the built environment, excelled in navigating vehicles. However, the risk of striking buildings was much greater: 230,000 birds are killed in New York City annually when they collide with windows, according to the National Audubon Society.

David Lay, who, along with his partner Jacqueline Emery, has been following and photographing Flaco since raising him, said in an email that he and Mrs. Emery are “beyond words” sorry but keep all the sweet memories of him.

According to the records of the Association of Aviaries and Aquariums, a chick was born in the Silver Heights Bird Park in N.C.A. on March 15, 2010.

He reached the Central Park Aviary in less than two months. Initially, he was housed with snow leopards, snow monkeys, and red pandas. Later, he was relocated to a department store window shaped like a penguin enclosure.

He was far from his natural habitat: Eurasian eagle-owls, known scientifically as Bubo bubo, are apex predators typically found in Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, and Central Asia. They flourish in rugged landscapes adorned with dense forests, gracefully descending to hunt for meals like hares, rabbits, and various other diminutive creatures.

In a November 2010 press release, Flaco was quoted by the conservation committee as “settling in very well to his new home” and being “a truly remarkable sight.”

But Flaco’s life in the aviary was extraordinary. He began to inspire wonder right after his arrival.

In the first few days of his independence, conservation workers made several attempts to rehabilitate him. After he proved himself, they reluctantly admitted that captivity wasn’t his fate and allowed him the essential freedom of nature, earning him the permission to be outside the aviary, much to the delight of the gradually growing public sentiment.

A pivotal moment occurred when he was spotted grazing on a rabbit, later seen toying with a tuft of fur and bone.

At first, there was considerable apprehension about whether Flaco would be able to hunt and feed,” the conservation committee said in a statement 10 days after his departure. “It’s not about excitement anymore,” the aviary added.

Putting aside the excitement, society has said that Flaco’s new circumstances will “prompt a reevaluation of our approach”: “We’ll monitor him, albeit not as intensely, and attempt to reintegrate him beneficially if conditions permit.”

Moments ago, Flaco had been enjoying a leisurely life in the park’s northern end, lounging on favorite trees and scavenging for food.

Flaco dies

He bid farewell to the relative security of the park surroundings during Halloween, embarking on a journey across Manhattan that took him through the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, reveling in delightful terraces and air-conditioned interiors, which stood in stark contrast to the rugged terrain of his beloved Eurasian eagle-owl mountain ranges.

By mid-December, Flaco had settled on the Upper West Side, from 70s to 90s along Central Park West, making periodic returns to specific buildings.


He typically dozed in alcoves warmed by fireplaces during the day, where he was shielded from the warmth and breezes outside. In the evenings, he took flight in search of prey.


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