Flaco was the Eurasian eagle-owl who made headlines last year after escaping from New York City’s Central Park Zoo and becoming beloved by residents and individuals on social media. This past week, zoo officials announced that Flaco had unfortunately died, he was 13-years-old.
Flaco initially escaped the Central Park after being freed from his cage in a criminal act that remains unsolved. The zoo said in a statement that Flaco likely was killed after colliding with a building in the Upper West Side.
“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death. We are still hopeful that the NYPD which is investigating the vandalism will ultimately make an arrest.”
The Wild Bird Fund, a wildlife rehabilitation center, sent its staff to respond to the scene of Flaco’s accident where they declared him dead shortly after he collided with the building. Flaco was then taken to the Bronx Zoo for a necropsy.
“We hoped only to see Flaco hooting wildly from the top of our local water tower, never in the clinic,” the World Bird Fund wrote in a social media post.
Flaco initially arrived at the Central Park Zoo as a fledgling in 2010. On February 2nd, 2023, someone broke in through a waist-high fence and then cut a hole through a steel mesh cage which would free Flaco.
The zoo ended up suspending their efforts to recapture Flaco the same month he went missing, and since that point there has been no new information made public regarding his return.
However, since his initial escape Flaco has continued to make headlines, and has become somewhat of a mascot for New Yorkers. He was known to spend his days hanging out in Manhattan’s courtyards, parks, or the various fire escape perches, while he would spend his evenings perched on the city’s water towers waiting to hunt the rats of New York City.
Avid bird watchers in the city would trach Flaco on his daily journeys, and some would even be surprised by him turning up outside of their windows as a place to rest. He’s become somewhat of a New York City icon, prompting an emotional response from residents everywhere.
David Barrett is a New Yorker who’s been one of Flaco’s most dedicated watchers, and made a post online for the Manhattan Bird Alert suggesting a temporary memorial at Flaco’s favorite oak tree in Central Park where he was often spotted throughout the past year.
Barrett wrote that this memorial would allow for fellow birdwatchers and fans of Flaco to “lay flowers, leave a note, or just be with others who loved Flaco.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.