Beloved Owl ‘Flaco’ Dies Suddenly After Spending A Year Flying Free In New York City

After spending 12 years in captivity at Central Park Zoo, a Eurasian eagle-owl named Flaco escaped and flew free around New York City for over a year.

Vandals tampered with his enclosure at the zoo which allowed him to escape. His natural instincts kicked in and he managed to survive on his own by eating rodents. He became an instant celebrity with New Yorkers and visitors who would head to Central Park just to catch a glimpse of the beloved owl perched in one of his favorite trees.

The stunning owl inspired many people with his piercing orange eyes, resilience, and independence. He soared across the skies of New York City for over a year before tragedy struck.

Sadly, his life came to an end when he collided with a Manhattan building. Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Central Park Zoo stated the following in a new release about the death of Flaco. “Bronx Zoo pathologists performed a necropsy today on Flaco, the Central Park Zoo’s Eurasian eagle owl, who died yesterday evening after reportedly colliding with a Manhattan building. The initial findings are consistent with death due to acute traumatic injury. The main impact appears to have been to the body, as there was substantial hemorrhage under the sternum and in the back of the body cavity around the liver.”

Further tests are being conducted to see if rodenticides or other toxins were present in his body.

One wildlife observer, David Lei, wrote on X, “I am sad beyond words. Flaco defied the odds and made quite a life for himself in the city over the past year. Along the way he came to mean so much to so many, including me.”

Mourners gathered at his favorite perch in the park to remember Flaco and leave flowers, cards, owl portraits, and much more at the base of the tree. There is also a memorial outside the building that he collided with on West 89th Street.

Artists have been inspired by Flaco and his story like Mark O., who wrote a poem for Flaco and shared it on X. Check it out below.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams also shared his sadness over the passing of Flaco. He posted on X, “We were saddened to hear about the passing of our neighbor Flaco, who captivated New Yorkers and reminded us of the beautiful wilderness that exists in our bustling urban landscape. Although he’s gone, his spirit will fly over NYC forever.”

Flaco will never be forgotten.

His death is also shedding light on the issue of birds colliding with buildings. The WCS said, “Flaco’s tragic and untimely death highlights the issue of bird strikes and their devastating effects on wild bird populations. It is estimated that nearly one quarter of a million birds die annually in New York City as a result of colliding with buildings.”

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service shares ways to help prevent these deadly collisions. They state that most collisions happen on homes or building smaller than four stories and other smaller glass enclosures. “Birds do not see glass as a barrier to avoid. When they are attracted to landscaping or interior lights and see natural reflections (like clouds and trees) in the glass or plants through windows, they often fly into the glass without realizing it is there.”

Learn how you can help save birds by simply dressing up your windows and reducing lights at night. Read more here.

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