Flaco, the escaped Central Park Zoo owl, dies

Flaco, the rare Eurasian owl that captured the attention of New York City and was dubbed “the most famous owl in the world,” died after reportedly colliding with a building on Friday, the Central Park Zoo said.

The beloved bird’s death comes just over a year after he escaped from his vandalized exhibit at the Central Park Zoo.

The initial findings from a necropsy performed on Saturday are consistent with death due to “acute traumatic injury,” the zoo said in an update.

PHOTO: Flaco, an escaped Eagle owl, remains in Central Park

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 15: Flaco, a Eurasian eagle owl that escaped from the Central Park Zoo, continues to roost and hunt in Central Park, February 15, 2023 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The “main impact” was to his body, with “substantial hemorrhage” under the sternum and around the liver, the zoo said. There were no bone fractures found.

He was otherwise in good health, the zoo said, with “good muscling and adequate fat stores.” He weighed 4.1 pounds, nearly as much as when his weight was last taken at the zoo.

“The next step will be to identify any underlying factors that may have negatively affected his health or otherwise contributed to the event,” the zoo said. “This will include microscopic examination of tissue samples; toxicology tests to evaluate potential exposures to rodenticides or other toxins; and testing for infectious diseases such as West Nile Virus and Avian Influenza.”

The results are expected to take weeks to complete, the zoo said.

Flaco apparently collided with a building on West 89th Street in Manhattan. People in the building reported the downed owl to the Wild Bird Fund (WBF). Staff from the WBF quickly responded, but he was non-responsive and they declared him dead shortly afterward.

“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 zoo said in a statement on Friday.

Nearly 250,000 birds are estimated to die annually in New York City as a result of building collisions, according to the zoo.

PHOTO: David Barrett, creator and operator of the Manhattan Bird Alert social media site, is pictured here on Jan. 13, 2024, photographing Flaco, the Eurasian eagle owl in the North Woods of Central Park.

David Barrett, creator and operator of the Manhattan Bird Alert social media site, is pictured here on Jan. 13, 2024, photographing Flaco, the Eurasian eagle owl in the North Woods of Central Park.

Bill Hutchinson/ABC News

Flaco unwittingly transformed from an obscure bird to a cause célèbre after being reported missing on Feb. 2, 2023, from the cramped Central Park digs that served as his home since 2010, when he arrived in the city as a fledgling from a North Carolina bird sanctuary. He had been hatched and raised in captivity for the first 12 years of his life.

Flaco had been released from captivity by Central Park vandals, police said. Despite an extensive search, Flaco was able to evade capture for an entire year — and developed a following.

PHOTO: Timeline of Flaco on the Lam

Timeline of Flaco on the Lam

ABC News

Flaco immediately caused a stir on one of Manhattan’s most fashionable shopping streets, Fifth Avenue, where he landed on the sidewalk near the Bergdorf Goodman department store, drawing a crowd and the NYPD. Officers cordoned him off with yellow crime scene tape and set an open cage next to him, apparently in case he wanted to surrender. Before they could move in to catch him, the mottled-colored creature flew off to a tree in front of the Plaza Hotel.

“He’s certainly my most photographed bird of 2023,” David Barrett, the creator and manager of Manhattan Bird Alert, and encountered Flaco told ABC News last year. “He’s the most famous bird in the world.”

PHOTO: Flaco Sightings in Manhattan

Flaco Sightings in Manhattan

ABC News

Flaco would continue to draw crowds and his survival skills stunned those who did not think he could survive outside the enclosure.

“Several days ago, we observed him successfully hunting, catching, and consuming prey. We have seen a rapid improvement in his flight skills and ability to confidently maneuver around the park,” zoo officials said last year.

Feb. 2 marked a year since the apex predator slipped through an opening vandals cut in the stainless steel mesh of his enclosure at the Central Park Zoo and bolted into the wilds of America’s largest city, testing the limits of his six-foot wingspan for the first time in his life.

ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

First appeared on abcnews.go.com

Leave a Comment