UNITED STATES NEWS

Death of beloved New York City owl, Flaco, in apparent building collision devastates legions of fans

Feb 24, 2024, 12:10 PM | Updated: 2:10 pm

Tributes poured in Saturday for Flaco, the beloved Eurasian eagle-owl that became a feel-good New York story after escaping its Central Park Zoo enclosure and flying free around Manhattan.

Flaco was found dead on a New York City sidewalk Friday night after apparently flying into a building. It was a heartbreaking end for the birders who documented the owl’s daily movements and the legions of admirers who eagerly followed along.

“Everybody feels the same, they’re devastated,” said Nicole Blair, a New York City artist who devoted much of her feed on the X platform to photos and memes featuring the celebrity owl with checkerboard black and brown feathers and round sunset-hued eyes.

Staff from the Wild Bird Fund, a wildlife rehabilitation center, declared Flaco dead shortly after the collision. A necropsy was expected on Saturday.

The normally vocal owl whose hours of hooting became a nightly song in the Upper West Side had been quieter in the days before his death, said David Barrett, who runs the Manhattan Bird Alert account on X and tracked reports of the owl’s activities.

Barrett had wondered whether Flaco had gone off to explore other neighborhoods, but news of the death made him suspect he had become ill, he said Saturday.

“He hadn’t gone anywhere. He was just being quiet in his old neighborhood and that, I say, suggests he was not well, he was not feeling up to hooting,” Barrett said.

Flaco was freed from his cage at the zoo a little over a year ago by a vandal who breached a waist-high fence and cut a hole through a steel mesh cage. The owl had arrived at the zoo as a fledgling 13 years earlier.

Flaco sightings soon became sport. The majestic owl with a nearly 6-foot wingspan spent his days perched on tree branches, fence posts and fire escapes and nights hooting atop water towers and preying on the city’s abundant rats.

Like a true celebrity, the owl appeared on murals and merchandise. A likeness occupied a spot on Blair’s New York City-themed Christmas tree, right next to “Pizza Rat,” the infamous rodent seen in a YouTube clip dragging a slice down a subway stairwell.

“I got to see him on my birthday,” Blair said of her encounter with Flaco in Central Park in the fall. “It was kind of an unbelievable situation, and I’m like, this is the best birthday present ever.”

But she and others worried when Flaco ventured beyond the park into more urban sections of Manhattan, fearing the owl would ingest a poisoned rat or be killed in traffic.

“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death,” the zoo said in a statement Friday. “We are still hopeful that the NYPD which is investigating the vandalism will ultimately make an arrest.”

Flaco fans on Saturday shared suggestions for a permanent bronze statue overlooking New York City. One requested that the owl’s remains be buried in Central Park.

“Flaco the Owl was, in many ways, a typical New Yorker — fiercely independent, constantly exploring, finding ways to survive ever-changing challenges,” read a post on the X platform, reflecting a common sentiment. “He will be missed.”

Barrett said visitors were dropping by a temporary memorial at the owl’s favorite oak tree in the park to lay flowers and share memories.

“Seeing an owl at all is special,” he said. “Seeing an owl well, consistently day after day, that’s quite a special thing. And that’s something Flaco delivered.”

United States News

This undated photo provided by the family's lawyers in July 2024 shows Sonya Massey of Springfield,...

Associated Press

Officials to release video of officer shooting Black woman in her home after responding to 911 call

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Officials in Illinois’ capital plan to release video on Monday of police entering the home of a woman who called 911 for help and the violent scene that ensued when a sheriff’s deputy shot her in the face. The Illinois State Police announced that Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser will […]

16 minutes ago

FILE - The Fulton County, Ga., Jail is seen, April 11, 2023, in Atlanta. The Bail Project, a nation...

Associated Press

National bail fund returns to Georgia after judge says limits were arbitrary

ATLANTA (AP) — The Bail Project, a national nonprofit that aids thousands of low-income people behind bars, said Monday it is reopening its Atlanta branch after a judge temporarily blocked part of a Georgia law that restricts organizations from helping people pay bail. Last month, the Bail Project said it would no longer be able […]

24 minutes ago

Associated Press

Shooting outside a Mississippi nightclub kills 3 and injures more than a dozen

INDIANOLA, Miss. (AP) — A shooting outside a Mississippi nightclub left three people dead and more than a dozen injured over the weekend, authorities said. A large crowd gathered outside a club near the Sunflower County courthouse in Indianola early Sunday, and officers were putting up barriers to help with traffic flow before the shooting […]

46 minutes ago

Associated Press

Truck driver charged in Ohio interstate crash that killed 3 students, 3 others

A truck driver in Ohio has been charged with aggravated vehicular homicide in a chain-reaction crash involving a charter bus filled with high school students that left six people dead and 18 injured. The crash on Interstate 70 last November killed three students on the bus and a teacher and two chaperones who were in […]

56 minutes ago

Associated Press

Evacuations lifted for Salt Lake City fire that triggered evacuations near state Capitol

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Authorities in Utah lifted evacuation orders for a wildfire in Salt Lake City that threatened neighborhoods near the state Capitol over the weekend. The evacuation order was lifted late Sunday after authorities said more than 100 firefighters worked to protect homes. Officials cautioned that residents needed to remain ready to […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Baltimore man arrested in deadly shooting of 12-year-old girl

BALTIMORE (AP) — A Baltimore man was arrested Sunday in the recent shooting of a 12-year-old girl who was found dead on the first floor of an east Baltimore rowhome. The shooting occurred Friday night. Police said they quickly identified Omar Passmore, 28, as a suspect. Passmore had a child with the victim’s mother, according […]

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Death of beloved New York City owl, Flaco, in apparent building collision devastates legions of fans