When Flaco, an Eurasian eagle owl, first escaped from his vandalized enclosure at the Central Park Zoo in New York City, his handlers questioned whether he could survive on his own after spending the majority of his life in captivity.
But 12 days after he flew the coop, the nocturnal bird of prey is proving his doubters wrong. He is not only demonstrating that he is an agile aviator by swooping from tree to tree along Central Park South’s “Billionaires’ Row,” according to zoo officials, but he is also a quick hunter study.
The Central Park Zoo staff said that Flaco’s escape raised a lot of concerns about whether or not he could survive on his own in the asphalt jungle. Zoo administrators claim that is no longer a concern.
“Since that first night, our staff has intensely monitored the eagle owl each day and evening to document and observe his behavior and activity in Central Park,” Zoo officials said in a statement on Sunday. A few days ago, he was last seen successfully hunting, catching, and consuming prey. Both his confidence when moving around the park and his ability to fly have improved rapidly.
Recently, the owl has been spotted numerous times perched in trees eating rodents.
On February 2 at around 8:30 p.m., staff at the zoo found Flaco missing. They informed the New York Police Department that it appeared that a vandal had cut the exhibit’s stainless steel mesh.
The NYPD claims that the incident is still under investigation, but no arrests have been made.
Zoo employees quickly located the owl. On the sidewalk of Fifth Avenue, close to the well-known luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman, stunned witnesses saw him for the first time. However, most of his time has been spent at the southern end of Central Park, flying between the West and East Sides and even perching on trees within the zoo.
A group of zookeepers had been constantly watching Flaco’s movements with nets and traps as he resisted their attempts to “rescue” him.
“Since our recovery strategies, up to this point, have all been based on luring him to familiar food items, we need to rethink our approach,” zoo officials stated in their Sunday update. Our primary concern has always been the well-being of the eagle owl. Our observations suggest that he is content in the park’s hunting area, so we don’t want to do anything to encourage him to leave.
The zoo claims that Flaco “faces potential challenges in this environment on a daily basis,” but they have reduced their efforts to rehabilitate him.
A major concern is Flaco’s potential consumption of a poisoned rat. A barred owl named “Barry” was killed when it flew into the path of a Central Park Conservancy maintenance vehicle in August 2021. Authorities claim that Barry’s necropsy revealed a level of rat poison that could have affected the owl’s ability to fly and killed it.
“We will continue to monitor him, though not as intensely, and look to opportunistically recover him when the situation is right,” zoo officials stated regarding Flaco.
Meanwhile, Flaco is quickly emerging as the most well-known bird in the city. He drew crowds in the park over the weekend that rivaled those attracted by the Mandarin duck. The Mandarin duck is a brilliantly colored bird that mysteriously showed up in the park in 2018, remained there for several months, and then vanished completely.
“I just wanted to see him. When economics professor Jen Roff saw Flaco sleeping in a tree on Monday afternoon, she commented, “I just think it’s really fun.” I find him beautiful. He looks amazing.
Moustafa Elbeik also went to Central Park to see the owl during the lunch break on Monday.
Elbeik said, “It’s pretty impressive,” and he added that finding out that Flaco is now catching his own food was also a relief.
“He’s helping to take care of our rat problem,” Elbeik stated. I sincerely appreciate it.”