The Manhattan Bird Alert said they are relieved that Flaco has learned to obtain prey and feed himself after only a week in the wild.
Flaco, a rare Eurasian eagle owl, has become NYC's newest celebrity after the long-time resident of the Central Park Zoo seemingly figured out how to survive and hunt in the wild. The bird went missing from the zoo on February 2, 2023, around 8:30 a.m. after vandals cut through his mesh cage.
I feel pretty! Nothing like a little pre-flight hygiene to get an owl in shape for a night out! #birdcpp #flaco #eurasianeagleowl pic.twitter.com/xv70lI8rPM— Sheryl Checkman (@DiveArtist) February 21, 2023
Although he was later spotted near Bergdorf Goodman on the East Side, he eventually appeared to have returned to a tree in Heckscher Park near his old home at the Central Park Zoo, sparking a manhunt involving park rangers and even police officers. Several attempts have been made to apprehend the evading raptor, reports The Spirit.
Zookeepers attempted to entice him with bait and recordings of eagle owl calls, according to a statement from the Central Park Zoo. "Though he showed some interest in the calls, the attempt was unsuccessful. They had set a trap for the elusive owl but he managed to untangle himself from the netting and escape before zookeepers arrived to try to capture him. As noted previously, efforts at recovering the bird have proven more difficult since he has been very successful at hunting and consuming the abundant prey in the park," the statement reads. "We are going to continue monitoring Flaco and his activities and to be prepared to resume recovery efforts if he shows any sign of difficulty or distress. We will issue additional updates if there is a change in the eagle owl's status or our plan changes."
We understand that no harm was intended, but if you go to see Flaco, or any owl, don't hoot! Just observe quietly so the owl can rest undistracted. Flaco probably will do plenty of hooting on his own. 💕🦉— Manhattan Bird Alert (@BirdCentralPark) February 20, 2023
The Central Park Zoo worried initially that he'd be unable to fend for himself since he was used to being fed in the zoo since he arrived there in 2010. However, late last week, at least one Twitter user posted a picture of Flaco devouring a rat.
While the world is worried about UFOs/balloons, I’m over here fighting the Central Park Zoo’s attempt to thwart the escape of Flaco, an owl just seeking freedom. #freeflaco pic.twitter.com/UNOCcXEw9m— JamesMacdonaldNY (@macdonald_ny) February 17, 2023
"We are relieved and overjoyed that Flaco the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, who had spent his entire roughly 13-year life in captivity, has learned to obtain prey and feed himself after a week in the wild of Central Park," tweeted the Manhattan Bird Alert run by David Barrett on February 10.
Passing a poodle: “That dog is not at risk.”— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) February 20, 2023
Passing a miniature poodle: “That dog might be at risk.”
Passing a dog park: “This is a good hunting ground.”
Birdwatchers across the Big Apple have since tried to snag photos of the escaped owl, many of which have been shared online as Flaco became a local celebrity, as per UPI. "As an avid birdwatcher, I wonder if it's not a great idea to introduce a huge, nonnative bird of prey to Central Park, an important stopover for many of our own native birds," birdwatcher Alison S. told the West Side Rag, a hyperlocal news website catering to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. "He will eat whatever he can, which could possibly include threatened species of our own, not to mention outcompeting or harassing the great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, and barred owls that visit us here."
But for now, the owl is allowed to keep his freedom. The Central Park Zoo announced on February 18 that they are suspending their efforts to recover Flaco but will continue monitoring him and resume such efforts "if he shows any sign of difficulty or distress."
Great looks!— Manhattan Bird Alert (@BirdCentralPark) February 16, 2023
Great news: the Central Park Zoo announced today that they are suspending their efforts to recover Flaco but will continue monitoring him and resume such efforts "if he shows any sign of difficulty or distress." https://t.co/jFKzzVFWRa— Manhattan Bird Alert (@BirdCentralPark) February 18, 2023