Taste of Freedom - Falco

By Karin Bolcshazy

Eurasian Eagle Owl
Eurasian Eagle Owl

In February, 2023, Flaco, a male Eurasian Eagle Owl, escaped from his enclosure at Central Park Zoo in NYC, after a crime was committed by someone cutting a hole in the steel mesh of his enclosure, and so the love story of Flaco, and New Yorkers, and the rest of the country began.

Flaco had come to the zoo as a fledgling 13 years earlier and to the surprise of many experts, he was thriving in the urban wilds. An apex predator and one of largest owl species with a nearly 6-foot wingspan, he called on abilities some feared he hadn't developed during a lifetime in captivity, gamely exploring new neighborhoods and hunting at night. Attempts to recapture him were unsuccessful.

Flaco spent his initial 9 months of freedom mostly in Central Park, which is loaded with wildlife, but later preferred more urban sections of Manhattan. Although Flaco successfully hunted, living in Central Park has other risks like vehicular traffic, rodenticide, and window collision. There has been some speculation that he had been looking for a mate, though he most certainly won't find one. Eurasian eagle owls aren't native to North America.

On February 23, 2024, Flaco was found on the ground on West 89th Street, seriously injured and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter after colliding with the building.

Flaco's death brought additional scrutiny to the issue of building standards for windows that reduce the likelihood of bird collisions and deaths. New York City itself set tough standards in 2019; a bill in the New York Legislature to require more bird-friendly design in buildings statewide was renamed the FLACO Act on February 26, the Monday after Flaco's death.

Sources: Wikipedia, NYT, NPR