Flaco the owl hunts for love nine months after escaping NY’s city zoo

  • Flaco the Eurasian Eagle-Owl abandons New York’s Central Park, nine months after escaping from the city zoo
  • Experts believe the 13-year-old raptor may be looking for a mate after he was spotted five miles away
  • ‘It’s the time of year when these owls look to pair up if unattached,’ tweeted fans at Manhattan Bird Alert

Nine months after escaping his cramped bachelor pad at New York’s Central Park Zoo, the city’s most famous feathered resident is stretching his wings in search of love.

Flaco the Eurasian Eagle-Owl made headlines around the world when he took advantage of vandalism at the city zoo to make a bolt for freedom.

Although the New York Police Department and zoo staff feared he would not survive, Flaco defied the odds, teaching himself to fly properly and to feed himself on the city’s bountiful supply of rats.

Now experts believe he has abandoned the park in the search for a mate after he was spotted five miles away on East 3rd Street.

But he may have to venture a little further than southern Manhattan as he is thought to be the only member of his species in North America.

Flaco the Eurasian Eagle-Owl was spotted around five miles from his usual haunts in New York's Central Park on Monday evening, landing on the roof of the building at East 3rd Street

The fluffy owl led police and zoo staff on a fruitless recapture mission after his escape from his enclosure at Central Park Zoo in February

Experts were impressed with his hunting skills after he learned how to make a meal of  the city's rats but remain concerned he may fall victim to a poisoned rodent

‘It’s the time of year when these owls look to pair up if unattached,’ tweeted fans at Manhattan Bird Alert.

‘Flaco’s hoots have gone unanswered for a long time now.

‘He was last observed in Central Park on the evening of October 31, and that’s when we think he left.

‘He likely took short, incremental night flights in the course of hunting that carried him five plus miles in six days.

‘He is unaware that no mates are anywhere in the region.’

Flaco was less than a year old when he arrived at Central Park Zoo in 2010 taking up residence near the Penguins and Sea Birds building.

He had little chance to develop his flying or hunting skills in captivity but has thrived since his escape and been spotted eating up to four rats at one sitting, belying his name which means ‘Skinny’ in Spanish.

His fans remain nervous he will fall victim to the rodenticide used to poison rats which is thought to have contributed to the death of a barred owl known as Barry, who died in the park in 2021.

Shortly after his escape he was spotted walking along New York City's iconic Fifth Avenue

He showed little fear of New Yorkers after more than 10 years attracting visitors in the zoo

Police tried to contain the owl in a cage but he flew off and returned to Central Park

One user posted a thermal image of the owl in Central Park during a nighttime bird watch

But his natural talents helped persuade zoo keepers to abandon their efforts at recapture – along with a petition for his freedom which attracted 1,500 signatures.

Not all the park’s residents have been happy about their new neighbor with the Bird Alert reporting that ‘the large flock of American Crows that had been mobbing Flaco daily might also have encouraged him to venture outside Central Park’.

But tourists have flocked from across the world to see the tufty-eared escapee with the six-feet wingspan who was described by French newspaper Le Monde having a backstory ‘worthy of a Walt Disney screenplay’.

And his fellow New Yorkers are following his latest adventure with bated breath.

‘Can’t we find someone to fix him up with? This is New York City, forgodsake!’ tweeted Terry Rosen.

‘Poor Flaco, he is lonely, even though he has a loyal following, not the same as having yer own Missus,’ wrote Lucyinthesky.

‘Flaco is about to find out what dating in NYC is like,’ wrote branwynne.

‘Flaco has the right idea,’ added PugofGloom

‘NYC is done.’

But Flaco may be exploring the city’s nightspots for some time yet. 

Even someone with Flaco's good looks might struggle to find love in Manhattan according to skeptical New Yorkers

Photographers and bird watchers from across the world were drawn to New York in February as news of Flaco's escape spread

‘It’s unlikely that he moves outside New York City,’ wrote his followers at Manhattan Bird Alert

‘For one thing, he probably will not want to cross the rivers or the harbor.

‘Birds in general have excellent geographic memory.

‘If Flaco wants to return to Central Park, he should know how.’


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