central park

Owl Escapes Central Park Zoo After Exhibit Vandalism — and NYC Predictably Goes Nuts

The standoff with the escaped creature moved back into the park overnight, where zoo staff were keeping tabs on it Friday morning

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One of Central Park's most notable residents took an unscheduled flight late Thursday, leading to an all-night standoff between zoo staff and Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl.

Central Park Zoo officials first noticed trouble around 8:30 p.m. when the bird's exhibit had been vandalized and its stainless steel mesh was cut. Flaco, they realized, was missing.

A team was quickly assembled and dispatched in search of the bird. Luckily, they didn't have to look too far before Flaco was spotted just outside the park on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.

The eurasian eagle owl caught the attention of onlookers (lucky enough to get an up-close view without paying for a ticket) after Flaco landed on the sidewalk near Fifth Avenue and East 60th Street. Attempts to corral the bird were unsuccessful and he flew off to a nearby tree.

Zoo staff found the owl perched in the tree, not far from his home, and kept a close watch all night. The zoo said staff stayed on hand until around sunrise, when Flaco made his next move.

The owl headed for the park, "where we continue to have visual contact with the bird," the zoo said.

And that's where the owl was last spotted Friday, near Sixth Avenue and Central Park South. Central's Park's Urban Park Rangers were keeping an eye on the bird. While its name, Flaco, is Spanish for skinny, the primary concern is making sure it has enough food to eat and getting it recovered quickly.

"The near-term concern is that it probably won't be eating, so it would be good to get it captured as soon as possible," said David Barrett, who runs the popular bird watching Twitter account "Manhattan Bird Alert. "It probably won't be eating on its own in Central Park, as it's been a captive owl. It probably won't have the skills needed to hunt, although it might. There are a lot of rats and rodents in Central Park."

Barrett said the owl is used to cold weather since its natural habitat is the mountains.

The Hallet Nature Sanctuary, where Flaco normally is kept, was closed while crews worked to safely return the owl.

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