New Yorkers, Fans Mourn Flaco the Escaped Central Park Owl: ‘Something Wild and Free and Determined to Persevere’

“Just seeing pictures of him made me happy,” actor Lou Diamond Phillips shared of the beloved bird who represented freedom following his zoo escape

Sheryl Checkman/Getty Images

Flaco the Eurasian eagle-owl, who escaped from the Central Park Zoo and continued to live free in Central Park, died Friday night after sadly colliding with a building. Beloved by New Yorkers and fans around the world alike, Flaco escaped in February 2023 and managed to evade recapture in the months that followed. He was able to make a run (fly?) for it after someone cut the stainless steel mesh of his cage. While there were initial worries about how Flaco would adjust in the wild, he appeared to thrive.

His death has saddened people around the world, from celebrities and New York residents to the Very Online. Many New Yorkers have flocked to memorials in Central Park to honor Flaco, and thousands have turned to social media to memorialize him. Some have compared the owl’s cult popularity with the way many Angelenos embraced mountain lion P-22.

Actor Lou Diamond Phillips tweeted, “Heartbroken. Flaco was an inspiration. His tenacity and will a sheer joy to experience. Something wild and free and determined to persevere. Just seeing pictures of him made me happy. I know many New Yorkers felt the same way. Forever Soar, Flaco.”

Legendary science-fiction author William Gibson simply wrote, “*sigh* Flaco.”

“Mystery Science Theater 3000” actor and comedian Frank Conniff added, “Rest In Peace, my upper Manhattan neighbor, Flaco. I hope somewhere in the afterlife, Millie and Barney are having a staring contest with you.”

Los Angeles comedian and author Laurie Kilmartin wrote, “I loved reading about Flaco.”

Journalist Kemberly Richardson shared a video of Flaco from November 2023. She tweeted, “He captured our hearts, curiosity & souls. This was #flaco in November, a surprise visit for a couple on the UES. He was a majestic creature who in an odd, wonderful way brought our city together.”

The death of the 14-year-old owl was announced by Manhattan Bird Alert on X (formerly Twitter). The account tweeted, “We are heartbroken to report that Flaco the Eurasian Eagle-Owl has died tonight ‘after an apparent collision with a building on West 89th Street in Manhattan.’”

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