Can Flaco the Escaped Owl Survive and Thrive in NYC?


When a Eurasian eagle owl named Flaco escaped the Central Park Zoo in February of 2023, zoo officials, avian experts, and the public worried about his ability to survive.

However, Flaco soon proved that he was capable of making it on his own. The Eurasian owl had spent 13 years in captivity after being brought to the zoo at less than a year old.

Despite this, he soon adjusted to life in the wild. He learned to hunt and even grew in size. Yet, skepticism remains about Flaco’s long-term ability to survive in the wild.

Eurasian eagle owls, such as Flaco, are not native to New York City. Indeed, the impressively large birds are not found in North America, except in captivity (or if they are Flaco).

Wild members of this species are normally found in Europe, Asia, Northern Africa, and parts of the Arabian peninsula.

They are one of the largest owls in the world. Indeed, Flaco the owl’s wingspan measures an impressive six feet.

Source: PIX11 News/YouTube

Although Flaco has called Central Park his home since his escape, he recently left the park and was spotted in the Lower East Side neighborhood. It is theorized that Flaco was spooked by the New York City Marathon when tens of thousands of people converged on the park. Flaco has since returned to Central Park. However, his brief foray into greater NYC prompted renewed speculation about whether the owl could survive in the wild.

Although Flaco has learned to hunt, he runs the risk of accidentally ingesting poison or being hit by a car. The poison used to control the park’s rat population could be deadly to Flaco if he ingests it.

Speculation has also increased over whether Flaco will potentially be able to find a mate. As an escaped member of his species, he will not be able to find an owl of his own species to mate with. However, it is possible that he would be able to hybridize with a native owl. For example, a great horned owl named Geraldine also resides in New York’s Central Park. It is theoretically possible that the two could mate.

Ultimately, Flaco’s fate remains to be seen. However, for now, he remains safe and at large.

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This article by Willow Lynn was first published by One Green Planet on 27 November 2023. Image Credit :Doubleclix/Shutterstock.





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