NATIONAL NEWS

Death of beloved New York City owl, Flaco, in apparent building collision devastates legions of fans

Feb 24, 2024, 11:10 AM | Updated: 1:10 pm

Tributes poured in Saturday for Flaco, the beloved Eurasian eagle-owl that became a feel-good New York story after escaping its Central Park Zoo enclosure and flying free around Manhattan.

Flaco was found dead on a New York City sidewalk Friday night after apparently flying into a building. It was a heartbreaking end for the birders who documented the owl’s daily movements and the legions of admirers who eagerly followed along.

“Everybody feels the same, they’re devastated,” said Nicole Blair, a New York City artist who devoted much of her feed on the X platform to photos and memes featuring the celebrity owl with checkerboard black and brown feathers and round sunset-hued eyes.

Staff from the Wild Bird Fund, a wildlife rehabilitation center, declared Flaco dead shortly after the collision. A necropsy was expected on Saturday.

The normally vocal owl whose hours of hooting became a nightly song in the Upper West Side had been quieter in the days before his death, said David Barrett, who runs the Manhattan Bird Alert account on X and tracked reports of the owl’s activities.

Barrett had wondered whether Flaco had gone off to explore other neighborhoods, but news of the death made him suspect he had become ill, he said Saturday.

“He hadn’t gone anywhere. He was just being quiet in his old neighborhood and that, I say, suggests he was not well, he was not feeling up to hooting,” Barrett said.

Flaco was freed from his cage at the zoo a little over a year ago by a vandal who breached a waist-high fence and cut a hole through a steel mesh cage. The owl had arrived at the zoo as a fledgling 13 years earlier.

Flaco sightings soon became sport. The majestic owl with a nearly 6-foot wingspan spent his days perched on tree branches, fence posts and fire escapes and nights hooting atop water towers and preying on the city’s abundant rats.

Like a true celebrity, the owl appeared on murals and merchandise. A likeness occupied a spot on Blair’s New York City-themed Christmas tree, right next to “Pizza Rat,” the infamous rodent seen in a YouTube clip dragging a slice down a subway stairwell.

“I got to see him on my birthday,” Blair said of her encounter with Flaco in Central Park in the fall. “It was kind of an unbelievable situation, and I’m like, this is the best birthday present ever.”

But she and others worried when Flaco ventured beyond the park into more urban sections of Manhattan, fearing the owl would ingest a poisoned rat or be killed in traffic.

“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death,” the zoo said in a statement Friday. “We are still hopeful that the NYPD which is investigating the vandalism will ultimately make an arrest.”

Flaco fans on Saturday shared suggestions for a permanent bronze statue overlooking New York City. One requested that the owl’s remains be buried in Central Park.

“Flaco the Owl was, in many ways, a typical New Yorker — fiercely independent, constantly exploring, finding ways to survive ever-changing challenges,” read a post on the X platform, reflecting a common sentiment. “He will be missed.”

Barrett said visitors were dropping by a temporary memorial at the owl’s favorite oak tree in the park to lay flowers and share memories.

“Seeing an owl at all is special,” he said. “Seeing an owl well, consistently day after day, that’s quite a special thing. And that’s something Flaco delivered.”

National News

Associated Press

Trial opens for former Virginia hospital medical director accused of sexual abuse of ex-patients

NEW KENT, Va. (AP) — The former longtime medical director of a Virginia hospital that serves vulnerable children used physical examinations as a “ruse” to sexually abuse two teenage patients, a prosecutor said Monday, while the physician’s attorney “adamantly” denied any inappropriate conduct. The trial of Daniel N. Davidow of Richmond, who for decades served […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

US House Judiciary Committee chair seeks details from ATF on airport director shooting

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on Monday asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to provide documents and information about its raid at the home last month of the Little Rock airport director who died after a shootout with agents serving a search warrant. Bill […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Minnesota state senator arrested on suspicion of burglary

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A state senator and former broadcast meteorologist was arrested on suspicion of burglary early Monday in the northwestern Minnesota city of Detroit Lakes, police said. Democratic Sen. Nicole Mitchell, 49, of Woodbury, was being held in the Becker County Jail on suspicion of first-degree burglary. Formal charges were still pending Monday afternoon, […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

William Strickland, a longtime civil rights activist, scholar and friend of Malcom X, has died

BOSTON (AP) — William Strickland, a longtime civil rights activist and supporter of the Black Power movement who worked with Malcom X and other prominent leaders in the 1960s, has died. He was 87. Strickland, whose death April 10 was confirmed by a relative, first became active in civil rights as a high schooler in […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Insider Q&A: Trust and safety exec talks about AI and content moderation

Alex Popken was a longtime trust and safety executive at Twitter focusing on content moderation before leaving in 2023. She was the first employee there dedicated to moderating Twitter’s advertising business when she started in 2013. Now, she’s vice president of trust and safety at WebPurify, a content moderation service provider that works with businesses […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Lawsuit alleges negligence in hiring of maintenance man accused of torturing resident

BALTIMORE (AP) — April Hurley’s attacker entered her apartment after identifying himself as the building maintenance man — a job he should never have obtained, according to a lawsuit filed Monday that accuses the property owner and management company of engaging in negligent hiring practices. Once inside the apartment, Jason Billingsley tortured Hurley and her […]

6 hours ago

Death of beloved New York City owl, Flaco, in apparent building collision devastates legions of fans