R.I.P. Flaco

Photo: David Lei, via Associated Press

New Yorkers are in mourning for Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl, who has been living his best life in the Upper West Side ever since being “freed” from the zoo by some probably well-meaning vandal who slashed his cage. The Flaco sightings have been an amazing bonding experience for the city. He was spotted here, there, people posting pics, people gathering around, keeping a safe distance, but marveling at his beauty, his ferocious eyes, his glamorous appearance. There was a lot of concern, of course, about how he would fare out in the wild. I mean, he IS an apex predator, so you assume he knows his way around, but still: he’s been in a zoo. And now he has to navigate Manhattan. He was seen on various nocturnal murder sprees, surrounded by the carnage of his hunts, and people relaxed. He knew what to do. He’s got this. A number of the Twitter feeds I follow are bird-watching accounts – they’re lovely and soothing, and the “Here’s Flaco!” posts were always exciting. People would post: “I SAW FLACO TODAY” and post some amazing picture of his fierce terrifying face peering out from a tree in Central Park.

Flaco, a King of the Sky, flew into a building last night. There’s something very emotional to see so many people mourning an owl, having room in their hearts to mourn his passing, to celebrate his life. A beautiful owl who would show up on people’s terraces randomly, sometimes even peeking through their windows!! – or be seen perched in a tree in the park, or on top of a water tower, during his year of freedom. And people would post pics to social media, and the comments would all be about how beautiful he was, and New Yorkers hoping they could see him and people from Egypt and Moscow and wherever else chiming in about how gorgeous he was and how jealous they were, they wanted to see him too. Life – and people – are sometimes like this.

The NY Times obituary for Flaco is unexpectedly moving. Like this:

One poignant aspect of Flaco’s Manhattan life was that, as a nonnative species, he was destined never to find a mate. That did not stop him from trying, sometimes hooting into the post-midnight darkness for hours to establish his territory and declare his interest in breeding.

Flaco’s last reported hoots were heard from a water tower on West 86th Street east of Columbus Avenue at 3 a.m. last Sunday, according to David Barrett’s Manhattan Bird Alert account on social media.

Rest in peace, Flaco. You were a blessing.

Photo: David Lei’s Instagram

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4 Responses to R.I.P. Flaco

  1. Lyrie says:

    Fuck. Right in the feels.

    • sheila says:

      It was such an adventure, this past year, bonding together over Flaco sightings. I am glad he spent the last year of his life in freedom, even though there are so many dangers for wild animals unfamiliar with being in a big city.

  2. Lyrie says:

    Yes, I had seen pictures and videos on social media. It was so bizarre and delightful to see him hooting from the top of a New York building.

    I’m the kind of person who puts stickers on their windows first thing upon moving into a new place if they’re a risk for birds, so sadly I’m not surprised that’s how he met his end. That New York Times quote is a little heartbreaking, but there’s also so kind of hope – or maybe not hope, but an invitation to survive no matter what that I find encouraging. You might be doomed but you’re gonna keep on keeping on until you can’t, because what else is there to do? I often appreciate those reminders from animals, wildlife and pets alike.

    • sheila says:

      Yes I totally agree – there was just something beautiful and hopeful about knowing he was out there. Imagine hearing an owl hooting above all the noise of NYC. It must have been wild!! An owl lives in a tree in my yard – I haven’t seen it yet – but I’ve heard it and it’s such a new sensation for me, after most of my life living in cities – to hear this hooting going on at twilight and into night. It’s just the most beautiful sound! so to New Yorkers – hearing it – knowing it was Flaco – it was just kind of magical.

      The photographer who took the two pics in this post said something beautiful on his insta page – something like “he spent the last year living for himself and being himself.” which really is kind of beautiful.

      I love how for a year it became a common occurrence for construction crews to show up first thing in the morning to their site – 6 in the morning, whatever – only to find Flaco, perched on top of an excavator staring down at them. Flaco loved excavators. lol. “Hey look who’s here! It’s Flaco!” Like he was totally embraced as part of the community.

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