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"Flaco" outside its enclosure: The bird was a popular photo motif around Central Park

Photo: Seth Wenig / AP

For more than a year, the sight of an eagle owl in the heart of New York thrilled people in the US metropolis, but now Flaco's life has come to a tragic end: the bird died after it presumably crashed into a building. said a statement from the Central Park Zoo.

Accordingly, employees of the wildlife rescue service WBF recovered his body from the ground next to a building in Manhattan following a tip from eyewitnesses.

The Eurasian eagle owl escaped from the Central Park Zoo at the beginning of February 2023 after unknown people cut the bars of its enclosure.

Over the months, the stately bird has been spotted several times in and around the park, photographed and its image shared as a curiosity on social media - for example during a trip to the famous shopping street Fifth Avenue.

Plenty of rodents for food

Employees kept an eye on Flaco during his time in the wild and were ready to catch him if he showed signs of stress or difficulty, the zoo said.

Experts had feared that the animal would no longer be able to feed itself after its long life in captivity.

But the eagle owl was apparently able to benefit from the rat population in New York and was repeatedly spotted on buildings, fire escapes and water towers.

Those responsible at the zoo are of the opinion that the bird would have continued to live in captivity: "The vandal who damaged Flaco's enclosure endangered the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for its death," says the official statement.

There is still hope that the police investigation will eventually lead to an arrest.