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Zoologists confirm cause of death of celebrity New York owl Flaco

The Eurasian eagle-owl was found dead on Friday after apparently colliding with a building

Amelia Neath,Bevan Hurley
Monday 26 February 2024 19:57 GMT
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New York eagle owl "Flaco" is dead after building collision

Zoologists have confirmed the cause of death of Flaco, New York City’s much-loved Eurasian eagle-owl, who escaped from Central Park Zoo last February.

Zoo officials reported that Flaco had died on Friday evening after reportedly colliding with a Manhattan building.

The initial findings from a necropsy performed by Bronx Zoo pathologists are consistent with death due to acute traumatic injury, Central Park Zoo said in a statement.

They found substantial haemorrhage under the sternum and in the back of the body cavity around the liver, suggesting that the main impact appears to have been on the 13-year-old owl’s body.

A small amount of bleeding behind the left eye was also found, but apart from that, there was no evidence of head trauma.

No bone fractures were found during the necropsy, and his body was deemed in good condition at the time of his death, with good muscling and adequate fat stores.

Flaco escaped just a year ago after a vandal broke into Central Park Zoo while it was dark and cut a hole in his steel mesh cage, and he has since taken the streets of New York City as a local celebrity.

Flaco, 13, was adored by many New Yorkers in his year of adventure around the city (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Zoo officials initially tried to recapture the majestic owl, before abandoning their efforts after Flaco appeared to thrive in the urban wilds of Manhattan.

His last weight taken while he still resided at the zoo was 1.9kg, and during his necropsy, he was 1.86kg.

The zoo said that further action will need to be taken to identify any underlying factors that could have negatively affected Flaco’s health, or that could have contributed to the event.

They said this process will include “microscopic examination of tissue samples; toxicology tests to evaluate potential exposures to rodenticides or other toxins; and testing for infectious diseases such as West Nile Virus and Avian Influenza.”

“Results from this testing will take weeks to be completed”, the Zoo said.

It is estimated that nearly a quarter of a million birds die every year in New York City due to colliding with buildings, their statement added, saying that Flaco’s “tragic and untimely death highlights the issue of bird strikes.”

Flaco was found unresponsive on Friday by staff from the Wild Bird Fund wildlife rehabilitation centre after he apparently collided with a building on Manhattan’s West 89th Street, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. He was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Central Park Zoo officials said that they hoped whoever had cut open Flaco’s enclosure would eventually be prosecuted.

“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardised the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death,” zoo officials said in a statement.

“We are still hopeful that the NYPD, which is investigating the vandalism, will ultimately make an arrest.”

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