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Flaco, the escaped Central Park Zoo owl, dies

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(NEW YORK) — Flaco, the rare Eurasian owl that captured the attention of New York City and dubbed “the most famous owl in the world,” has died after an apparent collision with a building, the Central Park Zoo said in a statement.

“We are saddened to report that Flaco, the Eurasian eagle owl discovered missing from the Central Park Zoo after his exhibit was vandalized just over a year ago, is dead after an apparent collision with a building on West 89th Street in Manhattan,” the zoo said in a statement Friday.

The zoo said that Flaco was reported to the Wild Bird Fund (WBF) by people in the building. Staff from the WBF quickly responded, but he was non-responsive and they declared him dead shortly afterward.

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

Flaco unwittingly transformed from an obscure bird to a cause célèbre after being reported missing on Feb. 2, 2023, from the cramped Central Park digs that served as his home since 2010, when he arrived in the city as a fledgling from a North Carolina bird sanctuary. He had been hatched and raised in captivity for the first 12 years of his life.

Flaco had been released from captivity by Central Park vandals, police said. Despite an extensive search, Flaco was able to evade capture for an entire year—and developed a following.

Flaco immediately caused a stir on one of Manhattan’s most fashionable shopping streets, Fifth Avenue, where he landed on the sidewalk near the Bergdorf Goodman department store, drawing a crowd and the NYPD. Officers cordoned him off with yellow crime scene tape and set an open cage next to him, apparently in case he wanted to surrender. Before they could move in to catch him, the mottled-colored creature flew off to a tree in front of the Plaza Hotel.

“He’s certainly my most photographed bird of 2023,” David Barrett, the creator and manager of Manhattan Bird Alert, and encountered Flaco told ABC News last year. “He’s the most famous bird in the world.”

Flaco would continue to draw crowds and his survival skills stunned those who did not think he could survive outside the enclosure.

“Several days ago, we observed him successfully hunting, catching and consuming prey. We have seen a rapid improvement in his flight skills and ability to confidently maneuver around the park,” zoo officials said last year.

Feb. 2 marked a year since the apex predator slipped through an opening vandals cut in the stainless steel mesh of his enclosure at the Central Park Zoo and bolted into the wilds of America’s largest city, testing the limits of his six-foot wingspan for the first time in his life.

ABC News’ Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

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