“What are people seeing? Oh, it’s an owl!” “It’s too big to be an owl. It must be an eagle!” “I can’t see anything!” “Right up in the tree. Further up! It saw?”
The dialogue took place between onlookers who approached a group of photographers —professionals and amateurs— trying to capture the newest celebrity in Central Park: Flaco, the eagle owl that escaped from the park’s zoo last week. On Thursday afternoon (2), officials noticed that the owl had disappeared. The metal thread that held her in her space in the zoo had been cut.
A few hours later, New York police, who are investigating the incident at the zoo as vandalism, received a call: Flaco was on Fifth Avenue, one of the city’s most famous thoroughfares.
“When I arrived, the police had cordoned off the corner of 60th Street. The owl was on the sidewalk, scared,” said programmer Edmund Berry. “After a while, the cops said they would try to catch it, but the owl ended up flying towards Central Park.” Berry is part of the New York birding community. He was one of the first to share a photo of the animal on the networks.
The Eurasian Owl is one of the largest owls in the world, reaching almost two meters in wingspan and weighing up to 5.5 kg. It is most commonly found in Europe, Asia and North Africa. Word that the owl was missing spread quickly among birdwatchers, who have since been mobilized to record Flaco as the owl explores New York.
After escaping from the police on Fifth Avenue, the animal was seen in the Pulitzer Fountain, near the traditional The Plaza hotel, where it probably spent its first night away from the zoo. The next morning, the owl went back into Central Park and spent most of the day in a tree in the Hallet Sanctuary, between the huge skyscrapers of 59th Street and the ice-skating rink set up in winter.
The -15ºC cold was not enough to discourage the observers. “It was so cold that the product I use to clean the camera lens froze!” said amateur photographer Suresh Easwar, who returned last month from a trip to India where he tried unsuccessfully to photograph an owl resembling Bufo. -real: “It was very ironic to go back to New York and literally be able to take the photo in my backyard”.
Despite the interest in taking photos or just watching Flaco free, people who have been following the owl are concerned about her safety. “I’ve noticed a change in behavior: Flaco was very scared in the first few days, now he seems more confident, I saw him trying to catch a mouse, but without success”, says photographer David Lei. “Hopefully he eventually tires out and gets recaptured.”
It may seem contradictory, but going back to your restricted space at the zoo might actually be the best option. According to a spokesman for the Wild Bird Fund, an NGO that takes care of the rehabilitation of birds in New York, animals raised under the care of humans in zoos end up losing survival instincts and need help to eat and avoid accidents with other animals or the environment. from the city.
The urban environment can be challenging even for wild owls. Almost two years ago, a barred owl died inside Central Park, after being hit by a car from the park’s own maintenance team. Barry, as she came to be known, was adopted as the town’s mascot.
“Barry was sensational. In addition to being beautiful, she had a lot of personality. It was a privilege to observe her for so long on the Ramble”, recalls David Lei, citing an area of the park with more dense vegetation, much frequented by observers. An autopsy found that Barry was poisoned by rat poison, one of the main prey of owls. As you know, there is no shortage of rats in New York.
To prevent Flaco from ending up intoxicated, zoo officials have been leaving food wherever he goes. Rescue attempts take place at night, when owls are most active, but have not yet been successful. That week, Flaco appeared in a tree near the zoo; he spent two days in the region and then returned to the Hallet Sanctuary. The Eurasian Eagle Owl doesn’t look ready to go back into confinement.
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