Flaco, New York City’s Escaped Owl, Is a Flying Free-Range Metaphor
Meet Flaco, the Free-Range Kid who happens to be an owl.
Flaco, a 13-year-old Eurasian eagle-owl, has spent almost his entire life in the Central Park Zoo, where he was pampered, loved, and enriched. Earlier this year, on the night of February 2, someone (not me) cut a hole in his wire mesh cage. Flaco was free.
His helicopter parents—er, zookeepers—desperately tried to make him come home. They baited traps. They played Eurasian eagle-owl sounds. They did everything but promise him a trip to Disneyland. The work seemed essential, because the authorities didn’t believe their beloved bird could survive without adult supervision.
“Every meal he takes is a bit of a risk,” fretted ornithologist Scott Weidensaul. “Why risk his life out there with this game of Russian roulette?”
Why indeed? Because Flaco was born to fly.
While at first he could only make it about four blocks before tuckering out, soon observers saw him flying further and further afield.
And while there was great concern that he wouldn’t know the first thing about how to catch his own food, just days into his freedom he was coughing up tangles of rodent fur and bones—the parts that owls can’t digest. This me
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