Want to Catch a Glimpse of Flaco the Owl? Let Him Come to You

Flaco’s been spending more time out of the limelight, choosing to rest instead on fire escapes and in backyards on the Upper West Side. Although he has made at least one excursion to the East Village and downtown Manhattan.

| 30 Nov 2023 | 05:34

Earlier this month, he took a well-publicized trip downtown, during which he was seen enjoying the Kenkeleba House sculpture garden in the East Village, hanging out atop a couple’s air conditioning unit on the Lower East Side, and majestically showing off his wingspan, which may measure up to six feet, as is standard for Eurasian eagle-owls.

Manhattan Bird Alert, an X (formerly known as Twitter) account akin to the NYC bird world’s Page Six, posts frequently about Flaco’s whereabouts in the city. On Nov. 15, he regurgitated a pellet — likely containing undigested rat bones and hair — onto someone’s air conditioning unit on Fifth Avenue. On the dawn of Nov. 26, people heard him hooting high in the dark skies on the Upper West Side. And on Nov. 27, he was seen on a fire escape in the West 80s.

Why has the celebrity owl left Central Park? Manhattan Bird Alert theorizes that he’s looking for some peace. “Mobbing crows and attacking hawks have driven Flaco from a number of his longtime Central Park resting places (including his oak and the Tennis Courts), causing him to relocate. They are dangerous and they make Flaco justifiably tense,” reads a post on the account. One of his most dedicated watchers, urban owl enthusiast David Lei, also speculated that his jaunt downtown earlier this month was in search of a mate.

Flaco is more human-tolerant than most wild birds, given that he spent about 12 years in captivity before making his escape last February, after vandals damaged his cage in the Central Park Zoo. “Flaco has never minded having human observers. He can sleep peacefully and at length with photographers watching him, and he has returned daily to places like his oak that have both Flaco fans and many passersby,” wrote Manhattan Bird Alert.

But there are still best practices to follow, should you run into Flaco, or any bird, really. “Always exercise caution and restraint when photographing, recording, or otherwise approaching birds,” says the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics. Observe quietly from a distance. Consider waiting a few moments before sharing your observations online, and refrain from sharing his specific location to protect him from unwanted attention.

In the meantime, keep an eye out, especially if you’re on the Upper West Side. Flaco might just be perched on your fire escape.