Escaped Zoo Owl May Be On A Futile Search For Love, And People Can Relate

If you see Flaco the owl over Thanksgiving, don’t ask him about his dating life.

The Eurasian eagle-owl, who has been living free in New York City’s Central Park since he escaped from the park’s zoo in February, has been checking out some new neighborhoods this week.

Flaco, back in February in Central Park.
Flaco, back in February in Central Park.

Flaco, back in February in Central Park.

The raptor was spotted on Monday in the city’s East Village, around 5 miles from where he usually hangs out, NPR reported. Two days later, a Flaco fan posted a photo showing him perched atop an air conditioner slightly farther south, in the Lower East Side, the city skyline sparkling in the background.

Birder David Barrett, who runs the popular Manhattan Bird Alert account on X, formerly Twitter, said the owl was likely exploring new horizons in search of a mate ― one that he would probably never find.

“It’s the time of year when these owls look to pair up if unattached,” wrote Barrett in a tweet. “Flaco’s hoots have gone unanswered for a long time now. He is unaware that no mates are anywhere in the region.”

Eurasian eagle-owls range throughout Asia, Europe and parts of Africa, meaning Flaco won’t encounter any of his own kind in the wild on this side of the pond. Bird experts have speculated he could plausibly mate with a different owl species (there was some hot gossip earlier this year about Flaco and a female great horned owl called Geraldine) but have said it’s unlikely.

Andrew Farnsworth of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology told New York City news site Hell Gate in February it was “probably a fanciful ‘what if’” to imagine Flaco mating with Geraldine. Yale ornithology professor Richard Prum told the outlet he believed there was “no chance” or “next to no chance” that such a pairing would occur.

It’s also possible Flaco left the park after reaching his limit with a flock of crows that had been bothering him daily, Barrett noted on X. The owl’s fans mostly focused on the significantly more relatable scenario of being on a futile search for love.

Even legendary sex therapist Dr. Ruth weighed in, sharing an optimistic viewpoint.

Barrett also reminded people that Flaco is used to being alone since he did not have a mate during his 13 years in captivity. Whether that information should make people feel better or worse is debatable.

Either way, Flaco faces two far more serious dangers than bachelorhood: rat poison and cars. Owls and other predators can get sick and die from eating poisoned rodents, and owls can be hit by cars while swooping down to grab prey in or near a road.

Both of these were already dangers to Flaco in Central Park. A female barred owl in Central Park was killed in 2021 after colliding with a parks department truck, and she was later determined to have rat poison in her system that could have impaired her flying ability. But the risks are greater outside of the park. For one thing, the use of rodenticides inside Central Park was suspended, at least temporarily, earlier this year. And there are far more vehicles on the regular streets of Manhattan than within the park, where motor vehicles are not allowed aside from those driven by park workers or emergency services.