A Eurasian-eagle owl remains on the loose in New York City following his escape from the Central Park Zoo after his exhibit was vandalized.
Sunday afternoon, the bird, named Flaco, was perched on a tree in Central Park, across the street from the Plaza Hotel and overlooking the Pond. He was clearly visible to the naked eye.
Dozens of onlookers watched in awe, including several with cameras outfitted with telescopic lenses. The crowd spoke in hushed tones, perhaps taking care not to spook the bird.
“I see him!” cried one person.
“He’s pretty big!” marveled another.
Upper West Side resident David Goldberg said he'd been following Flaco's story "obsessively" on the Twitter account Manhattan Bird Alert. He and his wife stopped in the park after a birthday party just to see Flaco, who he described as "wonderful."
Goldberg said he'd found a trick to spotting "celebrity owls" since the pandemic hit.
"I always know just to follow the photographers," he said.
Chris Pom from the Upper East Side was on site with binoculars. Pom said he'd heard about the "drama" surrounding Flaco on Friday and became curious and "figured I'd try and come catch him." He was surprised at how easy it was to pick out the bird.
"I didn't realize how close he would be," Pom said. "I guess this isn't that weird for him," he added, noting that the owl was probably used to being around people, having lived in a zoo for a decade.
On Sunday, a spokesperson for the zoo confirmed that their focus was on the recovery of the owl, but did not share details about the effort. The owl had also reportedly not eaten any of the food that was left out for him nearby, according to Manhattan Bird Alert.
On Friday, the zoo said that “the exhibit had been vandalized” and that the stainless steel mesh had been cut on Thursday evening. A spokesperson for the zoo said that police are investigating the crime.
In the days since his escape, Flaco has since been spotted in various locations around Upper Manhattan; including a Madison Avenue sidewalk and various tree branches around Central Park.
The owl has also become a minor internet celebrity. On Twitter, one user said that they were "Googling Flaco the owl nyc every 10 minutes I love him so much," and included a slide show with Flaco photographs.
“All of NYC is rooting for Flaco,” tweeted Tim Stearns, a cell biologist and professor at The Rockefeller University.
“Flaco is elite,” declared the account pourmecoffee, retweeting an earlier Gothamist story about the owl.
Sunday afternoon, David Barrett, who runs Manhattan Bird Alert, said he was worried about Flaco's ability to hunt for food, because the bird "has led a highly regimented life in captivity."
"For the same reason," he added, "it probably does not realize it can drink from the pond."
Still, Barrett said he remained hopeful that rescuers would be successful.
Goldberg expressed a similar desire for Flaco's ultimate wellbeing.
"I hope he goes back to captivity soon because it's probably safer for him," he said. "Unless he doesn't want to do that, in which case I want to honor his autonomy and ability to make his own decisions."
This story has been updated with additional information.