Photo shows a close-up of a large brown owl on a fire escape.
Flaco, the regal raptor who spent the final year of his life dazzling New Yorkers with his adventures, was killed in an apparent collision | David Lei

NYC Diet Contributed to Flaco’s Fatal Plunge, Necropsy Finds


By Katie Honan, THE CITY

This story was originally published by THE CITY. Sign up to get the latest New York City news delivered to you each morning.


Flaco, the beloved Eurasian eagle-owl who flew from his perch at the Central Park Zoo after it was vandalized, had underlying conditions that could have caused him to fall from or fly into an Upper West Side building last month — and may have ultimately killed him.

Bronx Zoo veterinary pathologists found Flaco also “had a severe pigeon herpes virus” from eating the birds while living in the wild, and was exposed to four anticoagulant rodenticides used to control rats in New York City, a spokesperson for the zoo said Monday. 

Photo shows a large brown owl preening on a tree branch.
Flaco the owl preens his furry talons on a tree branch in Central Park | David Lei

Toxicology reports also found small amounts of DDE, which is a breakdown of DDT, although the levels didn’t contribute to his death, toxicologists said. Despite being banned in the United States in the early 1970s, it’s still persistent in the environment, they said. 

ALSO READ | Flaco the Owl Dead After Apparent Collision: Zoo Officials

“Flaco’s severe illness and death are ultimately attributed to a combination of factors — infectious disease, toxin exposures, and traumatic injuries — that underscore the hazards faced by wild birds, especially in an urban setting,” the zoo spokesperson said in a statement.

Photo shows a large brown owl perched on yellow-painted construction equipment.
Flaco the owl seen hanging out on construction equipment near the Harlem Meer in Central Park | David Lei

Barry the owl, another beloved bird who died in 2021 after colliding with a Central Park Conservancy vehicle, was found with high traces of rat poison in her system that veterinarians believe could have impaired her flying.


ALSO READ | Flaco the Owl: From Zoo Attraction to King of New York

This week THE CITY published excerpts from recent death reports for wild animals in New York City, which showed many wild birds died from the effects of rat poison after eating prey that had consumed it. 

Photo shows a small owl enclosure in a brick building, described as being as large as a minivan, with a faux tree and rock. The front fencing has been removed from the enclosure.
Flaco was released when his enclosure at the Central Par Zoo was vandalized | Upper East Site

Rat poison is restricted in city parks but is still used elsewhere in the city. The zoo is still trying to find the human who vandalized Flaco’s cage that initially set him free.

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