Flaco, the celebrity owl who escaped Central Park Zoo, dies from traumatic impact

Tributes have poured in following the death of a celebrity owl beloved by New Yorkers.

Flaco the Eurasian eagle owl soared to fame after he escaped from Central Park Zoo last year, living free in Manhattan, but this week died from a traumatic impact.

A normally vocal owl whose nightly song won hearts in the Upper West Side, Flaco will hoot no more after apparently flying into a building.

It was a heart-breaking end for the birders who documented the owl's daily movements and the legions of admirers who eagerly followed along.

Flaco made his escape from the zoo last year after a vandal breached a waist-high fence and cut a hole through his steel mesh cage. He had arrived at the zoo as a fledgling 13 years earlier.

Zoologists investigating his untimely death - his kind can live up to 10 years in the wild and 60 in captivity - say he had been in good physical shape, succeeding in catching prey even though he had no experience hunting.

The zoo is investigating illness as a possible factor in his death, and plan to release an update in around two weeks, it said.

Flaco sightings had become sport, with New Yorkers keeping their eyes peeled for a glimpse of his checkerboard black and brown feathers and his six-foot wingspan.

The majestic owl spent his days perched on tree branches, fence posts and fire escapes and nights hooting atop water towers and preying on the city's abundant rats.

Flaco had been quieter in the days before his death, said David Barrett, who runs the Manhattan Bird Alert account on X and tracked reports of the owl's activities.

Mr Barrett had wondered whether Flaco had gone off to explore other neighbourhoods, but news of the death made him suspect he had become ill, he said on Saturday.

"He hadn't gone anywhere. He was just being quiet in his old neighbourhood and that, I say, suggests he was not well, he was not feeling up to hooting," Mr Barrett said.

Read more from Sky News:
Recall of 120,000 gun safes that children can open
Wendy Williams diagnosed with aphasia and dementia

With news of his death comes also a plea for justice.

"The vandal who damaged Flaco's exhibit jeopardised the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death," Central Park Zoo said in a statement Friday.

"We are still hopeful that the NYPD which is investigating the vandalism will ultimately make an arrest."

Flaco fans on Saturday shared suggestions for a permanent bronze statue overlooking New York City. One requested that the owl's remains be buried in Central Park.

"Flaco the Owl was, in many ways, a typical New Yorker -- fiercely independent, constantly exploring, finding ways to survive ever-changing challenges," read a post on the X platform, reflecting a common sentiment. "He will be missed."