At Large  March 6, 2024  Rebecca Schiffman

Fans Call for Statue in Honor of Beloved Owl Flaco

Photo: Julie Larsen Maher Courtesy Wildlife Conservation Society

Flaco, the escaped Eurasian Eagle Owl, in Central Park

This week, thousands have signed a petition in support of erecting a statue in Central Park to honor Flaco, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl who escaped from the Central Park Zoo in February 2023 and spent the past year roosting in the Park and on the Upper West Side, evading all attempts the zoo made to catch him. 

Flaco died on February 23, 2024, just shy of his 14th birthday. During the past year, Flaco captured the hearts not only of New Yorkers who saw him flying around the park and sitting on their fire escapes, but also of people across the world who have lovingly followed his freedom journey in the news. 

The Wildlife Conservation Society released a statement on the day of his death, announcing that Flaco had been found on the ground after hitting a building on West 89th Street. Since then, dozens of articles have been published chronicling Flaco’s escape from the zoo and his life on the streets of Manhattan. His case has also inspired legislation, with the New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal renaming a bird safety case after him – FLACO (Feathered Lives Also Count).

Wikimedia Commons

Flaco's favorite spot, a large oak near the Central Park entrance at East 102nd Street, has been dubbed the “Flaco Oak."

After his death, New Yorkers gathered in Central Park to mourn the beloved bird. On Sunday, March 3, a memorial service was held near what’s now been dubbed as the “Flaco Oak” – a large oak near the park entrance at East 102nd Street that was his alleged favorite spot. People brought flowers and letters to say goodbye to the owl, and many also took to drawing images Flaco in his memory.

The petition, started by 34-year-old author and musician Mike Hubbard, proposes that the City Council erect a statue of Flaco in Central Park to commemorate his legacy. The proposed statue would consist of a protruding branch set on a pedestal, with a life-size statue of the bird perched upon it. They ask that the statue be located near the Flaco Oak, in the northwest quadrant of the park. As of Monday, March 4, the petition had almost 4,000 signatures.  

Those who signed the petition commented about their love for the bird. One supporter wrote, “Flaco represents freedom!” Another said, “Flaco reached our hearts and has roosted there for a year. A memorial will tell his story.”

“[Flaco] unlocked peoples’ childlike wonder, he had people looking up instead of at their phones," Hubbard told Hyperallergic. “He needs a statue because I want the people who never got to see him in person to feel that too.”

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