Owl sprung from Central Park Zoo evades capture, NY officials say. ‘Lil wise guy’

Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Central Park Zoo officials were still trying to capture a Eurasian eagle owl a day after it was discovered missing from its enclosure, according to a zoo spokesman.

Staff found the owl’s exhibit empty at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 2 and saw that vandals had cut through the steel mesh of the enclosure, according to a statement from the Central Park Zoo.

Citizens and police officers later saw the bird on a Fifth Avenue sidewalk, but it flew off before anyone could catch it, the statement says.

The New York Police Department’s 19th Precinct tweeted photos of the owl on the sidewalk at 10:40 p.m. on Feb. 2.

“Well, that was a hoot,” the department tweeted. “We tried to help this lil wise guy, but he had enough of his growing audience & flew off.”

Crews later saw the owl perched on a tree near the zoo and stayed next to it overnight, according to the zoo.

At sunrise on Feb. 3, the owl flew deeper into Central Park, the statement says. Zoo staff still have eyes on the bird and are working to recover it safely.

A Twitter account called Manhattan Bird Alert tweeted a photo of the owl, named Flaco, at around 11 a.m. on Feb. 3 perched in a tree in the Hallett Nature Sanctuary, a 4 acre woodland overlooking the pond in the southeast corner of Central Park.

Eurasian eagle owls weigh 3 to 9 pounds and have wingspans of up to 6 feet, according to the Peregrine Fund, a raptor conservation organization.

They are found throughout much of Europe, Asia and parts of northern Africa, according to the organization. The nocturnal birds are top predators, meaning no animals regularly hunt them in the wild.

They are known for their orange eyes and “feathery ear tufts” that make them “one of the most striking owls in the world,” according to the organization. They are also among the world’s largest owl species.

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