Thousands Sign Petition for Flaco Statue in Central Park

More than 3,000 people have signed a petition urging New York City to install a permanent statue in honor of Flaco, the beloved Eurasian eagle owl who died last week. The proposed monument’s design would involve a pedestal with a protruding branch where Flaco’s sculpture would perch for eternity. 

Few members of the animal kingdom have captured the imagination of New Yorkers quite like the bird, who was set free from his enclosure in the Central Park Zoo last year. Flaco, who was 12 at the time of his release, managed to live for more than a year in Manhattan, where he developed a devout following before colliding with a window on the Upper West Side last week. 

Petition author Mike Hubbard, a 34-year-old musician who has lived in NYC for 12 years, told Hyperallergic that Flaco initially inspired him because of the bird’s “against-all-odds” survival story. Though the owl had lived in captivity all his life, he was able to learn to hunt, most famously capturing rats in his talons.

“He unlocked peoples’ childlike wonder,” Hubbard said. “He had people looking up instead of at their phones, and for once, everyone from all walks of life had someone to cheer for. It was beautiful.” 

“He made me feel something real,” Hubbard continued. “He needs a statue because I want the people who never got to see him in person to feel that too.”

Erecting commemorative statues in Central Park, however, is a lengthy process that requires rigorous rounds of public review. Few projects get approved. Still, New Yorkers have already taken the initiative to memorialize Flaco, creating ad hoc artistic tributes to the iconic bird.

Native to a wide swath of land stretching from Siberia to the tip of Ethiopia and as far east as the Himalayan foothills, Eurasian eagle owls can live up to 60 years in captivity and 20 in the wild. Flaco died just short of 14. The Wildlife Conservation Society that runs the Central Park Zoo stated in its announcement of Flaco’s passing that the person who vandalized the owl’s enclosure last year is “ultimately responsible” for the bird’s untimely death.

“Flaco’s swift adaptation to life in the wild inspired people all over the world,” David Barrett, who runs the popular Manhattan Bird Alert X account, told Hyperallergic, adding that he “seemed to love being a free owl.” Barrett noted that his social media page saw “tremendous growth” during Flaco’s year in the wild.

“The time we last saw Flaco, he was hooting from the top of a 20-story building on the Upper West Side, looking and sounding at the peak of his powers,” Barrett said. “We will remember him at his best.”

Tributes to Flaco at the base of his favorite oak tree in the northwestern corner of Central Park (photo ET Rodriguez/Hyperallergic)

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