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Celebrity owl Flaco dies a year after becoming beloved by New York City for zoo escape

NEW YORK (AP) — Flaco, the Eurasian eagle-owl who escaped from New York City’s Central Park Zoo and became one of the city’s most beloved celebrities as he flew around Manhattan, has died, zoo officials announced Friday.

A little over one year after he was freed from his cage at the zoo in a criminal act that has yet to be solved, Flaco appears to have collided with an Upper West Side building, the zoo said in a statement.

Staff from the Wild Bird Fund, a wildlife rehabilitation center, responded to the scene and declared Flaco dead shortly after the collision. He was taken to the Bronx Zoo for a necropsy.

Until now, Flaco had defied the odds, thriving in the urban jungle despite a lifetime in captivity.

He was known for turning up unexpectedly at New Yorkers’ windows and was tracked around the Big Apple by bird watchers as he roosted atop buildings and water towers.

“The vandal who damaged Flaco’s exhibit jeopardized the safety of the bird and is ultimately responsible for his death,” the Central Park Zoo said in the statement. “We are still hopeful that the NYPD which is investigating the vandalism will ultimately make an arrest.”

Ruth Brown, The Associated Press