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The Kids are Owl Right

Lenore Skenazy on

Meet Flaco, the Free-Range Kid... who happens to be an owl.

At age 13, having spent almost his entire life in the Central Park Zoo where he was pampered, loved and educated (his home had a mural), this Eurasian eagle-owl was suddenly sprung from his cushy confines the night of Feb. 2. Someone -- not me! -- cut a hole in his wire mesh cage and out Flaco flew, into New York history.

Or at least, Central Park.

His helicopter parents -- er, zookeepers -- desperately tried to make him come home. Their owl was not ready for the real world! It's dangerous out there! Winter! Windows! Predators!

Never mind that Flaco IS a predator.

So, the zoo folks baited traps. They played Eurasian eagle-owl sounds. They did everything but promise him a trip to Disneyland and a TikTok account with that one-hour thing deactivated. They worked frantically because they didn't believe their beloved bird could survive without adult supervision.


In this, Flaco was basically your average American kid... who just happened to be the second-largest owl breed on earth. (Eagle-owl wingspan: Up to 6 feet. Weight: 3-9 pounds. Only Blakiston's fish owls are bigger.)

Hungry, haunted, hunted, helpless -- that's what the experts predicted he'd be. "Every meal he takes is a bit of a risk," ornithologist Scott Weidensaul fretted to the press. The rats it might eat might themselves have eaten poison they'd pass along. "Why risk his life out there with this game of Russian roulette?"

Why indeed?

Because Flaco was born to fly.


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