He noted that Flaco learnt to roost and hunt in the same locations as other Central Park owls, including the great horned owl Geraldine.

Native and adopted New Yorkers saw themselves in Flaco and his journey.

Ms Keiko Komiya, who has lived there for seven years since moving from Japan, photographed Flaco three years ago while visiting the Central Park Zoo. After the owl’s escape, she made every effort to locate and film him in the park every day.

“I understand that it’s tough to adapt to a new environment,” Ms Komiya said. “He adapted. He did his best. I spent many hours with Flaco. It was unusual, but it was a wonderful time.”

Ms Michiko Kakutani, writing for The New York Times, likened his escape from the zoo to that of a “jailbreak” with a “new life on the lam casting him in the role of outlaw”.

Late-night talk-show host Seth Meyers compared Flaco’s escape to that of Andy Dufresne, who escaped prison in The Shawshank Redemption.

Given that Flaco had never flown, hunted or had any experience in the wild, the Central Park Zoo tried to recapture him, but New Yorkers responded by circulating a petition for Flaco to remain free.

After two weeks, the zoo abandoned its efforts to return the owl to his cage.

“The story of Flaco is a story of freedom,” said Mr David Barrett, who runs the popular Manhattan Bird Alert account.

“He became a symbol of overcoming great odds, difficulty, triumphing, being the underdog and succeeding. If he had wanted to go back to the life he had in captivity, even when he was hungry, in that initial week after his escape, he could have done it. He didn’t do that.”

Ms Breanne Delgado, one of the event’s organisers, called Flaco “a symbol of hope”.   

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