Fly on, you crazy diamond.


After his tragic death from flying into a building, veterinary pathologists from the Bronx Zoo have found some underlying — and likely fatal — illnesses in the body of Flaco the Eurasian eagle owl.

In a press release, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced that Flaco, who escaped from the Central Park Zoo over a year ago and was found dead after hitting a building in Manhattan's Upper West Side last month, did die of fatal trauma from his crash — but he also appeared to have a severe pigeon herpesvirus that likely was the result of eating the common fowl as the primary source of his diet.

Unfortunately, however, that wasn't the only thing the Bronx Zoo vets found. When doing Flaco's autopsy, they discovered that he seemed to have ingested four different anticoagulant rodenticides. As anyone who's ever taken the NYC subway can attest, rat poison is basically everywhere in the city, as are the vermin themselves.

As the WCS notes, the combination of the herpesvirus and the toxicity from the rat poison could well have caused the Eurasian eagle owl to become disoriented.

"These factors would have been debilitating and ultimately fatal, even without a traumatic injury," the press release reads, "and may have predisposed him to flying into or falling from the building."

Carrier Pigeons

Notably, the herpesvirus could have been carried by healthy pigeons — but when those pigeons are eaten by prey, they can fatally infect them, as has been seen before in New York City.

"In Flaco’s case," the WCS press release continues, "the viral infection caused severe tissue damage and inflammation in many organs, including the spleen, liver, gastrointestinal tract, bone marrow, and brain."

As a 2012 study in The Canadian Veterinary Journal explains, Columbid herpesvirus-1 does indeed seem to affect every part of the body in pigeon-eating predators, which includes owls and falcons.

What's worse: if Flaco weren't so famous, he might not have been diagnosed at all.

"Because of the costs associated with diagnostic testing and the need for access to pathology expertise," the study notes, "few wildlife [rehabilitation] centers perform regular postmortem examinations and thus diseases go undiagnosed."

Along with the rat poison, Flaco's autopsy also showed trace amounts of DDE, a breakdown product from the insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), though there wasn't enough of it in his system to contribute to his death, the WCS said.

Ultimately, the death of the beloved Eurasian eagle owl highlights "the hazards faced by wild birds, especially in an urban setting," the statement said — and it's hard not to agree from this side of Flaco's journey.

More on wildlife: Wildlife Center Employee Dresses as Big Fox to Care for Baby Foxes

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