I usually surprise why birds converse so universally to the sagging middle-aged soul that it has turn out to be a comic book trope – the vertiginously swift passage from: “Is {that a} robin?” to: “There’s a lesser yellowleg two hours’ drive away, begin the automobile.”

Is it the liberty they symbolize? No ldl cholesterol, no mortgage, no self-assessment tax deadline to fret about? Or a way of surprise within the on a regular basis miracle of their existence, induced by an consciousness of mortality?

No matter it’s, I’m in deep: disposable revenue frittered on fats balls; continually snooping on feathery goings-on within the backyard; dwelling decor paying homage to the Portlandia “put a chicken on it” sketch.

I spent Christmas fascinated by one chicken specifically: Flaco the Eurasian eagle owl (bubo bubo, the perfect Latin chicken identify), who escaped from Central Park zoo practically a yr in the past. Having obsessively adopted his each rat-swallowing, hooting, preening transfer from a distance, getting a glimpse was my solely must-do after I visited New York just lately.

I didn’t have an itinerary of sizzling eating places or exhibitions; I had a map of latest Flaco sightings. I even contacted certainly one of his most assiduous and gifted photographers, David Lei, for suggestions.

Daily, I puffed my approach round Central Park on a motorbike, scanning each tree, however all in useless. Flaco has turn out to be elusive and adventurous, eschewing the park for air-conditioning items and hearth escapes, from the East Village to the Higher West Aspect.

Lei says he waits for “a report of hooting” earlier than heading out to attempt to observe him down. Flaco has been filmed on windowsills, a looming wild marvel on this most human of environments, his huge orange eyes scanning flats for … what?

Some counsel a mate, during which case he’s prone to be disenchanted: eagle owls aren’t indigenous to the US. There has even been a suggestion that he may see people as potential companions, having grown up in captivity.

Would I drop every thing if Flaco “recommended nesting websites” to me along with his large fluffy talons, or emitted “staccato notes and clucking sounds” (sure, I’ve learn up on his mating rituals)? Immediately. Center-aged folks and birds: it’s a robust inter-species love story.

This text by Emma Beddington was first printed by The Guardian on 8 January 2024. Lead Picture: Above the claw … Flaco in Central Park in February 2023. {Photograph}: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Pictures.

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