A bird of prey, a caracara from the Falkland Islands escaped London Zoo for the second time in 18 months on Sunday, soaring out of the grounds during a meet the animals show for families. The striated caracara named “Louie”, sparked a search of nearby Regent’s Park which left picnickers stunned by the sight of zookeepers waving around a dead rat on a stick in an attempt to coax it back.
The same bird pulled a Houdini act last year and was missing for ten days until being traced to Kilburn.
Parent Illy Montefiore, who was in the park, said: “This was particularly disgusting for people having picnics and had not wished to see this spectacle. Imagine if you were walking your dog, and someone came along swinging around a bit of carcass? You’d this was really out of order.”
She added that other park birds had been “flocking in mass and responding loudly” to Louie’s arrival on the tree, adding: “It was like Alfred Hitchcock. It was surrounded by crows in the tree. There wasn’t a pigeon in sight. We spoke to a zookeeper and they said it had been spooked from what had happened in a show. It didn’t seem at all interested in coming down. Then it just flew off, prehistorically.”
The bird eventually flew back into the zoo on Tuesday morning after two days as a fugitive.
In January 2018, Louie spent ten days on the run after fleeing a similar exercise. It was later seen swooping for scraps from a butchers on the Kilburn High Road before tucking into a whole cooked chicken in Grange Park. It was caught by rangers while sitting on a tree in the park later that day.
The caracara is most commonly found on the remote and windswept British overseas territory in the South Atlantic Ocean. Locals on the Falkland Islands, where the species has a reputation for bold and mischievous behaviour, refer to them as “Johnny Rooks”.
When botanist Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary biology, encountered the birds on a visit to the Falklands in the 1830s, he was said to have been struck by their tameness, inquisitive behaviour and opportunistic feeding habits.
A zoo spokeswoman said Louie was “retrieved from a nearby apartment-block”, adding: “ZSL London Zoo’s striated caracara, Louie, was returned to ZSL London Zoo this morning after he flew off into Regent’s Park during a routine demonstration on Saturday. Louie has been given a full health check by vets and is well – he’s enjoyed a breakfast of mice this morning.”
By Tom Foot - Camden New Journal