Flamingos Have Been Popping Up All Over

3 September 2023

Except for a few rare sightings in Florida, flamingos seen in the U.S. are not from the wild, they’re escapees from a zoo. Then suddenly last week, after Hurricane Idalia, flamingos have been popping up all over.

At top, 16 flamingos visited Fred Howard County Park near Tarpon Springs, FL. Below, 6 flamingos stopped by St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, 30 miles south of Tallahassee.

The groups have often been a mix of pink adults and gray youngsters.

As of Saturday evening the totals were:

  • 100+ in Florida
  • 11 at Pea Island, North Carolina
  • 2 in South Carolina
  • 2 in Virginia
  • 3 in Alabama
  • 5 in Tennessee
  • UPDATE on 4 Sep 2023: 1 in Kentucky
  • and 2 in OHIO! at Caesar Creek State Park. These were seen for only a day and then gone.
  • UPDATE on 7 Sept 2023: 2 flamingos in Franklin County, PA pictured below: First reported on eBird on 7 Sept but apparently present for 2 days prior as well.

American flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber) are native to the northern shore of South America, the Caribbean islands, Cuba, and the Yucatan in Mexico. Hurricane Idalia plowed through a few of those locations.

Range map of American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) from Wikipedia

This WKRG video on 27 August shows Hurricane Idalia gaining strength as it spans the Caribbean, overlaying part of the Yucatan and all of Cuba. The flamingos would have felt it coming and flown north and northeast to get out of its way. Notice the lower speed winds (shades of green) on the edge of the weather map. The green wind track is where most of the flamingos have been found.

video from WKRG News on YouTube

Considering the storm track, the flamingos are probably from Cuba and the Yucatan including at least one banded bird.

Given all the discussion about the flamingos now appearing all over Florida (and farther north), this eBird list from Amy Grimm is especially relevant. This afternoon, Grimm documented 8 flamingos at Marathon, in the Florida Keys, and noted that “One has large yellow band on the right leg code DXCL, small silver band on left leg.” Do the bands mean it’s escaped from captivity? No. This combination — yellow PVC band on one leg with 4-letter code in black letters, ordinary band on other leg — has been used for years in the ongoing project to band American Flamingos in the big colony at Rio Lagartos, on the north coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Kenn Kaufman at ABA Rare Bird Alert Facebook Group

Flamingo sightings will end as the birds head home. For now, enjoy them in videos.

video from Tampa Bay Times on YouTube
video embedded from @10TampaBay on YouTube

(credits are in the captions)

5 thoughts on “Flamingos Have Been Popping Up All Over

  1. From one Kate to another, I enjoyed your post about the Flamingos. I visit Fred Howard Park as often as able since the 1980’s when my folks moved to Tarpon Springs FL. They have passed but I continue their tradition of planning nature outings for mostly out of town guests.

    It would be wonderful to see them!

    I will be back to revisit your website.

    Thanks and best,

  2. off-topic
    but I wanted to let you know that a deer and car collided this evening around 730 pm on Schenley Drive near the library. deer sat on the side of the road for awhile. then stood up as people gathered around.

  3. There has been a flamingo at St Marks NWR in Florida since 2018 when Hurricane Michael came through. We saw it in March of this year–a lifer for both of us. According to the locals, “Pinkie” has taken up residence at the pond by the lighthouse. No one knows if it is male or female. It is obviously well fed since its color is so vibrant.

    1. Ed & Becky, thank you for the news about Pinkie. In comments on one of the Facebook rare bird alerts someone said “Now Pinkie has some friends” but I didn’t know what it meant. I wonder if Pinkie will leave with the visitors when they go home.

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