TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Despite flamingos being nearly synonymous with Florida, the birds themselves aren’t too common throughout the Sunshine State. But Floridians across the Gulf coast are reporting unusual sightings of colorful flamingos as far north as the Panhandle area following Hurricane Idalia.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), 95% of flamingo sightings take place in within the Everglades, Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys. But after Idalia swept up the Gulf coast, it appeared to have left several flamboyances — the term for a group of flamingos — in its wake.
Sightings were reported from Sanibel Island, near Fort Myers, to St. Marks, south of Tallahassee. The birds are native to Venezuela, Mexico and the Caribbean, according to the FWC, so is it possible they were carried up north with Hurricane Idalia?
A wildlife expert told the Fort Myers News-Press that is likely the case.
“There’s no way they’re not storm birds. The question is, where did they come from?” Keith Laakkonen, director of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, told the News-Press. “Was it Cuba or Mexico? There are good populations in the Yucatan and several of the birds that were seen were juveniles, so these birds were from a breeding population.”
St. Marks already had a famous hurricane-riding flamingo before Idalia came along. A storm with a similar track to Idalia, Hurricane Michael, left behind a lone American flamingo at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge in 2018.
The solitary shore bird became a celebrity among park guests and staff, who named it Pinky. It was the first wild flamingo spotted in the area since 1995, according to the News-Press, when Hurricane Allison carried one in.
Nearly five years after the storm, Pinky still hangs out in the salt flats around St. Marks, but now it appears to have found some friends — a flamboyance of its own.