Over the past 10 days, tropical storm Idalia’s flamingo inflow spread to Wisconsin, Missouri, and Kansas. As Tropical Storm Idalia approached Florida’s west coast on August 30, birdwatchers saw flamingos emerge from the clouds. At least 150 American flamingos were sighted in about four dozen Florida and 14 state locales during the next four weeks.
Tropical Storm Idalia Swept Flamingos
Flamingos real and plastic are associated with Florida’s tropical mood, so sightings may not be unusual. But Wisconsin? Ohio River? Kansas birders were shocked this week when a flamingo appeared in Chase County Lake in the Flint Hills. An unsubstantiated sighting of a flamingo in Missouri the night before. “It’s amazing to me that so many people all over the country got to experience this,” said Amy Davis, American Birding Association associate editor for North American Birds. “They’re so pretty and gawky.”
At least five of the flamingos were found in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and experts believe they were swept up by tropical storm Idalia’s winds over the northwestern Caribbean Sea. Jerry Lorenz, state director of research for Audubon Florida, called the incident “the pink wave.” The birds may be returning south. He and others hope some birds survive. September 22 saw a flamboyance of flamingos on Lake Michigan near Port Washington, Wisconsin. Birders flocked to the lake after hearing of their arrival. A friend called Dexter Patterson, a faculty associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison believed it was a joke because Madison is home to one of the greatest plastic flamingo pranks. “I was like get out of here,” said BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin co-founder Patterson. A second reply from his friend confirmed the birds’ existence. “I was like how fast can I get in my car and get to Port Washington,” he told USA TODAY. “I had no classes on Friday.” He claimed the 90-minute trek was “worth it.” The sole day of wild flamingo sightings in Port Washington was this one.
Flamingos Could be Possibly Migrating
A boating group saw five flamingos 100 miles west on the Wisconsin River the next day. The same three pink adults and two grey juveniles suggest it was the same flock, as the birds were never seen again in Lake Michigan. On September 7, 1979, two student government association representatives planted 1,008 pink plastic flamingo lawn ornaments atop Bascom Hill, according to the alumni association. It became an annual joke and fundraiser. The pink plastic birds became Madison’s official bird in 2009.
Jennifer McKay, a wildlife researcher at the Eastern Ecological Science Centre of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Lab, says tropical storm Idalia brought Caribbean flamingos to the US. Experts told USA TODAY there are more birds this year in more places. The Pedro and Elena Hernández Foundation informed Lorenz and others that most flamingos likely came from the Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. A non-profit environmental organization and the Foundation identify bird bands in the reserve, where many summer flamingos breed.
Lorenz recorded 5 flamingo deaths. Only one of three flamingos, including a Pennsylvania snapping turtle-attacked one, survived rehabilitation. Recovered off St. Petersburg Beach with a geological survey study permission, that bird was released with a satellite transmitter. Scientists believe the bird may indicate the tropical storm Idalia flamingos’ final location. Latest sightings imply flamingos are migrating south and establishing larger groups, said Lorenz. He saw them at Charlotte Harbour, Florida’s southwest coast. One group of five in Mosquito Lagoon, Florida’s east coast, has grown to twelve. On Sept. 23, eBird reported 75 birds at Everglades National Park.