Home Animals How Florida Is Getting Its Pink Back

How Florida Is Getting Its Pink Back

Sugarloaf Key, Fla. (Doug Finger for The Washington Post)

By Lori Rozsa

 

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. — When Keith Ramos heard a small flock of American flamingos had landed last fall at the nature preserve he oversees off Florida’s Atlantic coast, he rushed to get a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of the gangly pink birds in the wild.

“I ran over there, and of course they were gone,” said Ramos, the manager of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, where a flamingo sighting had last been recorded in 1992. “I figured I missed my chance forever.”

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But a month later, they were spotted again. Then a separate and larger flock was seen in nearby Mosquito Lagoon. The birds seemed to be right at home, preening their blush-colored feathers and grazing on shrimp near a sandbar.

They’ve been photographed while taking a leisurely swim within eyeshot of office buildings in Tampa Bay, hanging out with pelicans near Sanibel Island and sharing a sandspit with great blue herons just a few miles from Kennedy Space Center.

Researchers believe the new arrivals blew in with Hurricane Idalia last August, probably from Mexico or the Bahamas, where conservation efforts over the past 50 years have helped flamingo populations recover from near extinction. It wasn’t the first time a powerful storm swept the birds to Florida. But in most of those instances, the flamingos left after only a few days.

This time, they stayed.

Earlier this month, Audubon Florida released the results of a February field study that documented 101 wild American flamingo sightings around the state — with more people reporting seeing them in a single week than at any other point in time since the early 1900s.

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