Phoenicopterus ruber Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
When Europeans first arrived in Florida there were still breeding flamingoes in the southern part of the state - south Florida was the extreme northernmost portion of their Caribbean range. Later references from the 1800’s mention large flocks of more than 500 flamingoes near Snake Bight Trail in the Everglades.
Until the late 19th Century, flamingoes were common winter residents of Florida Bay in the Everglades National Park. Today, people still see these extraordinary looking birds, but the jury is out as to whether they are wild or escaped captives.
The escapee problem originated with the so-called ‘Hialeah Flock’, a group of greater flamingoes from Cuba that were released at Hialeah racetrack near Miami in an attempt to establish a breeding population. Several hundred birds eventually became established at the racetrack, and non-pinioned, non-banded birds escaped and survived.
Flamingoes are still occasionally seen near the end of Snake Bight Trail in the Everglades, and occasionally in other parts of south Florida. Whether they are escapees or wild birds from the Bahamas or Cuba is a matter of debate.
If you see a large, bright pink bird in south Florida, listen for the distinctive flamingo voice - a loud goose-like honking and cackling. However, odds are the bird will be a roseate spoonbill.
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