Zoo Miami Aims to Bring Flamingos Back to Florida

zoo miami flamingos
Flamingos at Miami Zoo in January 2022 - Photo by IrinaAnnarumma/Shutterstock.com

Flamingos used to be found in relatively large numbers in Florida in the 1800s, but decades of human hunting for food and fashion virtually wiped the creature out of the peninsula state by about 1900. Zoo Miami is working to bring the fabulous fowl back to the wild of Florida in the 21st century.

Currently, there are some wild flamingos living in Florida, but their numbers are tiny. Also, just because a flamingo is seen in Florida doesn’t mean it calls the Sunshine State home - the bird could be traveling from its Caribbean or South American settlement. But there’s still a very long way to go until Florida is populated with flamingos like it used to be.

Zoo Miami and the Florida Flamingos Working Group (FFWG) have joined forces to determine where flamingos could maintain in the state in the modern day. With the amount of flamingos that are seen in the state currently, it can be tough to get a proper read, but they’re on their way.

“Every once in a while, a flamingo shows up in Florida Bay in the Everglades and bird watchers go nuts,” Steven Whitfield, a conservation biologist at Zoo Miami, told CBSMiami this week. “No one knows where these birds are coming from. Are they the last flamingo still surviving after hunting? Are they flying in from populations around the Caribbean?”

In 2015, the group managed to capture a flamingo, which was later named Conchy, and learned a great deal in the two years it tracked him. Zoo Miami and FFWG have continued their work in the years since and now have an app called E-bird that should be used to report sightings of these beautiful birds, which could provide critical information on where they can and should live.

Can Flamingos Be Released into the Wild?

It feels like something that might not be allowed, right? That’s correct, but if an animal is declared native to a region, then it can be released into the wild in that spot.

That’s been a part of the important leg work of this movement. Conservationists have first had to prove that flamingos are native to Florida before the idea of releasing the bird into the wild could be considered.

It’s important to note that flamingos are not considered to be an endangered species, though climate change could have a serious impact on their mating cycles and habitats.