Flamingo Sightings Across America: The Fabulous Fowl Found in 11 States!

flamingo sightings in America
Photo by WirestockCreators/Shutterstock.com

States across the eastern half of the United States have had sightings of wild flamingos in recent weeks in the aftermath of storms forcing the fowls further north than usual.

Typically tropical birds, flamingos aren’t native to the majority of the United States. It’s abnormal for them to be found in the wild anywhere other than Florida, specifically South Florida. However, flamingos are a much easier find a bit further south than Florida’s edge in the Caribbean and on the Yucatan Peninsula.

When Hurricane Idalia came through the Caribbean earlier this month, it seemingly impacted the flight patterns of an unknown number of flamingos. Unable to take their traditional routes, the birds were forced to areas of the United States with little business hosting the fabulous fowl.

Jerry Lorenz, the state director of research for Audubon Florida, has been busy giving interviews to media outlets about this crazy phenomenon. He told David Williams of CNN that this is his first encounter with this many flamingos stretching this far and wide.

“It’s just really surprising that if you follow the path of Idalia, it (the sightings) really does kind of fall out to the north and south of that central track,” he explained. “We have never seen anything like this. We will get a flamingo or two following storms (but) this is really unprecedented.”

Flamingo Sightings Stretch From Texas to Pennsylvania

The majority of these flying refugees are in Florida, but there have also been reports of sightings across Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, proving that not even stranded flamingos will go to New Jersey (I’m sorry, it’s a joke! It’s actually a wonderful state! Not that any flamingos would know …).

Photo by WirestockCreators/Shutterstock.com

The point is: there has never been a better time than right now for Americans to see flamingos in their local parks and backyards. For reasons that are obvious to flamingo fans, this is very awesome. For bird watchers, this is also very awesome.

“We’re seeing flamingos all over the place,” Nate Swick, the American Birding Association’s digital communications manager, told NPR’s Dustin Jones. “We’re seeing them in places that we didn’t expect them. (When) the pair of birds were found in southern Ohio, sort of everything kind of broke loose.”

Photos of the fowls made the rounds on social media, and it attracted even more attention from interested onlookers. Jacob Roalef was one of them, learning through Facebook that he could find flamingos at southwest Ohio’s Caesar Creek State Park. He told the CBC’s Sheena Goodyear that he got there as fast as he could.

“I gathered my gear and rushed out the door,” the bird enthusiast explained. “I have been birding in Ohio for nearly 10 years now and it is always a rush to see something very rare, but these flamingos felt extra special. It was exhilarating and an exciting hour or so from the time of learning about the birds’ presence to then spending some time watching these incredible birds.”

The lucky who have laid eyes on these majestic birds have collectively described the experience as special.

“There were some pink birds way out there and I thought, ‘Oh my god,’ my heart started thumping,” bird watcher Jeff Lewis told Ben Graham of Audubon North Carolina about spotting 11 flamingos at the state’s Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. “It was heart-stopping. My fingers were hitting all the wrong keys on my phone.”

Watch Them, Don't Harm Them

But it’s important to remember that these flamingos are not your friends, and they’re also very, very far from home. Watching them from afar is magical and unforgettable, but don’t approach any of these birds if you come across them.

“These birds have gone through a very stressful ordeal,” Lorenz said to the CBC. “They do not need to be disturbed. If you’re close enough that the bird is looking at you and responding to what you’re doing, you’re too close.

“Since birds have to be lightweight, they don’t store fat like we do,” he added. “And because they don’t store fat, they have to make up that energy as they go. So if you make them fly from an area that means that they have to find food to replace what it takes to fly. And it takes a lot of energy for those big birds to fly.”

Lorenz recommended a distance of at least 60 meters (about 200 feet) and cited two flamingo deaths and another injury since the misplacement of these birds began.

But Watch Them While You Can

The birds’ presence will likely be fleeting. The Rust Belt is not where flamingos would like to be spending their time, and it’s assumed that most, if not all of the birds that have been seen in these unique locations will leave in due time.

“It could be their new home, but my inclination is that they’ll probably just return to where they came from,” Pelican Harbor Seabird Station’s Hannah McDougall told Xavier Walton of NewsNation.

Lorenz agreed with McDougall’s assessment.

“These birds, they’re quite capable of sustained flight,” he said to the CBC. “They prove that getting here. And so as the temperature drops, or even just because they feel like it, they’ll start moving south again. I can’t think like a bird, but I think they know exactly where they are.”

Photo by WirestockCreators/Shutterstock.com

If you’re a flamingo fan in one of the states where these birds have been reported, take advantage of this rare opportunity while you still can - there’s no telling the next time you can catch a glimpse of a flamingo in above the Mason-Dixon Line without attending a zoo!