Birding

Flamingoes in Florida: Back for good? Birders can see them in spring

Flamingoes seen in a remote site in Palm Beach County

Flamingoes have returned to a remote site in Palm Beach County for nine years. (Photo courtesy South Florida Water Management District.)

For years, the only flamingoes in Florida were at zoos, Hialeah Race Track or decorated people’s lawns.

Today, however, the Audubon Society says flamingoes are back, and maybe for good.

Instead of random sightings, Audubon reports a flock of migrating flamingoes has returned to the same spot in Florida for nine springs now. In 2014, 147 were counted. In 2015, there were eight.

Still, says Mark Cook, lead scientist of Everglades Systems Assessment at South Florida Water Management District, “They keep coming back every year.”

The flamingoes have picked a remote location, a water treatment facility in western Palm Beach County,  Stormwater Treatment Area 2 (STA2). It’s a 9,000-acre man-made wetland designed to remove excess nutrients from the water supply. It is 80 miles north of any spot flamingoes had been sighted in the recent past. (In the 1800s, there were hundreds of thousands of flamingoes along the coast.)

In 2015, as news of the flamingoes got out, birders sought to visit the restricted site. To manage the international interest, the water district asked the local Audubon Society to run weekly car tours of the area.

This year, 620 participants took part in 13 trips between March 7 and May 2.

If seeing a flamingo in the wild is one of your dreams, you can sign up now for the mailing list about the flamingoes from the Audubon Society of the Everglades.  Demand was so great in 2015, that the group kept a waiting list and added more trips.

The flamingoes only visit the Palm Beach County site in spring, and scientists don’t know where they come from or where they go.

“The big question is, are these escapees or are they wild birds?” says Cook. They could have come from Hialeah Racetrack. Or they could be migrants from the Bahamas or Mexico.

This report from the Audubon Society describes efforts — that have been unsuccessful so far–  to tag the birds. It also recounts some of the experiences with this year’s flamingo-viewing trips.

 

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