Flamingo Flourish: How long will Southwest Florida’s pink guests stay post-Hurricane Idalia?

Author: Investigative Reporter Céline McArthur and Assignment Manager Robin Wolf
Published: Updated:

Are pink flamingos considering a comeback in Florida? Researchers are trying to determine if the once-native shorebirds blown in by Hurricane Idalia are here to stay. In the meantime, the birds are creating excitement on social, and serving as a boost for local business. WINK News Investigative Reporter Céline McArthur takes you for a ride to see the birds in the wild.

It’s not much of a challenge to spot a pink flamingo in Southwest Florida… from your car! They’re everywhere—on restaurants, mailboxes, art, and even on your lottery tickets. But finding an American Flamingo here—in the wild—is a different story.

“They are very elusive birds,” warns Southwest Florida Shorebird Project Manager Megan Hatten for Audubon Florida.

Hatten would know.

“I come out I do surveys, I count the populations, but I also keep track of every shorebird that are out here,” she explained.

On this morning, no flamingo sightings, which comes as no surprise to Hatten.

“We have no idea how many there are. I mean, we think over 100 flew in with Idalia. It could be 500. It could be lower than that,” she speculates.

We go online to see where bird watchers are reporting them. Adventures in Paradise posted some great flamingo videos from their cruises right off our shores, so we jumped on board for a closer look.

“The first time I went out there, I thought they were made of plastic. I thought somebody was kind of pulling a roll over our eyes!” Andrew Herrick from Adventures in Paradise says with a chuckle.

First Mate and Marine Biologist Andrew Herrick leads us to Black Skimmer Island, also known as Bird Island, about a mile north of the Sanibel Causeway.

“It’s located right at the base of the Caloosahatchee River,” explains Herrick. “You can’t miss it because of all the bird species out here.”

White pelicans line the shore. Look closely and you’ll see pink flamingos among the group. Bird watchers, armed with powerful cameras, are thrilled to capture the rare sightings. Herrick cautions that we must not get closer to the birds than this.

“The last thing we would like to do is approach the island so close and then poof—scare them away and have them never come back,” Herrick warned.

Herrick says the flamingo sightings have been good for business. Hatten says the presence of the shorebirds is a sign that restoration efforts in the Everglades are working.

“Maybe now we have an ecosystem that’s able to sustain them. If we can sustain the flamingos, then we can sustain all of our other wading birds and shorebirds as well,” Hatten expressed with hope.

Audubon Florida conducted a flamingo census in March to determine the population. We’ll share the results as soon as we get them. In the meantime, if you’d like to see flamingos up close, Naples Zoo just opened its new flamingo habitat. Zoo Tampa and Zoo Miami also have flamingos. Miami has a live flamingo cam! Just a word of caution: it’s addictive.

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