Flamingos found in unusual places after Hurricane Idalia

People have been surprised to find flamingos in unexpected places — including a state park in southwestern Ohio — after Hurricane Idalia blew through parts of the Southeast last week.

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A pair of American flamingos were spotted Friday in Ohio’s Caesar Creek State Park, WHIO-TV reported. The birds, a gray and black one that appeared to be less than a year old and a pink feathered bird estimated to be 2 or 3 years old, appeared to be wild, officials with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources told the news station.

Flamingo sightings have also been reported in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky and more, according to Audubon Florida and WFTV.

“We’re seeing flamingos all over the place,” Nate Swick, the American Birding Association’s digital communications manager, told NPR. “We’re seeing them in places that we didn’t expect them.”

Swick said the birds were likely caught up in Hurricane Idalia, a “fairly common phenomenon” for birds — though not for flamingos.

Jerry Lorenz, the state director of research for Audubon Florida, told CNN that the flamingos were likely flying between Cuba and the Yucatan when they were diverted.

“It’s just really surprising that if you follow the path of Idalia, it … really does kind of fall out to the north and south of that central track,” he said.

“We have never seen anything like this. … We will get a flamingo or two following storms (but) this is really unprecedented.”

American flamingos are native to Florida but disappeared from the state in the early 1900s, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Their populations were decimated by hunters in the late 1800s, as using features in fashion became popular, officials with Audubon Florida said.

The birds are strong enough to fly large distances over open water to find food and are likely to have no trouble making their way back home. They made the journey back in 2019, after Hurricane Barry pushed a small number of flamingos into western Tennessee and Missouri, NPR reported.

“They kind of hung around there for a little while, and then eventually started making their way back,” Swick told the news network. “I think the flamingos are likely to start heading towards the coast, whether or not they know which direction to go, I don’t know. Birds are capable of things that we cannot imagine.”

The flamingos spotted in Ohio have not been seen since Friday and are believed to have started to move back down south, WHIO reported.

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