Flamingos spotted on various Florida beaches after Hurricane Idalia

Flamingos spotted on various Florida beaches after Hurricane Idalia

TREASURE ISLAND, Fla. — After Hurricane Idalia, Floridians have spotted flamingos on various beaches across the state.

Vinnie Fugett operates “Captain Vinnie’s Boat Tour.” He takes people on tours to island hop, snorkel, or dolphin watch.

He spotted the flamingos on Treasure Island Beach the day after Hurricane Idalia.

“I was completely shocked after living here for 35 years, my entire life, and being a Florida native. I’ve never seen flamingos in the area,” said Fugett.

Fugett said he has not seen the birds since the initial sighting, but others have spotted the birds throughout the West Coast. People have spotted flamingos at St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island Beach, and Fort De Soto.

According to Audubon Florida, American Flamingos have landed as far north as St. Marks Wildlife Refuge and all the way south to Collier County. American Flamingos are more numerous in Mexico and Cuba.

Tiffany Burns, senior director of Animal Programs at ZooTampa, said she cannot say for sure if the flamingos will stay.

“The thinking is that they did come by hurricane, that the winds may have taken them a little bit more north than maybe they intended to go. It’s hard to say for certain. Everything points toward the hurricane leading them here,” said Burns. “It’s hard to say whether they will stay here in Florida or completely move on.”

Sunsation Photography

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, flamingos were native to Florida but disappeared from the state around the turn of the 20th century. After about 1925, people started captive colonies of flamingos in South Florida, including a breeding colony at Hialeah Park Race Track in the 1930s, which still remains.

In Florida, American flamingos have been observed along much of the state’s coast; however, outside of Hialeah, more than 95% of observations have occurred within the Everglades, Biscayne Bay, and the Florida Keys. In addition, flamingos are increasingly being reported in the shallow treatment wetlands created along the northern fringe of the Everglades, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“Florida was once very populated with flamingos, and unfortunately, the feathers were very valuable, and that ultimately led to our numbers depleting to the point where you don’t see flamingos in Florida,” said Burns.

The FWC treats flamingos as native species protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Burns said the birds typically like estuaries.

“Typically, flamingos are going to live in an area where there’s a lot of water. They do go up to dry land for their breeding and nesting, but they’re typically going to hang around the wet environment, estuaries, things like that,” said Burns.

Fugett said he was shocked to see the flamingos on the beach.

“Great sight to see. You think of flamingos when you think of Florida, but traditionally, you don’t actually see them walking up and down the beach unless you go to Busch Gardens or Sunken Gardens,” said Fugett.

Audubon is tracking flamingos. Send your sighting and photo to [email protected].

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