Rich’s Backyard Birds: November 2015

Hey Bird Guy! My friend from up north says she saw a flamingo while vacationing in Florida. I told her it was a Roseate Spoonbill. Are there really any Flamingos in Florida other than in zoos?
-P.S. of Erindale

Well. P.S. you’re going to love my definitive answer. It is without question yes or no. There are indeed wild Flamingos to be found in Florida. There is a small colony that gathers every fall-winter in the southwestern part of Florida Bay. These birds are thought to be from breeding colonies in either Cuba or the Bahamas. Those are Greater Flamingos and are the only naturally occurring Flamingos in Florida. If your friend was vacationing in the southwest Everglades in winter, it is possible. If she was anywhere else in the state, she either saw an escapee from a zoo or theme park or more likely as you suggested, a Roseate Spoonbill. There is a large colony of Flamingos at the Hialeah racetrack in Miami, filmed for many T.V. shows and movies, but these are not natural native birds. This colony does provide many chicks to countless zoos and parks around the country.

The Rosesate Spoonbill is common around the shores of both coasts of the southern half of Florida and the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana. As a matter of fact, one of the largest breeding grounds for the Spoonbill is right here at the mouth of the Alafia River and around Bird Island. Roseates are about 3 ft. tall as compared to a Greater Flamingo which is 4 ft. tall. Many area tourists believe that Flamingos are everywhere in Florida and as soon as they see a large bird with some pink on it mistakenly assume it’s a Flamingo. As you can see from the photos, other than some pink coloring, the two birds are easy to tell apart.

Of course it’s also possible your friend saw another commonly found large pink Florida specialty, the plastic lawn ornament. These beauties are found throughout the state, mostly in well groomed grassy areas. They don’t require much food and are usually nice and quiet, although they can be bothersome to certain neighbors and Homeowners Associations for some reason.