Flamingo That Escaped From a Zoo in Kansas Is Spotted Once Again in Texas 17 Years Later

The zoo hasn’t made any plans to catch the bird, saying any attempts might harm the flamingo and other wildlife

Flamingo on a beach with some other birds
The flamingo in Cox Bay near Port Lavaca, Texas.  David Foreman via Coastal Fisheries - Texas Parks and Wildlife's Facebook

A Tanzanian flamingo that escaped from a zoo in Kansas in 2005 was spotted again in Texas earlier this month. The flamingo—also called No. 492—has been seen periodically over the past 17 years, but its last sighting in Texas occurred a year or two ago, reports the Associated Press.  

“Looks like Pink Floyd has returned from the 'dark side of moon'!” the Coastal Fisheries Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wrote on Facebook, showing a video of the flamingo towering over some seabirds. The department gave No. 492 a nickname: “Pink Floyd,” reports The Kansas City Star’s Kaitlyn Alanis. (Ironically, a Chilean flamingo by the same name escaped a zoo in Utah in 1988.)

No. 492 came to the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas, in the early 2000s, along with 39 other flamingos from Tanzania.  

If the birds had arrived as newborns, the zoo would have surgically removed part of their wings to keep them from flying away, reported the New York Times’ Daniel Victor in 2018. These flamingos arrived at three years old, and the zoo considered the amputation unethical for birds that age. Instead, zoo staff usually clip adult flamingos’ feathers once a year, a procedure that is similar to a haircut, said Scott Newland, the curator of birds at the zoo, to the Times

In June 2005, two flamingos that had not yet had their feathers clipped escaped. Zoo officials tried to approach them, but the birds got spooked. On July 3, a storm rolled in, and the pair left Kansas. One flew north to Michigan and disappeared, likely perishing over the winter, Newland tells the Times. The other, No. 492, went to Texas. 

In the following years, No. 492 was spotted in Louisiana, Wisconsin and Texas. At one point, it even found a companion—a Caribbean flamingo that may have come to the U.S. from Mexico during hurricanes Rita and Katrina, reported the Associated Press in 2007. 

“Even though they’re two different species, they are enough alike that they would have been more than happy to see each other,” Newland told the Times. “They’re two lonely birds in kind of a foreign habitat. They’re not supposed to be there, so they have stayed together because there’s a bond.”

The zoo hasn’t made any plans to catch No. 492. 

"There really isn't an easy way to recapture the bird. It would only disturb wildlife where it's been found and possibly could do more damage to the bird than just leaving him alone," zoo spokeswoman Christan Baumer told the AP in 2007. 

After concern from users on Facebook about invasive species, Texas Parks and Wildlife assured commenters in 2018 that the flamingo was unlikely to be a threat. 

“While this flamingo is not native to Texas, keep in mind that female flamingos can only produce about 1 egg a year,” the department wrote.  “Invasive species are definitely a threat to our natural ecosystems -- but we aren't really worried about this one!”