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Miami Living Loves The American Flamingo

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

The American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is a large species of flamingo closely related to the greater flamingo and Chilean flamingo. It was formerly considered conspecific with the greater flamingo, but that treatment is now widely viewed (e.g. by the American and British Ornithologists' Unions) as incorrect due to a lack of evidence. It is also known as the Caribbean flamingo, although it is also present in the Galápagos Islands. It is the only flamingo that naturally inhabits North America.

Flamingos in Florida

The American flamingo was also found in South Florida and the Florida Keys, both of which were likely the northernmost extent of its distribution. The existence of flamingo eggs in museum collections labeled as collected from Florida indicates that they likely nested there as well. Since the arrival of Europeans, the population started to decline, up until the 1900s, where it was considered completely extirpated. During the 1950s, birds from the captive population at Hialeah Park frequently escaped, thus leading to the conclusion that all modern flamingos in Florida were escapees, although at least one bird banded as a chick in the Yucatán Peninsula has been sighted in Everglades National Park, and others may be vagrant birds from Cuba.

However, a study published in 2018, involving an abandoned young flamingo named Conchy found in Key West, indicates that the occasional flamingos seen in the present throughout Florida are in fact natives, with some even permanently staying in Florida Bay year-round. The study also indicated that these flamingos may be increasing in population and reclaiming their lost range, slowly but steadily returning home. Large flocks of flamingos are still known to visit Florida from time to time, most notably in 2014, when a very large flock of over 147 flamingos temporarily stayed at Stormwater Treatment Area 2, on Lake Okeechobee, with a few returning the following year. From a distance, untrained eyes can also confuse it with the roseate spoonbill.

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