Flamingos of Flamingo Gardens, Florida

 

American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber)

For as long as I have been photographing native birds here in South Florida, I have yet to see a Flamingo in the wild. As the pink long-legged wading bird is such an iconic representation on things as even Lottery Tickets, I was sure it was a common Florida bird. The only avian pink I encountered belonged to the Roseate Spoonbill, no Flamingos.

Curious, I looked it up and read at one point that Flamingos are not really Florida birds. But, that is not completely true as South Florida was once in the northernmost range of the reddish to salmon pink bird known as the American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber).  It is also known as the Caribbean Flamingo and its distribution includes Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, Cuba, Yucatan, Colombia, Venezuela and the Galapagos. Although the Galapagos species does differ enough genetically being somewhat smaller and with body shape differences etc. which earn it sub-specie status ( Phoenicopterus ruber glyphorhynchus).  After the arrival of Europeans in the Americas the population of Flamingos declined and the species was considered locally extinct in Florida. If Wikipedia is correct then perhaps they may be making a come back as there are some year round residents in Florida Bay along with the visitors which fly in now and then. Florida Bay near the town of Flamingo has been for me a good place to see Great blue herons and Wurdemann’s herons, but I’ve not to date encountered any kind of Flamingo there. Though it stands to reason that the location name was chosen because Flamingos were once seen in that vicinity. It gives reason to get out there though and explore more as it would be a kick to see them in the wild.

Audubon himself was anxious to see the American Flamingo and his exuberance is easy to see as he began his biography of the species which became Plate 431 in this manner:

“On the 7th of May, 1832, while sailing from Indian Key, one of the numerous islets that skirt the south-eastern coast of the Peninsula of Florida, I for the first time saw a flock of Flamingoes. It was on the afternoon of one of those sultry days which, in that portion of the country, exhibit towards evening the most glorious effulgence that can be conceived. The sun, now far advanced toward the horizon, still shone with full splendour, the ocean around glittered in its quiet beauty, and the light fleecy clouds that here and there spotted the heavens, seemed flakes of snow margined with gold. Our bark was propelled almost as if by magic, for scarcely was a ripple raised by her bows as we moved in silence. Far away to seaward we spied a flock of Flamingoes advancing in “Indian line,” with well-spread wings, outstretched necks, and long legs directed backwards. Ah! reader, could you but know the emotions that then agitated my breast! I thought I had now reached the height of all my expectations, for my voyage to the Floridas was undertaken in a great measure for the purpose of studying these lovely birds in their own beautiful islands.”

For reason of scarcity in the wild or even at various wildlife preserves, I finally made the trek to Flamingo Gardens in Dania, Florida where I knew they had some resident Flamingos so I could finally assuage my sense of loss at never having photographed one. Those big bills of theirs are so fascinating to me.  The images below are primarily of the American Flamingo, but I wondered why one had a solid colored purple bill and a more whitish pale pink appearance of the feathers. That specimen is closely related but with an entirely different range. It is the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), the most widespread and largest of the Flamingo family and is found in Africa, India, the Middle East and southern Europe. Definitely does not sound like it was ever Florida bird.

I am happy to have gotten a personal view of these specimens even if in a rather captive site with a small concrete pond for their habitat. I expect that as it is early for the nesting season that the rings of orange I saw at the periphery of the yellow eyes of some means the eye color will become all orange/red as the season advances much like Louisiana Herons or Cattle egrets at mating time.

 

 

 Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus)

 

Flamingo Gardens Wild Life Sanctuary & Gardens

Wikipedia on:

Greater Flamingo

American Flamingo

 

 

Judy

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~ by Judy on November 12, 2018.

19 Responses to “Flamingos of Flamingo Gardens, Florida”

  1. That reminds me of how one never saw turkeys in the wild here in Massachusetts until the 1990s. The good news is that they are now quite common; indeed, sometimes one makes it to my very urban neighborhood. We think they spill over from Mount Auburn Cemetery to the west.

    • It is definitely a nice thought that Flamingos might become more abundant in Florida. Even in Audubon’s day they were more plentiful in places like Cuba. Conservation efforts here have caused the Wood Storks to become removed from the most at risk endangered ratings. They were never a risk for extinction as they existed in other places abundantly, but it is so great they are no longer as endangered here in Florida. They do not however hang out in cemeteries as do your turkeys!! 🙂

  2. Absolutely the best photos of Flamingoes, bar none!

  3. Gorgeous shots, Judy!

    • They are interesting birds aren’t they? I kind of look forward maybe to going to Florida Bay just to see if there are any around even if way off in the distance. I love that area anyway!!

  4. We have quite a colony of flamingos in Galveston, at Moody Gardens. I haven’t seen them for years, but I hear that they’re thriving. Even though every yard flamingo in the world is bubble-gum pink, I love the variation in color among these real birds. The salmon one at the top really is unusual: as much so as the one with the magenta bill.

    I think I remember that their color is affected by their diet; those who eat more shrimp, for example, might be more “shrimp-colored.” I wonder if some of the variation among the birds here might be due to different diets: either what’s available, or their preferences.

    The only way to see a flamingo here is in a zoo or private garden. There is one exception: Old Lonesome George, a flamingo that escaped a Kansas City zoo and has spent a few years roaming the Texas coast. He was spotted again this year, not so many months ago. Apparently he’s taken up with a great egret, and they’re keeping one another company.

    • Cute about the escapee Flamingo in Texas. Apparently escapees from zoos were the source of ones around here, or so some thought, but now it seems there may be a few wild ones in Florida Bay. Yeah, I figure its diet….the shrimp do contribute. The one with the purplish bill is a different species that the ones with whitish with a swoop of color before the black. African probably, maybe. I suspect, not being totally familiar with flamingos, that they will become more colorful as the breeding season commences. Diet plays a role and so does bird hormones. You’ve seen that deepen the colors of legs and eyes and lores and cause new head and back plumes. I like the salmon color too as it is kind of a muted color and pleasant. Audubon drew a bright dark pinkish one for his engraving. I am sure worldwide there are many interesting variations. I really think they have the coolest bill though.

      • I was astonished when I came across a great egret with bright pink lores. I’d read about it, but didn’t realize that they meant really pink! I wish the photo had been better, but I kept it anyway for documentation.

      • I’ve seen Snowy Egrets with fire engine red lores during breeding season, but cannot remember Great White Egrets having pink or red, here usually its a very bright green a change from the usual yellow in both. The Louisiana heron’s lore gets fluorescent blue..gorgeous. Aren’t hormones fun!! Oh and when you are a new birder that is confusing as you don’t know at first its the same species not something new.

      • I’ll see if I can’t dig up that photo. I know I have it, but I’m just not sure where.

      • If you are anything like me; it will pop up when you are looking for something else. LOL!! I’d love to see it though.

  5. What beautifully vivid images.

  6. These are incredible photos of absolutely incredible birds. Gosh, and all we get are Little Egrets and (once in a long while) spoonbills.

    • Well these particular birds were in a park setting, not quite a zoo but protected not wild. I look forward to seeing if wild ones in Florida Bay or Southern Everglades are actually a reality rather than zoo escapees or errant visitors from Cuba perhaps. I am sure Metro Zoo has them along with some touristy type spots. Touristy spots seem to like flamingos and peacocks.

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