On a windy day in Wichita, Kan., 2005, No. 492 he escaped.
Sedgwick County Zoo workers had forgotten to clip the African flamingo’s wings, a painless operation that prevents the beloved birds from flying away into the dangerous outside world.
The zoo was unable to recover the bird before it flew out of Kansas, facing long odds of survival in a region of the country with no other flamingos and few environments suited to its needs.
David Foreman, a machinist and fishing guide in Edna, Texas, knew none of this when he and a friend took off on a boat to Port Lavaca on March 10 this year.
Its customers often claim they see flamingos, mistaking them for the smaller but also pink spoonbills that are common on the Gulf Coast. He patiently explains to them that, no, there are no flamingos in Texas. You have told hundreds of people this.
But today he couldn’t believe his eyes. There it is, a tall, elegant bird standing on one leg as flamingos often do. She zoomed in on her phone’s camera as far as possible, looking for evidence of what seemed incredible.
“My brain was telling me, ‘You’re not looking at a flamingo,’ but my eyes were saying to me, ‘This is what it is, there’s no question,’” said Mr. Foreman, who grew up in a bird sanctuary. .
He should have updated his game, he thought.
“It’s almost like nature’s way of putting me in my place,” Foreman said. “Mr. Knows-Everything thinks there are no flamingos in Texas? Check this out.”
Wildlife officials in Texas said it was definitely No. 492. It was named that because one of its legs has been carrying a tag with that number since it arrived at the zoo from Tanzania in 2003. (Texas officials from then they nicknamed him Pink Floyd.)
The sailors were too far away to see the day. But Julie Hagen, a social media specialist at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said no. 492 was spotted in the same area and at the same time of year as it was spotted in past years.
“We have no reason to believe this is another flamingo,” he said.
It served to confirm that n. 492, who is estimated to be around 20 years old, is still persevering despite having silenced himself.
His journey would fit perfectly into a Pixar film script.
No. 492 was one of 40 flamingos to arrive at the Kansas Zoo in 2003. Most of the birds were probably around 3 years old, Scott Newland, the zoo’s bird curator, said in a 2018 interview.
She described feather trimming, the maintenance that keeps birds on the ground, as painless, “no different than you or me cutting our hair.” It must be repeated every year as birds shed their feathers and grow new ones.
But in June 2005, staff members missed the signs that No. 492’s wings had to be cut and the bird flew off into a drainage channel in Wichita along with another flamingo, No. 347
On July 4th – seriously, Independence Day – the birds flew away forever from Wichita, No. 492 to the south and no. 347 northbound.
No. 347 was never seen again and probably did not survive the winter. No. 492, however, has found a suitable environment in Texas, with its shallow, salty wetlands, year-round high temperatures, and abundant food sources.
He also met a longtime companion: a Caribbean flamingo that may have flown north into the Gulf during a tropical storm was spotted with the No. 492 as early as 2006, but haven’t seen each other since 2013.
“Even though they are two different species, they are similar enough that they would have been more than happy to see each other,” said Mr. Newland in 2018. “They are two solitary birds in a strange habitat species. They shouldn’t be there, so they stayed together. because there is a link “.
Flamingos can live up to 40 years in the wild. Predators include foxes and bobcats, but since flamingos pose a small threat to humans and are not considered feathered, no. 492 probably doesn’t have to worry about hunters.
Mrs Hagen said no. 492 has been sighted almost every year, typically in the spring, since it arrived in Texas. It is unclear whether the flamingo made Texas its permanent home or whether the state is part of a migration pattern that has not yet been discovered.
Mr. Foreman first posted his video on his Facebook and Instagram pages and his friends warned him of the No. The background to 492 and how rare the sighting was. It was “definitely a moment to remember,” he said.
“A flamingo in southern Texas,” he said. “Oh. Who would have thought that.”