Runaway flamingo pops up in Texas 17 years after escaping Kansas zoo
What’s pink and white, stands on one leg and enjoys trips to the Texas coast? No. 492, aka Pink Floyd, an African flamingo that once lived in a zoo in Kansas.
The bird started life in Tanzania and spent time in South Africa before being shipped to the U.S. and the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, as part of a group of 40 flamingos. However, it was not at the zoo long enough for bloodwork to be done to determine the bird’s gender. In addition, the zoo had not yet clipped the flamingos’ wings, which allowed No. 492 (named for the number on its tag) and another flamingo to escape.
“As soon as he had the chance, he flew out of here,” Scott Newland, curator of birds for the zoo, told Reuters in a 2013 interview. “His instincts are honed to do that.”
The great escape happened all the way back in 2005 and since then, Pink Floyd sightings have been reported around the country. The first was in Wisconsin, although the fugitive bird has apparently spent most of its time in Texas and Louisiana. The bird is easily identifiable by its signature numbered leg band.
“Every year or so we get a call,” Newland told Reuters.
In 2019, the Coastal Fisheries Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department shared a photo of the bird hanging out with some other feathered friends.
“No surprise here, but the return of our flamingo buddy – Pink Floyd – was a hit,” the department wrote in a Facebook post.
More recently, the bird was also spotted at Rhodes Point in Cox Bay, Texas, near Port Lavaca on the Gulf coast on March 10.
For several years, the bird was reportedly seen with another banded flamingo from a colony on the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Flamingos typically pair for life, although the genders of the two remain unknown. In recent years, however, No. 492 has been sighted alone.
While the bird has become something of a legendary creature, the Sedgwick County Zoo deeply regrets the bird’s escape.
“It is a black eye, to be honest,” Newland told the Wichita Eagle in 2013. “It was basically an error. We are not fond of this story.”
The zoo has not attempted to retrieve the bird, and apparently has no plans to do so. The flamingo is believed to be in its mid-20s and could live to be 50 years old.
“It’s a testament to the adaptability of these animals,” Newland told Reuters.