Flamingo Who Declared Independence on July 4, 2005, Still Flies Free in Texas

A few years ago I ran a blog entry on the flamingo who declared independence on July 4, 2005 by escaping from a Kansas zoo and flying to Texas. Well, apparently as of March 10, 2022, he still roams free.

(p. D4) David Foreman, a machinist and fishing guide in Edna, Texas, didn’t know any of this when he and a friend set out on a boat in Port Lavaca on March 10 this year.

. . .

. . . on this day he couldn’t believe his eyes. There it was, a tall, elegant bird standing on one leg as flamingos often do. He zoomed his phone’s camera in as far as it could go, searching for proof of what seemed unbelievable.

“My brain was telling me, ‘No way you’re looking at a flamingo,’ but my eyes were telling me, ‘That’s what it is, there’s no mistaking it,’” said Mr. Foreman, who grew up in a bird sanctuary.

. . .

Wildlife officials in Texas said it was surely No. 492. It was so named because one of its legs has worn a tag with that number since it arrived at the zoo from Tanzania in 2003.

. . .

It served as confirmation that No. 492, estimated to be about 20 years old, is still persevering despite striking out on its own. Its journey would fit snugly into a Pixar movie 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 curator of birds at the zoo, said in an interview in 2018.

He described feather clipping, the maintenance that keeps the birds grounded, as painless, “no different than you or I getting a haircut.” It must be repeated each year as birds molt their feathers and grow new ones.

But in June 2005, staff members missed the signs that No. 492’s wings needed to be clipped, and the bird flew away to a drainage canal in Wichita along with another flamingo, No. 347.

On July 4 — seriously, on Independence Day — the birds flew away from Wichita for good, No. 492 heading south and No. 347 heading north.

No. 347 was never seen again, and likely didn’t survive the winter. No. 492, though, found a suitable environment in Texas, with its shallow, salty wetlands, high temperatures year-round and ample food sources.

For the full story, see:

Daniel Victor. “A Flamingo Flourishes 17 Years After Escaping.” The New York Times (Tuesday, April 12, 2022): D4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 12, 2022, and has the title “Flamingo No. 492 Is Still on the Run 17 Years Later.” Where there is a slight difference in wording between the versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

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