Exit of the Day: Flamingo Gardens, FL
Fort Lauderdale is now a major hive of many things with most having to do with water. Yachts, marinas, waterfront development, financial companies and flamingos. Flamingos you ask? Upcoming off Exit 26 is the neighborhood of Flamingo Gardens. Flamingos are not likely to live there. In fact it was until recently believed that flamingos were non-native species. They were categorized as "Invasive Species" by the Fish and Wildlife Department. The Caribbean Flamingos' native range was thought to be further south.
But that was not always the case. The native born Florida Flamingo was believed to be hunted to extinction in the late eighteen hundreds because their feathers were sought as hat embellishments for fancy ladies. So the only Flamingos left were imports from points south. But then there was one flamingo who changed that perception. His name was Conchy.
As NPR reports: "A few years ago, three flamingos showed up at the Navy airfield on Boca Chica Key, about 5 miles from Key West. Big birds sometime show up on the airfield, and the Navy scares them away with fireworks or shotgun blasts. Otherwise, the bird could get sucked into the engine and crash a $70 million jet. (That would be bad news for the bird, too.)
Two of the visiting flamingos took the hint. But the third — the bird that eventually acquired the name Conchy — was stubborn. "Conchy would not leave," says Steven Whitfield, a conservation biologist with Zoo Miami. "They couldn't harass him away." That's when Whitfield's team stepped in. They had been looking for a flamingo to release with a satellite tracker. A flock of 147 flamingos had appeared in Palm Beach County in 2014 and raised questions: Where were these birds coming from? The researchers thought if they captured Conchy, he would lead them back to a flamingo population in Cuba, or somewhere else. Says Whitfield, " What we expected was that Conchy was going to fly to the Bahamas, fly to Cuba, fly to Mexico."
Conchy was going to tell us, finally, where the flamingos in Florida come from. In that, he was a failure." Conchy, it turned out, was already home. The satellite tracker showed that he stayed in Florida Bay. He was occasionally spotted with other flamingos.
The findings by Whitfield and his colleagues was published in the journal The Condor last month. Soon afterward, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission removed the American flamingo from its website's listing of nonnative species. Because they're supposed to be here. They're not escapees. You don't treat them like an exotic species. So Steven Whitfield and the other researchers have solved the case of Florida's missing flamingos.
The flamingos have been there all along. Hiding in plain, PINK sight!"