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Experts Don't Really Know Where These Flamingos Are Coming From

ByAllison EckNOVA NextNOVA Next

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You may have heard about stubborn turkeys . But you might not know about the random, persistent flamingos that are settling in Florida.

The thing with flamingos is…no one knows exactly where they’re coming from.

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Scientists are debating the origins of Floridian flamingos. Most think they escaped from captivity in the 1920s and 1930s, or that they are fugitives from the Hialeah Racetrack north of Miami, where captive-bred birds have been living. However, others believe they could be returning to Florida from Mexico, Cuba, or the Caribbean—having once lost part of their territory in the Sunshine State.

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Seeing flamingos in the wild is actually quite rare.

A new paper now makes the case that these flamingos are actually native to the region—and that while there used to be flocks of thousands, they were hunted down in the early part of the 20th century.

Here’s Joanna Klein, reporting for The New York Times :

In South Florida, some joke that only two kinds of animals exist — introduced or invasive species you lose, or endangered ones you protect. And resolving whether flamingos were ever native to Florida is important for wildlife management because the state says they’re not.

“You would think for as conspicuous a bird as the pink flamingo, we would know some basics, but we just have a lot of questions,” said Steven Whitfield , a conservation biologist at Zoo Miami studying flamingos. So he assembled a team of specialists to sleuth through explorers’ notes, museum specimens and birding reports dating back more than a century to uncover the historical origins of American flamingos in Florida.

Seeing flamingos as native to the Florida region and not outsiders could help make the case that they should be classified as endangered, since they’re —which could give them some protections could help make the case for treating flamingos as Florida natives, possibly even endangered ones, which would entitle them to protections by the state.