Some crew members from a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department noticed something odd last week: an African pink flamingo flying with some seagull friends in Lavaca Bay. In case you’re wondering, no, flamingos are not native to Texas.
The misfit bird had a band on its leg with the number 492. It had been tagged while it was living in Wichita’s Sedgwick County Zoo, where it fled. In 2005…
No. 492 hadn’t had its wings clipped by the zoo because it was believed they weren’t fully grown yet. Apparently the zoo was wrong. Thirteen years ago, some strong winds allowed the bird to make its escape from captivity, and it has been thoroughly enjoying its freedom ever since.
According to HuffPost, the flamingo “has been spotted in Wisconsin, Texas and Louisiana. The feathered fugitive has also been seen with a friend (or mate) a few times, a Yucatan-born Caribbean flamingo with a band reading ‘HDNT.'”
The most remarkable part of this story is that the bird has been able to adapt to life in the wild — in an environment that is certainly unlike its original home in Tasmania. The fact that it has been able to thrive is phenomenal.
The zoo that lost the bird all those years ago isn’t proud of the error it made, but it is happy to know that No. 492 is alive and well. And considering that flamingos can live up to 50 years, this one 22-year-old bird, which is still on the lam, might have quite a journey ahead of it.