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Residents along the Texas Gulf Coast have spotted a flamingo on the run

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

All right. Let's go now to the Texas Gulf Coast, where folks recently laid eyes on a critter that, as some in Texas might be fixin' to say, ain't from around these parts.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLAMINGO SQUAWKING)

MARTINEZ: It's a flamingo. Sean Saldana investigates the case of the avian invader.

SEAN SALDANA, BYLINE: If you want to see a flamingo outside of a zoo, you're going to have to do some traveling. Here's Dr. Felicity Arengo of the American Museum of Natural History.

FELICITY ARENGO: You could see them in Mexico and Cuba and the Bahamas and some of the other islands.

SALDANA: One place they aren't typically found is in Texas. To explain exactly how a flamingo ended up in the Lone Star State, we have to rewind to 2005.

(SOUNDBITE OF REWINDING SOUND EFFECT)

SALDANA: On a windy day in Wichita, Kan., in the Sedgwick County Zoo, more than 700 miles away, a guest reports seeing two flamingos on the loose - their names, 492 and 347. Zoo staff tries to approach them. But as they get close, the flamingos use their long, skinny legs with those knees that bend the "wrong" way to flee the scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SALDANA: A standoff ensues. Every time a staff member gets closer, the pink partners run away.

ARENGO: They are quite sensitive to human disturbance. You know, the adults are very hard to catch.

SALDANA: Then the unthinkable happens.

(SOUNDBITE OF THUNDER CRACK)

SALDANA: A thunderstorm strikes, and the flamingos are gone. The feathered fugitives are on the run.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SALDANA: A few years later, Flamingo 492 is spotted in Texas. This time, the locals have given him a nickname made for an outlaw - Pink Floyd.

ARENGO: It has been finding food and surviving. Flamingos are found in shallow saline wetlands. And the microinvertebrates and some seeds and those sorts of things that they eat in their natural range also occur in Texas.

SALDANA: Pink Floyd likes to keep to himself. But every once in a while he can be spotted around the coastline. If you do see him, keep your distance.

ARENGO: I would just not disturb it but just, you know, enjoy watching it. It's a good opportunity to see a wild flamingo.

SALDANA: As for 347, authorities are unsure of his whereabouts. There's a chance he passed away. But he also could have traveled north, changed his name and gotten a job as a lawn ornament.

Sean Saldana, NPR News.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: This story incorrectly says that flamingos’ knees bend the “wrong” way. It’s their ankles that appear to bend the “wrong” way.]

(SOUNDBITE OF ZZ TOP SONG, "LA GRANGE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: April 8, 2022 at 12:00 AM EDT
This story incorrectly says that flamingos' knees bend the "wrong" way. It's their ankles that appear to bend the "wrong" way.