Pink Floyd ~ Still Flying After All These Years

 

Pink Floyd in 2018 (photo credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife Department)

Vagrants — birds that wander beyond what we think of as their natural range — can turn up almost anywhere. Some are blown off course by severe weather during migration; others veer the wrong way or overshoot their target due to navigation-impeding genetic mutations.

But Flamingo No. 492, popularly known as Pink Floyd and presently living la dolce vita on the Texas coast, isn’t exactly a vagrant. ‘Escapee’ would be a more suitable word.

The striking bird  came to live at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas in 2005, part of a group of thirty-nine flamingos shipped to the zoo from Africa. On June 27 of that year, two flamingos were spotted outside their enclosure near a lake on zoo property, but attempts to capture the birds failed. The pair flew out of the zoo, spent a week in a nearby canal, then left Kansas for good,

Word of the birds’ escape caught the public’s attention when Pink Floyd was spotted on Lavaca Bay here in Texas on May 23, 2018. It was the first time the bird had been spotted without the Caribbean flamingo that had been its traveling companion through Louisiana, Wisconsin, and Texas.

Pink Floyd in 2019  (Photo credit: John Humbert)

On May 20, 2019, a team from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Coastal Fisheries Division spotted Pink Floyd again while helping the Texas Colonial Waterbird Society conduct a survey of birds in the Corpus Christi area. Julie Hagen, a member of the Coastal Fisheries Division, said Intern Myles Cooley spotted the bird. According to Hagen, “Last year, they were like, ‘Wait. There’s a flamingo. So this year we’re just like, ‘Oh what’s up, it’s back — or maybe it never left.’ We don’t know where it goes.”

Video still from March 10, 2022 sighting (Video credit: Dave Foreman)

Most recently, the bird made news after being spotted on March 10 at Rhodes Point in Cox Bay near Port Lavaca. The Coastal Fisheries division confirmed its identity as No. 492 after making out the bird’s still-attached leg band on the video.

Despite the sightings, there aren’t any plans to attempt a capture. Officials say there’s no easy way  to do so without disturbing other wildlife, and the bird obviously is in no distress. I don’t keep Pink Floyd on my play list, but when I make it to the mid-coast again, you can be sure a big, pink bird will be on my watch list.

 

Comments always are welcome.

71 thoughts on “Pink Floyd ~ Still Flying After All These Years

  1. I enjoyed this fun introduction to Pink Floyd, Linda. I have no doubt he is having way more fun since he left the Kansas zoo. And I think it’s great that the TX authorities are not attempting to capture him. Fun post and well written as always.

    1. It’s such an interesting story, with so many unanswered questions. I’m most intrigued by the fact that he once was spotted in Wisconsin. It’s fun to imagine that he got there, took a look around, and thought, “Maybe I should head south, instead.” He’s found a perfect environment, filled with food. As for friends, I heard once that he spent some time with the Whooping Cranes at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, but more recently he seems to be spotted with gulls and other shore birds.

  2. It is sad that it will probably know another of its kind, never form a partnership to produce young, and will die and quickly be forgotten.

    1. On the other hand, he’s had seventeen years of freedom rather than seventeen years of captivity. He’s well-traveled, has hung out with many different species, and has plenty of sweet shrimp, crabs, and crawfish to keep up that pretty pink color. They say freedom has a price, and he may be perfectly content with the freedom he has.

    1. The question about cross-breeding is theoretical here, since we don’t have native flamingos of any sort. People often take our Roseate Spoonbills for flamingos, but as far as I know Pink Floyd’s the only one on our coast. The area where he’s hanging out is rich in resources, and after seventeen years, he’s certainly learned how to make use of them.

    1. When I read that he’d been spotted in Wisconsin and Louisiana before settling in Texas, I thought it was a perfect example of the third time being the charm. At one point there was a move to nickname him Davy Crockett, given Crockett’s famous saying: “You all may go to hell, and I will go to Texas.”

  3. Cool name for a cool bird! I’m glad he has a band around his leg to help with the identification. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a GPS device affixed to him somehow so we could see where he’s going??

    1. To be honest, being untrackable probably helps him survive. As much as I hate to say it, if people could hack into that GPS and find him, there might be someone out there who’d think he’d make a fine trophy. It’s interesting that he’s always spotted by people out in boats; it seems he’s chosen to live on the barrier islands or on the fringes of the bay, away from population centers

    1. Isn’t ‘Pink Floyd’ funny? One of the articles used a headline that suggested he’d come back from the dark side of the moon. One of his first names, ‘Davy Crockett,’ made sense to Texans, but this name is better for the whole country.

    1. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever see him, but I have seen unimaginable sights! The next sighting probably will come from a fisherman out on the flats, or people who patrol there regularly, like Parks and Wildlife. But believe me: if I ever do see him, you’ll be among the first to know!

  4. I love John ‘s photo of Pink Floyd. And I love that Pink Floyd is out there doing his own thing. How exciting it is that he’s banded and can be tracked on his adventures.

    1. I’m surprised that his number tag still is hanging on. Whoever banded him did a fine job, that’s for sure. It amuses me to think that, with such a long time between sightings, he may live on the Texas coast ‘forever,’ — a mythical creature roaming the flats and being ‘seen’ by people for decades to come.

  5. As another famous singer once proclaimed “Freedom, freedom, freedom!” And it seems to me that if Pink Floyd were too lonely, then he would have returned to his group. Clearly, Pink Floyd is a bird that values his freedom.

    1. Well, he certainly is thriving. He seems to have chosen his territory, and it’s a good one: close to wildlife refuges and full of easily accessible food. He’s made it through several bad hurricanes and at least seventeen waterfowl hunting seasons, so I think he chances are good. He reminds me of migratory birds who wave goodbye to their departing flock and stay with us throughout the year. Why they make that choice is a mystery, but it’s clear that they’ve stayed by choice, rather than because of injury.

  6. There was a blurb about Floyd in our local paper this morning.

    Poor guy. Like parrots, flamingos are very social birds and don’t do well alone. The article did say that he’d been spotted at times with wild flamingos. Maybe that has helped keep him from getting depressed.

    1. Flamingos aren’t native to Texas, but occasionally one wanders in from Mexico or Florida, so it’s possible that this one has been spotted with another flamingo: The operative word is ‘possible.’ I’d be more inclined to think someone saw it with Roseate Spoonbills; those birds also are large and pink, so it’s a common confusion. Here’s a good article from the Houston paper.

      If this one’s depressed, he’s hanging out with the right crowd. Those Laughing Gulls can bring me to laughter, and they’re laughing away everywhere now. Given that he’s made it for seventeen years, I’d say he’s doing just fine. The life expectancy for one of these in the wild’s around thirty years, give or take, so I’d say a full life is the cards for him.

  7. This is a neat story, looks like he’s happy with his new home. He knows it’s not Africa, but figures what the heck, he checked out the Gulf and it meets all his needs, “Roger, Waters” go to go.

    1. I was so surprised to learn that he’d made a trip up to Wisconsin after leaving Kansas. It didn’t surprise me at all that he decided to leave Wisconsin and head for Texas, with its warm weather, yummy shrimp, and plenty of protected waters made to order for a wading bird. I doubt I’ll ever see him, but it’s pleasure enough to learn about others’ sightings of him.

      It is fun to think of him as the Roger Waters of the group!

    1. From what others have said, and what I’ve read, you’re exactly right. They are social. Maybe that explains why two birds left the Kansas zoo and traveled together for a while; a road trip’s always better with a friend along! It’s sad that this one’s alone now, but on the other hand, he certainly has done well to make it for seventeen years without being captured or killed. He’s obviously healthy, and seems to fit in with the other shore birds. So — party on, until the next sighting!

    1. I see that the AP has picked up the story, so you may see it in your paper, too. There’s nothing like unexpected animal behavior to bring smiles to human faces!

  8. What a terrific tale of the legend of the bird world known as Pink Floyd!

    “For long you live and high you fly
    And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
    And all you touch and all you see
    Is all your life will ever be”

    (Breathe In (The Air), from the album “The Dark Side of The Moon” by — Pink Floyd)

    As for where he disappears to from time to time. That’s no mystery at all. I see him on lawns all over Florida’s retirement communities! A pink ambassador for all us bird lovers!

    1. If birds listened to music, and if Pink Floyd could hear those lyrics, I think he’d smile: or at least approximate a smile with that beak of his. That’s not such a bad life, when you think about it.

      The next time you see one of those flamingo flocks, be sure and take a very, very close look. You don’t know who might be hidden in the midst of the crowd.

  9. Gotta love Floyd! What a cool bird and post.Gorgeous coloring
    Reaffirms that yes, magic has managed to find sanctuary and survives despite all
    Fly free and flamingo on, Floyd!

    1. There’s nothing like a good story, as your current post affirms. As for magic? The last bit of magic I found was a blooming mountain laurel tree in — Brazoria County? While we’ve been focused on what we lost during the freeze, at least one tree seems to have loved our odd weather and is acting like it lives in the hill country. Floyd and that tree prove that expecting the unexpected is a good approach to life.

    1. It is, but that’s a part of life. I’m just glad he’s still healthy, even though the happiness of a flamingo is hard to judge. Imagine the number of hurricanes he’s gone through! That’s one tough bird.

  10. Ha. Your first paragraph might be the same description the locals have of me! Wouldn’t those birds have a lovely fiction story – the conversations they had as they plotted their escape from the zoo — their wistfulness for shallow waters and shellfish….their snickers as they evaded capture or provided photo ops for the sharp-eyed humans in the area.
    For sure you will have a great odyssey when time to a road trip to find them.

    1. I surely would love to see him, but I suspect it never will happen — unless I hitch a ride with a fisherman with a shallow draft boat. He’s got plenty of shallow bay to hang out in, and has managed to stay far enough away from humans that anyone’s sightings are rare. What I’ve been thinking about is the number of hurricanes he’s survived. A couple of them were really bad, and rolled right through his area — yet here he is. It’s really marvelous.

        1. My gracious. Even with my minimal (ok — mostly non-existent) Spanish, I could figure out the video. Knowing something about your area made some of the names familiar, too. Floods are terrible; I hope that conditions have improved. Here, lack of rain is the issue, but at least we’ve managed to stay out of the most severe drought. Other parts of the state aren’t so lucky.

          Now, about the Easter Bunny; I’ll grant you that one. But Santa? What do you mean, he doesn’t exist? O ye of little faith! LOL!

          1. jajajaaja – or in english, hahahaha! well ole santa and easter bunny dropped in to allow a private photo session this afternoon – much like what i predict will happen to you – as it does happen to you — you just ‘show up’ and wait to see what life (or santa or the easter bunny) has planned…
            today it was the Scarlet Tanager – only two other times has it been recorded in this province… the birders of the area are all thrilled and hope that it’s there tomorrow – if so there will be a ‘show up and wear red and black’ gathering to observe and rejoice in its presence! https://ebird.org/species/scatan/EC-M

            1. I’ve never seen a Scarlet Tanager, although I know they pass through during migration. I have had an Indigo Bunting drop in for a day or two for the past two years, and I once saw a Baltimore Oriole on Galveston Island — it’s always a thrill to see the more vibrantly colored ones.

    1. I’ve never once heard of vervets, and I certainly didn’t know they’d taken up residence in Florida. How to deal with an invasive/non-native species can be tricky. I’m glad that at least for the time being a kind of truce has been established.

  11. Good for it! I appreciate some zoos and what they do, but I love the idea of the birds making their escape and living out the rest of their lives free. On the topic of vagrants, I was very excited one year to spend a day photographing a long-tailed duck, a species that just doesn’t appear in this area. But somehow it found its way here and spent some time in the pond of a local park and gave some of us a fantastic experience.

    1. After looking at your long-tailed duck, I can see why people are fascinated by it. I would have spent a day with that beauty, too. It was interesting to see how it barely crosses into this county; I’m sure we’ll never see it here! I have a friend in the midwest who traveled to Oklahoma after hearing reports of a Snowy Owl there, and of course there are ‘plant people’ who will do the same thing: traveling some distance to see a rare or unusual species. I do remember a certain black swan that showed up in a local marina; it was quite a sight, too, although most people assumed it had escaped from someone’s pond.

      1. We’ve actually started seeing snowy owls make their way this far south in recent years, though I’ve yet to travel up to the DC area to see them. From what I’ve heard they draw large crowds and I’ve never been a big fan of standing around with large groups, though I have done it on occasion, especially if I just happen upon them. It is always interesting to read about the folks who do travel great distances for those types of encounters, though.

        1. My problem with large group events is that I’m such a dawdler. Either I want the time to take photos, or something not on the agenda catches my attention and it’s hard to resist wandering off. Sometimes I’ve dealt with it by making notes during the actual field trip, and then going back immediately to make another ‘pass’ through the territory on my own. I do know some people here who regularly fly off to Central or South America for birding or rare plant exploration, and sometimes I’m envious. Then, I realize how much there is in my own neighborhood, give myself a good talking to, and head outdoors again.

    1. What a nice compliment, Alessandra ~ thank you. I will say that it’s easier to tell an entertaining story when the subject is a rogue flamingo. The saga could be turned into a nice children’s tale, I think: just add imagination, and stir!

    1. Isn’t it, though? There’s no end to the strange tales out there. Jonathan Livingston Seagull got a book; why not Pink Floyd? Can’t you just imagine the things that he’s seen?

  12. I saw Pink Floyd play live at Deutschlandhalle in Berlin, Germany in 1977, and their albums UmmaGumma, Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, and Wish You Were Here have been in heavy rotation at different points in my life before that concert and ever since. As I read your post, a line from the song “Welcome to the Machine” (from Wish You Were Here) came to mind: “Oh, by the way, which one’s Pink?” It hearkens to the many times the OG bigwigs in the music industry asked them that question in the mistaken notion that the band was named after one of its members.) — which made your piece all the more smile-provoking. We have other imported African wild game being raised on ranches in Texas, why not flamingos too? (I hope PinkFloyd492’s companion did not fall victim to finding itself in an unfamiliar habitat where it didn’t recognize the predators . . . like the fool with the .22 rifle) (“PinkFloyd492” sounds like a username, or an email . . . )

    (BTW, I recommend to you the song “Grantchester Meadows” from UmmaGumma.
    Yeah. That’s Pink Floyd. It’s a little gem that is a musical/lyrical impression of the eponymous water meadows along the river Cam south of Cambridge, England.)

    1. As far as I know, there’s no connection to Pink Floyd the bird, but the Houston Museum of Natural Science/Burke Baker Planetarium has brought back their multi-media presentation of The Dark Side of the Moon. I remember it from years ago; I presume that it’s even more impressive now, given the technological advances that have come.

      I’d never heard of “Grantchester Meadows,” but I’m not very familiar with Pink Floyd’s music. I’ll say this: they included some wonderful bird song in that one.

  13. Fun and interesting post. I read about Pink Floyd just yesterday on a Master Naturalist forum. It looks to me like he’s livin’ the good life!

    1. I’ve had a photo of Pink Floyd in my files for a while — since 2018, I suppose. I always was going to post about him, but just never did. With this latest appearance, how could I not? TP&WD posted the video on Twitter, too, and that’s where I found it. I assumed a lot of people would see the social media postings, but he’d be new to others — and what’s not to like about this sort of vagrant?

    1. I wonder how long it’s going to be before he reappears? And it’s curious to me that he goes public about once a year. I wonder if “make an appearance for those silly humans again” is on his schedule?

  14. Well, I expected a David Gilmour solo at some point. Maybe even a floating pig.

    Many many years ago, when I was not even in my teens yet, we lived across from Watershop Pond in Springfield, MA and a flamingo visited during the summer, of course. I’ve not heard of another up this way since although there certainly may have been one or two just as with the Steller’s Sea Eagle that’s been visiting northern New England recently.

    I like your landing shot and had no idea they had so much black on them.

    1. I suspect most people don’t realize the birds have white and black feathers, too. We’re so accustomed to seeing yard flamingos and such as entirely pink, it makes sense that we’d see them that way.

      Apparently south Texas gets a stray from Mexico from time to time. I’d suspect any that arrive in your neighborhood would be from Florida. Their history there is a little complicated, but there’s no question they were native at one point. There’s a short article here that gives the broad outlines.

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