After Escaping a Kansas Zoo, Fugitive Flamingo Seen in Texas for the Second Time in 14 Years
This bright-pink jailbird continues to defy the odds.
May 30, 2019
It’s fair to say that life on the lam agrees with flamingo No. 492. The famous African flamingo has been a fugitive for an impressive 14 years—since it and another flamingo took advantage of strong storm winds and busted out of Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas, on June 27, 2005.
As The Wichita Eagle previously reported, the lanky bird and its co-conspirator, who both arrived at the zoo as adults, managed to escape their enclosure before keepers had a chance to clip their flight feathers. Sadly, it is presumed that the escapees were separated in the storm.
Named for the number on its yellow leg band, No. 492 was at the zoo for such a short period of time that keepers didn’t even get a chance to determine its sex, only deepening the exotic bird’s mystique. What they do know, is that the five-foot-tall pink flamingo is approximately 25 years old and capable of living 50 years or more in the wild.
No. 492 has done quite a bit of traveling since its jailbreak. Over the years it has been seen in Texas several times, as well as in Louisiana and Wisconsin. Just last week, Texas Parks and Wildlife announced via Facebook that it was spotted by photographer John Humbert wading in Lavaca Bay in Southeast Texas. It made an appearance in the same area around this time last year as well.
If you’re wondering whether or not flamingos are native to Texas, they most certainly are not. In fact, they’re pretty much never found in the United States except for a few sightings in South Florida. But it seems that No. 492 has managed to find a suitable environment in the Lone Star State.
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“As long as they have these shallow, salty types of wetlands they can be pretty resilient,” Felicity Arengo, a flamingo expert at the American Museum of Natural History, told The New York Times.
Julie Hagen, a social media specialist for the Coastal Fisheries Division, told the Austin-American Statesman that it’s unclear if the flamingo stayed along the coast all year or if it just returned. Last year, she mused that Texas “might be on its migratory path.”
Either way, the Coastal Fisheries Division now considers the bright pink jailbird a Texas citizen, and are looking to call it something other than No. 492.
The office is currently taking name suggestions on Facebook. Some of our favorites from the hundreds of submissions include Dorothy, Lone Star, Fugi for “fugitive,” and Davy Crockett.
Fortunately for No. 492, zoo officials aren't planning to attempt recapture.
"There really isn't an easy way to recapture the bird," Christan Baumer, Sedgwick County Zoo spokeswoman, told the AP in 2007. "It would only disturb wildlife where it's been found and possibly could do more damage to the bird than just leaving him alone."