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Wildlife experts excited by flamingo resurgence in Florida after a century of near extinction

"The return of a striking bird has Floridians and wildlife experts tickled pink."

"The return of a striking bird has Floridians and wildlife experts tickled pink."

Photo Credit: iStock

The return of a striking bird has Floridians and wildlife experts tickled pink.

Flamingos are once again calling the state home after previously being hunted to near extinction. 

In the late 19th century, the long-legged waders were coveted for their pink plumage, with feathers often used as an accessory on hats. Hunters took advantage of the fashion trend to the point the creatures were on the brink of eradication.

Fast forward over a century later, and in February alone, ChipChick reported that 101 flamingo sightings had been recorded statewide, with around half of them coming from Florida Bay.

It is thought the birds have been encouraged to return to Florida following Hurricane Idalia in August 2023. For conservationists, the extreme weather provided an unexpected boost, with the flamingos settling in the state rather than leaving after a short period.

Indeed, flamingos were once so common in Florida that they are considered a native species, although their numbers since the early 20th century would not suggest that is the case.

But there is a possibility that flamingos could soon head further north. ChipChick said researchers believe that warmer temperatures as a result of human-caused global heating might be pushing wading birds up the United States' coastline — though it's uncertain if flamingos will move on or be able to adjust and stay in Florida.

The rapid melting of polar ice and the expansion of water under heat are leading to higher sea levels, which are flooding nesting sites. To avoid these problems, waders might soon set up breeding grounds in more northern areas — although flamingos might adapt better to adverse conditions than species like spoonbills.

The issue only emphasizes the importance of reducing planet-warming pollution that leads to warmer conditions and ocean temperatures. Unfortunately, Florida seems to be avoiding some initiatives that would do just that. State lawmakers are seeking to ban the construction of offshore wind farms that would create clean, sustainable, and cheap energy for state residents. 

However, the opening of Brightline, a high-speed rail route, should help discourage people from using gas-guzzling cars for trips in-state, reducing the amount of dirty fuel pollution produced by motorists. 

For now, though, Floridians can be delighted by the colorful addition to coastal areas. Projects to restore wetland habitats in the Everglades might encourage them to stay, too.

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