- On Sept. 25, 2023, five flamingos were spotted on Lake Michigan in Port Washington, Wisconsin.
- Wisconsin natives and enthusiastic bird watchers were surprised by their arrival and went to take photos.
- Bird experts speculate that Hurricane Idalia diverted the flamingos from their flight path.
Port Washington, Wisconsin, residents were in for a surprise in late September 2023 when they began to notice a flock of flamingos on Lake Michigan. The rare occasion marked the first time the illustrious pink birds have ever been spotted in Wisconsin, although flamingos are not uncommon in states such as Florida.
News outlets such as USA Today have reported other flamingo sightings on the East Coast after the devastation of Hurricane Idalia. Here's what to know about the Wisconsin flamingos and what to do if you spot a flamingo out in the wild.
Rare sighting of pink flamingos in Port Washington, Wisconsin, stunned locals and birdwatchers.
On Sept. 25, 2023, residents of Port Washington, Wis., were surprised to see five flamingos on Lake Michigan. The state director of research for Audubon Florida, Jerry Lorenz, told WISN that the birds may have been flying between Cuba and the Yucatan and were sadly blown off course by Hurricane Idalia.
The Florida Audubon Society backed up this theory, writing in a report on its website on Sept. 1, 2023: "American Flamingos are more numerous in Mexico and Cuba, and Hurricane Idalia likely 'captured' single flamingos and small flocks from these regions, blowing them to Florida on strong storm winds."
The American Birding Association reported that in the past, flamingos appeared in Wisconsin and Florida, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and many other places across the U.S. The organization also explained on its website that flamingos are not the only birds that might appear unexpectedly in your backyard after a hurricane.
Bird species such as "terns, tropicbirds, storm-petrels, and frigatebirds," are known as storm birds, or birds that become trapped in the eye of a hurricane during fall migration.
How will the flamingos get home?
According to ABC 7 News, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said there are no plans to "rescue" the flamingos because there is no reason to believe they are in danger, just a little waterlogged. The officials also told the news outlet they expect more flamingo sightings throughout October until it gets cold enough for them to fly south.
Here's what you should do if you see a flamingo.
Like most wild animals, flamingos should be left alone. Jerry Lorenz stressed to WISN that citizens can photograph the creatures but should not get too close because they have likely had a difficult experience navigating the hurricane.
"These birds are stressed right now. They just went through a terrible ordeal, no matter how you look at it," Lorenz said. "So don't get close enough to startle them to frighten them or anything else, but enjoy their presence."