PORT LAVACA, Texas — The quiet life along the Coastal Bend can be heaven for those looking for peace and tranquility on the Gulf. It's also the perfect place for a bird on the fly to stay long gone.
Birds are abundant along the shores and waterways around Lavaca Bay around this time of year. You can find them in all different shapes, sizes and colors as they fish and shrimp the Gulf undisturbed.
But earlier this month, one of two flamingos that escaped from a Kansas zoo during a storm 17 years ago was spotted on the coast of Texas, according to wildlife officials.
The Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife confirmed Tuesday to The Associated Press that the African flamingo — known as No. 492 because of the number on its leg band — was captured on video shot on March 10 by an environmental activist near Port Lavaca, Texas, at Rhodes Point in Cox Bay. Officials were able to make out the bird's leg band on the video.
"It can move down into Mexico. It can move back up here," Curator of Birds at the Houston Zoo Ric Urban said.
Urban said there's no telling how much of North America the fugitive flamingo has seen in his 17 years on the run.
"They might look a little awkward getting off the ground but they can travel 35 miles an hour. And travel over 350 miles," Urban said.
The bird and another flamingo escaped from the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita on a stormy night in June 2005. Employees had not yet clipped the birds' wings to prevent them from flying, which facilitated their escape.
The bird was formerly known as "Pink Floyd." The companion he was known to travel with is no longer around.
While the other flamingo was never seen again, No. 492 has been spotted several times in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Texas, sometimes with other wild flamingos. But it had been years since its last reported sighting — until this month.
Zoo officials have never made plans to recapture No. 492, despite the sightings, saying there is no easy way to do so without disturbing other wildlife. In other words, Floyd will live the rest of his life as a free bird.
The escaped flamingos, known for their distinctive pink feathers and long legs and necks, were born in Africa then shipped to the Kansas zoo in 2004 with 39 other flamingos.
Floyd likely doesn't miss his running mate too much these days. Lavaca Bay is swarming with flocks of spoonbills this month during mating season. Based on their appearance, they likely make Floyd feel right at home.
Experts say flamingos can live up to 50 years.
"As long as there's plenty of food and no predators ... he's doing really well," Urban said.