An unexpected visitor drew big crowds to San Carlos Bay Preserve/Bunche Beach this week. Birders from around Florida flocked to Fort Myers to catch a glimpse of an American Flamingo in the wild.
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According to the Audubon Society, flamingos were a normal sight for Floridians in the 1800s. However, plume hunting wiped the birds out in North America. Most flamingo sightings are believed to be Caribbean visitors or escapees from local zoos. The Bunch Beach flamingo didn’t have a radio tag on its ankle, leading many observers to believe it was wild.
The flamingo has been spotted several times over the past few days at Bunche Beach. Birders with spotting scopes and foot-long camera lenses visited at low tide Saturday.
One man, who came equipped with a large camera and tripod, drove down from Sarasota. A New Jersey resident, he said he had never seen a flamingo in the wild. Excitement over the bird was a common theme. “Birdparazzi” who arrived at the beach after 9 a.m. questioned others who were leaving the beach.
“Walk right and look for the crowd of people,” was the advice for the seekers.
At one point the flamingo flapped its wings an took off for a minute, circled, and landed again. This momentary liftoff provided the most excitement for the morning.
“Come this way,” one photographer whispered.
The tide eventually drifted in, forcing the birders to retreat closer to shore. But even as the wind-driven waves crashed the flamingo remained.