HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — For only the ninth documented time in Texas, a wild flamingo is visiting the state at the wetlands of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
Laguna Atascosa has documented more bird species than any refuge in the United States with some 420 varieties, and it is a rarity like the tropical flamingo that makes Laguna Atascosa so special.
Naturalist Javi Gonzales with the South Padre Birding Nature Center and Alligator Sanctuary recently spotted the flamboyantly pink bird at the refuge.
“I saw an American flamingo out here in Laguna Atascosa… deep in the refuge here out in the expansive wetlands… incredible!”, said Gonzales.
This bird is likely a stray from a resident colony of flamingos native to the Yucatan in Mexico some 1,200 miles south. A flamingo was photographed on the beach near the Port Mansfield jetties about the time Hurricane Nicolas passed by the Rio Grande Valley in mid-September, and the bird may have arrived here as a result of the storm. The bird disappeared after that initial sighting until it showed up at the refuge several days ago.
The American flamingo is a very large bird standing some five feet tall with a nearly five-foot wingspan and weighing up to eight pounds. Their richly hued pinkish feathering results from their diet of algae and aquatic invertebrates.
Flamingos have the longest necks and legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, and this flamingo at Laguna Atascosa seems right at home wading the abundant shallows at the refuge.
For Javi Gonzales, who is an expert birder, this flamingo sighting is extra special as it is the first one he has ever seen.
Gonzales said, “This is a life bird that I got…Here in South Texas if you are a birder it is awesome because there is always that sense of surprise because you never know what can show up here.”