Unprecedented Flamingo Sightings in Ohio Stun Local Birdwatcher


Associating flamingos with the vistas of African watering holes, the Caribbean, or Florida might seem normal, but spotting these magnificent creatures in Waynesville, Ohio is undoubtedly unusual. Jacob Roalef, a seasoned birdwatching tour leader, found himself in such a remarkable situation when social media alerted him to the presence of flamingos at Ceasar Creek State Park, not too far from Dayton.

Without wasting time, Roalef grabbed his gear and headed straight for the park in anticipation. Upon arrival at the pristine lake, he discovered two flamingos—an adult and a juvenile—resting and occasionally drinking from the shallow waters near the shoreline. Engaged in their peaceful respite, they would only stir if a gull soared above them.

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The peaceful display lasted until about 6 p.m., abruptly disbanded when an intrusive dog chased the majestic birds away. But before this, Roalef was privileged to witness an extraordinary spectacle in Ohio.

This surprise however isn’t isolated. Jerry Lorenz, the state director of research for Audubon Florida, reveals that reports have come in of flamingos sighted across states—Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Texas, and Kentucky, among others—ever since Hurricane Idalia swept through. According to Lorenz, these sightings could be birds lost in transit between Cuba and the Yucatan, thrown off-course by the storm.

Although still collating data, Lorenz believes that the number of wayward flamingos is far beyond the ordinary. “We have never seen anything like this,” he remarked, describing the situation as unprecedented.

Vinnie Fugett, a local boat captain, confirmed these unusual occurrences. He reported seeing a flock of 17 flamingos feeding along the seashore at Treasure Island near St Petersburg, Florida—a sight unseen by Fugett in his lifetime as a resident.

In light of these events, Lorenz urges residents and bird watchers to exercise caution. The flamingos, in his view, are impacted by the stresses of their rough journey and need to recuperate without disturbance.

Flamingos, once nearing extinction in Florida due to their highly prized feathers, have seen increasing population numbers worldwide in recent years. Many of Florida’s flamingos are believed to be the descendants of escapees from various animal attractions, but recently, the scientific community has tracked migratory flamingos arriving from as far as Cuba, the Yucatan, and the Bahamas.

Depending on their remarkable ability to fly thousands of miles over open waters, Lorenz assures that the birds sighted in Ohio should safely venture homeward when temperatures drop. In the meantime, Lorenz works persistently, collaborating with teams of experts to restore proper habitats for flamingos in the Everglades and the Florida Keys.

“Perhaps these birds will feel more comfortable and, we will have a population again, and people will be able to come to South Florida and the Florida Keys and actually see flamingos in the wild,” he surmised, holding on to hope.