Speed Reads

It wasn't all bad

Flamingo that escaped from Kansas zoo 13 years ago is thriving in Texas

No. 492 may have a boring name, but this African flamingo has led a very exciting life.

The flamingo was one of 40 sent from Tanzania to the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas, in 2003. To keep the flamingoes from flying away, their feathers were clipped annually (it's like a person getting a haircut, Scott Newland, Sedgwick County Zoo curator of birds, told The New York Times), but in June 2005, No. 492 and its friend, No. 347, overdue for a clipping, were able to escape on a windy day.

The flamingoes were both tagged, and about a month later, No. 347 was spotted in Michigan; because that flamingo was never seen again, Newland believes it did not survive the winter. No. 492, though, reappeared in Texas in 2006, and has been seen on and off ever since. Flamingoes are social and need to be around each other, and No. 492 somehow managed to make a friend in Texas — a Caribbean flamingo that Newland thinks may have been blown into the Gulf during a tropical storm.

The latest sighting of No. 492 (solo, without his friend) took place in late May in Lavaca Bay, halfway between Houston and Corpus Christi. Flamingo expert Felicity Arengo told the Times that "as long as they have these shallow, salty types of wetlands, they can be pretty resilient."