Rare Pink Flamingo Turns Up in Moss Landing

Rare bird native to Africa, South Asia

By Jessica Greene
|  Thursday, Feb 11, 2010  |  Updated 2:24 PM PDT
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Yohn Gideon

Captain Yohn Gideon took this picture of a rare pink flamingo that turned up in Elkhorn Slough.

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There's a rare sight in the Santa Cruz area drawing curiosity from visitors and wildlife experts alike.

A pink flamingo has apparently taken up residence in the coastal city of Moss Landing, thousands of miles away from its native home.

Captain Yohn Gideon of Elkhorn Slough Safari first spotted the bird in January as he piloted his pontoon full of tourists through the protected wetlands area. Gideon, a natural history tour guide, was puzzled when he saw the rare bird and even thought someone was playing a prank on him.

"It was just unreal," Gideon told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. "We were high-fiving. Everybody on the boat was excited. The flamingo seemed like he was just going about his day, though."

The majestic bird has a tag on it's leg, indicating it was held in captivity at some point. It might have flown away from a zoo or other tourist spot but so far, nobody has claimed it.

Rebecca Dmytryk of WildRescue, said she and the team knew about the mysterious new resident but say there is enough for it to eat in the slough to stay healthy. The nonprofit collects birds in need of help and nurses them back to health but in this case, there's no need to intervene.

"It's better for the bird to be in the wild than caged." Dmytryk said.

Experts say it's a Lesser pink flamingo. At just 39 inches tall and four and a half pounds, its the smallest of the six known species and typically lives in Africa and South Asia.

A representative of the Aviary Department at the San Francisco Zoo told the paper all of their flamingos are accounted for and suggested once word gets out about the apparent escapee, an institution might come forward and claim it back for their collection.

In the meantime, UC Santa Cruz biology professor Todd Newberry says, nature lovers should take the time to catch a glimpse of the rare winged one.

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