Birdwatchers at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge were surprised to encounter a flock of rare visitors over the weekend – a group of pink flamingos that paid the Outer Banks a visit after Hurricane Idalia.
Flamingo sightings have been reported in various states all along the East Coast over the past few days, including Florida, South and North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia, but for many birdwatchers in the Outer Banks region, this is the first reported sighting of flamingos close to home.
Jeff Lewis, a local birdwatcher for 35 years who volunteers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the annual Wings Over Water Festival, said that he encountered the flock on Saturday morning while exploring the north end of Pea Island.
“I have never seen them before, except in zoos,” he said. “As far as I know, these are the first wild flamingos ever seen in North Carolina.”
American (or Caribbean) flamingos are distributed throughout the Caribbean Islands and along the northern coast of South America. They usually live in the shallows of salt or brackish water or alkaline lakes, and it’s likely that the flamingos evacuated their native home during Idalia and temporarily moved to northern locations, leading to a rise in sightings all along the Eastern Seaboard.
“It’s anyone’s guess how long they will stay, but hopefully they will stick around for another day or two,” said Lewis, who noted that the Pea Island flock of 11 flamingos included three pink adults and 8 gray juveniles. “Maybe more people will stop by the refuge to see them, and will get into birding as a result.”
How to visit the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge:
A good starting point to explore the refuge is the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center, which connects with the North Pond Wildlife Trail, immediately behind the parking area.
Wildlife trails within the refuge are open year-round during daylight hours, and are fully disabled-accessible. Neither pets nor bicycles are allowed on walking trails, and more information can be found at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/pea_island/visit/visitor_activities/wildlife_trails.html.
For more information on happenings within the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and beyond, visit https://www.facebook.com/USFWS.NC.