It's true: bright pink flamingos have been spending time in the Potomac watershed. Photo: Mark Hendricks

PHOTOS: Flamingos in PA’s Chesapeake Watershed?

The southern and eastern United States is in the midst of a flamingo mania. And not the plastic kind that ornament countless front yards in Baltimore, but the real—adorned by bright pink plumage—flamingos.

The American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) has recently appeared in areas far outside their range, including in Pennsylvania, at a lake just over the Maryland line where the Potomac and Susquehanna river basins meet.

Native to the tropical Americas from the West Indies to northern South America, the iconic symbol of all things warm historically nested in southern Florida. Now but for a few that lurk in the Everglades the bird is rarely seen in the United States outside of zoos.  

But something strange happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia. The birds were soon spotted all over Florida. Then they were seen in Georgia, then South Carolina, and then, Ohio and Kentucky. In recent days North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Texas have also confirmed sightings. But why are these long-legged visitors showing up? It is believed that birds traveling from the Yucatan peninsula to Cuba were blown way, way off course by the hurricane. 

Birdwatchers, nature enthusiasts, and people who just want to see something extraordinary are (pun intended) flocking to see these birds.  

Thus far there have been no sightings in Maryland as of this writing. The last confirmed sighting in the state was a lone bird in 1972 on the north end of Assateague Island. However late last week a pair was found in a pond in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, at Long Lane Pond. Franklin County is part of the geographically larger Chesapeake Bay watershed. These are the first confirmed wild flamingos ever seen in the Commonwealth.

The pair were seen foraging and resting in a pond off the road with the stunning Appalachian Mountains in the background. The photos below show them juxtaposed with a surprising mid-Atlantic backdrop:

The pink birds are a rare and must see-to-believe sight for sure. Earlier this week one was collected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to be rehabbed after it was injured by a snapping turtle, but its mate was still seen in the pond as of this writing.  It is hoped it will be a quick rehabilitation for the injured bird so that upon release the pair can resume their travels together.

With autumn on the horizon these rare sightings will not continue much longer. When the weather begins to dip the birds will likely head back to their southern, tropical range. Could one, or some, show up on the shores of the Chesapeake? If there was ever a good time, it is now.    

-Mark Hendricks