This flamingo escaped a Kansas zoo in 2005 and hasn't been back — it keeps going to Texas

Flamingo No. 492 escaped the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita in June 2005 and was just spotted along the Texas coast.
Flamingo No. 492 escaped the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita in June 2005 and was just spotted along the Texas coast. Ben Shepard, Texas Parks and Wildlife

Thirteen years ago, a flamingo made its escape from the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita — and it hasn't been back since.

But the fugitive flamingo was recently spotted along the Texas coast.

The African flamingo was spotted in Texas when staff were completing the Texas Colonial Waterbird Survey near Lavaca Bay, according to a June 22 Facebook post by the Coastal Fisheries division in Texas.

"What's pink and white and likes to spend time in Texas?" the post says. "An escaped African flamingo from a Kansas zoo!"

Nobody knows if the flamingo is a boy or a girl, as it escaped in June 2005 before zoo staff could perform a blood test. So, the flamingo is nicknamed No. 492, which is the number on its leg band.

No. 492 was spotted in South Texas on May 23, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Ben Shepard, a Texas Parks and Wildlife intern, took the photos but didn't know the bird was "legendary" until parks employees saw the photo with the No. 492 tag.

The "legendary flamingo" makes a Texas appearance every few years, according to the post.

“(Texas) might be on its migratory path,” Julie Hagen with Coastal Fisheries told the Statesman.

In 2013, the flamingo was seen off the Texas coast with a Yucatan-born Caribbean flamingo, The Wichita Eagle previously reported. No. 492 was also seen on the Gulf Coast of Texas in December 2006, The Associated Press reported. It has also been spotted in Louisiana and Wisconsin.

The flamingo escaped from Wichita on June 27, 2005. No. 492 had escaped with one other flamingo at about 9 p.m. that night, the Eagle reported. The two flamingos' flight feathers had not yet been trimmed because the feathers hadn't completely grown in — or so the zookeepers thought.

With their feathers, the flamingos took advantage of strong storm winds and escaped.

“It is a black eye, to be honest,” Scott Newland, the zoo’s curator of birds, told the Eagle in 2013. “It was basically an error. We are not fond of this story.”

No. 492, and the other flamingo who escaped, both went separate ways. No. 492 went to the Gulf Coast, and the other went up north. The Eagle reported in 2009 that no one has seen the northern bird since August 2005.

"We can only assume that in the storm, the two had got separated," Christan Baumer, Sedgwick County Zoo spokeswoman, said in 2009.

Now, the zoo doesn't have a plan to get No. 492 back.

"There really isn't an easy way to recapture the bird," Baumer told the AP in 2007. "It would only disturb wildlife where it's been found and possibly could do more damage to the bird than just leaving him alone."

No. 492 began his life in Tanzania and spent time in South Africa before being sent to the U.S. in 2004. The bird is now about 23 years old and can live 50 years or more in the wild.

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