The boaters were too far away to see the tag. But Julie Hagen, a social media specialist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said No. 492 was spotted in the same area and during the same time of year that it’s been spotted in past years.
“We have no reason to believe that it is any other flamingo,” she said.
It served as confirmation that No. 492, estimated to be about 20 years old, is still persevering despite striking out on its own.
Its journey would fit snugly into a Pixar movie script.
No. 492 was one of 40 flamingos to arrive at the Kansas zoo in 2003. Most of the birds were probably around 3 years old, Scott Newland, the curator of birds at the zoo, said in an interview in 2018.
He described feather clipping, the maintenance that keeps the birds grounded, as painless, “no different than you or I getting a haircut.” It must be repeated each year as birds molt their feathers and grow new ones.
But in June 2005, staff members missed the signs that No. 492’s wings needed to be clipped, and the bird flew away to a drainage canal in Wichita along with another flamingo, No. 347.
On July 4 — seriously, on Independence Day — the birds flew away from Wichita for good, No. 492 heading south and No. 347 heading north.
No. 347 was never seen again, and likely didn’t survive the winter. No. 492, though, found a suitable environment in Texas, with its shallow, salty wetlands, high temperatures year-round and ample food sources.