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Flamingo on a Cape Cod Beach
Flamingo © Samantha Roth

Hype Over Cape Cod Flamingo Reaches New Heights

June 06, 2024

What seemed at first like the tallest of tales ended up leaving birders tickled pink and the rest of the country enthralled, as a wild American Flamingo was caught on camera gracing the shores of Cape Cod. 

Yes, you read that right. A flamingo on the Cape. Chapin Beach on Cape Cod Bay in Dennis, to be exact. 

Flamingo on a Cape Cod Beach
Flamingo © Samantha Roth

Cape Cod Flamingo Hoax or Bonafide Sighting? 

If you think we’re joking, that’s understandable. After all, this is a bird native to the Caribbean, and no one would mistake Massachusetts with the tropics. In fact, when photos of the flamingo were first posted in a Cape Cod birding Facebook group, most people called it a hoax with accusations of “Photoshop!” filling up the comment section. 

But when a second person sent in photos and videos to corroborate the initial sighting, hardcore birders knew this was the real deal. 

Mark Faherty, science coordinator at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary,  was already aware of a flamingo being spotted a day earlier on Long Island in New York. So he was pretty sure  it was the same bird. 

But how did a flamingo end up in Massachusetts and has this ever happened before? 

How a Flamingo Traveled to Over 100 Miles to Massachusetts 

First, it surprises many to learn that flamingos are skilled fliers. American flamingos typically reach speeds of 35 MPH when they travel, and flocks of flamingos have been known to travel close to 400 miles. 

Last August, Hurricane Idalia wreaked havoc with migratory patterns and Faherty said the storm deposited flamingos as far north as Ohio and Pennsylvania. Once disturbed and off-course, those birds could explore new areas or wander even farther afield, which seems to be the case in this instance. 

While two Massachusetts flamingo sightings were reported in the 1960s, those were determined to be captive birds that had escaped their enclosures. If the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee agrees with Faherty’s assessment, the Cape flamingo will likely be the first wild flamingo on record in the Commonwealth’s history. 

To say this potentially record-setting moment was noticed would be an understatement. 

In addition to local/regional media outlets like the Boston Globe, Boston.com, MassLive, WBZ, NBC Boston, Cape Cod Times, and WHDH doing stories on this rogue flamingo, reporters from ABC National News, MSN, Yahoo, AOL, and even The Weather Channel reached out to Mass Audubon while covering the story. 

“I basically spent two days as press secretary for a flamingo,” Faherty joked. 

Where is the Flamingo Now? 

Unfortunately for Faherty (and many other birders), a trip to Chapin Beach in Dennis to see the flamingo proved futile, as the bird hasn’t been seen since the initial spotting. 

Where is it and where will it go next? 

“I have no idea. There is literally no precedent for this because wild flamingos have never come to Massachusetts before,” Faherty said. 

The bird might still be around, or it could be in Canada by now, Faherty said. He wishes it were here because seeing a flamingo in the wild would be a bucket list moment for birders like himself. While it will likely head south to enjoy warmer temperatures eventually, Faherty said birds that get off-course like this don’t always go back to where they came from and will likely be spotted somewhere close by in the near future. 

“Not all who wander are lost,” Faherty said. 

Plan Your Visit 

Hoping to get lucky? Visit one of Mass Audubon’s 60+ wildlife sanctuaries for the chance to spot common, rare, and flamingo-level-rare birds this summer.  

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