MIAMI SPRINGS, Fla. – Some Miami Springs residents are concerned about a recent, unusual series of flamingo sightings that they believe may be coming from the nearby Hialeah Park Casino, where a flock of the majestic pink birds has lived since the ‘30s.
Officials at Zoo Miami are worried about the birds, too.
Flamingos have recently been seen soaring above Miami Springs, strolling across a baseball diamond, walking in a neighborhood and laying dead in the grass.
These worrisome sights caught the attention of Miami Springs Historical Society board member and longtime resident Ken Wilde.
“I’ve been here over 70 years, never had a dead flamingo end up in Miami Springs,” Wilde said Tuesday.
Wilde says he’s also seen them at a Miami-Dade County calcium carbonate lagoon deposit removal site off of Dove Avenue.
Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill said he’s also concerned about what residents are seeing.
“It’s not normal in any way for flamingos to be walking on the baseball field,” Magill said.
The flamingos are believed to be among the same flock of birds living at the lake in the middle of Hialeah Park Casino’s racetrack.
According to the casino’s website, Joseph Widener imported the first flock from Cuba to inhabit the infield lake back in 1934.
“Since their introduction, these exotic, colorful birds have become a widely recognized trademark of Hialeah Park and South Florida,” the website says.
In fact, the casino claims the birds were the inspiration for the Florida Lottery logo.
The casino is about a mile away from Miami Springs.
“To see them there tells me that there’s some kind of external pressure that’s causing a change in their normal behavior,” Magill said.
Activists thought development taking place adjacent to Hialeah Park might have caused the birds to change their habits, an explanation Magill thought was plausible when Local 10 News spoke to him Tuesday.
“These birds are extremely susceptible to stress, so that stress could be causing these birds to venture out in areas they’re normally not going into and landing in in places like baseball diamonds, which are not at all beneficial for them,” he said.
But a few hours after Local 10 News spoke to Wilde Tuesday afternoon, he went to Hialeah Park to film the flamingos flying away. What he discovered surprised him.
“I noticed a number of foxes, at least five foxes, showed up on three sides of the flamingos and the flamingos, apparently, they’re very skittish of foxes at night,” Wilde said when Local 10 News interviewed him again on Wednesday. “As the foxes got closer, the flamingos took off and they circled the track for about 10 minutes and then left.”
Minutes later, at around 6 p.m., our cameras captured the birds flying above the calcium carbonate lagoon site.
“(The) videotape that I shot is pretty conclusive that the foxes are what spooked them,” Wilde said Wednesday.
Wilde said he was relieved that the problem appears to come from nature, rather than man.
“As it turns out, (development’s) not the reason the flamingos were leaving,” he said Wednesday. “I’m very happy about that.”
Local 10 News contacted Hialeah Park seeking comment. We have not received a response as of Wednesday evening.
Magill said residents who see live flamingos should not touch them and should instead call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.
He said residents who see dead flamingos also should not touch the birds and should instead contact Zoo Miami. Its number is 305-251-0400.