‘Non-native’ species reported in Kentucky for first time in state history

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed reports of a flamingo at Cave Run Lake in Rowan County.
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 4:08 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - A flamingo has been spotted at a Kentucky lake.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed reports of a flamingo at Cave Run Lake in Rowan County.

A video of the flamingo taken by Morgan County resident Amanda Frazier.

Amanda Frazier says she and her family decided to enjoy their Labor Day by getting out on Cave Run Lake. Frazier says they were driving their kids around in a tube when something caught her husband’s eye.

“My husband looked over, and he said, ‘Look at that flamingo!’ and we were laughing because we thought someone had brought a plastic one and pushed it down in the sand,” Frazier said.

But soon enough, that “plastic” pink bird came to life.

“It was just walking around, letting people come up to it and take its picture,” Frazier said.

John Brunjes with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife says it was likely one of several swept north from the Yucatan Peninsula by Hurricane Idalia.

“If you’re in the eye of a hurricane. A lot of times, you can hear tons and tons of birds overhead. Oftentimes, they find a safe spot, and the storm just carries them,” said Brunjes.

Brunjes says this particular storm caused flamingos to flock into nine different U.S. states, adding that it’s the first-ever recorded sighting of the flamboyant bird in Kentucky.

“After we figured out what was going on, why it may have showed up here, we were saddened because it was away from home and by itself,” Frazier said.

Brunjes noted that the increasingly cooler weather would affect the flamingo, had it stuck around another month. Its food sources would look much different, too.

“What they’re eating here definitely would not be what they’re eating in the Yucatan,” Brunjes said. “My guess is, over the long term, their diet would suffer.”

But he says no one spotted it Tuesday. So, he thinks its cameo in the Commonwealth is over, and it’s likely starting a very long journey back home.

Brunjes added its bright coloration indicates it is still in good health as it migrates back to a more normal habitat.

“They came in good condition, they get a little supplemental food here and there, and they’ve got enough energy to get home,” said Brunjes.