The state wildlife agency is taking the next step toward establishing — or re-establishing — the American Flamingo as a Floridian bird.
Flamingos had been considered a non-native exotic species for decades, and were listed that way on the state wildlife website. Birds that people saw flying around were thought to be captives that had escaped.
But last year, a group of South Florida scientists published a paper arguing that flamingos should be considered native Florida birds. The scientists, led by Zoo Miami, looked at historical records, museum collections, local sightings of birds tagged in the wild and decades of reports from South Florida birders.
And they petitioned the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to evaluate their status. That could lead to them being listed as threatened, or a species of special concern.
If they are listed, "it would encourage the state to take action on their behalf to protect the population," said Steven Whitfield, conservation biologist at Zoo Miami and lead author of the paper on flamingos.
"They would have to decide what kind of action plan for the species they choose," he said. "That could be increased protection for flamingoes or it could be some kind of recovery plan."
If the board that oversees the wildlife agency agrees, a group of three to seven biologists will review the status of flamingos. That review could be completed by next year.