Dublin Zoo's flyaway flamingo to have wings clipped again

A FLAMINGO’S flight of fancy ended in dramatic fashion yesterday when it was rescued from the river Liffey and returned to its…

A FLAMINGO’S flight of fancy ended in dramatic fashion yesterday when it was rescued from the river Liffey and returned to its home in Dublin Zoo.

The flamingo, an 11-year-old male, went missing on Thursday afternoon but early yesterday residents in the Islandbridge area reported sighting the exotic bird on the river.

It appears that the Chilean flamingo nested overnight near Chapelizod Bridge, less than 2km (as the bird flies) from its usual abode.

Like all flamingos at the zoo, its wings had been clipped but “every now and then their flight feathers grow a little longer,” explained Dublin Zoo’s operations manager Gerry Creighton.


“This one probably got caught in a gust of wind and just got blown out.”

The sightings yesterday sparked a rescue operation headed by Mr Creighton, who tried to catch the flamingo using a pole from the riverbank.

Although the bird almost had its feathers ruffled by a passing swan, a row boat distracted the wader, allowing the rescue to continue.

Eventually a motor boat was acquired, allowing Mr Creighton to reach the far bank and collar the pink flamingo, which was returned to Dublin Zoo by lunchtime and was reported to be in fine feather.

“They’re passive birds and it’d rather be back with its flock,” Mr Creighton said. “I’m delighted it’s safe – it’s a happy ending.”

While it is rare for any animal to escape from Dublin Zoo, it is not the first time a flamingo has flown the coop.

“We’ve got about 80 pink flamingos and the last one to get out was about 10 years ago,” Mr Creighton said.

In this instance the bird was also returned safely after a short stay on the Liffey, a spokesman for Dublin Zoo confirmed.

“In zoos all over the world, it is normal and accepted practice to clip flamingos’ wing feathers. After the moult these feathers grow back enabling the flamingo to fly,” the spokesman said. He added that the bird which escaped this week was not in any danger and posed no threat to people, other birds or animals.

The flamingo, which was born at Dublin Zoo, is part of a flock that has been there for more than 30 years.

The Chilean flamingo is an endangered species. It hails from South America and is usually found in salt marshes and coastal lagoons.

In the wild they feed on small crustacean algae from which they ingest pigments, called carotenoids, giving them their distinctive salmon-pink plumage.