Flamingo Day Drive to mark historic Port visit

City to give South Beach Road second name in honor of day flamingos spent at beach during first-ever stop in state

FIVE WILD FLAMINGOS waded in the shallow Lake Michigan water off Port Washington’s south beach on Sept. 16, 2023, which experts say was the first time flamingos were spotted in Wisconsin or this far north. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

PORT WASHINGTON - South Beach Road will soon have another name.

Port Washington Mayor Ted Neitzke said that Tuesday the road will be named Flamingo Day Drive in honor of the five American flamingos that spent several hours on South Beach last September and drew crowds to the city’s lakefront.

It was the first ever sighting of wild flamingos in Wisconsin.

“Instead of renaming the beach, we’ll honor them with Flamingo Drive,” Neitzke said.

There aren’t any buildings along South Beach Road, he noted, so the measure shouldn’t cause any confusion in the city.

Neitzke said he was inspired to make the change after visiting Washington, D.C., where he said most street signs have a secondary sign with an alternative name that honors someone.

“Every block they had an honorary sign underneath (the regular street sign),” he said.

Neitzke said he has received “a lot” of requests from community members to memorialize the flamingos visit to Port.

“People wanted the beach renamed,” he said.

Now is a good time to give South Beach Road an honorary moniker, Neitzke said, especially with Fish Days coming up next month.

“There have been T-shirts made, a couple of floats,” he said, adding he wants to unveil the road sign during the festival.

“I think you’ll see a tremendous number of flamingos in the Fish Day parade this year.”

The group of five flamingos — three sporting classic pink flamingo plumage and two gray birds — was seen on South Beach on Sept. 16, 2023.

They spent hours wading on a sandbar not far off south beach as a crowd of people on shore took photos and stared in disbelief.

“To my knowledge, this is a northern most record for wild flamingos and the first time these birds have been sighted in Wisconsin,” Ryan Brady, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources who specializes in birds, said at the time.

It’s likely, he said, that the flamingos were displaced by hurricane Idalia.

“Right after the hurricane, there were reports of flamingos throughout the southeastern United States,” Brady said.

Port Washington is thought to be the farthest north these birds — residents of the Caribbean — have ever been seen.

“It’s just downright bizarre,” Brady said. “They probably got a little disorientated and just wandered around.”

After a few hours in Port, the birds flew off. They were reported in other parts of the state, but whether they returned to their home is an unanswered question. Flamingos don’t migrate, so they’re not used to flying long distances.

“We just don’t know because it really hasn’t been a question until now,” Brady said. “Colder temperatures and shorter days should be a signal to the birds to head south, but we don’t know how far south they will get.

“They have a long way to go.”


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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