Pink Floyd - The Chilean Flamingo of GSL

Hatched - Unknown

Arrived In Utah - 1985

Arrived GSL - August 7, 1988 

Disappeared - Spring, 2005

About Chilean Flamingos

The Chilean flamingo known as Pink Floyd. The bird escaped from Salt Lake City's Tracy Aviary in 1988 and returned annually to the lake to spend the winter.

Pink Floyd", the Great Salt Lake's Chilean pink flamingo,  winter 2004.


Vital Statistics:

  • Height: About three foot eight
  • Color: Bright pink, with red and black highlights
  • Place of Origin: South America (maybe Chile, Bolivia or Peru)
  • First Utah Home:  Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City, 1985
  • Year Escaped:  1988
  • Reason for Escape:  The wings were not clipped.-- a procedural miscue.
  • Wintering grounds: Shores of the Great Salt Lake in Utah
  • Summering grounds:  Lima reservoir and Camas NWR near the Idaho-Montana border.  Has been seen 30 miles south of the Great Salt Lake one summer and just  north of the lake another summer.
  • Companions: Pink Floyd usually is seen hanging around with a group of gulls, but has been seen flying in from the north with some Tundra Swans.
  • Food of Choice: Brine shrimp (in winter -- keeps him in the "pink")

The History of Pink Floyd 

Floyd's Arrival



Pink Floyd at Saltair on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake
by Jack Binch
26 Feb 2005  ©Jack Binch 

It was the summer's perfect storm. As the clouds rumbled across the sky above Tracy Aviary and the wind whirled, a flamingo frantically flapped his wings and began to float in a thermal high above the aviary. After circling above his grounded companions, he navigated his way to a new home, one of brine shrimp indulgences on the Great Salt Lake.

So begins the story of one of Utah's most unusual celebrities. Pink Floyd, as avid fans now call him, began his adventure on Aug. 7, 1988. A summer storm swept through Salt Lake, allowing Pink Floyd to take an unexpected trip over the seven-foot tall perimeter fence and fly into Utah's wildlife hall of fame.

Imagine the look on his comrade's faces back at the aviary when they learn Floyd has been highlighted in two major newspapers and a magazine to boot. They must have been pink with envy.

Nigella Hillgarth, executive director of the Tracy Aviary, recalls Pink Floyd's escape. "On that really windy night he just started flapping and took off."

The Aviary usually clips the wings of its inhabitants, but, according to Dale Clayton, professor of Biology at the University of Utah, wing-clipping is a misnomer: "When they clip the wings of a bird, it is just like cutting hair. They cut the feathers, not the bird."

So, either Pink Floyd was scissor shy or he somehow evaded a complete clipping. He then molted and, in a top-secret operation, grew back a complete set of feathers in preparation for the great escape.

Tracy Aviary frequently receives calls from people spotting Pink Floyd on the Great Salt Lake in the winter. A recent email from one of Hillgarth's friends said: "Took a quick trip out to Saltair at lunchtime and saw Pink Floyd standing on the lake in the snow showers." During the summer months, though, the calls and emails vanish.

At first Hillgarth was perplexed by Floyd's disappearing act, until one day she received a lead: "I got a call from a radio station last year near Butte, Montana, saying, 'We've had lots of calls from people who have seen a flamingo.'" Hillgarth did some investigating, and it seems that no other zoo or aviary was missing a flamingo. She concluded that the Butte bird must be Pink Floyd.

Floyd's Annual Dissapearing Act

"Yes, my other home is in Montana."

Pink Floyd's summer residence is Lima Reservoir in the southwestern part of Montana. Adams suspects that Pink Floyd is feeding off of mosquito larvae during the summer. It is not known exactly how far Chilean flamingos migrate in the wild, because tagging is a difficult process. Their range, however, is about 1,000 miles, and Clayton suspects that Pink Floyd travels approximately 300 to 400 miles, taking a couple days, to reach his summer residence. The pink powerhouse can travel approximately 30 to 37 miles per hour and up to 200 miles in one day.

Migratory restlessness, according to Adams, is quite possibly a strong influence for Pink Floyd: "The urge to migrate starts setting upon the bird, and they start staying up at night and focusing their energy in one direction."

"Pink Floyd is obviously 'programmed' to go in that direction," Clayton says. "He's not just going off to a different place each year."


The flamingo has also been spotted at Clark Canyon Reservoir and the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, consorting with tundra swans and geese (and probably pining for a mate).

Floyd's Fame and Controversy

Floyd has appeared in newspapers and magazine articles across the country.  He was featured in the Christian Science Monitor: A Flamingo Flies the Coop for Fame  on Tuesday January 6, 1998.

Eric Reading of the recording group the Reading writes "a few years back it made the AP wire I think, and a friend of ours read the story and thought it was something interesting to write about....and if it could be twisted so that it seemed like Floyd was a person, maybe an old war vet, that it would be pretty interesting when people realized later in the song that it was a flamingo...and...a true story."

Click to download Floyd's own song by the Readings 


Floyd's been a hot topic of controversy and a perfect example of our inability as humans to leave well enough alone. A small group calling itself Friends for Floyd wants to bring more Chilean flamingos to Great Salt Lake.

The group has petitioned the governor, taken out newspaper ads in Utahís two largest daily newspapers, written op-ed pieces and even offered to pony up the thousands of dollars needed to get Pink Floyd a few friends from South America, and, perhaps even more importantly, a hot date. After nearly two decades alone and on the lam, thereís no doubt the poor guy probably needs one.

The leader of the campaign, Salt Lake City businessman Jim Platt, argues that flamingos are genetically tough birds adapted to living in high elevations, cold winters, hot summers and saline lakes. And because flamingo fossils have been found in North America, he argues it is probable that they once lived on the inland sea of which Great Salt Lake is a remnant.

"In essence, we are advocating the reintroduction of flamingos," he wrote in an April 2003 editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune. At the time, Friends of Floyd was advocating asking every state to contribute one flamingo to get the flamingo sanctuary off the ground. The idea was met with a giant shrug from just about everybody and quietly, and thankfully, went nowhere.

Unfortunately, the idea didnít die. This March, Friends for Floyd offered to pay nearly $50,000 to bring 25 flamingos from South America, and called on Utahís governor for support. "Some people believe we are doing this for Floyd," Platt told the Salt Lake Tribune, "but we are doing it for the human beings."

Great Salt Lake is a weird and hauntingly beautiful place. Millions of migratory birds rely on the lake as a kind of all-you-can-eat buffet for their biannual hemisphere-long flights. But there are a multitude of threats facing the lake. A railroad causeway slices it nearly in half and throws off the lakeís delicate salt levels. Brine shrimp are the only living creatures in the lake and a major source of food for migratory birds, but they can only survive in a narrow saline range. Millions of pounds of treated sewage effluent and toxic chemicals pour into the lake every year from the Wasatch Frontís burgeoning cities. The demand for water, especially in the sixth year of a drought, means less water reaches the lake every year.

The second time around state officials, citing concerns about the possible effects of introducing non-native species to the lakeís fragile ecosystem, came out more forcibly against Friends of Floyd.

The head of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said he saw no value in bringing flamingos. Nonetheless, Platt and his group say they will continue to promote the idea. In April, the group planted 10 life-sized flamingo replicas along the lakeís shore in an effort to rev up support.

Floyd's Fate

Sometime in the spring of 2005, Floyd took off for points unknown.  He may have headed to the north

Pink Floyd on the Wing at Saltair
by Jack Binch
26 Mar 2005  ©Jack Binch

end of the Great Salt Lake, or he could have been heading to those lakes and reservoirs in Montana where he had been spotted in other summers.

Possibly the last notable photograph of Pink Floyd on the shores of the Great Salt Lake was taken March 26, 2005 by Jack Binch near Saltair. 

A month later, Floyd was seen by Cliff Weisse of Island Park, Idaho on April 24, 2005 in Camas County in eastern Idaho.  The Chilean Flamingo was roosted in one of the ponds south of Island Park headquarters. 

In an email dated May 12 2005, John O'Neill of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game reported spotting Floyd at Market Lake.  He reported a flamingo hanging out near the dike of M4 and M3 at Market Lake.

What is know for sure is that come Fall 2005, Floyd was not seen to return to his usual south shore haunts.  Fall of 2006 has come and gone without his return.  It seems clear that some eighteen solitary years after his arrival on the shores of the Great Salt Lake somewhere Pink Floyd has come to his final lonely resting place.