In 1988, a flamingo living at the Tracy Aviary in downtown Salt Lake City escaped and made a new home on Great Salt Lake. His name was Pink Floyd and his yearly migrations attracted spectators and led some to suggest we should import even more flamingos for him to have a family.
The Tracy Aviary originally had ten flamingos, and staff clipped their wings regularly so they couldn’t escape their Liberty Park home. Somehow Floyd managed to skip wing clipping, and when he discovered he could fly, found his way to Great Salt Lake. Floyd was right at home there. Originally from Chile, his breed of flamingo is known for feasting on brine shrimp and living in terminal salt lakes at high elevations, just like ours. Great Salt Lake receives migratory birds every year from places as far away as Mexico and Russia but Pink Floyd – as far as we know – was the only flamingo to grace its shores.
Floyd quickly became a celebrity, enchanting bird watchers and confounding scientists. When the ranger patrolling Great Salt Lake first spotted Floyd and called in the sighting, he was called crazy and then asked “is there an elephant with him?” Tracy Aviary birdkeepers considered trying to recapture him, but Floyd was smart. No bait would draw him away from the bountiful supply of brine shrimp. As one Aviary staffer said, “the habitat out here is marvelous… Except for the lack of company.”
One group of fans calling themselves “Friends of Floyd” tried to remedy Floyd’s suspected loneliness by raising money to bring twenty-five flamingos to Utah, but the idea never took off. Critics worried about a flock of flamingoes disrupting Great Salt Lake’s delicate ecology and suggested visitors could instead appreciate the multitude of unique birds that already travel great distances to live on its shores.
Floyd last made his winter journey to Great Salt Lake in 2005. He wasn’t a mirage and he wasn’t “just another brick in the wall.” Pink Floyd was a legend who inspired Utahns to appreciate the wonderfully rare and unique ecology embodied by Great Salt Lake.
See Robert Rice, “Lone Fugitive Flamingo is Living in the Pink on Great Salt Lake,” February 3, 1989, Deseret News, accessed June 2022; Catherine S. Blake, “Salt Lake flamingo flock? Critics call it birdbrained,” March 30, 2003, The Seattle Times, accessed June, 2022; Tim West, “Pink Floyd and the Great Salt Lake,” May 3, 2004, High Country News, accessed June 2022; “Wirth Watching: Pink Floyd the Flamingo, the bird who escaped from Tracy Aviary in 1988,” October 14, 2019 ABC4.com, accessed June 2022; Laura Polacheck, “'Pink Floyd' returns to Salt Lake City,” June 01, 2021, FOX13News.com, accessed June 2022.