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Giant flamingo lands at Tampa International Airport

March 27 2022
4 min read
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American flamingos native to Florida were so aggressively hunted for food and plucked for their feathers that by 1900 they were all but wiped out. Over many years, imported and captive flocks of flamingos, bolstered by fly-ins from Cuba, the Bahamas and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula helped rebuild the wading bird’s presence.

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Tampa Flamingo. (Photo courtesy of Tampa International Airport)

Today, the lanky-legged, long-necked, pink flamingo is strongly connected to south Florida in popular culture. The popularity of plastic flamingo lawn ornaments, the opening credits of the “Miami Vice” TV show and the flamingo logo on Florida lottery tickets may have something to do with that.

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Now one of Florida’s most well-known birds is moving into Tampa International Airport (TPA). Not a live flamingo, but a giant one.

A 21-foot flamingo sculpture by Matthew Mazzotta depicting a flamingo gently dipping its head beneath the surface of the water is being installed in the center of TPA’s main terminal.

The giant bird’s head, neck and legs are already in place near The Shoppes at Bayshore. The sculpture is expected to be completed over the next few weeks.

In addition to offering viewers a close encounter with the head, neck, legs and feet of a giant resin and fiberglass flamingo, the immersive floor-to-ceiling installation is designed to create the feel of being underwater. Looking up, viewers will see a reflective and wavy surface that mimics the surface of water.

Related: These 7 airports have such stunning artwork, they’re like museums

Tampa Flamingo. (Photo courtesy of Tampa International Airport)

In his description of the work, titled "Home," Mazzotta explains that “the idea of ‘home’ in Florida is not only for people, but it is also home for the abundance of wildlife that lives here as well.” He notes that the flamingo is one of the most iconic animals in Florida, “and even though its popularity and image graces innumerable pieces of memorabilia that claim to be from Florida, for years this beautiful bird has been thought to be non-native.”

Recent research confirmed the American flamingo can indeed trace its roots to Florida.

Mazzotta says that the exaggerated scale of the flamingo is meant to put the lives of these birds in the focus, “and puts us, as humans, in awe as they tower above us, reminding us that we all share the same home.

Once completed, the sculpture is meant to be interacted with, touched, and of course, photographed.

"Tampa International Airport has always been a champion of iconic public art as a way to welcome our visitors and give them a sense of wonder and whimsy when they arrive in our beautiful region," said Chris Minner, TPA’s executive vice president of marketing and communications in a statement. "We’re certain that ‘Home’ will help create memories and inspire people of all ages who begin and end their travel journeys at TPA."

Related: Tampa International Airport is testing self-drive wheelchairs this week

More great art at TPA

The giant flamingo sculpture is just the latest public artwork at TPA. The airport has a broad and diverse art collection that it has been building over 50 years. The collection includes seven WPA-era murals from 1930 by George Snow Hill that tell the history of flight (on Airside E). One of the newest installations is Aaron T. Stephan’s "Paths Rising," featuring three hundred ladders, in the walkway to the SkyConnect Atrium.

Tampa isn’t the only airport with a giant sculpture of an animal inside the terminal. Across the country, in California’s Sacramento International Airport, there’s 56-foot-long red aluminum rabbit in the bag claim area. Lawrence Argent’s sculpture is titled “Leap.”

Sacramento rabbit. (Photo courtesy of Sacramento International Airport)
Featured photo by Tampa Flamingo. (Photo courtesy of Tampa International Airport)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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