Flock of plastic flamingoes graces lawns for The Harbor School

Harbor School students, left to right, Rachael Meeker, Baxter Call and Ellie Leonhardt plant the flamingoes at the home of Steve Abel and Marie Stanislaw. - Susan Riemer/staff photo
Harbor School students, left to right, Rachael Meeker, Baxter Call and Ellie Leonhardt plant the flamingoes at the home of Steve Abel and Marie Stanislaw.
— image credit: Susan Riemer/staff photo

Steve Abel was mystified last Friday afternoon when he discovered a group of eighth-graders on his lawn planting a flock of pink flamingoes.

But last month, when Bettie Edwards — with her finger on the pulse of the community as the owner of The Little House — came home one night to find her front yard filled with the colorful birds, she knew right away she had been flocked.

The flocking of flamingoes — planting them in a yard usually when the owner is away — is a fundraising tool for the eighth-grade class at The Harbor School, helping students raise money for their trip to New Orleans this May.

The students are engaged in several types of fundraising, according to Harbor School English teacher James Cardo: car washes, work parties for individuals and nonprofits, gift cards and babysitting. All told, he said, the students hope to raise $5,500.

None of the other fundraising efforts has quite the same flair as flamingo flocking, however, which has previously made the rounds in other communities.

“I read about flamingo flocking, and I thought it would be a great fit for our Island community,” said Andy Royer, a parent of an eighth-grade Harbor School student and now head flocker.

Other parents and students agreed, and now each week Royer takes a group of eighth-graders out to help the birds migrate from one house to another — and raise money for the trip at the same time.

When the birds show up a home, the resident is invited to call the school and pay to have them moved to a new location, presumably to someone who does not currently have enough flamingoes gracing his or her yard.

The going rate for bird removal and relocation, according to Royer, is $5 per bird. While the school hopes people will pay that amount, it is not necessary to pay at all, Royer said, and the birds will still be relocated after a week or so.

The group has been doing this since December with a flock of 100 birds — some lost to vandalism and thievery — and has raised a couple hundred dollars, Royer said.

The weekly bird migrations will go on until the trip nears, he added. A dozen kids are going to go to New Orleans, where they will learn about the area and spend a week with ongoing community service efforts, which are still needed almost five years after Hurricane Katrina. The total cost of the trip for group will be $20,000. All money raised will help defray the cost to the families of children attending.

Anyone can contribute and arrange for a flocking, Royer noted.

“This is a fun way to help Island kids make a very meaningful trip while playing a great practical joke on someone you know,” he said. “It’s a unique way to say hello to a friend or family member or even to celebrate someone’s birthday or anniversary.”

At the home of Steve Abel and his wife Marie Stanislaw, the flamingoes are proving to be good company.

Stanislaw returned home Saturday night after two weeks away and saw the “darling pink flamingoes” in the yard. “They just made me laugh,” she said, not knowing who put them there or why. Her two dogs and a cat died last fall, leaving her without animals — except now for the flamingoes.

“I’m not sure I’m going to give them back,” she added.

When Edwards arranged her own flamingoes in her yard a decade ago, she had also thrown in pink feathers for full effect. But feathers do not work well in the lawn mower, she found out, and she ended up amusing her neighbors by vacuuming her yard with a Shop Vac, she said.

The Harbor School birds give none of those complications and are a clean and quiet presence in the yard. To send the birds to someone of your choosing, call 463-BIRD.

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