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10 Curious Facts about the Andean Flamingo

Its striking pink color and stylized anatomy make it one of the most interesting birds to observe in the Atacama Desert. There are six species of flamingo in the world and three of them are found in Chile. How does one identify them? Here are some guidelines:
December 20, 2022

Diego Salas

Who can resist watching flamingos? They are one of the most striking and beautiful birds on the planet. Their popularity is likely due to their elegance and the pink tones that distinguish them from other birds. But did you know that there are six different species of flamingo, three of which live in Chile?

One of them is the Andean Flamingo, which is also known as the Large Parina. Like the Chilean and James (Small Parina) flamingos, it lives in aquatic ecosystems: lakes, lagoons, wetlands and salt flats are some of its favorite places. 

Only on the Chilean high plains is it possible to find these three species interacting with one another. The Chilean Flamingo is the only one that transverses lands extending from the north, in the Atacama Desert, to the extreme south, in Patagonia. 

The Andean Flamingo’s Conservation Status

The Andean Flamingo is classified as vulnerable. The decrease in their population is mainly due to the erosion of their nesting sites, the loss of habitat and changes in water levels due to mining activities. 

It is estimated that currently there is a total of about 39,000 individuals living throughout the Andes Mountains in northern Chile, southern Peru, western Bolivia and northwestern Argentina. 

Illustration by Antonia Reyes Montealegre @paraiso__perdido

Illustration by Antonia Reyes Montealegre @paraiso__perdido

Characteristics of the Andean Flamingo:

1.  Like other flamingo species, they usually stand on one leg. It is believed that they do so to preserve body heat.

2. During the winter, Andean flamingos migrate to lower altitude wetlands. They usually travel in flocks by night in search of food.

3. The flamingos of this species, like others, are filter feeders, consuming mainly diatoms and algae. First, they stir up the water with their legs and then dip their entire heads in and suck up everything. Moving their heads from side to side, their beaks filter the water and extract plankton, insect larvae and small fish.

4. Andean flamingos are not born pink; in fact, chicks are born gray or white and can take up to three years to achieve that striking color. The pink tones come from the flamingo’s ability to metabolize carotenoid pigments from their food.

5. Andean flamingos have pale pink bodies and a distinctive black triangle on their backs. Unlike other flamingos, their legs are yellow, and their bills are black and yellow.

6. They are very sociable birds and often form flocks of tens of thousands. However, males can become aggressive among themselves when they are protecting their partners.

7. Andean flamingos are monogamous, and couples can stay together for many years.

8. They have a very long life compared to other birds, living between 20 and 30 years in the wild and up to 50 years or more in captivity.

9. Their legs are longer than their upper bodies and can measure up to 1.25 meters in length. Their knees are only visible up close; what we see midway up their legs are their ankles and heels.

10. They use glands in their nostrils to filter excess salt from their bodies since they drink only fresh water, even though they live among the salt flats of the high plains.

If you are a person who enjoys birdwatching or you would just love to visit the Andean Flamingo’s habitat, we invite you to plan an unforgettable holiday at Tierra Atacama. Our team of expert guides will help you prepare everything you need to discover the wonders of the world’s driest desert with its incredible landscapes and amazing nature. 

Email us at info@tierrahotels.com



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