STATUS IN THE WILD: Near Threatened
RANGE: South America
PHYSICAL FEATURES AND CHARACTERISTICS
Chilean flamingos are tall, skinny birds weighing less than five pounds. This species of flamingo is one of the larger species of flamingos, standing over three feet tall. They have a wingspan between four and five feet with primary and secondary flight feathers being black in color. The wing coverts are closer to a pink and reddish color. They have long legs with a joint in the middle, which is actually an ankle rather than a knee. This joint is the reason why flamingos often rest or stand on one leg at a time, along with helping with heat retention. They are pink in color at maturity, while juveniles are grey. They have a large bill that curves downward and is mostly black in color.
LIFESTYLE AND REPRODUCTION
Flamingos live in colonies that can range in size from a few dozen birds to thousands of individuals. They form monogamous pairs within the large flocks. They produce one white egg on a mounded nest of mud. Both parents will incubate the egg, which takes around 27 to 31 days to hatch. They will defend their nest during breeding season but are non-territorial in all other seasons. The parents will stick with the chick, even when surrounded by hundreds of other flamingos, and will care for it and feed it until it fledges. When it first hatches they are fed a substance called crop milk, which comes from both parents’ upper digestive tracts. When one parent is feeding the chick the other will often eat food. When the chick is a little older it will walk around and be watched by other adult birds. Young flamingos reach sexual maturity and gain their full adult plumage around three to five years of age.
Chilean flamingos live in warm, tropical environments in South America. They are found from central Peru to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, from sea level to over 4,000 feet in elevation.
They inhabit muddy, shallow lakes that can be either alkaline or brackish. They live mostly above the tree line on salt-flat basins and marshy wetlands that are surrounded by scrub vegetation and bare rock.
Their diet includes algae, diatoms, and aquatic invertebrates, such as crustaceans and mollusks. Their pink coloration comes from the amount of beta-carotene in their diet.