The South American Andean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus andinus) is closely related to the smaller James’s Flamingo.
The name “Flamingo” was derived from the latin word for “flame,” in reference to this species’s flame-colored plumage.
The flamingo’s characteristic pink / salmon-colored plumage is caused by their beta carotene-rich diet.
The Andean Flamingo is closely related to the Puna Flamingo, and those two – in addition to the Chilean Flamingo – are the only flamingos native to South America.
Distribution / Range
The Andean Flamingo occurs naturally in the high Andes in southern Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile and northwestern Argentina.
This species is at risk of extinction because of hunting and the lack of suitable breeding sites around the world.
Its plumage is pinkish white. It has It can easily be differentiated from other flamingos by its yellow legs and feet.
The Andean Flamingo resembles the smaller James’s Flamingo, but its yellow bill has a more extensive black tip. The lower bill is deep and narrow.
Immature birds have a greyish plumage, but their plumage slowly turns pink as they mature.
Breeding / Nesting
Andean Flamingos nest in large colonies, often together with thousands of other pairs. Even though they are typically non-territorial, they will defend their nest during the breeding season.
Their nest is a mount made of mud and small stones, lined with feathers. It is often situated in shallow water. A nest mound may be as high as 30 cm (12 in); and It can take up to six weeks for a pair to complete the nest.
The female only lays one chalky white egg. The parents share the incubation of this egg, which lasts about 27 – 31 days to hatching.
For about two months, both parents feed the chicks with a substance called “crop milk” that contains various nutrients, such as fat and protein, as well as red and white blood cells. This milk is produced in glands lining the entire upper digestive tract (including the crop). Other flamingos may act as foster feeders. Chicks usually leave the nest when they are about 4 to 7 days old, they will leave the nest; and often will gather together in creches that are watched over by a few adult birds.
After about two months, their juveniles’ bills should be developed enough to filter feed.
Young flamingos attain their full adult plumage when they are about 2 – 3 years old.
Andean Flamingos feed on diatoms (blue-green algae) collected in shallow water through which they walk slowly with the bill dipped just below the water surface . Their specialized beaks separate mud and silt and lamellae (miniature ridges inside the bills of water-feeding birds or “teeth”) in the lower bill together with the large rough-surfaced tongue assist with the filtering of food.
The flamingo’s characteristic pink coloring is a result of the Beta carotene-rich algae.
Calls / Vocalizations
The calls of the Andean Flamingos are described as a loud goose-like honking.