Chilean Flamingo

COMMON NAME: Chilean Flamingo

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Phoenicopterus chilensis

TYPE: Bird

DIET: Shrimp, algae, mullosks, and other small plants and animals that inhabit lakes


AVERAGE LIFE SPAN IN THE WILD: Approximately 40 years 

SIZE: 4-5 feet tall, with males being slightly larger 

WEIGHT: 5-7 lbs


Chilean flamingos inhabit muddy, shallow alkaline and brackish lakes. They live in warm and tropical environments, and range from sea level, along the coast, to high altitudes up to 4,500m in the Andes. Because the waters and surrounding soils in the areas they live are alkaline (ph up to 10.5), most of the local area is barren of vegetation and desert-like.

Adult Chilean flamingos, like all flamingos, have small heads, long necks in proportion to their bodies, bare faces, linear nostrils, pale yellow irises, long legs, and three webbed front toes, which help support them in mud. Their long necks are not the result of a multiplication of the vertebrae, since they have only 19 cervical vertebrae, but rather to the elongation of the vertebral column bones. The bill of Chilean flamingos consists of two main colors: the terminal half is black and the rest is white. The adults have bills specialized for filter feeding; the bills are bent in the middle, banana-shaped, with a small, lid-like upper mandible and a large, trough-like lower mandible.

Like all adult flamingos, Chilean flamingos have pink plumage, but the plumage is mostly whitish with a faint pink tinge. In addition to the pink plumage, they have black primary and secondary wing feathers lined with bright crimson along the edge. At hatching, chicks have thick, light gray down, straight, pink bills, and swollen, pink legs, which turn black within a week. Older juveniles have gray plumage, with brown and pink markings, and black or gray legs and bills. Only after 2 to 3 years, do fledglings lose their gray feathers and gain the adult pink and crimson plumage.

Breeding takes place year round, though Chilean flamingos usually build nest mounds in late spring. Some Chilean flamingos breed once yearly, though they can breed twice per year. However mating is erratic because it depends mainly upon rainfall and the amount of food available. As a result, in some years Chilean flamingos do not breed.When Chilean flamingos find a mate, both of them build a nest mound made of mud and stone. The cone-shaped nest mound is generally 15 to 18 inches high so that the chick is protected from both flooding and excessive heat at ground level. The diameter at the base is 15 to 30 inches and the top, which is hollowed out for the egg, is about 12 inches in diameter. Nest mounds are spaced about two neck-lengths apart. Both sexes pick up soft mud and stones within reach and place them beneath their bodies to form a circular pile. The nest is built by using the bill to draw mud toward the feet. The egg is incubated and fiercely protected by both sexes.

Although Chilean flamingos live near alkaline waters, where few large organisms are found and have found a niche in which they are not frequently exposed to predators, they are endanger of their populations shrinking due to human activity destroying their habitat and food sources, as well as hunting for their beautiful plumage in the past. 

Information on the Chilean Flamingo is courtesy of AnimalDiversity.Org