The Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) can live in extreme temperatures that dip as low as -20 degrees F and as high as 86 degrees F. The species is found in high elevations of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and northern Chile. The body of the Andean flamingo is a very light pink, appearing almost white. Its hindquarters and bill are black and its legs, yellow. If you get close enough, during your travel to Chile, you’ll see the red splotch between its nostrils.
At four feet tall and weighing about eight pounds at adulthood, the species is shorter than the Chilean flamingo and taller than the James’s flamingo. Like the James’s flamingo, the Andean flamingo eats mostly diatoms and other algae. Its bill is designed to filter out water and mud that is taken in along with its food.
In the Atacama Desert during their travel to Chile, visitors may find Andean flamingos in several spots near the oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama, a popular destination on Chile tours to the north. An easy drive from the oasis town of Toconao, south of San Pedro de Atacama, the Chaxa and Cejas lagoons are two places where primarily Andean flamingos congregate. If your Chile tours don’t take you as far north as San Pedro de Atacama, you may also observe the species just north of the village of Pedernales at the expansive salar of the same name, west of the Cordillera Claudio Gay.
Four of the species’ primary breeding sites are located in the Salar de Atacama at Luguna Barros Negros, Laguna Puilar and Laguna Salada and Laguna Saladita. Other breeding sites are found nearby at Salar Pujsa and Salar Talar. The species also breeds at salars further south, including Maricunga, Laguna Negro Francisco and Nevado Tres Cruces near the Argentine border east of Copiopo, and at Salar de Punta Negra, west of Llullaillaco National Park. In the north, flamingos go to Salar Huasco and Salar de Surire, in the northern reaches of the Atacama on the border with Bolivia. When the water sources of the species’ habitat freeze in winter, many Andean flamingos head to the pampas of Argentina’s Santa Fe province.
The Andean flamingo was declared a vulnerable species in 2010 and is the most endangered of Chile’s flamingo species. According to census counts beginning in 2000, it is estimated that approximately 34,000 Andean flamingos exist today.
Travel to Chile with Southern Explorations includes a four-day San Pedro de Atacama tour extension option among its Chile tours. Passengers may be able to see some Andean flamingos here, though they will be more likely to see the other two species of flamingos that inhabit the area.