The Chilean flamingo is the largest of Chile’s three species of flamingos, just slightly bigger than the Andean flamingo, reaching an adult weight of about seven pounds and a height of less than five feet. Its body is pink with shading transitioning to a darker pink on the hindquarters. Its gray legs have pink at what we wrongly believe to be the knee joint which is actually the ankle. The bill is black as are the under-feathers, noticeable when the bird flies.
The Chilean flamingo subsists on a diet predominately of krill plus other crustaceans, insects, diatoms and other algae. The design of its bill, longer than that of Chile’s other flamingo species, allows the bird to feed on a wider variety of food sources, gobbled upside down.
Though its name implies otherwise, the Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) has a far wider natural range than the Andean or James’s flamingo, the other two flamingo species that inhabit Chile. The Chilean flamingo is found at elevations from sea level to the Andean regions of southern Ecuador; the altiplano of Peru, Bolivia and Chile; northwestern Argentina and some times of the year, in Paraguay, Patagonia, lowland areas of Uruguay and southeast Brazil. You may even see them in the Falkland Islands on your Antarctica tours. Some 3,000 of the species are held in captivity throughout the world so it is possible to get a close-up view of these magnificent creatures in a zoo near you before you begin your Chile tours.
The Chilean flamingo breeds between December and February or later but may only breed every two or three years. In addition to the resident flamingo populations in Chile that breed where they live, the species also breeds elsewhere in South America. The largest breeding sites for the species in Argentina are the wetlands of the Banados del Rio Dulce and Mar Chiquita, a provincial reserve northeast of Cordoba, and Laguna Llancanelo, a provincial reserve in southern Mendoza province. In Bolivia, the species breeds at Laguna Colorado National Wildlife Sanctuary within the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Wildlife National Reserve.
The conservation status of the Chilean flamingo is considered near-threatened. A population of between 200,000 and 300,000 Chilean flamingos are thought to exist in the species’ range. Travelers will see Chilean flamingos when they travel to Chile in the Atacama Desert near San Pedro de Atacama. Southern Explorations offers a four-day tour extension to San Pedro as an add-on to its Chile tours.