Phoenicoparrus andinusAndean flamingo

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Geographic Range

Phoenicoparrus andinus (Andean flamingo) is found in the Chilean Andes of South America, which includes southern Peru, north-central Chile, western Bolivia, and northwestern Argentina. (Fjeldsa and Krabbe, 1990; SeaWorld Adventure Parks, 2002)

Habitat

Andean flamingos live in highland salt lakes of the Andes mountains from 2,500 to 4,950 m above sea level, but usually occuring between 3500 and 4500 meters elevation. Their habitat mainly consists of large alkaline or saline lagoons with soft sediment bottoms. These habitats are often characterized by relatively sparse vegetation. In winter these flamingos may move to lower elevations in search of food. Of the three types of flamingos living in the Andes (Chilean flamingo, James’ flamingo and Andean flamingo), Andean flamingos live in the most diverse set of habitats. (del Hoyo, 1992; Fjeldsa and Krabbe, 1990; ; Mascitti and Bonaventura, 2002)

  • Range elevation
    2,500 to 4,950 m
    to ft

Physical Description

Andean flamingos have the typical flamingo form with long, thin legs and neck. The average Andean flamingo stands 1 to 1.4 meters tall with a wingspan of 1 to 1.6 meters, and a weight of 1.5 to 4.1 kg. Plumage is light pink, with the head, neck, and upper breast a darker red. The curved bill is yellow and black. They have three-forward pointing toes, lacking their fourth toe. Juvenile Andean flamingos are grey before they develop their light pink plumage. These are the only species of flamingo with yellow legs and a red spot between the nostrils. They also have very deep bills and stiff lamellae on the lower jaw to help filter fine particles for consumption and keep other larger particles out. (Banney, et al., 2004; del Hoyo, 1992; Thomson, 1964; Zoological Society of San Diego, 2005)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    1500 to 4100 g
    52.86 to 144.49 oz
  • Range length
    1 to 1.4 m
    3.28 to 4.59 ft
  • Range wingspan
    1 to 1.6 m
    3.28 to 5.25 ft

Reproduction

Flamingos are monogamous for several seasons. Male flamingos display their feathers and plumage in an effort to court females. (Zoological Society of San Diego, 2005; Zoological Society of San Diego, 2005)

Andean flamingos breed in December and January, variation may be related to rainfall patterns. Andean flamingos begin breeding once they have become fully colored adults, usually at three to six years old. Flamingos breed colonially, with up to thousands of individuals, sometimes in mixed-species groups with Phoenicopterus chilensis or Phoenicoparrus jamesi. Breeding groups of as few as 50 have been observed. (del Hoyo, 1992; Zoological Society of San Diego, 2005)

Flamingo nests are made purely of mud. Flamingos scoop up mounds of mud with their beaks and then smooth the mound with their feet. They then form a small, cone shaped bowl on the top. A small moat is dug around the nest. Nests are often reused, and built close together. These nests generally stand around 0.31m in height. (del Hoyo, 1992; Zoological Society of San Diego, 2005)

Andean flamingos lay just one egg at a time. The egg is a pinkish white color, and is incubated by both parents for 27-31 days. The average egg is around seven centimeters long and weighs approximately 113-141 grams. (del Hoyo, 1992; Zoological Society of San Diego, 2005)

Newly hatched flamingos are covered in white/grey down feathers. They live in the nest for the next five to eight days before forming crèches (groups of chicks). These crèches, which can contain hundreds of chicks, are taken care of by only a few adult flamingos. It takes six to ten months before chicks are ready to fend for themselves. For several months adults feed their young "crop milk", food and secretions from the parent's crop. (del Hoyo, 1992; ; Zoological Society of San Diego, 2005)

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding occurs once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding usually occurs from December to January, but is more common during rainy seasons
  • Range eggs per season
    1 to 2
  • Range time to hatching
    27 to 31 days
  • Range fledging age
    9 to 13 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    6 to 10 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 6 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 to 6 years

Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young. Hatchlings are cared for communally in creches by a rotating set of flock adults. Parents come to the creches throughout the day to find and feed their young, individual recognition doesn't seem to pose a problem. Hatchling flamingos are fed by their parents for an extended time, even after their beaks have become fully functional for filtering food. (Zoological Society of San Diego, 2005)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

The lifespan Andean flamingos in the wild is unknown. They are believed to live for twenty to thirty years. In captivity some flamingos have lived to 60 years old.

Behavior

Andean flamingos are highly gregarious, forming large flocks of tens of thousands of birds. The only typical form of aggression is between males when mate guarding. Andean flamingos move among ponds and lagoons throughout the year, in search of food. They may tend to occur at lower elevations during the winter. They are active during the day. (Fjeldsa and Krabbe, 1990)

Communication and Perception

There are many ways in which flamingos communicate with each other. One is the wing salute where they spread their wings for a couple seconds, showing off its colors. They also stretch the neck and flip up its tail. Vocalizations are common. A honking vocalization, similar to the sounds that geese make in flight, is used to keep groups together. They also growl and grunt while mating and during aggression. (del Hoyo, 1992; Fjeldsa and Krabbe, 1990)

Food Habits

Andean flamingos use filter feeding to capture small particles at the sediment/water interface. They have narrow and deep lower mandibles which allow them to capture small particles, most commonly diatoms (in the family Bacillariophyceae, genus Surirella) and algae, such as blue-green algae Spirulina plantensis. (SeaWorld Adventure Parks, 2002; Thomson, 1964; SeaWorld Adventure Parks, 2002; Thomson, 1964)

  • Other Foods
  • microbes

Predation

There are not many predators of Andean flamingos. Culpeo foxes (Lycalopex culpaeus) may take eggs or newly hatched young. Large, predatory birds may also sometimes take young flamingos. Humans have also been known to hunt flamingos and collect their eggs. Andean miners once believed that the fat of flamingos was a cure for tuberculosis. (del Hoyo, 1992; Mascitti and Bonaventura, 2002)

Ecosystem Roles

Andean flamingos impact populations of aquatic algae, diatoms, and plankton. (Banney, et al., 2004)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Andean flamingos have been exploited by humans rarely in the past, probably because they tend to live and breed in remote, bleak areas. (del Hoyo, 1992)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative impacts of Andean flamingos on humans.

Conservation Status

Andean flamingos are considered vulnerable and are difficult to breed in captivity. Northern Chilean populations were severely decimated by a drought. They are now protected by being listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and the Convention on Migratory Species. A separate and self-sustaining population of Andean flamingos is being kept at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in the United Kingdom. (Mascitti and Bonaventura, 2002)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Jacob Meyers (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

brackish water

areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

colonial

used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

filter-feeding

a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

phytoplankton

photosynthetic or plant constituent of plankton; mainly unicellular algae. (Compare to zooplankton.)

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

ultrasound

uses sound above the range of human hearing for either navigation or communication or both

vibrations

movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others

visual

uses sight to communicate

zooplankton

animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)

References

Banney, R., R. Rohbaugh, S. Podulka. 2004. Handbook of Bird Biology. Ithaca, New York: Princeton University Press.

Fjeldsa, J., N. Krabbe. 1990. Birds of the High Andes. Svendborg, Denmark: Apollo Books.

Mascitti, V., S. Bonaventura. 2002. Patterns of Abundance, Distribution and Habitat Use of Flamingos in the High Andes, South America. Waterbirds, 25/3: 358-365.

SeaWorld Adventure Parks, 2002. "Flamingos" (On-line). Accessed October 10, 2005 at http://www.seaworld.org/infobooks/Flamingos/home.html.

Thomson, L. 1964. A New Dictionary of Birds. New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Zoological Society of San Diego, 2005. "San Diego Zoo's Animal Bytes: Flamingo" (On-line). Accessed October 10, 2005 at http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-flamingo.html.

del Hoyo, J. 1992. Phoenicopteriformes. Pp. 508-526 in J del Hoyo, A Elliott, J Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 1. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.