Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)

Chilean Flamingo

[order] PHOENICOPTERIFORMES | [family] Phoenicopteridae | [latin] Phoenicopterus chilensis | [UK] Chilean Flamingo | [FR] Flamant du Chili | [DE] Chileflamingo | [ES] Flamenco Chileno | [NL] Chileense Flamingo


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Phoeniconaias chilensis
Phoenicopterus chilensis SA s, w

Physical charateristics

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. Lamellae, comb-like filtering structures, line both jaws, and the tongue is thick and fleshy. Like greater flamingos, the upper mandible of Chilean flamingos is “shallow keeled” and only partially covered with lamellae.
Chilean flamingos are gregarious, social birds that feed and nest together in flocks ranging from a few individuals to tens of thousands. They can fly and swim well. Migrating groups fly in skeins (V-formation), with their long necks and feet straight out. They communicate in flight with loud, goose-like calls, which are important in keeping the flock together. They stand on one leg to conserve body heat, drawing the other leg close to the body and tucking the head under a wing. They are diurnal and, like other flamingos, Chilean flamingos spend around 15 to 30% of their time preening. Preening is important for all birds to keep feathers waterproof and in flying order. In addition, flamingos face the wind when resting, to stop the wind and rain from penetrating their feathers. During the day, flamingos can be found on the borders of lakes and rivers and during the night, they can be found in long grass.

Listen to the sound of Chilean Flamingo

[audio: Flamingo.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 120 cm wingspan max.: 160 cm
size min.: 110 cm size max.: 140 cm
incubation min.: 27 days incubation max.: 31 days
fledging min.: 70 days fledging max.: 31 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


South America : South, West


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.


All flamingos are monogamous and mating occurs in large groups, a minimum of 15 to 18 individuals is required for successful breeding. Mating among Chilean flamingos usually occurs in the water in the highlands of central and southern Peru, Chile (Tarpace to Magalanese), Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil. In Argentina they breed in the mountains. Their ritualized displays are often initiated by males, and their performances are more intense and protracted than are those of females. The relatively inconspicuous performances are similar to daily preening and stretching. The main difference is that, during mating, the preening is performed more stiffly. These displays are contagious among group members and are performed in typical sequences. For instance, a head-flagging is followed by wing-salute, which is when a bird spreads its wings to the side and folds them again. The general effect is a flash of black in a pink field. These displays may occur months before and after nesting.
After a young bird leaves its nest, it joins other young flamingos in the large crches. The parents continue feeding their young until the young fledglings are able to fly and have a bent beak, which usually is 65 to 70 days after the egg has hatched. After this time, the young is able to obtain adequate food on its own.

Feeding habits

All flamingos eat by sweeping their heads side to side, close to the water’s surface to obtain their food. The slits on the top bill and the comb-like structures lining the bill, called lamellae, are used to filter organisms out from the water and mud. The bill is turned upside-down in the water. The water and algae are pumped in by a piston-like tongue, and then the tongue expels the water, capturing the algae and phytoplankton in the lamellae. This action occurs about three or four times a second. Chilean flamingos, like other flamingos, feed mainly on invertebrates that live in the bottom mud. These invertebrates include brine flies (Ephydra), shrimps (Artemia), and mollusks (Cerithium). However, their diet also contains some blue-green algae, diatoms, protozoans, aquatic plants, seeds, insect larvae, small worms, and any other organism found in alkaline water. Chilean flamingos feed in shallow water near the shoreline, or on mud banks, and sometimes obtain food by swimming or upending like ducks. Their tongue is very large and prevents them from swallowing large pieces of food. They can eat 10% of their weight in tiny particles each day.


This species is apparently declining moderately rapidly owing to egg-harvesting, hunting, disturbance and the degradation of its habitat. It is consequently classified as Near Threatened.
Not threatened. Egg-harvesting and habitat destruction have caused declines at some colonies, but overall status of South American population probably stable. Has occurred in most countries of northwest Europe; breeding colony in Germany.
Chilean Flamingo status Near Threatened


Breeds from central Peru south through Andes to Tierra del Fuego and east to southern Brazil and Uruguay. Makes altitudinal movements in winter to Pacific coast and dispersive movements outside breeding season generally determined by lake water-levels; many move north in winter from Tierra del Fuego. Vagrant to Falkland Islands and Ecuador.
Birds of captive origin have been breeding since early 1980s in the wild in Zwillbrocker Venn (Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany). In 1993, 6 pairs, and 6 pairs of Greater Flamingo, produced a total of 10 fledged young. In 1994, only 3 young survived plus one possible hybrid. Also recorded breeding in Camargue, France, in 1988, 1990, and 1994, when one pair raised young. Escapes from wildfowl collections have also occurred, e.g., Iceland, Britain, and Denmark. In Netherlands, year-round visitor in very small numbers, in part originating from feral population in Germany.

Distribution map

Chilean Flamingo distribution range map

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