Flamingos in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
In the North of Chile, just outside of San Pedro de Atacama Chile, is the Reserva Nacional “Los Flaencos” (Flamingo National Reserve).
There are 5 different types of Flamingos in the world, and 3 of these 5 are located in the National Flamingo Reserve near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
Andeam Flamingo, Chilean Flamingo and the James Flamingo.
Of the three flamingo species found in Soncor, this is the largest and most abundant in the Atacama Sat Flat, where it can be observed all year round.
Its habitat is exclusively restricted to the High-Andean wetlands of Argentin Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.
Although it also nests in other lagoons in the country, the Sonocor Sectr o Los Flamencos National Reserve is where it has historically built its largest nesting colony, with thousands of chicks successfully born and development each year.
Andean Flamingo Population in the World: 40.000
Andean Flamingo Population in Chile: 1788
This is the species with the broadest geographical ditribution, covering Argentina,Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Peru in its movements.
gest nesting colony is found at the Laguna Mar Chiquita Ramsar Sit, in the northern area of the Cordoba Province in Argentina. In Chile, it nests in severalsalt flats over 4.000 meters as well as in theSonocr Sector of Los Flamencos National Reserv meters.
In 1967, scientists reprted the exienc of a lge netig colony whh noonger xists at Laguna del Maule, i central Chile. This bird is occasionally observed in lagoons close to Torres del Paine national Park, in the Patagonia, and nearby Santiago.
The Chilean Flamingo has the longest legs of the three species and it is distinguished also by the presence of a rudimentary hind toe.
Chilan Flamingo Population in the World: 100.000
Chilean Flamingo Population in Chile: 1060
The James Flamingo is the smallest and less abundant of the three species found in Soncor. Its distribution range covers High-Andean wetlands of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru, preferably over 4.000 meters.
The species owes its name to the English philantropist Berkeley James, who in 1850 financed an expedition led by Charles Rahmer which captured the first individual of its kind. The lack of records since then made scientists think that it had become extinct, until ornitholoist Alfred Johnson rediscovered the species in 1957 in Laguna Clora, Bolivia, where the largest nesting colony of James Flamingo is found.
During the winter it can be seen at the Soncor Sector, where it feeds when the High-Andean lagoon freezes.
James Flamingo Population in the World: 60.000
James Flamingo Population in Chile: 1705
Nesting: Where does it Happen?
Flamingos nest during the summer season and both the male and female share the incubation and chick breeding responsibilities. These birds tend to form monogomous long-lasting couples.
The females lay only one egg each year in nests that resemble a cone that they usually build with mud. When this material is not available, they will lay the eggs on the ground. The eggs are white, sperical in shape and very calcareous, and their incubation can last from 27 to 31 days.
The three flamingo species nest together. The young birds are covered by a thick grayish down and when they are a few months old they gather in large groups called flocks or creches.
They learn to fly four months after birth, and when they are six-months old their feathers begin to show their characteristic pink colour.
Nesting is spoadic and highly sensitive to a decrease in water levels or to disturbances caused by human acivities, which can derive in the abandonement of the nests with the resulting loss of partially incubated eggs or very young chicks. This is the reason why nesting sites need to be protected and visitors are not allowed in them.
How do they Feed?
The feeding process in flamingos is complex, since it requires the filtration of small crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and microalgae present in saline lagoons.
Their bill is specifically adated for that purpose, with a downward curvature and lanes of lamellae (small ridges that act as a filter). When they eat, they immerse their head and part of the neck and fill their bill with water that they throw out with the tongue, which is thick and has projections to retain food. They can only move their upper jaw and they usually cannot open it more than half a centimeter.
The three species can often be seen eating at the same land, although part of their feeding habits vary depending on the species. The Andean Flamingo and James Flamingos lower their bill to the mud as they walk slowly and move their head from side to side, leaving a track in their way. The Chilean Flamingo tends to stay at one place for a longer time, stomping the bottom of the lagoons in circles and lowering its bill to filter the water it stirs with its feet.
Flamingos are among the oldest groups of birds that still exist. Fossil evidence shows the origins at the begining of the Cretaic Period (Approximately 130 Million years ago).
For a long time, flamingos have been hunted for their meat, feathers, or eggs. The concern for the protection and conservation of this species had a great boost in the XXth century and since then important improvenents have been achieved.
In Chile, the species are safeguarded in protected areas managed by the National Forestry Corporaion (CONAF). Nevertheless, the worldwide tendency points to the need of an ecosystem conservation approach that can even cross international boundaries.