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Andean Flamingo: Why is it Endangered?

The Andean Flamingo is the only bird that lives at high elevations in South America’s Andes mountain range. The majority of these birds dine on fish, crustaceans, and freshwater invertebrates from lakes, rivers, and ponds.

At high altitudes, Andean flamingoes have enlarged air sacs for breathing, which makes them less buoyant. To capture its prey, they swim just a few feet underwater because of their larger air sacs for breathing at this elevation.

The Andean Flamingo is not endangered, although it does face hazards such as habitat loss or degradation due to humans, pollution, and other human disturbances to their natural environment.

  • Status: Vulnerable
  • Known as: Andean Flamingo.
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: 38,000 (highly speculative).


Andean flamingo Hunting

The Andean flamingo has the classic, familiar look of the flamingo, with long legs, a long neck, and a prominent aquiline beak. This large filter-feeding bird stands 1 meter to 1.4 meters tall and boasts a wingspan of up to 1.6 meters.

The average weight is 4 kilograms. Festively colored in pink and white, the Andean flamingo’s plumage is set off by yellow legs, a yellow and black beak, and black primary flight feathers on the wings. Their cry is a loud, goose-like honk, given with the head thrown back and the tail raised.


Two vibrant flamingos wading in serene waters at sunset.

These large birds are extremely friendly and gather in flocks of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, at good-feeding lakes in South America.

They are filter feeders who seek algae and diatoms in shallow water, usually salty. Their food collection is carried out with the help of special filtration structures within the beak.

The alkaline and salt lakes that these birds prefer (and that grow the correct kind and amount of food for them) are found high in the rugged terrain of the Andes at 2,300 to 4,500 meters above sea level. The flocks migrate from place to place in a quest for suitable food, often traveling hundreds of kilometers in a single day.


Two Andean Flamingos running

Breeding occurs from December through February in large colonies – as might be expected from this social bird. Only a single egg is laid by each female, and many young flamingos do not survive until adulthood. The egg is placed on a mound of mud, surrounded by shallow water.

Flamingo chicks are self-sufficient by ten months and ready to breed in three to six years. The Andean flamingo lives for around 45 years in the wild if it does not succumb to hunting or predation.


The Andean flamingo is confined to the mountains of South America – mostly in Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Bolivia. As noted, it lives only above the 2,300-meter mark and below 5,000 meters, requiring alkaline lakes or salt lakes with shallow, diatom-rich water for survival.

Andean Flamingo’s habitat and movements

Andean Flamingo standing in their Habitat

The Andean flamingo is a migratory bird that can travel up to 700 kilometers in one day and is found throughout the high Andes mountain range from southern Peru to northwestern Argentina and northern Chile. The Andean flamingos are nomadic, with the potential to journey up to 700 miles in a single day.

They dwell in salt lakes during the summer and journey to the lower marshes for the winter. The winter relocation of the pampas is attributed to the harsh aridity of salt flats, which may be a factor in this shift from summer to winter. The route traveled by these birds is unknown, although they are thought to migrate between northern Chile and central and western Argentina’s marshlands.

Chile, extreme southwestern Bolivia, and northwestern Argentina are the countries with the greatest concentration of bird species. Some birds remain near their breeding grounds during the non-breeding season, but others migrate to lower-elevation swamps and lakes, such as east into Argentina’s central plains and north through the Andes to Peru’s southern coast.

The range extends from central Peru’s Conococha to the coast of Peru and northern Chile, Amazonian Brazil, southern Argentina, and coastal southern Brazil.

How humans affect Andean Flamingos

Andean Flamingo colonies are being significantly reduced due to mining operations, as well as the egg collecting by locals. This unlawful hunting is on the rise because of an increase in worldwide demand for flamingo eggs.

Organized criminal networks in Chile are responsible for the illegal killing of Chilean flamingos. Organized groups capture and export them to Europe, the United States, and other countries. The exportation process is mostly done in the Altiplano, which has deep cultural roots in egg poaching. Local families also take eggs from flamingo nests during the reproductive season.

Even if some eggs remain, removing them may disrupt the nesting process and cause the flamingo to abandon its nest. Egg removal might be acceptable if local people were malnourished; however, studies on their diets reveal no protein deficiency. The average person in the region breeds llamas and alpacas, which have a greater protein content than flamingo eggs.

Andean Flamingo’s diet

Andean Flamingo drinking

They are often seen in groups of around a hundred members. They feed on the algae that grow on the surface of lakes, ponds, and marshes throughout their summer breeding season (between April and August), where they live in colonies known as rookeries.

The flamingos feed on the bottom layer of the lake for tiny particles, mostly diatoms. They have a deep-keeled beak; the upper mandible is narrower than the lower, allowing for a gape on the bill’s dorsal surface. The bill shape aids in the feeding of diatoms in the inertial impaction.

Water would flow out of the beak when food particles, such as diatoms, are heavier than water, causing damage to the filtering surface in the bill. Because of this mechanism, water will flow out of the mouth and leave diatoms in the flamingo’s bill.

The flamingos forage in shallow saline seas for food. Compared to the Chilean and James flamingos, they have the most adaptable feeding strategy.

The foraging activities of Andean flamingos are thought to be influenced by the species with which they’re grouped, as they adopt the foraging styles of those species.

When put next to Chilean flamingos, they utilize a moderate and deep foraging depth strategy similar to that observed. If they’re grouped with James’s flamingos, on the other hand, they use the edge and shallow foraging technique more frequently than predicted. However, the overall foraging behavior of Andean flamingos is still obscure.


Andean Flamingo Standing in Water


The Andean flamingo’s decline began with a massive collection of eggs from World War II through the 1980s. The eggs were used as a food supply by the region’s burgeoning population but greatly impacted the flamingos, sending their population into a sharp decline.

There was an average population of 100,000 before the egg collection era, but this human nest robbing cut the flamingo’s numbers to a third of what they once were.

Today, the flamingo population may be stable or even slightly increasing. Sadly, poverty does not justify egg collection since the locals are well-nourished and have ample llama meat, which is considerably more nutritious than flamingo eggs; they are a delicacy, not a necessity.

Borax mining is a new threat to the Andean flamingo, which occurs heavily in its range. Though borax is largely harmless to humans, it destroys much of the birds’ reproductive capacity and causes growing flamingos to develop deformed skeletons.

Bulldozing lake beds destroys food supplies, and mining activity generally disturbs the birds and ruins their habitat.

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Conservation efforts

Group of Andean Flamingo in the river

Various nature and flamingo reserves have been established to protect this species’ crucial feeding and breeding grounds.

Official action has successfully reduced egg collecting, though it still occurs. The United Kingdom houses a self-renewing captive population of these birds should reintroduction ever become necessary.

Efforts are underway to create more protected areas and to educate locals on the ecological value of the Andean flamingo.


Do you know of or are you a part of an organization that works to conserve the Andean Flamingo, then please contact us to have it featured on Our Endangered World.


Group of Andean Flamingos

The Andean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus andinus) is a flamingo that lives in South America. Its expanded air sacs allow it to absorb more oxygen and live at higher altitudes. The bird’s buoyancy is reduced in this condition, so it primarily swims a few feet underwater.

Andean flamingoes consume fish, crustaceans, and freshwater invertebrates from lakes, rivers, and ponds. It is threatened by hunting for food or habitat loss due to pollution of water sources with mercury levels greater than those deemed safe for human consumption or industrial waste dumping into wetlands where these species nest near La Paz City, Bolivia.

The Andean Flamingo is a beautiful creature that attracts attention due to its long pink neck and red legs. However, they are more than just a pretty face. It is the representative of the Andes and its unique ecosystem. As a result, we must preserve this species’ habitat while reducing its environmental impact.


What is Andean Flamingo?

The Andean flamingo, or Andean Andes flamingo, is a kind of flamingo that resides in the high elevations of South America’s Andes. These birds have evolved to live at higher altitudes thanks to their increased air sacs, allowing them to breathe more oxygen while not being buoyant enough to swim. It is a bird that feeds on fish, crustaceans, and invertebrates from bodies of water.
The Andean Flamingo is abundant but not endangered; it is hunted for its feathers used to make hats in human countries. These species are not threatened by predators other than humans who take their feathers (e.g., pulled out of chicks) but face dangers. They may be found throughout South America’s Andes in high-altitude lakes and rivers. Andean Flamingos live at elevations ranging from 2,000 to 5,400 meters above sea level. During wet seasons, they may settle on islands in the Atacama Desert’s wetlands.
Andean Flamingos are usually fed on water plants, although they will eat various types of food depending on their environment. They live in the Andes, where they forage for food on open water. They can be found across a wide area of southern South America, from Colombia to Peru and Bolivia.

When Andean Flamingos breed, what color is their feathers?

The breeding plumage of Andean Flamingos is black and green, but it varies from green to pink when not in production. They are not in danger, although they may be affected by hunting in certain locations since suitable habitats cannot be found. It is a wading bird that feeds on fish, crustaceans, and freshwater invertebrates. The average lifespan of an Andean flamingo is around 50 years, which is a long time!
The Andean flamingos breed during the wet season. They may live up to 50 years if they are in excellent health, which is incredibly long!

Is the Andean Flamingo endangered?

Andean flamingos are not endangered, and there is no data on population estimates for this species. Andean Flamingos typically live for 50 years, but those living in hunting sites may be threatened by hunting due to habitat loss, so they can’t find anywhere that provides them with enough safety.

How many flamingos are left in the world?

The question “How many flamingos are left in the world?” is inquiring about the current population of flamingos worldwide. Flamingos are social birds found in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe. There is no exact count of the total number of flamingos in the world, but it is estimated that there are between two and four million individuals.

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