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What is a Chilean Flamingo?

Laura Evans
Laura Evans

The Chilean flamingo, or Phoenicopterus chilensis, ranges in the wild from Argentina to Chile in South America. It lives anywhere from sea level to mountains that reach 14,760 feet (4,500 m). These birds are amongst the larger types of flamingos. Chilean flamingos can live for as long as 50 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity.

Phoenicopterus chilensis have a height between 3.6 to 4.3 feet (1.1 to 1.3 m). A Chilean flamingo might have a wing span between 3.9 to 4.9 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m). These birds can weigh between 5.5 and 7.7 pounds (2.5 to 3.5 kg).

A Chilean flamingo.
A Chilean flamingo.

The feathers of the Chilean flamingo are largely pink. Wing feathers are typically range from a darker pink to a red color and include black flight feathers, which help with power and lift when these birds are flying. These birds' feet and joints are also pink, although their legs range in color from a yellow to a yellow-gray. Their downward-curving beaks start a pinkish-white and then turn black before the "halfway" mark. An immature Chilean flamingo has largely gray plumage.

A female Chilean flamingo typically produces one egg, which incubates for up to 31 days.
A female Chilean flamingo typically produces one egg, which incubates for up to 31 days.

Chilean flamingos are social birds. They live in large colonies or flocks that can include 1,000 or more birds. Natural predators of these birds are few and include gulls and human beings. Gulls will eat Chilean flamingo eggs. Human beings eat flamingo eggs and tongues, use the birds' feathers, and hunt the birds for sport. People have of an additional impact on Chilean flamingos as a result of damaging the birds' natural habitats. According to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II, Chilean flamingos are considered to be a near-threatened species.

Like other types of flamingos, Chilean flamingos are filter feeders and swish their beaks through water near the surface after using their feet to kick up mud in order to find food. These birds have slits on the tops of their beaks which take in water. Their tongues force this water through combs or spines called lamellae, which are located at the edges of the bill, to catch food such as seeds, insect larvae, worms, and plankton.

The Chilean flamingo is sexually mature when the bird reaches about six years. A female typically produces one egg, which incubates for 26 to 31 days. After the egg hatches, the chick is fed a substance called "crop milk." Crop milk is developed in the upper digestive tracks of both male and female birds. In addition to having its parents feed the chick crop milk, other flamingos can provide milk to the chick.

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Discussion Comments


@burcinc-- I read that people in ancient Rome used to eat flamingo tongue. I don't think it's very common nowadays. At least I hope not because it might involve torturing the animal. I don't think it would taste good either.

I actually think that American and Caribbean flamingos have the best color. Both are a bright orange color. They are just gorgeous. Chilean flamingos have some orange color, but they're mostly white. Some of them also look like they are light pink or light orange. So they are not the flashiest in terms of color.


I think the coolest part about the Chilean flamingo is that the chicks are also fed by male birds. Usually, with birds, and most other animals as well, it's the mother that feeds the babies. It's rare for the male to also feed the children. In the case of Chilean flamingos, it's even stranger because birds that are not related to the chicks may feed them too. It's strange and cool at the same time.

I think this must increase the likelihood of chicks surviving, since they are not likely to starve during the most vulnerable stage of their life. Threat from predators is something else of course.


I've only seen Chilean flamingos on TV, on nature programs. I hope I can see them in reality one day. I think these are very interesting and beautiful birds. I love their color. I also like the fact that they are harmless and eat insects. I'm shocked to know that people eat flamingo eggs and tongues though. I think that's awful. I wish they would leave these birds alone.


@Markerrag -- The American flamingo is the most common and it is not endangered. It is easy to confuse the American and the Chilean one because they are closely related and look very similar.

The American one has little in the way of natural predators, humans tend to leave it alone and they breed in the wild in relatively isolated spots. That bird is fine for now, although the Chilean one is not.


Wait. Why is this bird endangered? Isn't the Chilean flamingo the most common one? Figured enough were bred in captivity to keep it off the endangered list. Perhaps the wild ones are the more endangered.

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    • A Chilean flamingo.
      By: Chlorophylle
      A Chilean flamingo.
    • A female Chilean flamingo typically produces one egg, which incubates for up to 31 days.
      By: sergign
      A female Chilean flamingo typically produces one egg, which incubates for up to 31 days.