Flamingos in Peru!

There are many types of flamingos, some even in Africa, but the odds are that these are James’s flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi) and/or the Andean flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) both found in the High Andes in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.

I posted earlier about seeing condors, but I also managed to see flamingos, in the high Altiplano of the Peruvian Andes. This was simply a 10 minute bus stop to stretch our legs and get a long distance look at these unusual waterfowl as we drove between Chivay (Colca Canyon) and Puno (Lake Titicaca).  I wish I’d had a longer lens, but I really have to limit how much weight I carry–particularly fragile items like camera lens.  So, bird photos are just not what I do best.

Flamingo comes from Portuguese or Spanish flamengo, “flame-colored” and these birds get that pink coloration from the crustaceans they eat. (I once volunteered at a zoo and we had to add red coloring to the flamingo’s food to keep them “in the pink.” Yes, I’ve led an odd and various life.)
According to Wikipedia: “Flamingos filter-feed on brine shrimp and blue-green algae. Their bills are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they eat, and are uniquely used upside-down. The filtering of food items is assisted by hairy structures called lamellae which line the mandibles, and the large rough-surfaced tongue. The pink or reddish color of flamingos comes from carotenoids in their diet of animal and plant plankton. These carotenoids are broken down into pigments by liver enzymes. The source of this varies by species, and affects the saturation of color. Flamingos whose sole diet is blue-green algae are darker in color compared to those who get it second hand (e.g. from animals that have digested blue-green algae).”

The Andean flamingo is one of the rarest flamingos in the world. It lives in the Andes mountains of South America. It is closely related to James’s flamingo, though I didn’t get close enough to even try to tell them apart. The Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo and James’s flamingo all live in colonies, including shared nesting areas.
I had always thought of these birds as tropical, but as you can see by the coats these folks are wearing, they aren’t. This is fairly high up–perhaps 9-10,000ft. It’s breezy, cool and quite dry. The lake was large, but shallow, just perfect for these birds. There were several hundred all eating. We weren’t allowed to get very close to them, which is best for the birds.
Here’s what the photos don’t show: 1) There were hundreds of birds, perhaps a couple thousand. 2) This is right off the highway and the amount of trash I had to walk through was enough to make me embarrassed to be a human.
There were other types of birds as well, but I couldn’t identify them.


Published by


I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *