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A photo of a James's Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi)
James's Flamingo

James's Flamingo

Phoenicoparrus jamesi

The James's flamingo, also known as the puna flamingo, is a high-altitude dweller of the Andean plateaus. This species, named after British naturalist Harry Berkeley James, is a smaller counterpart to the Andean flamingo, and is roughly equivalent in size to the lesser flamingo of the Old World. With a body length of about 90–92 cm and a weight of approximately 2 kg, this bird is a delicate creature of the skies. Its plumage is a very pale pink, adorned with bright carmine streaks around the neck and back. When perched, the black flight feathers become visible, contrasting with the otherwise light coloration. Adults boast yellow eyes surrounded by bright red skin, and their legs are a brick red hue. The bill is a striking yellow with a black tip, completing the bird's vivid palette.

Identification Tips

To identify James's flamingo, look for its lighter-colored feathers and the bright yellow on its bills, distinguishing it from its sympatric relatives. The Chilean flamingo is pinker with a longer bill, while the Andean flamingo is larger with more black in the wings and bill, and yellow legs. James's flamingo can also be recognized by its three-toed feet lacking a hallux, a feature shared with the Andean flamingo but not with other flamingo species.

Habitat

James's flamingo inhabits the high-altitude Andean plateaus, where it thrives in the unique ecosystem of this region.

Distribution

This species graces the skies and waters of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and northwest Argentina, making its home in the lofty realms of the Andes.

Behaviour

James's flamingos are social birds, living in colonies that may include shared nesting areas. They are capable of flight, reaching speeds of up to 37 mph during migration, though they may travel slower over shorter distances. Their breeding cycles are irregular, and the entire colony may engage in mating rituals simultaneously.

Song & calls

The vocalizations of James's flamingo are part of their mating display, with males vocalizing and performing a distinctive head-turning dance to attract females.

Breeding

Breeding begins at 6 years of age, with the frequency of breeding being irregular. The female lays a single egg on a mud nest, which both parents incubate for 26–31 days. Chicks are born with straight, red bills and grey and white feathers, which later develop into the curved bill and adult plumage.

Similar Species

James's flamingo is similar to the Andean and Chilean flamingos, but can be distinguished by its lighter plumage and bill coloration, as well as its smaller size and finer bill structure.

Diet and Feeding

The species is a specialized filter feeder, consuming diatoms and other microscopic algae. James's flamingo has the finest filter-feeding apparatus among its kin, with a deeply keeled bill and numerous lamellae for trapping food particles. They feed primarily in shallow waters, often stirring up food with their webbed feet.

Conservation status

As of 2008, the IUCN has classified James's flamingo as Near Threatened. The primary threats to its survival include habitat destruction by humans and environmental factors that impact the availability of their food sources. Conservation efforts are in place to protect this species and its habitat.

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A photo of a Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor)

Lesser Flamingo

Phoeniconaias minor
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