Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus
Version: 2.0 — Published May 21, 2020
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Diet and Foraging
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Microhabitat for Foraging
The Andean Flamingo forages in shallow, salty waters for resources. Within a lake, it forages near the bottom at the benthic interface, and so typically forage in water no deeper than 1 m, although in one study most feeding was limited to water between 2-50 cm deep (17). At one lake where three species of flamingo, including Andean, were seen foraging, the water temperature was 12ºC and had a pH between 8 and 9 (3).
Food Capture and Consumption
The Andean Flamingo is a filter feeder with a primarily herbivorous diet. It showcases the most variable foraging pattern compared to that of the Chilean and James’s flamingos (17). Foraging patterns are dependent on the species it is associating with: when Andean is found together with James’s Flamingo, it forages in shallow areas around the edges of a lake, but when it is found with Chilean Flamingo, then it forages in deeper water. When foraging alone, Andean Flamingos uses moderate and deep water for foraging (17).
Johnson et al. (3) described foraging movements in Andean Flamingo in the following way: “The head and neck are submerged until the bill rests on the bottom; the bill is then drawn toward the feet with a slight swinging motion, followed, in some cases, by the bird stepping backward and continuing the motion without raising its head.” At one study site in Bolivia, when Andean Flamingos were excluded from portions of the lake, there was a significant difference in the microbenthic community, with diatoms, amoebas, ciliates, and nematodes all significantly more common in areas flamingos were excluded from, suggesting that flamingos play an important role in lake community (18).
While all flamingos are filter feeders, the structure of their bills differs between species, possibly allowing for some partitioning of food items by size, and allowing three species to co-occur (19). In Andean Flamingo, the lamellae of the bill likely act not only as filters to prevent certain items into the bill, but also as a barrier to prevent the escape of food items once in the bill. The distance between outer submarginal lamellae are about 1,000 µm, while the inner submarginal lamellae are mostly between 105-106 µm (19, 17).
Compared to the Chilean Flamingo, Andean Flamingo has an omnivores diet of diatoms, insects, and small crustacean larvae (3, 20, 17). Diatoms consumed by Andean Flamingos are typically 61-120 µm in size (19). Stomach content analysis from specimens (n = 3) also found diatom skeletons and little else (3).