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The Galapagos BIG15

AMERICAN FLAMINGO

The flamingos present in the Galapagos belong to the American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), but are an odd southwest outlier, considering that the remainder of the species breeds along coasts of Colombia and in much of the Caribbean. Despite its wide range, this species is in fact rarely found outside the Caribbean. These birds’ emblematic colour is linked to their diet (rich in carotenoids), and secretions from their uropygial gland near the base of the tail also transfer pigments to the plumage coat. Young flamingos lack the pink coat and feed on their parent’s “crop milk” secreted by another specialized gland in both male and female parents.

Flamingos have the largest and heaviest tongues among birds as the feeding techniques of baleen whales (rorquals) and flamingos are very similar: both are able to filter large amounts of very small food in very large quantities with the help of specialized filters, the baleen plates in the case of rorquals, and, in the case of flamingos, the lamellae, small plates in their mandibles.

Courtship rituals among flamingos form one of nature’s most impressive shows. Adult males and females aggregate in close groups and start an intricate dance with necks cocked up while flashing their primaries (the long flying feathers at the wing tips). These are exceptionally pink and black as they are less exposed to abrasion, wear and tear and other factors that may weaken the colour intensity.

Among the largest birds in the archipelago, American flamingos can stand up to 145 centimetres (57 inches) tall. The most recent bird-count registered 314 individuals of this species in the archipelago. Our guests can see American flamingos in all itineraries with few exceptions related to vessels exploring the Eastern Islands of the Galapagos.


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