Photographer's Note

Salar de Surire - Courtship at 4.245 meters

Young flamingos are born with gray or white plumes. The plumes of an adult bird range from very light pink to red. Flamingos obtain this colour by extracting bacteria and beta carotene from their food.

Of the six different types of flamingos that live on earth, three species are found at the Salar de Surire. These are:
- Andes flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus)
- James’ flamingo (Phoenicoparrus jamesi)
- Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)

On the picture you see James’ flamingos (named for Harry Berkeley James, a British naturalist who studied the bird). You can recognize them by their short, yellow beak with a black tip.
They have long, thin legs. The plumage is similar for both sexes. The body length is 110 cm and the weight 2 kg.

Their food consists of microscopic algae in the salt lake. The population is small and the animal is vulnerable. This species is now protected on its main breeding grounds.

Flamingos are able to fly. A pink flamingo against the blue sky is a wonderful sight. But I saw it only twice and have no picture of it (both times I was in a moving car).

At my previous picture of the salt lake Mariusz asked how close you can approach these flamingos. That’s difficult to tell and it depends on the circumstances.
Of course you should move very very slowly and not make noises. The excursions from Putre are made in a small group (since this isn’t the most visited area in the country).

I made the tour to Salar de Surire together with a young couple from Arica. Including the driver/guide there were just the four of us. The lady was still not used to the altitude and stayed in the car together with the driver. Therefore we were only the two of us to hike from the track to the lake.

We walked very slowly, stopped regularly, waited for a while and didn’t talk. The flamingos did not seem to notice us. At least they didn’t look in our direction (not like vicuñas do from the moment you step out of the car).

But at a given moment, we noted that as we went closer, they went further away with exactly the same distance but without looking in our direction. They’re always very busy looking for food.
At a certain point we feared that the birds would really be startled and then we took our pictures from there, even when we had hoped to be able to approach nearer.

It’s difficult to estimate the exact distance between us and the flamingos. The picture in the workshop perhaps gives you a better idea.
Afterwards I'm actually quite happy with my pictures. (Perhaps I’m too little critical …)

Information on the flamingos: from our guide and from Wikipedia.

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Additional Photos by Paul VDV (PaulVDV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6421 W: 22 N: 15100] (59735)
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