Dr. Felicity Arengo is the associate director of the Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. This month, she is conducting a census of flamingo populations in remote regions of South America. Read the first post in the series here.
We are standing at the edge of Laguna Grande, surrounded by snowy peaks and magnificent volcanic rock formations that seem almost cartoonish. From here we can see most of the lake, covered with pink dots. Two hours later we have an estimate for this section, but will have to count at three other points to cover the whole lake.
When we are done we tally our results for the whole lake: over 15,000 Puna Flamingos are present. We also counted 50 Andean Flamingos and a single Chilean Flamingo small numbers in comparison. We’ve counted up to 18,000 Puna flamingos here in past years, but our lower count this year is not necessarily alarming.
This year we find around 160 chicks, some around a month old: gray and slightly larger than the fluffy, white two-week old chicks, and there are still 100 flamingos sitting on eggs. Timing for different groups of mated pairs is slightly offset, occurring in several waves over the breeding season. We also count around 520 abandoned nests with eggs. Flamingo eggs and chicks are very vulnerable, experiencing high mortality, which is why our work with communities near these sites is as important as collecting data.