Archived 2014 discussion: Andean Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus), Puna Flamingo (P. jamesi) and Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis): downlist all to Least Concern?

This discussion was first published on Dec 9 2010 as part of the 2011 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2014.

Links to BirdLife species factsheets for Andean Flamingo, Puna Flamingo and Chilean Flamingo

Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus is currently listed as Vulnerable under the A criterion, and Puna Flamingo P. jamesi and Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis are listed as Near Threatened under the A criterion. P. andinus was suspected to be declining at a rate of 30-49% over 10 years. P. jamesi was suspected to have declined by 20-29% over the past 48 years (three generations), while P. chilensis was suspected to be declining at a rate of 20-29% over 10 years. These negative trends were suspected on the basis of past declines and ongoing threats, primarily egg-harvesting, hunting, disturbance and habitat degradation.

The results of surveys carried out for the International Simultaneous Census and Simultaneous Census of Network Sites in 2010 and six previous years since 1997 suggest that the population trends of these species are in fact stable or increasing (Marconi et al. in press). Variation between years in the total numbers recorded can be at least partly attributed to variation in site inclusion and the timing of surveys. For P. andinus the results indicate a stable population trend during the last 13 years, while the trend for P. jamesi is less clear, but is probably at least stable, with a sustained increase at one site. Surveys for P. chilensis in 2010 recorded c.283,000 birds, strongly suggesting that the current global estimate of 200,000 mature individuals should be revised upwards; however, the revised estimate for the number of mature individuals will likely be lower than the new estimate of 300,000 individuals put forward by Marconi et al. (in press). Although the surveys have not covered the entire distribution of P. chilensis, they provide no evidence of the suspected decline (Marconi et al. in press). It is therefore proposed that all three species be downlisted to Least Concern on the basis that none of them approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN criteria and may not have done for the last 10-12 years.

Comments on these proposed category changes would be welcomed and a request is made for any additional information. Any re-estimations of the population trends for these species should be done so for a period of three generations. For P. andinus this is estimated at 47 years and for P. chilensis it is estimated at 46 years.

Marconi, P., Sureda, A. L., Arengo, F., Aguilar, M. S., Amado, N., Alza, L., Rocha, O., Torres, R., Moschione, F., Romano, M., Sosa, H. and Derlindati, E. (in press) 4th Simultaneous Flamingo Census in South America: Preliminary Results. Flamingo18.

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6 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Andean Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus), Puna Flamingo (P. jamesi) and Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis): downlist all to Least Concern?

  1. Rob Clay says:

    Periodic surveys carried out between 2000 and 2005 showed the Chilean Flamingo to be more abundant in the Paraguayan Chaco than previously documented, and to be present throughout the year. High counts surpassed 2000 individuals in three of the five years, with over 5200 recorded in the austral winter of 2005 (Lesterhuis et al. 2008). There is some evidence for an increase in numbers of Chilean Flamingo in Paraguay (Hayes 1995, Lesterhuis et al. 2008), perhaps linked to increasing salinity of the lagoons in the central Paraguayan Chaco.

    More recent counts have been lower than during 2000-2005, but this may be the result of many of the more accessible lagoons being without water during survey visits.

    Literature cited:
    Hayes, F. E. (1995) Status, distribution and biogeography of the birds of Paraguay. American Birding Association (Monographs in Field Ornithology No.1).

    Lesterhuis, A. J., Clay, R. P. and del Castillo, H. (2008) Status and Distribution in Paraguay of the Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis). Pp: 41-45. Flamingo 16: 41-45.

  2. This response was prepared by members of the GCFA, an international initiative coordinating flamingo and wetland research and conservation activities throughout the Andean and Puna flamingo distribution range.

    We would like to comment on the proposal by BirdLife International to downlist the three flamingo species of southern South America, the Andean Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus), Puna Flamingo (P. jamesi) and Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis), to the category of Least Concern according to IUCN criteria. We appreciate that this assessment is based on the recognition that data now available are rigorous, accurate, and reliable, and we also appreciate the opportunity to comment on this proposal.

    Current population estimates for the three species are 38,675 for the Andean Flamingo, 106,000 for the Puna Flamingo, and 282,752 for the Chilean Flamingo (Marconi et al. 2010). The Grupo Conservación Flamencos Altoandinos (GCFA) obtained the first reliable estimates for the first two species in 1997 by conducting a simultaneous comprehensive census throughout the distribution range. Since then, subsequent censuses indicate population trends appear to have remained stable, although these are measured over a the time interval of the past 13 years, which is less than a generation length according to the IUCN definition. Prior population estimates were based on extrapolations of rough counts at a limited number of sites and are not considered reliable. Population estimates for Chilean Flamingos continue to be based on extrapolations from limited counts.

    While the criteria established by the IUCN are objective and measurable, they are intended for broad application across all species, and therefore may not consider particular biological, ecological or life history characteristics of the species assessed. With regard to the extent of occurrence of these flamingo species, while their geographic range is extensive in area, these are birds that inhabit aquatic habitats (wetlands) within a terrestrial matrix. The specific physical and chemical characteristics of wetlands used by flamingos fall within a narrow range of depth and salinity, and are highly variable. Flamingos are itinerant, tracking resource availability through space over time. Therefore functionally, the area of habitat available for flamingos (for foraging and breeding) at one point in time is restricted and area of occupancy is a small subset of the overall distribution range.

    Flamingos breed intermittently depending on nesting site conditions and individual condition, and not all adults breed in a given year; in a highly successful year, at most 25% of the adult population will breed successfully. While the population structure for these species is not known, we do know that reproductive rate over the past 20 years has been lower than recorded in the 1980s. Fewer breeding sites are active, fewer nests are being established, and colony failure has been documented at several sites, with chick survival at the most successful colonies estimated at 50%. During the International Simultaneous Flamingo Census in 2010, the GCFA identified 0.47% of the Puna Flamingos, 0.34% of the Andean Flamingos, and 0.20% of the Chilean Flamingos counted as subadults. Reproductive trends and census data would suggest that most of the adult population may be towards the second half of their life expectancy.

    Furthermore, for both Andean and Puna flamingos, the vast majority of chicks are being produced at 2-4 breeding sites (Laguna Colorada in Bolivia and Salar de Tara, Salar de Atacama, Salar de Surire in Chile). During the 2010 breeding season, 80% of Andean Flamingo chicks came from Laguna Colorada in Bolivia, a site where productivity has been highly variable in the past 10 years (Rocha et al. 2009). Though other satellite breeding areas have been recorded in the past 5 years, these are not used consistently and do not produce the numbers of chicks that are produced at the main sites mentioned above.

    While these biological and ecological concerns would call attention to the status of flamingos, the level of threat directly to populations and to wetland habitats throughout their range is also alarming (Marconi and Sureda 2008). Main pressures (existing, current impacts) and threats (imminent, potential impacts) on high – Andean wetlands are: mining and energy development, improvement of existing and construction of new roads (which directly affect habitats by altering water flows and indirectly facilitates access to wildlife and habitats), and unregulated tourism. Egg harvesting in colonies in Argentina and Bolivia is well documented. In fact, indigenous communities around the Los Lipez Ramsar site, which includes Laguna Colorada, have presented a proposal to Reserve authorities to consider egg harvesting in the management plan for the site. At key lowland wetlands, main pressures and threats are water management, agriculture and deforestation (Marconi and Sureda 2010). The expansion of soy monoculture in the past few years throughout the Argentinean pampas has resulted in small and medium scale water diversion and damming, most of them without environmental impact studies. Of special concern is the El Sauzal large scale dam project on Salí-Dulce river basin, which will drastically reduce water availability at Laguna Mar Chiquita, the most important lowland site for Andean and James Flamingos during winter, and the main breeding site for Chilean Flamingos.
    While several key wetland sites are within officially protected areas, sites that have been designated priority sites for flamingo conservation lack protected status. Even several wetlands within protected areas are under threat from mining activities, other development (geothermal exploitation, road construction, urban expansion), and unregulated tourism.

    We believe that the information available and our knowledge of the conservation status of the Puna and Andean flamingo populations and wetland habitats does not warrant the downlisting of these species to Least Concern according to IUCN criteria. The status of the Andean Flamingo is of sufficient concern that the USFWS has included it as one of the few foreign species listed under the US Endangered Species Act as of September 2010. Furthermore, we believe the status of the Puna Flamingo should be reevaluated given the population treneds and demographic concerns and threats mentioned above to determine if listing as Vulnerable is warranted.

    While the Chilean Flamingo has a broader distribution encompassing a wider variety of wetland habitat types and has a larger population than the other two species, we lack detailed information on distribution, habitat use, productivity, and conservation status of priority sites. Given our lack of knowledge and degree of threat to habitats, we believe keeping its Near Threatened status is warranted.

    Literature Cited:
    Marconi, P. M. and A.L. Sureda. 2008. High Andean Flamingo Wetland Network: Evaluation of degree of implementation of priority sites-preliminary results. Pp. 36-40. In: Childress, B., Arengo, F. and Bechet, A. (eds.) 2008. Flamingo, Bulletin of the IUCN-SSC/Wetlands International Flamingo Specialist Group, No. 16, December 2008. Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, UK.

    Marconi, P. M. and A.L. Sureda. 2010. Simultaneous survey of shorebirds
    in the Network of Wetlands of Importance for Flamingo Conservation. Final Report to BirdLife International and Canadian Wildlife Service.
    Marconi, P., A.L. Sureda, F. Arengo, M.S. Aguilar, N. Amado, L. Alza, O. Rocha, R. Torres, F. Moschione, M. Romano, H. Sosa, E. Derlindati. 2010. Fourth Simultaneous Flamingo Census in South America: Preliminary Results. In: Lee, R., Arengo, F., and Bechet, A. (eds) In press. Flamingo, Bulletin of the IUCN-SSC/Wetlands International Flamingo Specialist Group, No. 18, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, UK.

    Rocha, O., S. Aguilar, M. Vargas and C. Quiroga. 2009. Abundancia, reproducción y anillado de flamencos andinos (Phoenicoparrus jamesi y P. andinus) en Laguna Colorada, Potosí- Bolivia. Pp. 16-21. In: Childress, B., Arengo, F. and Bechet, A. (eds.) 2009. Flamingo, Bulletin of the IUCN-SSC/Wetlands International Flamingo Specialist Group, No. 17, December 2009. Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, UK.

  3. Jose Luis Brito Montero Museo de Ciencias Naturales y Arqueologia de San Antonio says:


    Junto con saludarlos, podemos decir que en el humedal El Yali , comuna de Santo Domingo, Provincia de San Antonio, Región de Valparaíso, Chile Central, es posible detectar cada año en invierno a un grupo principalmente de adultos y algunos juveniles de entre 100 a 400 individuos de Flamenco Chileno

  4. Felicity Arengo says:

    Grupo Conservacion Flamencos Altoandinos: Update January, 2014

    Many of the issues presented in 2011 by the GCFA continue to be valid in January 2014. We have recent information that continues to document ongoing threats to the 3 flamingo species in southern South America.

    While flamingos are adapted to fluctuating habitats, prolonged dry periods in the past 2-3 years have concentrated flamingos in fewer habitats where threats are increasing. A summer census in Mar Chiquita, Argentina in 2010 found more than half the global estimated population of Chilean Flamingos in this one site, which is considered highly threatened by agricultural activities, development, and human disturbance.

    Recent studies carried out in Bolivia in 2 priority sites for flamingo conservation, Lago Poopó and Lago Uru Uru, show a contraction of around 30% of surface areas in these lakes due to prolonged dry periods over the past 30 years (Rocha & Marconi 2012, Aguilar & Rocha 2013), effectively reducing available habitat. In Laguna Llancanelo, Argentina, a colony of 10,000 Chilean Flamingo nests with an estimated 600 hatched chicks became exposed to predators when water levels dropped, reducing surface area by 85%, with a 90% estimated loss of chicks and eggs before the end of the season.

    In the 2014 breeding season in Argentina, a nesting colony of 180 Puna Flamingo nests in Laguna Grande, Catamarca, was abandoned because of human disturbance caused by unregulated tourism activities, and a colony of 600 Andean Flamingo nests in Laguna Blanca, Catamarca, was abandoned because of human disturbance caused by people taking flamingo eggs for local consumption.

    These direct threats to flamingos of all aged classes that have been documented in the past 3 years along with ongoing concerns related to habitat availability and viability into the future due to local, regional, and global drivers are alarming and do not support the proposal to downlist these species.


    Aguilar, S. & O. Rocha (eds.) 2013. Plan de Acción 2013 – 2023 para la conservación del Sitio Ramsar lagos Poopó y Uru Uru, Oruro – Bolivia. BIOTA, BirdLife International, Armonía. 90 p. La Paz. In press.

    Rocha, O. & P. Marconi. 2012. Monitoring of 2011-2012 breeding colonies and populations of Andean flamingos (Phoenicoparrus andinus y P. jamesi) in Argentina and Bolivia. Unpublished report to CMS.

  5. Andy Symes says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List would be to treat:

    Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus as Vulnerable under criteria A2cd and A4cd
    Puna Flamingo Phoenicoparrus jamesi as Near Threatened, nearly meeting the threshold for Vulnerable under criterion A3
    Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis as Near Threatened, nearly meeting the threshold for Vulnerable under criterion A3

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  6. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisations to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposals for the 2014 Red List status of these species.

    The final categorisations will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by BirdLife and IUCN.

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