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An Rare Sighting & Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Flamingo

Feb 14, 2018 11:39PM ● By Paul Spear

An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Flamingo

This weekly column provides photos of birds photographed locally in the Tijuana Estuary or on IB's beaches along with background on the bird.

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is an unlikely candidate. On Tuesday a solitary Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) 

was spotted wading and feeding along the Bayshore Bikeway near the Silver Strand. An unidentified California Game Warden told me that the flamingo was tagged with a Chilean ID. How this rarely seen in California bird got here is anyone’s guess.

The Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) is a large species of flamingo. The species is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They usually breed in South America from Equador and Peru, to Chile and Argentina, and east to Brazil. There is a small population in Utah and California.

Like all flamingos, it lays a single chalky white egg on a mud mound.

The plumage is pinker than the slightly larger greater flamingo, but less so than Caribbean flamingo. It can be differentiated from these species by its greyish legs with pink joints, and also by the larger amount of black on the bill (more than half). Young chicks may have no sign of pink coloring whatsoever, but instead remain grey.

The Chilean flamingo's bill is equipped with comb-like structures that enable it to filter food, eating mainly algae and plankton, from water in coastal mudflats, estuaries, lagoons, and salt lakes.

Chilean flamingos live in large flocks in the wild and require crowded conditions to stimulate breeding. During breeding season, males and females display a variety of behaviors to attract mates, including head flagging—swiveling their heads from side-to-side in tandem—and wing salutes, where the wings are repeatedly opened and closed. Males and females cooperate in building a pillar-shaped mud nest, and both incubate the egg laid by the female. Upon birth, the chicks have gray plumage; they don't gain the typical pink adult coloration for two-three years. Both male and female flamingos can produce a nutritious milk-like substance in their crop gland to feed their young.

You may still be able to see this amazing unlikely visitor feeding along the Bayshore Bikeway. Until next week, happy birding!

If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:

Bryan Brillhart Photography or Bird of the Week


Bryan Brillhart



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