The American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is found in Central and South America, the Caribbean and also in Florida, making it the only flamingo to naturally inhabit North America. It’s also found on the Galapagos Islands where, in classic Darwinian style, it has developed a few differences from American flamingos found in other parts of the world.
The American flamingo is one of the largest species of flamingo, with adult males reaching heights of between 47 and 57 inches, and up to 6.2 pounds in weight. In the Galapagos, however, the American flamingo is significantly smaller. This is one of a handful of differences that have led some to separate the Galapagos population under the scientific name Phoenicopterus ruber glyphorhynchus.
The Galapagos population of American flamingos also differs genetically from those found in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Their body shape, the size of their eggs (which are smaller than usual), and even their level of sexual dimorphism differ from American flamingos found in different parts of the world – something that surely would have fascinated Charles Darwin had he discovered these differences during his time on the Galapagos.
As with all American flamingos, those of the Galapagos share the beautiful pink coloration that most flamingo species are famous for. This is a result of the aqueous bacteria and beta-carotene in the flamingo’s diet, which in the Galapagos includes crustaceans (especially brine shrimp), mollusks, insects, worms, algae and seeds.
The Galapagos population is small, with a few hundred flamingos in total. They tend to live and feed in brackish lagoons close to the beaches. Because of the small population size, they’re not always easy to spot. Prime locations for seeing them include the Punta Cormorant Lagoon on Floreana Island, and Quinta Playa and Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island. The best time to see them is during the nesting period from March to July.
Other Iconic Galapagos Wildlife Species