At first glance, it is possible to watch the famous salt crusts surprising and claiming the attention of the visitors who have never seen them, since their rhomboidal shapes seem to multiple until infinity. Real lagoons lay below them. The salt is produced from the evaporation of these lagoons, which mostly emerge from the surface with very few centimeters of water and are inhabited by small algae and microvertebrates which are the daily diet of flamingos and other birds.
Few flora species can grow in a salt deposit. In general, inland salt grass and other minor grass species are some of those which survive these climate conditions and the constant salt erosion. The same happens with birds, since many of them are affected by the salt level. We can find, among them, the Andean dull, caiti, fraser, harrier and Baird’s Sandpiper, and the three kinds of flamingos which deserve to be mentioned in a special chapter.
Phoenicoparrus andinus, Phoenicoparrus jamesi and Chilean Flamingo are the three types of birds that at first sight are very much alike. However, even though they belong to the same Phoenicopteridae family, they have distinguished features. One of the similar characteristic is related to the biological need to reproduce and, therefore, to find nesting opportunities where man cannot adversely affect their habits and behavior. Even though the Atacama people know them and have respected them for 11 thousand years, the present flamingo population has gradually decreased. Today, flamingos come from distant places and, in the last years, the Atacama salt deposit has been luckily receiving these pink creatures.
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Even though the species is not endangered, flamingos have to make a great effort for their reproduction. Therefore, man must be grateful to be able to observe them without disturbing them.