The Atacama Desert is located on the northern Chile. It is 2,500 meters above sea level, hence, is considered as the highest and the driest desert in the world. The desert looks like the surface of the moon that has been used as a test sight for lunar vehicles.
This desert lacks of precipitation and high mineral content of the soil leads to the total absence of vegetation in the interior area. Most plants and animals in this region cling to the shoreline and coastal river valleys.
If we look at the characteristics of the Atacama Desert, then you might start wondering what kind of animals living there. Let’s explore the characteristics of the animals living in the Atacama Desert.
Flamingo is the first animal you can find in the Atacama Desert. Surprisingly, there are actually no fewer than 3 flamingo species that you can see in the Atacama region. Due to this fact, there is a dedicated flamingo nature reserve called Los Flamencos National Reserve, which is located near to San Pedro de Atacama.
If you wish to see flamingo here, you can visit it all year round. The Andean Flamingo, the largest of the three birds, can be see all year round on the Atacama Salt Flat. Besides, you can also find the Chilean Flamingos on the salt flat.
These two species of flamingos are different; you can tell from the black tips of the wing feathers that only Chilean Flamingos have. The last species of flamingo, the James Flamingo can be seen during the winter months only. It is the smallest among the three species and it has yellow and black beak.
Flamingos are really popular and many people love them as they are listed as one of the birds with beautiful feathers.
Vicugna (pronounced vee-koo-nya) is the close relative of Llama. Vicugna is a bit smaller and more delicate than Llama. They inhabit the Andes Mountain at the altitudes of 3,200 to 4,800 meters. Regarding to their diet, they love grazing on the plains during the day and heading to the slopes at night.
Vicugna have a curious quick which has been adapted to drinking highly salty water of the Atacama salt lakes. They will even lick rocks to obtain enough salt in their diet.
They used to be hunter to near extinction up until the 1960s, however, there are some conservation efforts done to recover to the point that the vicugna is now a common sight on any Atacama tour.
- Southern Viscacha
The next animal you can find in the Atacama Desert is the Southern Viscacha. It looks like a disgruntled rabbit, but it is actually more closely related to the chinchilla family.
In the arid Atacama, the viscacha is a fairly abundant resident, so it might be challenging for the visitors to spot one with their grey-brown forms against the backdrop with the same color.
Viscachas are sociable animals which tend to live in large colonies. Their colonies are headed up by a dominant female vizcachon.
- Giant Hummingbird
Hummingbirds tend to be small, however, you can find the largest species of the hummingbird family in the Atacama Desert. They weigh around 8/10ths of an ounce. They have long, needle-like beak which is used to suck the nectar from a flower.
Male and female giant hummingbirds look alike, but the male is much larger. They spend most of their time in trees or bushes.
The giant hummingbirds, similar to the other species of hummingbirds, primarily feed on nectar taken from a variety of brightly colored and scented flowers of trees, herbs and shrubs. Many native and cultivated plants on whose the flowers these birds feed rely on them for pollination.
Do you know that hummingbirds are one of the smallest animals in the world? It is amazing to know that these birds can survive well in the wild despite their small size.
- Culpeo Fox
The Culpeo fox, also known as the Andean fox, can be seen throughout the Atacama desert. It is also considered as the region’s largest predator. Culpeos are opportunistic hunters, which is just as well as food can be difficult to come by in the desert.
These foxes rely on lizards and birds as well as viscacha. They even will have a nibble at plants during the hard times.
Besides the Atacama Desert, there are also some other interesting animals living in other parts of the world. Check the list of the animals in Sahara Desert too and compare how each of the animals is unique and different! Not only mammals and birds, you can also find different types of lizard in desert.
And if you’re interested in animals in certain places, go check animals in the Baltic Sea.