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Bucket List: Birds of Patagonia

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Birds of Patagonia collage

 

Patagonia is a magical territory that covers the southern tip of South America. A land of plains, fjords, mountains, glaciers, rivers and lakes; an extraordinary place and home to the amazing birds of Patagonia.

There are nearly 300 bird species to be found in Patagonia, so it is the ideal place for birding. These range from the many different species of humming birds to parrots, cormorants, gulls, owls and woodpeckers, geese, the majestic Andean condor, eagles, and more.

 

Sea birds, Bahia Bustamante, Patagonia, Argentina

Sea birds in the Beagle Channel

 

We have put together our top spots for watching birds in Patagonia.

However, you are likely to be able to see many of the same birds in similar habitats throughout the region.

 

Peninsula Valdes and the Atlantic Coast

el-pedral-peninsula-valdes-argentina

El Pedral, Peninsula Valdes

There are over 180 species of migratory and year round birds that can be found along the southern Atlantic coast of Argentina.

Some to look out for are:

  • Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) – they can be spotted in specific, sometimes huge, coastal colonies between September and March.
  • Chubut steamer duck (Tachyeres leucocephalus) – rare as they are only found along a small and sparsely populated stretch of coast in southern Chubut.
  • Olrog’s gull (Larus atlanticus) – spotted along rocky coastlines, harbours, brackish water and estuaries.
  • Hudsonian godwit (Limosa haemastica) – migrating bird found close to shore lines
  • Imperial shag (Leucocarbo atriceps) – found in rocky coastal regions

 

Tierra del Fuego

views montes-martial-trek-ushuaia-tierra-del-fuego-argentina-patagoni

Montes Martial, Tierra del Fuego

This legendary island at the southern tip of the continent is home to over 100 Patagonia birds species.

Some of the species that are present include:

  • Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) – the only colony can be found on Martillo Island near Ushuaia.
  • King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) – a colony of over 100 can be found near Porvenir in Chile.
  • Rock shag or Magellanic cormorant (Phalacrocorax magellanicus) – found around the coasts of Patagonia.
  • Austral peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus cassini) – found throughout Patagonia.
  • Great grebe (Podiceps major) – this is the largest species of grebe and is found near bodies of water throughout Patagonia.

 

El Calafate / El Chalten

Trekking, Fitzroy National Park, Chalten, Argentina

Fitzroy National Park, El Chalten

Two towns nestling in the Glaciares National Park of Argentina’s southern Andes and straddling the mountains and pampa.

Birds of Patagonia that you might spot:

  • Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) – the king of the sky and national bird of both Chile and Argentina. Can be found soaring throughout the Andean region of Patagonia. They are numerous in Paine where you may see large groups on the ground feeding.
  • Magellanic woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus) – you will hear this before you see it. It is the largest of the species and found in south western Argentina and southern Chile.
  • Torrent duck (Merganetta armata) – Watch for these as you walk along river banks. They nest in small waterside caves or sheltered spots and like looking for food, swimming through rapids in fast flowing mountain rivers.
  • Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) – easy to spot feeding at Laguna Nimez right on the edge of El Calafate.
  • Black chested buzzard eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus) – look up, they are often seen soaring in mountainous areas throughout Patagonia.

 

Torres del Paine National Park

Panoramic torres-del-paine-np-chile-patagonia

Torres del Paine National park

This National Park in Chile is one of the most popular destinations in Patagonia. It boasts breathtaking scenery, granite spires, lakes, rivers and glaciers and first rate hiking trails.

There are possibilities to see some of the following:

  • Darwin’s rhea or lesser rhea (Rhea pennata) – can be found in the Pampa and Atlantic coast and throughout Patagonia . The male birds bring up the chicks of several females, acting as nanny.
  • Black-necked swan (Cygnus melancoryphus) – found in freshwater marshes, lagoon and lake shores throughout Patagonia. Look out for them near Puerto Natales on Last Hope Sound.
  • Patagonian sierra finch (Phrygilus patagonicus) – found hopping about in the trees in forested areas and wooded habitats.
  • Ringed kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata) – found along rivers throughout Patagonia.
  • Southern crested caracara (Caracara plancus) – this scavenging bird of prey is widespread throughout Patagonia, particularly in any open or semi-open habitat.
Pygmy owl in Torres del Paine

Pygmy owl in Torres del Paine

 

Sierra Finch in Patagonia

Sierra finch in Patagonia

 

Aysen Region, Chile

Los Leones mountains, Tierra Luna, Aysen, Chile

Los Leones Mountains, Aysen

Much of this territory is uninhabited and unspoilt by man making it a particularly attractive off the beaten path destination. Blessed with fjords, mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers it has become a hot spot for conservation with a network of National Parks. There are over 190 bird species in the region.

Amongst the birds of Patagonia to be found are:

  • Slender-billed parakeet(Enicognathus leptorhynchus) – Listen for the characteristic screeching. This parrot is endemic to southern Chile where its natural habitat is temperate forests.
  • Green-backed firecrown (Sephanoides sephaniodes) – this hummingbird is found in the forested areas of southern Chile.
  • Chucao tapaculo (Scelorchilus rubecula) – this small bird can be found in the temperate rainforests of Patagonia.
  • Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris) – this sea bird can be found in the seas of the southern Patagonian coasts.
  • Rufous-tailed hawk (Buteo ventralis) – can be found throughout Patagonia in forests, dry shrubland, and grassland.

 

Lake Region, Chile

Osorno volcano, river and view, Chile Lake District

Osorno Volcano

The Lake Region in Chile stretches  from the cities of Temuco to Puerto Montt . It is blessed with turquoise lakes, snow capped volcanoes, fast flowing rivers and cold rain forests.

Species you might come across are:

  • Southern lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) – widespread throughout Patagonia in pastures, damp meadows, river plains and open boggy areas with short matted vegetation.
  • Spot-flanked gallinule (Porphyriops melanops) – this ground living bird can be found widely in still waters of wetlands, marshes, rivers and lakes.
  • Black-faced ibis (Theristicus melanopis) – this large Ibis can be spotted in grasslands throughout Patagonia.
  • Chilean tinamou (Nothoprocta perdicaria) – commonly found on the ground in high altitude shrubland in northern Chilean Patagonia.
  • Striped woodpecker (Picoides lignarius) – common habitat is in the forests of Chilean Patagonia.

 

Bariloche, Argentina

Trekking-near-Bariloche-Argentina

Trekking near Bariloche

Bariloche is located at the southern end of the “7” Lakes in north western Argentine Patagonia. Mountains forests and lakes are the backdrop for beautiful scenery and a wonderful habitat for fauna.

Some birds of Patagonia in the area that can be seen are:

  • Elegant crested tinamou (Eudromia elegans) – commonly found on the ground in shrubland as well as farmland.
  • Ashy-headed goose (Chloephaga poliocephala) –widespread and likes mountainous areas and favours damp upland forest clearings.
  • Southern wigeon (Mareca sibilatrix) – this duck species can be found on freshwater lakes, slow flowing rivers and is indigenous to the southern part of South America.
  • Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) – this scavenger is common throughout the region and can be found in open and semi-open areas.
  • White-throated hawk (Buteo albigula) – this small Buteo is found in wooded areas in the Andes.

 

Birds of Patagonia

Lesser rhea, Bahia Bustamante, Patagonia, Argentina

Lesser rhea

Whether an avid birder or part time bird watching enthusiast, there are more than enough avian species to keep you twitching in Patagonia.

Dig out your binoculars, plan your Patagonian adventure to take in the birds, animals, sights, places and activities you have dreamed of.  No matter what, the fauna and in particular the birds of Patagonia will always be there.

Happy birding!

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