14-Day Chile Birding Tour
With over 500 species on its list, including 34 globally threatened species and 15 endemics, Chile is a birding paradise. The diverse landscapes with the driest desert on Earth, tropical rainforests, volcanoes, glaciers, pacific islands and valleys offer fantastic birding opportunities.
This tour can also be booked as a private guided birding tour
Next Group tour with Set Departure date: To be confirmed
Full Itinerary – Chile Birding Tour
Arrival in Santiago
Welcome to Chile, land of incredible natural wonders!
After your arrival at the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez international airport just to the west of Santiago, you will be met by a company representative and transferred to our beautiful hotel in the well-heeled neighbourhood of Providencia.
As you may have seen on the flight in, everything here in Chile is dominated by the critical feature that is the Andes; the weather, culture, fauna and flora, scenery, cuisine and more! The other important factors that shape the country’s biological uniqueness, are the Pacific ocean to the west and the incredibly dry Atacama desert to the north. The flora and fauna of the country are characterised by a high degree of endemism due to these particular geographical barriers.
Santiago is Chile’s capital and largest city, situated in the country’s central valley at an altitude of 400 to 700 metres (1,312 to 2,297 ft) above sea level. The city, Chile’s cultural, political and financial hub, was founded in 1541 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia. The city has a downtown core of beautiful 19th-century neoclassical architecture (most earlier buildings were destroyed by several earthquakes) and winding side-streets, dotted by art deco and neo-gothic building styles. But the city also has an ultramodern side to it, with glass-covered skyscrapers, world class restaurants and bass-pumping nightclubs. The city has many museums, theatres and libraries, along with modern malls and casual eateries. Santiago’s cityscape is shaped by several stand-alone hills and the fast-flowing Mapocho river, lined by gorgeous, verdant parks, perfect for hiking or biking. The mighty Andes mountains, to the east, can be seen from most points in the city, while the Chilean coastal mountain range lies to the west. It is a buzzing, vibrant city, probably the most modern in all of Latin America.
If you arrive with some time to spare, it might be worth it to go for a stroll in one of the city’s many beautiful parks. Here you could already tick your first trip species, including Chimango Caracara, Austral Thrush, Eared Dove, Shiny Cowbird, Austral Blackbird, Monk Parakeet, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Chilean and Blue-and-white Swallow, House Wren, White-crested Elaenia, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Black-chinned Siskin and many others.
We also suggest you go and try one of Santiago’s restaurants tonight; the experience is always fantastic. The city boasts some of Latin America’s best cuisine and it is usually combined with amazing views. Buen provecho!
Santiago and the Andean Range
We will meet up and enjoy breakfast together at our hotel and then head out for our first official birding day of the tour.
We will enjoy a full day at different areas and natural reserves of the Andean Range near Santiago looking for the endemics and the specialties of this area. Depending on local weather conditions and recent sightings, we will decide on exactly where to go.
We will definitely bird in the stunning area of the twin ski resorts of Farellones and Valle Nevado to the east of the city, looking for several special Andean species. We will bird at relatively high elevations today, with the average being well over 2,300 metres (7,550 feet) above sea level. We could catch our first glimpse of the iconic, Near Threatened and almost mythical Andean Condor. It is Chile’s national symbol and generally considered as the largest bird of prey in the world. Other raptors to look out for include Mountain and Chimango Caracara, American Kestrel, Variable and Harris’s Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and Aplomado Falcon.
Some of the other special species we hope to tick in the habitats from Santiago to the lower slopes of the Andes include White-sided Hillstar (could be our first hummingbird of the trip), the secretive, endemic Chilean Tinamou, Black-faced Ibis, California Quail, Black-winged Ground Dove, near-endemic Chilean Mockingbird, two endemic tapaculos (Moustached Turca and White-throated Tapaculo), Chilean Flicker, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Cinereous, Ochre-naped, Black-fronted, Rufous-naped and White-browed Ground Tyrant, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, Cordilleran Canastero, Rufous-banded and Creamy-rumped Miner, Grey-hooded Sierra and Greater Yellow Finch, Buff-winged Cinclodes, Yellow-rumped Siskin, and with some luck even Lesser Horned Owl or Austral Pygmy Owl.
We will find a nice spot somewhere today and enjoy a packed lunch.
In terms of mammals, with some luck we could see Southern Mountain Viscacha, Andean and Argentine Grey Fox, as well as the endemic, burrowing Cururo.
After returning to Santiago in the late afternoon, we will get together for our official Nature Travel Birding tour opening dinner at our hotel. We will discuss our plans and the target fauna and flora species for the exciting tour ahead (maybe having ticked some lifers already!) so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy themselves fully and create memories that will last a lifetime.
We will enjoy an early breakfast at our hotel and then set off in a southeasterly direction towards the Andes again.
We will have a full day of exploring the El Yeso and Maipo valleys looking for some specialties of the area. The El Yeso valley has wide altitudinal differences (1,300 to 3,000 metres above sea level), varying habitats (shrubland, boggy marshes, wetlands and more) and spectacular scenery, so it is perfect for birding! The huge El Yeso reservoir in the valley is a major source of Santiago’s drinking water and will be one of our stops today. The equally scenic Maipo valley also has a wide altitudinal range, and is one of the country’s most famous winemaking regions, known the world over for especially the excellent Cabernet Sauvignon made here. The huge Concha y Toro winery has its headquarters here. It is the largest producer and exporter of wines from Latin America and one of the 10 largest wine companies in the world.
Today we are looking for species such as the beautiful Near Threatened Diademed Sandpiper-Plover (one of the top target birds of our trip), Upland and Andean Goose, Torrent and Crested Duck, White-cheeked Pintail, Red-gartered Coot, South American Snipe, Southern Lapwing, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Mountain Parakeet, Giant Hummingbird, Picui Ground Dove, sought-after Crag Chilia, endemic Moustached Turca, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Fire-eyed Diucon, Yellow-rumped and Thick-billed Siskin, Least and Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Dusky-tailed Canastero, Striped Woodpecker, Rufous-banded and Creamy-rumped Miner, Buff-winged and Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Cordilleran and Sharp-billed Canastero, Scale-throated Earthcreeper, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, Greater Yellow Finch and many, many others.
We will once again enjoy a packed lunch in a beautiful spot somewhere during the day.
We will return to our comfortable hotel in Santiago in the late afternoon, freshen up and have dinner (maybe with a glass of Chilean Cabernet!) while we update our growing trip lists. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest.
La Campana National Park & coastal wetlands
We will again start our day with breakfast in the hotel, after which we check out and pack the vehicle.
Then we head northwest. We have an exciting day ahead, as we leave the Andes mountains behind and head to the Pacific.
But before we reach the ocean we will stop at the coastal mountain range forests of La Campana National Park. The 80 km2 (31 sq mi) UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (along with Lago Peñuelas National Reserve), is named after a local mountain top of the same name and is important because it contains one of the last palm forests of Jubaea chilensis (Chilean Wine Palm). The park also contains the best example of matorral, a lowland, savannah-like shrub habitat that dominates here. Interestingly, Charles Darwin explored the park on one of his round-the-world voyages in 1834; we will be following in the famous naturalist’s footsteps!
The park is the best place to look for elusive species such as the Dusky-tailed Canastero, and Dusky and White-throated Tapaculo. Other species we could find include Black and Turkey Vulture, White-throated Hawk, Chilean Tinamou, Austral Pygmy Owl, Chilean Pigeon, Giant Hummingbird, Green-backed Firecrown, Striped Woodpecker, Chilean Mockingbird, Great Shrike-Tyrant, Moustached Turca, White-throated Treerunner, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Chilean and White-crested Elaenia, Common Diuca Finch and Warbling Doradito.
After an exciting morning we will have a packed lunch in a nice spot and then continue to the ocean. Famous author Stephen King wrote the following about the Pacific ocean in his famous short story-turned hit film Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, “They say the Pacific has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.” Let’s hope it’s a nice, warm day for us at the ocean today.
We will spend some time in the afternoon at one or more of the many coastal wetlands and ponds on the way to our destination for the evening. These wetlands are very productive, and we could tick a great number of water-associated birds. Just some of the species we could see include the beautiful Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, Snowy Egret, White-faced Ibis, the Near Threatened Peruvian Pelican, the Vulnerable Humboldt Penguin, Yellow-billed Pintail, Chiloe Wigeon, Lake Duck, Yellow-billed Teal, Red Shoveler, Great, Pied-billed and White-tufted Grebe, Black Skimmer, Stripe-backed Bittern, Red-gartered, Red-fronted and White-winged Coot, Guanay, Neotropic and Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Booby, the Near Threatened Inca Tern, Southern Lapwing, Franklin’s, Brown-hooded and Kelp Gull, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Plumbeous Rail, Hudsonian Godwit, Sanderling, White-backed and Black-necked Stilt, Ruddy Turnstone, the Near Threatened Semipalmated Sandpiper, Blackish and American Oystercatcher, Cinereous Harrier, Burrowing Owl, Wren-like Rushbird, Spectacled Tyrant and Yellow-winged Blackbird.
Our overnight stop tonight is the port city of Quintero, founded in 1836 by Spanish navigator Alonso Quintero. We will enjoy the hospitality and food on offer in our seaside hotel. We will update our lists and get a good night’s rest; tomorrow we head out into the Pacific!
Humboldt current pelagic & Pacific coast
We start with a very quick and very early breakfast in the hotel restaurant this morning.
Then we either depart from Quintero or drive a little south to Valparaiso to board our boat for our morning pelagic trip. This will be one of the (many) highlights of this Chile birding trip, and even more so if you haven’t done a pelagic trip before. Getting up close with seabirds, and albatrosses in particular, is truly a remarkable and humbling experience. On top of this the cold Humboldt current, that flows north from the Antarctic, all along the western coast of South America, is considered one of the best pelagic destinations on Earth! It is an incredibly rich marine ecosystem, with all the nutrients in the water making it easy to observe some spectacular avifauna and mammals.
Some of the species (including many endemics and endangered ones) of the pelagic could be Salvin´s, Buller’s, Chatham, Wandering, Antipodean, Black-browed, Northern Royal and Southern Royal Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrel, Westland, De Filippi’s, Juan Fernandez, Cape and White-chinned Petrel, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Peruvian Diving Petrel, Pink-footed, Buller’s and Sooty Shearwater, Parasitic Jaeger, Southern Fulmar, Peruvian Pelican, Humboldt and Magellanic Penguin, Peruvian Booby, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorant, Red Phalarope, Sabine’s, Grey, Franklin’s and Kelp Gull, Inca, Elegant and South American Tern, Surfbird, Chilean Skua and others. We also need to be on the lookout for rarities; anything could turn up on these exciting days at sea!
The current is also a hotspot for marine mammals and we could see species like Humpback, Sperm and Killer Whale, Bottlenose, Dusky and Southern Right Whale Dolphin, South American Sea Lion and many others.
After our pelagic we will enjoy a boxed lunch on terra firma, before searching for some more birds we may have missed yesterday at one of the many coastal wetlands.
We will then drive back to Santiago (about 2 hours), probably to the same hotel we stayed at before. We will get together to complete our growing lists and sit down for dinner. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest; tomorrow a different part of our adventure starts.
Flight to Puerto Montt & ferry crossing to Chiloé Island
We will have an early breakfast and check out of our hotel in Santiago.
We will drive to the airport and jump on an early flight to the port city of Puerto Montt. It is a flight to the south of about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
We are now in Patagonia, a geographical region that encompasses the southern end of South America, governed by both Chile and neighbouring Argentina. It is also sometimes known as the Southern Cone. The huge area (1,043,076 km2 (402,734 sq mi) gets its name from the word patagón, a term used by Magellan in 1520 to describe the native tribes of the region, whom his expedition thought to be giants, as they were taller than Europeans of the time. Patagonia is home to many characteristic fauna and flora species, and we hope to see some of them over the next few days.
Puerto Montt is the capital of Chile’s Lake District and the perfect place from where to visit the region’s glacial lakes, volcanoes and mountainous national parks and reserves. It has a strategic position at the southern end of the Chilean central valley and is the gateway city to the Chiloé Archipelago, the Llanquihue and Nahuel Huapi lakes and western Patagonia. It is world famous as the hub of one of the largest salmon aquaculture industries on Earth.
After landing at the El Tepual airport in Puerto Montt we will jump into our vehicle and head to the docks for a short ferry crossing to Chiloé island. The rectangular island covers about 8,400 km2 (3,250 sq mi) of dense forests, rolling hills, rocky shores and swamps. The island is famous for palafitos (colourful houses mounted on stilts along the water’s edge), curanto (a delicious meat, seafood, potato and vegetable stew cooked in a hole in the ground) and the many stunningly unique wooden churches built by Jesuit missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries. Collectively, the Churches of Chiloé were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
We will bird in several key areas on the island to maximise our chances of seeing some fantastic species and interesting habitats. We will visit the birding hotspots of Caulín and Chacao, as well as birding along the coast and wetlands of the northern part of Chiloé.
Some of the species we could see today include huge amounts of Hudsonian Godwit and Black-necked Swan, as well as Red Knot, Franklin´s and Brown-hooded Gull, Pincoya Storm-Petrel (a newly described species), Subantarctic and Sooty Shearwater, Ringed Kingfisher, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Yellow-billed Teal, Silvery Grebe, Black-crowned Night Heron, Coscoroba Swan, Chiloé Wigeon, Black Skimmer, Imperial Shag, Red-legged Cormorant, Baird’s Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs and Ruddy Turnstone among many others. During our travels we will also try to spot the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet.
We will also add a visit (by boat) to the famous breeding penguin colony of Puñihuil to spot Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins, as well as Fuegian Steamer Duck, Kelp Goose, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Rufous-tailed Hawk and many more.
Mammals that we could spot today include Humpback and (Pygmy) Blue Whale, Peale’s Dolphin, South American Sea Lion and the Endangered (IUCN RedList 2015) Marine Otter.
We will overnight in the pretty town of Ancud, at one time the capital of the Chiloé Archipelago. It boasts many fortifications from the colonial era as well as a beautiful waterfront.
After our exciting day we will check into our modern hotel and freshen up. Then it’s time for dinner (the seafood in Ancud is world class and can be highly recommended) and updating our lists before falling asleep after another great day’s birding and sightseeing.
North of Chiloé & back to mainland
We start our day with breakfast at our hotel after which we check out and go and explore the island some more.
We will enjoy an early morning navigation on the picturesque Chepu river (about 45 minutes from Ancud) to look for one of the few continental nesting areas of Snowy-crowned Tern. The Chepu valley dropped about 2 metres (7 feet) during the earthquake of 1960 (at 9.5 on the Richter scale it is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded), resulting in the forming of huge wetlands. We also have good chances to spot the Striped-backed Bittern and the endangered Marine Otter. Other avian species we could see on the Chepu and the nearby wetlands include Great, Snowy and Western Cattle Egret, Brown-hooded and Kelp Gull, Black-faced Ibis, Cocoi Heron, Plumbeous Rail, White-winged and Red-gartered Coot, White-tufted and Great Grebe, Spectacled and Ruddy Duck, Red Shoveler, Chilean Hawk, Red-backed Hawk, Chucao Tapaculo, Black-throated Huet-huet, Slender-billed Parakeet, Spectacled Tyrant, Yellow-winged Blackbird and many others. We will also keep an eye out for the tiny, Near Threatened Southern Pudu, the world’s smallest deer species.
After our morning on and around the river we will enjoy a picnic lunch and then head back to the mainland.
Once back on mainland Chile we will drive about 30 minutes north and do some afternoon birding at Lahuen Ñadi Natural Reserve. It is a tiny (2 km2/0.77 sq mi) area but very significant. It protects a unique type of endemic soil known as ñadi, as well as mature Patagonian Cypress trees, some of them almost 2 millennia old! The reserve has a beautiful, 900 metre long hiking trail that we will use for some birding. We could see species like Chucao and Magellanic Tapaculo, Black-throated Huet-huet, Magellanic Woodpecker, Slender-billed Parakeet, Green-backed Firecrown, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Patagonian Sierra Finch, Fire-eyed Diucon, Grassland Yellow Finch and many more. Mammals that we could see here include the Southern Pudu, Argentine Grey Fox and the Near Threatened Monito Del Monte, a tiny, near-endemic marsupial.
After our walk we will make the short drive to Puerto Varas. “The city of roses” is famous for its German architecture, traditions, culture and cuisine. It is also a very scenic place, surrounded by mountains (including two snow-capped volcanoes), blue lakes and dense forests. Lovers of outdoor sports also flock to Puerto Varas, taking part in kayaking, fishing, hiking and skiing.
We will check into our boutique hotel (our home for the next two nights), get together for dinner and then head to our rooms for a good night’s sleep.
Alerce Andino National Park (Endemics of the rainforest)
Once again our day will start with an early breakfast and coffee at our hotel.
The we head out for a full day birding excursion to Alerce Andino National Park, about a 90 minute drive to the southeast. We will drive along the coast through the beginning of the Carretera Austral (also known as Route 7, a 1,240 kilometre (770 mi) long highway from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, passing through rural Patagonia) with great opportunities to spot migrant shore birds.
The 400 km2 (154 sq mi) Alerce Andino National Park is stunning, located between mountains, volcanoes and the Pacific Ocean. The water-rich park contains about 50 lakes and natural ponds and is home to a large tract of millennia-old Patagonian Cypress Fitzroya cupressoides (also known as the Alerce tree, hence the park’s name); truly impressive and very much a natural national treasure. We will explore the park along the many paths surrounded by lush evergreen temperate rainforest, no doubt marvelling at the amazing fauna and flora.
We will do morning and afternoon birding sessions here, with a break at lunch time to enjoy a picnic in a nice spot, maybe close to one of the park’s many crystal clear waterfalls.
Some of the rainforest species we hope to see today include Chilean Hawk, Austral Pygmy Owl, Magellanic and Striped Woodpecker, Green-backed Firecrown, Chucao, Magellanic and Ochre-flanked Tapaculo, Black-throated Huet-huet, Des Murs´s Wiretail, White-throated Treerunner, Thorn-tailed Rayadito,, White-crested Elaenia, Chilean Pigeon, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Patagonian Tyrant, Patagonian Sierra Finch and many others. Mammals we could see include the Vulnerable (IUCN RedList 2015) Guiña (a near-endemic, rainforest cat species), Southern Pudu, Monito del Monte, Molina’s Hog-nosed Skunk, Argentine Grey Fox and more.
After our exciting day in the rainforest we will return to our hotel in Puerto Varas.
Before or after dinner we will also do some nocturnal birding at the nearby Maullín river forest for Rufous-legged Owl, Austral Pygmy Owl and Band-winged Nightjar. After a fantastic day, we are off to bed for a good night’s rest.
We will enjoy breakfast at our hotel and then check out. We will make our way to the airport and jump on a two hour flight.
We are heading south, far south, to the Carlos Ibáñez del Campo airport, located 20 kilometres from the city of Punta Arenas. Our flight of two hours will be, weather permitting, beautiful! Oceans and mountains all around us.
Punta Arenas is one of the most populous cities so far south on the planet, and an eclectic combination of age-old grandeur and modern sprawl. The city was originally established by the Chilean government in 1848 as a penal colony to assert sovereignty over the Strait of Magellan, on which it is located. During the remainder of the 1800s, due to the increasing maritime traffic and trade travelling to the west coasts of the Americas, Punta Arenas grew in size and importance. In the late 1800s and early 1900s there was also a gold rush and a boom in sheep farming around the city. In the 20th and 21st centuries the city has remained relevant because of its logistic importance as a base from which to launch Antarctic expeditions.
We will get our first look at the city as we go for a birding tour around the city itself, and then at the first steppe areas outside the city. Birding along the rocky shores of the Strait right in the city should yield species like Imperial and Rock Shag, Chilean Skua, American Oystercatcher, Crested Duck, Dolphin, Franklin’s and Kelp Gull, and South American Tern.
The vast, wind-swept steppe is the home of great specials such as the Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, the stunning Black-throated Finch, Austral Canastero and the skulking and elusive Patagonian Tinamou. Other birds possible here include the flightless Lesser Rhea, Cinereous Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Burrowing Owl and Correndera Pipit. There are also mammals in this seemingly inhospitable environment, including Guanaco, the Endangered (IUCN RedLidt 2016) Patagonian Huemul, Andean Fox, guinea pig-like Patagonian Cavy, Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk and even Big Hairy Armadillo.
We will also scan the alkaline lagoons and ponds close to the city to make the first attempts to find the unique, odd-looking and Near Threatened Magellanic Plover, the sole member of its family and actually not even a plover! Other species of waterfowl and waders possible here include like Chilean Flamingo, Black-necked and Coscoroba Swan, Crested Duck, Red Shoveler, Yellow-billed Teal, Rosy-billed Pochard, Yellow-billed Pintail, Chiloe Wigeon, Upland and Ashy-headed Goose, Tawny-throated Dotterel, stunning Rufous-chested Plover, Least Seedsnipe, Wilson’s Phalarope, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpiper, South America Snipe and many more.
We will end the day visiting the Estancia Olga Teresa (a tourism ranch northwest of the city) for spectacular views (and photos) of several (sometimes a 100 birds!) Andean Condors that use the cliffs at the ranch as a station on feeding flights.
We will return to Punta Arenas to our wonderful hotel, located between the Strait of Magellan and the city’s main square, just a few steps away from the main cultural, gastronomic, tourist and business attractions.
We have been together for more than a week now, so it might be a good time to start chatting about trips we might have planned for the coming months and years; there are so many amazing places and birds to see!
Tierra del Fuego
This morning we will start with an early breakfast and then check out of the hotel.
We will take a ferry to explore the last corner of the American continent and cross the legendary Magellanic Strait. It separates mainland South America to the north and Tierra del Fuego (our destination) to the south. The strait was discovered and first traversed by the Spanish expedition of Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, after whom it is named. During the 2 hour crossing look out for whales (including endangered Sei Whales), dolphins such as Peale’s and Commerson’s Dolphin, South American Sea Lions and many sea birds, including Magellanic Penguin, Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant and White-chinned Petrel, Southern Fulmar, Sooty Shearwater, Magellanic Diving Petrel and more.
Once on the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego (the main island of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago) we will hope into our vehicle and explore, driving through the small army town of Porvenir. The topography can be divided into four regions: an outer archipelago region to the south and west, a mountain region in the south, a plains region plus a sub-Andean zone in-between the last two zones. Politically the island is divided between Chile (western side) and Argentina (eastern side). The part where we will spend most of our time consists mostly of flat steppes and rolling hills, with grasses and low shrubs.
We will visit the moorland area of Baquedano Hills and the wetlands of Laguna de los Cisnes Nature Reserve. A trip highlight will be our stop at Bahía Inútil (Useless Bay) for the colony of magnificent King Penguins. It is the only known continental King Penguin breeding colony on the planet, and over the past few years these beautiful creatures have been successfully breeding here. Get your cameras ready!
Other species we could see today include Crested Caracara, Variable Hawk, Peregrine and Aplomado Falcon, Great Horned Owl, Chilean Flamingo, Upland, Ruddy-headed and Ashy-headed Goose, Crested Duck, Black-faced Ibis, Imperial Shag, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Magellanic Plover, White-rumped and Baird’s Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope, Two-banded Plover, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Cinnamon-bellied Ground Tyrant, Common and Short-billed Miner, Buff-winged and Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Austral Canastero, Austral Negrito, Rufous-collared Sparrow, White-bridled Finch, Grey-hooded Sierra Finch and many others.
We will arrive at our very comfortable accommodation back in the town of Porvenir in the late afternoon or in the early evening, freshen up and have dinner while we update our lists. We will then enjoy a good night’s rest.
Return to mainland & birding the steppe of San Gregorio
Today we again start with an early breakfast before we pack up and check out.
We are heading back to the mainland today. We will hop on the ferry to cross the mythical Strait of Magellan once again, this time heading west.
Once we arrive in Punta Arenas we will drive northwards. We will cross the steppe area of San Gregorio, a perfect spot for specialties such as Tawny-throated Dotterel, White-bridled Finch and Patagonian Tinamou among others. The vast, semi-arid Patagonian steppe covers almost 500,000 km2 (200,000 sq mi) of Chilean and Argentinian territory. The wind-swept grassy habitat has a dry and cold climate, and yet many birds and mammals thrive here. Unfortunately this unique ecosystem is being threatened by human activity; let’s hope it is saved before it’s too late.
On our way north we will make several stops at key areas to look for more species. We could see Lesser Rhea, Spectacled and Torrent Duck, Magellanic Woodpecker, Magellanic Plover, Silvery Grebe, Austral Parakeet, Patagonian Sierra Finch, South American Snipe, Least Seedsnipe, Austral Pygmy Owl, and many others. We will also enjoy a packed lunch somewhere in a nice spot.
Our overnight stop for tonight, and our home for the next three nights, is the town of Cerro Castillo. The small town is just a few kilometres from the famous Torres de Paine National Park and also close to Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. The town has a population of approximately 450 inhabitants, who mostly carry out livestock work.
We will get together at our very comfortable accommodation and have dinner and update our trip lists. The we are off to bed, tomorrow we head for the jewel in the crown of Chile’s national park system!
Torres del Paine National Park
We will start our day with a cup of coffee and breakfast to get us going.
We have a full day of birding in one of the most spectacular parks of the world and certainly an iconic region of Patagonia. The 1,800 km2 (700 sq mi) park was established in 1959 and is named after three distinctive granite peaks of the Paine Massif. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field mantles a great portion of the park. The park, furthermore famous for its strong winds, was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. It is also a park known for rapid weather changes, and it is quite easy to experience “four seasons in one day” here in Torres del Paine.
The park contains four vegetation zones: Patagonian steppe, Pre-Andean shrubland, Magellanic subpolar forests and Andean desert. The park has been elected as the fifth most beautiful place in the world by National Geographic, and the 8th Wonder of the World by TripAdvisor! It is an unmissable stop on any Patagonian tour, and people from all over the globe flock here for trekking, horse riding, wildlife viewing, camping, climbing and fly-fishing holidays.
In terms of flora, the park is adorned with beautiful vegetation, including the vivid red flowers of the Chilean Firebush, Calceolaria uniflora of striking shape and colours, 7 orchid species and many more. In terms of mammals, Guacano is the most common species, along with others like Patagonian Huemul, foxes and even the iconic Puma!
While we admire glaciers, impossibly blue lakes, dense forests, snowy granite peaks and breathtaking skies we will also be looking for birds! Species we could see during our time in the park include Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Rufous-tailed Hawk, Cinereous Harrier, Austral Pygmy Owl, Torrent, Crested, Andean and Spectacled Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Silver Teal, Great, Silvery and White-tufted Grebe, Magellanic and Striped Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, Austral Parakeet, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-throated Treerunner, Austral Blackbird, plus more specialties such as the rare and Vulnerable Austral Rail.
We will exit the park in the late afternoon and drive the short distance to our accommodation. We will have dinner, update our lists and reminisce about our wonderful day in one of the most spectacular parks on Earth.
Torres del Paine & Sierra Baguales
We will start with an early breakfast at our hotel and then set off.
We have an early morning stint of birding and searching for Pumas in specific areas of Torres del Paine National Park. Seeing one of these cats will be another trip highlight, especially if you don’t live in the Americas. The Puma holds the Guinness record for the animal with the greatest number of names, with over 40 in English alone!
We will once again enjoy a picnic lunch at a stunning spot before some afternoon birding at the higher altitudes of the rugged and beautiful Sierra Baguales mountain range, located northeast of Torres del Paine on the border with Argentina. Here we could see White-throated Caracara, Patagonian Mockingbird, Grey-bellied Shrike Tyrant, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Cinnamon-bellied and Ochre-naped Ground Tyrant, the beautiful Yellow-bridled Finch, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Rufous-banded Miner and Band-tailed Earthcreeper among many others. There are also feral horses that run free in this 60 kilometre east-west mountain chain, but it would take a lot of luck to see them.
After our exciting day we will return to our accommodation outside the park in Cerro Castillo to relax, have dinner and socialise into the evening, having hopefully ticked the second largest cat of the Americas!
Punta Arenas wetlands & Magdalena Island
We start our day with breakfast and then check out of our hotel.
We will pack the vehicle and set off. We are heading south again, back to Punta Arenas. The drive will take about 4 hours, and we will naturally stop for landscape photographs and birdwatching.
Once in Punta Arenas we will do one last exciting excursion. We are going to Magdalena Island by boat to visit one of the largest colonies of Magellanic Penguins in South America. The tiny, uninhabited island is in the Strait of Magellan and is part of the “End of the World route”, a scenic touristic route of the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic region. Magdalena and nearby Marta island, were declared a national monument, Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, in 1982. Apart from the thousands of Near Threatened Magellanic Penguins, we should also see species like Upland Goose, Crested Duck, Imperial Shag, South American Tern, Chilean Skua, Brown-hooded and Dolphin Gull, Magellanic and Blackish Oystercatcher, and maybe even Snowy Sheathbill.
We will enjoy a spectacular sunset in a special spot near Punta Arenas and then make our way to our hotel (that we stayed in before) to get together for our Nature Travel Birding farewell dinner and to socialise long into the evening. An amazing Chilean birding tour unfortunately comes to an end. What a great time we had!
Departure and End of Tour
After breakfast at the hotel we will check out and we will transfer to the Carlos Ibáñez del Campo airport for your onward or homeward international flight after a fantastic time in Chile.
Optional 5 day Northern Chile extension:
You have the option to add a 5 day Northern Chile extension to this trip. This extension will visit Arica, the northernmost city in Chile, and will also include exciting high altitude birding at Lauca National Park and the area around Putre. We will also bird in the Chaca and Azapa valleys.
Some of the special birds we will target on this extension include Chilean Seaside Cinclodes, Chilean Woodstar, Oasis Hummingbird, Puna Tinamou, Croaking Ground Dove, Puna Snipe, Puna Plover, Slender-billed Finch, Thick-billed Siskin and many others.
Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at