Following the path of two elusive Tapaculos in Central Chile

Published by Albatross Birding & Nature Tours In Chile (contact AT

Participants: Bonnie Bedzin and Rodrigo Silva



This is the report of the private tour we designed for Bonnie Bedzin, a birder from California who came Chile for a whole-country trip with Alvaro’s Adventures and arrived a few days in advance to travel with us to some areas not covered on her main tour. The goal was to look for the White-throated Tapaculo and Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet. The first was a chance during her main tour but the second restricted to the northen section of the Nothofagus (Southern Beech) Forest. Both species are large-sized and great-looking Tapaculos (Rhinocryptidae)… which means they are very vocal but also very hard to see. In this private tour we tried specially for these 2 species but also had the chance to bird in some splendid landscapes –Santiago foothills, Colbún Lake and Nothofagus Forest of Vilches- and to spot some of the Central Chile specialties with the calm and quality in the experience which only a private tour could provide .

Overall we found 73 species, including some highlights such as Chilean Tinamou, Spectacled Duck, Andean Condor, Chilean Pigeon, Burrowing Parrot, Rufous-legged Owl, White-sided Hillstar, Magellanic Woodpecker, Crag Chilia and 5 Tapaculo species: Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet, Moustached Turca, White-throated, Chucao and Magellanic Tapaculo.


Day 1

After an early pick-up from the Airport we crossed the city by highway up to the beginning of Farellones Road, a 32 km length paved road which connects Santiago City with ski resorts in the mountains. The road begins at 850 mts and climbs up to 3000 mts, ranging from Mediterranean brushlands to Alpine habitat at higher elevations. We tried early for the often heard -but rarely seen- Chilean Tinamou and had success in finding a couple of them walking into the opening of the “Matorral”. After that we put our focus on the White-throated Tapaculo, who called back a few times but did not show up. We had to walk for a while by the Yerba Loca Valley to finally spot a bird calling loudly from the top of a bush… and we were able to get excellent views of it through the scope. First target was already reached by the mid-morning!

Once back on the main road we kept climbing up and crossed the tree-line at 2000 mts, near Farellones Town. There we stopped for a rest and a pic-nic lunch, being surrounded by Rufous-banded Miners, Gray-hooded Sierra-Finches, Greater Yellow-finches and Andean Condors. A hike in this habitat gave us some other great birds such as White-sided Hillstar, Black-billed Shrike Tyrant and Mountain Caracara, just to name a few. We climbed up to the end of the road at Valle Nevado to look for close-up views of Andean Condors and finally we did a short-visit to La Parva, where the mountain streams and bogs allowed us to find some Cinclodes species as Buff-winged and Gray-flanked. Finally, once in the way down, we stopped to try for the great-looking Crag Chilia, having success finding it.

After an overnight-flight and a whole day birding, we reached a comfortable Hotel in Providencia in the early evening, providing Bonnie some time to rest and get organized for the forthcomings days birding now into a completely different habitat: the Nothofagus Forest.

Day 2

We drove south to Talca and then turned east to reach Colbún Lake where we had gorgeous views of several groups of Burrowing Parrots but also great looks at several duck species such as the Spectacled Duck, Chiloé Wigeon and Yellow-billed Pintail. After some roadside birding we reached our comfortable accommodation, placed in the middle of an old-forest, habitat for Magellanic Woodpecker and Rufous-legged Owl. After an enjoyable lunch that Marcela (our great chef for the next days) prepared specially for us, we went hiking on a path just outside Altos de Lircay Natural Reserve, crossing a good quality patch of forest and understory. Here we listened to the first Huet-Huet and tapaculo calls (Chucao and Magellanic), but did not see them . With Bonnie being a good hiker we were able to reach some great viewpoints where we had marvelous views of the forested foothills and the central depression covered by an incipient fog.

After another great meal served by Marcela, we were out again to look for some Owls but at this time the fog was denser and we were not able to see anything but the first 10 meters from us. After some trials and a long-distance Rufous-legged Owl calling back, we aborted the mission in order to prioritize an early beginning to the next day.

Day 3

We drove 10 minutes from our lodge up to reach the entrance of the Reserve, where we looked for the elusive Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet. Following by a thick-vegetated stream and after some trials, we finally spotted a Huet-Huet calling loudly, walking and feeding around for several minutes. Second goal of the trip had been reached!

With this already done we just walked and enjoyed different paths inside the Reserve, making some good sighting of Magellanic Woodpecker (a female), Green-backed Firecrown, Magellanic Tapaculo, White-throated Treerunner and Patagonian Tyrant & Sierra-finch.

After another great lunch at our lodge and a short nap, we went back to the forest paths, this time to look for the rusty-breasted Chucao Tapaculo, who we had already listened to but had not seen yet. We had great flashes of a bird checking us from the surroundings (once here, once there…), but who definitively had the best view was a little girl who was hiking with her parents and ran straight ahead to the Chucao when she saw this great bird!
Dinner at the lodge and then great owling with a five star sighting of a Rufous-legged Owl!

Day 4

In the last day of this trip we went back to the forest one more time to look for some birds who had avoided us until now. This morning we had great views of Austral Pigmy-Owl, Chilean Pigeon and Austral Parakeet. By mid-morning we sadly left our lodge and started to drive back to Santiago where we found enough time for an evening visit to the Pre-Colombian Museum, such a great ending for a great trip!

Species Lists

BIRD LIST (73 species)

Taxonomic order and notes follows South American Classification Committee
Detailed birdlist available at eBird

1. Chilean Tinamou - Nothoprocta perdicaria

2. Spectacled Duck – Speculanas specularis
3. Chiloe Wigeon - Anas sibilatrix
4. Yellow-billed Pintail - Anas georgica

5. California Quail - Callipepla californica

6. Neotropic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianus

7. Black-faced Ibis – Theristicus melanopis

8. Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus
9. Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
10. Andean Condor - Vultur gryphus

11. White-tailed Kite – Elanus leucurus
12. Variable Hawk - Geranoaetus polyosoma
13. Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle - Geranoaetus melanoleucus

14. Southern Lapwing - Vanellus chilensis

15. Andean Gull – Chroicephalus serranus
16. Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus

17. Black-winged Ground-Dove – Metriopela melanoptera
18. Chilean Pigeon – Patagioenas araucana
19. Eared Dove - Zenaida auriculata

20. Burrowing Parrot – Cyanoliseus patagonicus
21. Austral Parakeet – Enycognathus ferrugineus

22. Austral Pygmy-Owl - Glaucidium nana
23. Rufous-legged Owl – Strix rufipes

24. Green-backed Firecrown - Sephanoides sephaniodes
25. Giant Hummingbird - Patagona gigas
26. White-sided Hillstar – Oreotrochilus estella

27. Striped Woodpecker - Veniliornis lignarius (Just listened)
28. Chilean Flicker - Colaptes pitius (Listened too)
29. Magellanic Woodpecker – Campephilus magellanicus

30. Southern Caracara – Caracara plancus
31. Mountain Caracara – Phalcoboenus megalopterus
32. Chimango Caracara - Milvago chimango
33. American Kestrel – Falco sparverius

34. Chestnut-throated Huet-huet – Pteroptochos castaneus
35. Moustached Turca - Pteroptochos megapodius
36. White-throated Tapaculo - Scelorchilus albicollis
37. Chucao Tapaculo – Scelorchilus rubecula
38. Magellanic Tapaculo - Scytalopus magellanicus

39. Rufous-banded Miner – Geositta rufipennis
40. Crag Chilia - Ochetorhynchus melanurus
41. Scale-throated Earthcreeper – Upucerthia dumetaria
42. Buff-winged Cinclodes - Cinclodes fuscus
43. Gray-flanked Cinclodes - Cinclodes oustaleti
44. Dark-bellied Cinclodes – Cinclodes patagonicus
45. Thorn-tailed Rayadito - Aphrastura spinicauda
46. Des Murs's Wiretail - Sylviorthorhynchus desmursii (Just listened)
47. White-throated Treerunner – Pygarrhichas albogularis

48. White-crested Elaenia – Elaenia albiceps
49. Tufted Tit-Tyrant - Anairetes parulus
50. Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant - Muscisaxicola rufivertex
51. White-browed Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola albilora
52. Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant - Agriornis montanus
53. Fire-eyed Diucon - Xolmis pyrope
54. Patagonian Tyrant - Colorhamphus parvirostris

55. Rufous-tailed Plantcutter - Phytotoma rara

56. Blue-and-white Swallow - Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
57. Chilean Swallow - Tachycineta meyeni

58. House Wren - Troglodytes aedon

59. Austral Thrush - Turdus falcklandii

60. Chilean Mockingbird - Mimus thenca

61. Rufous-collared Sparrow - Zonotrichia capensis
62. Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch - Phrygilus gayi
63. Patagonian Sierra-Finch – Phrygilus patagonicus
64. Mourning Sierra-Finch - Phrygilus fruticeti
65. Plumbeous Sierra-Finch - Phrygilus unicolor
66. Common Diuca-Finch - Diuca diuca
67. Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola
68. Greater Yellow-Finch – Sicalis auriventris
69. Black-chinned Siskin - Spinus barbatus
70. House Sparrow - Passer domesticus

71. Long-tailed Meadowlark - Sturnella loyca
72. Austral Blackbird - Curaeus curaeus
73. Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensis

1. Coruro – Spalacopus cyanus
2. European Hare- Lepus europaeus
3. European Rabbit – Oryctolagus cuniculus
4. Culpeo Fox – Pseudalopex culpaeus