Tasting the best of Chile, birding all the way down

Published by Albatross Birding & Nature Tours In Chile (contact AT albatross-birding.com)

Participants: Rodrigo Silva, Jeremy and Margaret Roberts



This is the report of the customized tour we organized for Jeremy and Margaret, a couple of English birders, interested in enjoying the best of the country’s nature and birding possibilities at a calm pace. Nevertheless Chile is a long country with a huge range of landscapes and habitats, so to taste the best of them required us to move fast. Sometimes we had to have some long drives – which is always a great chance to figure the ordinary life of the country - but we were rewarded with the chance to bird in habitats as varied as: Mediterranean brushland, Andean steppe, Humboldt current, Nothofagus (Southern Beech) and Monkey-puzzle (Araucania) Forests. Of course we also found the time to visit an illegal dump and a world recognized winery!

Anytime it was possible, we stayed in the countryside and had privileged 2-night stays. In Vilches and Conguillío National Park we enjoyed rustic – but very comfortable and functional lodges where we were almost the only visitors. In both places the birding hikes were conducted through the lodge’s trails or the local protected area, placed 10 minutes away. Most of the time we enjoyed pleasant weather, except in Conguillío NP, where we had two days of strong rain at the elevation where the Araucania Forest exists. There are several good memories to mention, but if we had to choose we would remark the following ones: Diademed Sandpiper-Plover searching at the High Andes, Estuary birding in Maipo River mouth, the unique Chilean Palm-tree forests of La Campana NP, Pelagic trip to the Humboldt current (The best I have ever had!, Rodrigo said), Chilean Hawk and Rufous-legged Owl encounters in Vilches and the landscape of Conguillío NP.

By the end of the stage covered in this report (Detailed itinerary at next) we had seen 170 bird and 8 mammals species, with highlights as a breeding Rufous-tailed Hawk, a couple of
courting Diademed Sandpiper-Plovers, a huge flock of Black Skimmers skimming, a territorial Chilean Hawk, the secretive Ticking Doradito and a huge Sperm Whale showing us his tale just
a few meters away from our boat. All this plus all the Chilean endemics possible in the geographical range covered in the trip and a delightful taste of Chilean culture, landscape and

All the photos included in this report were taken by Jeremy Roberts (©). We’ve take some pictures from Jeremy’s collection to illustrate this report, but there’s a complete collection, divided by stage, in his Flickr Page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/112182542@N02


Day 1:

Rodrigo collected the birders from their mid-morning flight arrival at Santiago Airport and drove to Maipo Valley surrounding the main city. Passengers stayed at El Ingenio, a strategic position for the birding of the next day, and they had a chill-out afternoon.

Day 2:

We birded all the way up through El Yeso Valley, from 1300 to 2700 meters above level of the sea. In the lower section of the valley we found our first chilean endemics such as Crag Chilia and Moustached Turca. Then, at the middle section we saw our first Andean Condors, White-browed Ground-tyrants, Rufous-banded Miners, Scale-throated Earthcreapers, Cinclodes (Buff-winged and Gray-flanked) and several flocks of the nice looking Yellow-rumped Siskin, one of those with an infiltrate Thick-billed Siskin, a very rare species in Central Chile. Around mid-day we reached the upper part of the valley, where we found the charismatic Grey-breasted Seedsnipe and the scarce Creamy-rumped Miner, plus some new Groundtyrants such as Black-fronted and Ochre-naped. By then we also had reached the proper habitat to look for "the" bird of the day: the stunning Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, but a stream deeper than usual didn't allow us to try for it where it was supposed to be . Nevertheless, we had a great success in another spot, finding a couple of birds in breeding behaviour. After a picnic lunch in an overwhelming Andean landscape we tried to climb a little bit more looking for some waterfowl, and then we started to come back to El Ingenio where we stayed for a second night.

Day 3:

We drove all the way down following Maipo River to reach Rio Clarillo National Reserve - recently named as the first National Park of the Metropolitan Region - to try for other endemics of the Central Region. We had a good time in the early morning with
highlights as Striped Woodpecker, Dusky-tailed Canastero and Dusky Tapaculo. and also somegood reptiles such as the Blue-tailed Tree Iguana and a couple of Spotted False Monitors. Everything was running ok until some school buses started to arrive at the parking lot… eventually there were 18 full coaches with their respective scholars and parents crowding the place. After a picnic lunch in the shade, as far from the crowd as we could get, we headed back to the city and made a detour on our birding purposes, visiting Concha y Toro Winery, where we enjoyed different varieties of this world famous winery. Overnight in Santiago.

Day 4:

We visited several coastal habitats such as an estuary, a small lagoon, a rocky shore, a native vegetated creek and some good reeds, covering most of the birding spots in the central coast
from Santo Domingo to Algarrobo. In Maipo estuary we had pleasant birding and found goodies as Rosy-billed Pochard, Ticking Doradito, Spectacled Tyrant plus a gorgeous show of hundreds Black Skimmers skimming into the calm waters of the Maipo river. Then in Cartagena we had close views of most of the waterbirds of the central region, including Coscoroba and Black-necked Swan. At El Tabo we spotted goodies such as White-throated Tapaculo, Great Shrike-Tyrant and Giant Hummingbird, and finally in Algarrobo we visited a fine stake out to look for the cryptic Stripe-backed Bittern. Overnight in Quintero, waiting for next day pelagic trip.

Day 5:

The morning began with a soft rain, so we were a little bit nervous about the success of this pelagic excursion. Fortunately, after a little bit more than half hour sailing out the weather became quite good and we enjoyed a top class pelagic trip with 3 species of Albatrosses (Northern Royal, Black-browed and Salvin’s), Juan Fernández Petrel, Red-legged Cormorant, Chilean Skua, Pomarine & Parasitic Jaeger, Inca Tern and Sperm Whale, just to name a few. During the afternoon we headed north to visit the Humboldt Penguin breeding colony at Cachagua Island and a sand beach where we managed –not before lot of scanning - to spot Snowy and Collared Plover. Overnight in Olmué.

Day 6:

We visited La Campana National Park and to go in earlier than usual and to enjoy this lovely park just for ourselves. We failed to find one of the target birds here (Chilean Tinamou) but we had great views of Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Harris´s Hawk and so many more… not to mention the scenic landscape of the Chilean Palm-tree Forest. After lunch we tried for South-American Painted-Snipe, but we failed again and at the end of the day we went to Batuco Lagoon, where we found one of the favorite birds of the trip for Margaret: a whole family of Burrowing Owls standing and bouncing.

Day 7:

This morning we headed south on the way to Vilches, a forested area into the northern distributional range of the Southern Beech Forest. Before arrival we made a short detour to visit Colbún Lake and Maule River, where we found goodies such as Spectacled Duck, Chilean Pigeon and Burrowing Parrot. Once in our lodge at Vilches, we had lunch and stopped for a while to recover some energy. After a short siesta we went out again, this time to walk into the woods and find our first Green-backed Firecrowns, Thorn-tailed Rayaditos and White-throated Treerunners, all these species locally common. After dinner we went owling but had no success.

Day 8:

Today we had a full-day birding into the woods of Vilches and Altos de Lircay National Reserve. In the early morning, before the Reserve opening time, we birded around the entrance and, as early as we could, we jumped in to the Reserve to explore some of their paths and find some highlights such as a territorial Chilean Hawk, Magellanic Woodpecker, Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet, Magellanic Tapaculo and Patagonian Tyrant. We came back to our lodge for lunch and, after a resting time, we came back to the forest to try for some species we were missing so far. Nice sightings of Austral Pigmy-Owl and Chilean Flicker! After dinner we tried owling again and we managed to find a couple of Rufous-legged Owl. Unfortunately the foliage was so dense, that we were unable to spot the birds!calling loudly just above our heads. Thanks to Margaret’s magic fingers we were able to spot the birds!

Day 9:

Today we headed south again on the way to Temuco. At mid-morning we stopped for a snack in a Service Station and we noticed there were a lot of soccer fan on the way south. We realized what was going on when we arrived to our hotel in Temuco and found the surrounding street closed by the police. The final soccer match of the local league will be played that night in Temuco… and we were staying at the same hotel as the most probably winner!

After lunch and a very difficult check-in because of the crowd in the hotel, we managed to drive into Cerro Ñielol National Monument and bird there. After this troubled day we found some
retrieval in a Rufous-tailed Hawk breeding territory.

Day 10:

This morning we visited Cerro Ñielol again and tried for local specialties, being able to find goodies such as Slender-billed Parakeet, Ochre-flanked Tapaculo, Black-throated Huet-Huet and Des Mur’s Wiretail. Then we headed east to Conguillío National Park, but after 20 kms of driving our car failed! So we had to drive back to Temuco and replace it, which fortunately worked reasonably fast. For the second time and after lunch we headed to Conguillío and reached our comfortable lodge placed in a perfect location, just inside the border of the National Park! In this gorgeous landscape, a mix of volcanic soils and monkeypuzzle tree forests we had a relaxed afternoon.

Day 11:

Today we started early and went for a walk around our lodge before breakfast, where we had some glimpses of Chucao Tapaculo. After this we drove into the National Park bringing our lunches with us. At lower elevations there was an acceptable soft rain which allowed us to spot some good birds such as Ashy-headed Goose, Flying Steamer Duck, Dark-faced and White-browed Ground Tyrants… but the two times that we tried to climb up to the elevation where the Monkeypuzzle tree Forests exists, the rain was heavier so we were not able to really bird that habitat.
In this scenery we decided to explore lower elevations during the afternoon and we actually had a pleasant walk in the entrance of the park, where we found 2 territories of Torrent Duck.
Overnight in Conguillío NP.

Day 12:

This was the last day of Rodrigo’s guiding and it was basically destined for driving from Conguillío to Puerto Varas, where we were going to meet Marcela, the Guide for the South Chile Stage. Despite this we found some time for roadside birding which rewarded us with the uncommon Hellmayr’s Pipit plus some good views of Short-eared Owl. After this we were done with the birding and just drove south. After lunch in Puerto Varas we met Marcela, said bye to each other and birders carried on in their path this time on Marcela’s guiding.

Species Lists

BIRD LIST (170 species)

Taxonomic order and notes follows South American Classification Committee

Detailed birdlist available at eBird http://www.ebird.org

1. Black-necked Swan – Cygnus melancoryphus
2. Coscoroba Swan – Coscoroba coscoroba
3. Andean Goose – Chloephaga melanoptera
4. Ashy-headed Goose – Chloephaga poliocephala
5. Torrent Duck – Merganetta armata
6. Flying Steamer-Duck – Tachyeres patachonicus
7. Spectacled Duck – Speculanas specularis
8. Chiloe Wigeon - Anas sibilatrix
9. Yellow-billed Teal – Anas flavirostris
10. Yellow-billed Pintail - Anas georgica
11. Cinnamon Teal – Anas cyanoptera
12. Red Shoveler – Anas platalea
13. Rosy-billed Poachard – Netta peposaca
14. Andean Duck – Oxyura jamaicensis
15. Lake Duck – Oxyura vittata

16. California Quail - Callipepla californica

17. White-tufted Grebe - Rollandia rolland
18. Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
19. Great Grebe - Podiceps major
20. Silvery Grebe – Podiceps occipitalis

21. Humboldt’s Penguin – Spheniscus humboldti

22. Northern Royal Albatross – Diomedea sanfordi
23. Black-browed Albatross – Thalassarche melanophrys
24. Salvin’s Albatross – Thalassarche salvini

25. Northern Giant-Petrel - Macronectes halli
26. Juan Fernández Petrel – Pterodroma externa
27. White-chinned Petrel - Procellaria aequinoctialis
28. Westland Petrel - Procellaria Westlandica
29. Pink-footed Shearwater - Ardenna creatopus
30. Sooty Shearwater - Ardenna grisea

31. Wilson’s Strom-Petrel – Oceanites oceanicus

32. Peruvian Diving-Petrel – Pelecanoides garnotii

33. Peruvian Pelican – Pelecanus thagus

34. Peruvian Booby – Sula variegata

35. Neotropic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianus
36. Red-legged Cormorant – Phalacrocorax gaimardii
37. Guanay Cormorant – Phalacrocorax bougainvillii

38. Stripe-backed Bittern – Ixobrychus involucris
39. Black-crowned Night-Heron – Nycticorax nycticorax
40. Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
41. Cocoi Heron – Ardea cocoi
42. Great Egret – Ardea alba
43. Snowy Egret – Egretta thula

44. White-faced Ibis – Plegadis chihi
45. Black-faced Ibis – Theristicus melanopis

46. Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus
47. Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
48. Andean Condor – Vultur gryphus

49. White-tailed Kite – Elanus leucurus
50. Cinereous Harrier – Circus cinereous
51. Chilean Hawk – Accipiter chilensis
52. Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle - Geranoaetus melanoleucus
53. Variable Hawk - Geranoaetus polyosoma
54. Harri’s Hawk – Parabuteo unicinctus
55. Rufous-tailed Hawk – Buteo ventralis

56. Southern Caracara – Caracara plancus
57. Chimango Caracara - Milvago chimango
58. American Kestrel – Falco sparverius

59. Plumbeous Rail – Pardirallus sanguinolentus
60. Red-gartered Coot – Fulica armillata
61. Red-fronted Coot – Fulica rufifrons
62. White-winged Coot – Fulica leucoptera

63. Southern Lapwing - Vanellus chilensis
64. Black-bellied Plover – Pluvialis squatarola
65. Snowy Plover – Charadrius alexandrines
66. Collared Plover – Charadrius collaris
67. Diademed Sandpiper-Plover – Phegornis mitchellii

68. American Oystercatcher – Haematopus palliates
69. Blackish Oystercatcher – Haematopus ater

70. Black-necked Stilt – Himantopus mexicanus

71. South American Snipe – Gallinago paraguaiae
72. Hudsonian Godwit – Limosa haemastica
73. Whimbrel – Numenius phaeopus
74. Lesser Yellowlegs – Tringa flavipes
75. Ruddy Turnstone – Arenaria interpres
76. Red Knot – Calidris canutus
77. Sanderling – Calidris alba
78. Semipalmated Sandpiper – Calidris pusilla
79. Baird’s Sandpiper – Calidris bairdii
80. Red Phalarope – Phalaropus fulicarius

81. Gray-breasted Seedsnipe – Thinocorus orbignyianus

82. Chilean Skua – Stercorarius chilensis
83. Pomarine Jaeger – Stercorarius pomarinus
84. Parasitic Jaeger – Stercorarius parasiticu

85. Andean Gull – Chroicephalus serranus
86. Brown-hooded Gull – Chroicephalus maculipennis
87. Franklin’s Gull – Leucophaeus pipixcan
88. Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus
89. Inca Tern – Larosterna inca
90. Elegant Tern – Thalasseus elegans
91. South American Tern – Sterna hirundinacea

92. Black Skimmer – Rynchops niger

93. Picui Ground-Dove – Columbina picui
94. Black-winged Ground-Dove – Metriopelia melanoptera
95. Chilean Pigeon – Patagioenas araucana
96. West Peruvian Dove – Zenaida meloda
97. Eared Dove - Zenaida auriculata

98. Burrowing Parrot – Cyanoliseus patagonicus
99. Austral Parakeet – Enycognathus ferrugineus
100. Slender-billed Parakeet – Enycognathus leptorynchus
101. Monk Parakeet – Myiopsitta monachus

102. Austral Pygmy-Owl - Glaucidium nana
103. Rufous-legged Owl – Strix rufipes
104. Burrowing Owl – Athene cunicularia
105. Short-eared Owl – Assio flammeus

106. Green-backed Firecrown - Sephanoides sephaniodes
107. Giant Hummingbird - Patagona gigas

108. Striped Woodpecker - Veniliornis lignarius
109. Chilean Flicker - Colaptes pitius
110. Magellanic Woodpecker – Campephilus magellanicus

111. Creamy-rumper Miner – Geositta isabellina
112. Rufous-banded Miner – Geositta rufipennis
113. Crag Chilia – Ochetorhynchus melanurus /ENDEMIC
114. Scale-throated Earthcreeper – Upucerthia dumetaria
115. Buff-winged Cinclodes – Cinclodes fuscus
116. Gray-flanked CInclodes – Cinclodes oustaleti
117. Dark-bellied Cinclodes – Cinclodes patagonicus
118. Seaside Cinclodes – Cinclodes nigrofumosus
119. Wren-like Rushbird – Phleocryptes melanops
120. Thorn-tailed Rayadito - Aphrastura spinicauda
121. Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetails – Leptasthenura aegithaloides
122. Des Murs's Wiretail - Sylviorthorhynchus desmursii
123. Dusky-tailed Canastero – Pseudasthenes humicola
124. White-throated Treerunner – Pygarrhichas albogularis

125. Chestnut-throated Huet-huet – Pteroptochos castaneus
126. Black-throated Huet-huet – Pteroptochos tarnii
127. Moustached Turca - Pteroptochos megapodius
128. White-throated Tapaculo - Scelorchilus albicollis
129. Chucao Tapaculo – Scelorchilus rubecula
130. Ochre-flanked Tapaculo – Eugralla paradoxa
131. Magellanic Tapaculo - Scytalopus magellanicus
132. Dusky Tapaculo – Scytalopus fuscus

133. White-crested Elaenia – Elaenia albiceps
134. Tufted Tit-Tyrant - Anairetes parulus
135. Ticking Doradito – Pseudocolopteryx citreola
136. Many-colored Rush Tyrant – Tachuris rubrigastra
137. Austral Negrito – Lessonia rufa
138. Spectacled Tyrant – Hymenops perspicillatus
139. Cinereous Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola cinereous
140. Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola flavinucha
141. Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola maclovianus
142. White-browed Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola albilora
143. Black-fronted Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola frontalis
144. Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant – Agriornis montanus
145. Great Shrike-Tyrant – Agriornis lividus
146. Fire-eyed Diucon - Xolmis pyrope
147. Patagonian Tyrant - Colorhamphus parvirostris

148. Rufous-tailed Plantcutter - Phytotoma rara

149. Blue-and-white Swallow - Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
150. Chilean Swallow - Tachycineta meyeni

151. House Wren - Troglodytes aedon

152. Austral Thrush - Turdus falcklandii

153. Chilean Mockingbird - Mimus thenca

154. Correndera Pipit – Anthus correndera
155. Hellmayr’s Pipit – Anthus hellmayri

156. Rufous-collared Sparrow - Zonotrichia capensis
157. Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch - Phrygilus gayi
158. Patagonian Sierra-Finch – Phrygilus patagonicus
159. Plumbeous Sierra-Finch - Phrygilus unicolor
160. Common Diuca-Finch - Diuca diuca
161. Greater Yellow-Finch - Sicalis auriventris
162. Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola
163. Thick-billed Siskin – Carduelis crassirostris
164. Yellow-rumped Siskin – Carduelis uropygialis
165. Black-chinned Siskin - Spinus barbatus
166. House Sparrow - Passer domesticus

167. Long-tailed Meadowlark - Sturnella loyca
168. Austral Blackbird - Curaeus curaeus
169. Yellow-winged Blackbird – Agelasticus thilius
170. Shiny Cowbird – Molothrus bonariensis


1. Fence Degu – Octodon degu
2. Coypu – Myocastor coypus
3. European Rabbit – Oryctolagus cuniculus
4. Southern Sea Otter – Lontra felina
5. South American Fur Seal – Arctocephalus australis
6. South American Sea-lion – Otaria flavescens
7. Sei Whale - Balaenoptera physalus
8. Sperm Whale – Physeter macrocephalus


1. Wreath Tree Iguana – Liolaemus lemniscatus
2. Blue-tailed Tree Iguana – Liolaemus tenuis
3. Spotted False Monitor – Callopistes maculatus