In South American continent there is a narrow and long strip of land called Chile. It borders with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru (Figure 1). Because of the long extension of its territory and its peculiar geography there is a great diversity of climates along the country. This allows the existence of a variety of dramatically different types of habitats. From the driest desert in the world, the Mediterranean region, the temperate rain forest to the Patagonian steppe. The central zone of Chile comprises all the central regions, this means it spans from Coquimbo to El Maule (4th to 7th region). This area has a Mediterranean climate; therefore, all the central part of Chile, like only four other places in the world, has been called Mediterranean Region. The Mediterranean climate has rainy and cold winters and very hot and dry summers. Different climates are the result of physical interactions of four main factors: Humboldt Current, pacific anticyclone and the presence of Andes and coastal range. Chile has a considerable geographical isolation – Atacama Desert in the north, Pacific Ocean in the west and Andes mountain range in the east. Because of this isolation the rates of endemism are very high.
There are 829 species of terrestrial vertebrates in Chile. Despite high diversity of ecosystems, richness of bird species is low compared to other countries of South America. There are 480 described species of birds, 11 of them are endemic (2,3 %). The number of native mammal species is 160 of which 13 are endemic (8%). Among reptiles the rate of endemism is high, 50% of the 126 native species are endemic. Finally the group with the highest rate of endemism is the amphibians with 63 described native species, 72% of which are endemic. Regarding vegetation the number of endemic species is very high as well. One half of the 6.000 vascular plants species present in the territory are endemic. Due to the high rates of biodiversity and endemism the Mediterranean region of Chile has been classified as one of the 25 hot spots in the world with priority on its conservation.
This report summarizes Sumit Shaw’s and Vijay Jagannathan’s trip to Chile. Sumit and Vijay, both passionate photographers, came from India on a business trip. They arrived in Santiago to attend a series of meetings. After learning they would have two free days, they asked us to organize an excursion to observe and photograph many species of native birds.
We designed a private trip for them that could be a representative sample of the bird species of the Mediterranean region. It considered the visit to two different places near Santiago – one in coastal mountain range and another in central coast, both in Valparaíso region (5th). This way on day one we visited La Campana National Park, and on day two coastal edge of central coast (Figure 2)
We travelled to La Campana National Park in Valparaíso region, or 5th region (Figure 2). This park located in the coastal range in central Chile and only an hour and a half away from Santiago harbors. It is one of the most representative populations of fauna and flora of the Mediterranean region of Chile. La Campana consists of beautiful valleys and foothills with xeric vegetation (e.g. spiny shrubs and scrubs forming the “Matorral” plant community), creeks covered with Sclerophyllous Forest, all mixed with the largest population (about 60,000) of the endemic Chilean Palm, Jubaea chilensis. This palm is famous for its longevity; several specimens of 500 to 700 years of age have been observed in the park and it is likely that the oldest palms are near 1000 years old. For several reasons nowadays it is an Endangered species and the only place where it is possible to see a forest of this palm is in La Campana.
This 8,000 ha park was declared a national park in 1967 by CONAF and a World Biosphere Reserve in 1985 by UNESCO.
Sumit and Vijay were mainly interested in photographing birds, however, some other beautiful species captured their attention as well; native flowers and butterflies.
We left Santiago at 6:30 in the morning, driving along the Pan-American route we headed north to the national park.
Once in the park the first bird we saw was a Common Duica Finch, while photographing it a Southern Red Fox (Lycalopex culpaeus) crossed the road. As we continued towards the picnic area to have breakfast we had the chance to observe Plain-manteled Tit-Spinetail, Chilean Mocking bird, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Austral Black birds, Black-chinned Siskins, Chilean Flicker, Striped Woodpecker, Californian Quail, Austral Thrushes.
While watching all these superb birds we realised that a couple of Black-chested Buzzard Eagle was soaring over our heads. There were also some Variable Hawks overflying.
After having breakfast we continued our trek, this time to other area of the park. We were walking up the hill when suddenly we saw a Moustached Turca, one of the most elusive species among the Tapaculos family. The rocky hillsides with scrubs and bushes of the park are a perfect habitat for this endemic bird.
As we continued walking early spring rewarded us with the views of wonderful wild flowers and butterflies. There were many blossoms of Añañucas a beautiful endemic wild flower. That was not all! Flying around everywhere the Aristolochia Swallowtail butterflies decorated even more the scenery, which was already very beautiful. During this walk we also observe Gray-hooded Sierra Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Tufted-tit Tyrants, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Harri’s Hawk and various species of lizards. We were lucky to observe one of the most striking lizards in central Chile, the endemic Thin- tree Lizard. This species has sexual dimorphism with a very colorful male and a female quite pale grayish.
After all these we noticed that it was late and already time to go back to the capital to get ready for next day which looked very promising. When we were leaving the park a flock of Chilean pigeons crossed the country side.
After having a very enjoyable previous day we started again our trip at 6:30 in the morning. This time we headed west to visit some wetlands in the central coast of Valparíso region. The Maipo (main river of the Metropolitan region) river mouth is located in Santo Domingo summer town. We first stopped in this important estuary; the considerable variety of aquatic birds possible to observe makes it an excellent place for birding. To get to the river we walked along the sea shore observing Gray-hooded Gulls, Grey Gulls, Kelp Gulls, American Oystercatchers and Wimbrels (Boreal breeder). Once we arrived to the river what impressed them most was the restless, wonderful and tiny Many-colored Rush Tyrant. Impossible to stop clicking!! Unforgettable!! Uf…but what a hard one, this bird is hyperactive! We walked to other area of this wetland and spotted many other species of birds. Among them the Black Vulture, male and female of Austral Negrito, Neotropic Cormorant, Yellow-billed Pintail, Blackish Oystercatcher, White-backed Stilt and Black Skimmer.
We left the Maipo River and headed to Cartagena. There is a lagoon in this small town, which it is a wild life sanctuary made because of high numbers of birds present; many species of ducks and other aquatic birds. Summit and Vijay observed and photographed Coscoroba Swan, Black-necked Swan, Cinnamon Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Chilean Teal, Chiloé Wigeon, Red Shoveler, Lake Duck, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Southern Lapwing, Brown-hooded Gull, Austral Negrito, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture, Chimango Caracara, House Wren and many others. We finished our visit in Cartagena lagoon and promptly drove to Algarrobo, last summer town to visit that day. We spent the whole morning trying to find a Giant Hummingbird (the largest in the world), therefore, this last spot was very important, there were many expectations on it. Once in Algarrobo we had lunch but didn’t stop looking for the Giant Hummingbird, Summit and Vijay had some short views of it but fairly far so couldn’t photographed it. At this point the most important target was this species. It was getting closer the time to leave and go back to Santiago. Hopes were declining!! Last stop was the lastopportunity….. That’s what we did, we went there. And guess what!? WE FOUND A GIANT HUMMINGBIRD IN NEST!!! Yes, for Summit’s and Vijay’s luck there was a Giant Hummingbird very close laying in its nest. What an enjoyable and magic moment! Hopefully there are two new individuals of Giant Hummingbird in the coast of Chile right now. The hardest part came next; convince Summit and Vijay to head back to Santiago. This was the end of the day and end of the trip, we headed back to Santiago.
Taxonomic order and notes follows South American Classification Committee
DUCKS and SWANS
1. Coscoroba Swan – Coscoroba coscoroba
2. Black-necked Swan –Cygnus melancoryphus
3. Chiloe Wigeon - Anas sibilatrix
4. Chilean teal – Anas flavirostris
5. Yellow-billed Pintail - Anas georgica
6. Cinnamon teal – Anas cyanoptera
7. Red shoveler – Anas platalea
8. Lake duck – Oxyura vittata
NEW WORLD QUAILS
9. Californian Quail - Callipepla californica
10. Neotropic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianus
11. Red-legged Cormorant – Phalacrocorax gaimardi
12. White-tufted grebe – Rollandia rolland
13. Pied-billed grebe – Podilymbus podiceps
HERONS and EGRETS
14. Cattle egret – Bubulcus ibis
15. Great egret – Ardea alba
16. Snowy egret – Egretta thula
17. Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus
18. Turkey Vulture - Cathartes aura
19. Variable Hawk - Geranoaetus polyosoma
20. Harri’s Hawk – Parabuteo unicinctus
21. Black-chested Buzzard Eagle – Geranoaetus melanoleucus
22. Chimango Caracara - Milvago chimango
23. American Kestrel – Falco sparverius
RAILS and COOTS
24. Red-gartered coot – Fulica armillata
25. White-winged coot – Fulica leucoptera
26. Spot-flanked Gallinule – Porphyriops melanops
27. Southern Lapwing - Vanellus chilensis
AVOCETS and STILTS
28. Black-necked stilt – Himantopus mexicanus
29. Brown-hooded Gull – Chroicocephalus maculipennis
30. Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus
31. Grey Gull – Leucophaeus modestus
32. Rock pigeon – Columba livia
33. Chilean Pigeon – Patagioenas araucana
34. Eared Dove - Zenaida auriculata
35. Picui ground-dove – Columbina picui
36. Green-backed Firecrown - Sephanoides sephaniodes
37. Giant Hummingbird – Patagona gigas
38. Striped Woodpecker - Veniliornis lignarius
39. Chilean Flicker – Colaptes pitius
40. Moustached Turca – Pteroptochos megapodius
41. White-throated tapaculo – Scelorchilus albicollis (Heard)
42. Thorn-tailed Rayadito - Aphrastura spinicauda
43. White-throated Treerunner – Pygarrhichas albogularis (Heard)
44. Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail – Leptasthenura aegithaloides
45. Gray-flanked Cinclodes – Cinclodes oustaleti
46. Wren-like Rush-bird – Phleocryptes melanops (Heard)
47. White-crested Elaenia – Elaenia albiceps
48. Tufted Tit-Tyrant - Anairetes parulus
49. Fire-eyed Diucon - Xolmis pyrope
50. Many-coloured Rush tyrant – Tachuris rubigastra
51. Blue-and-white Swallow - Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
52. Chilean Swallow - Tachycineta meyeni
53. House Wren - Troglodytes aedon
54. Austral Thrush - Turdus falcklandii
55. Chilean Mockingbird - Mimus thenca
FINCHES & SPARROWS
56. Rufous-collared Sparrow - Zonotrichia capensis
57. Grey -hooded Sierra-Finch – Phrygilus gayi
68. Common Diuca-Finch - Diuca diuca
69. Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola (Heard)
70. Black-chinned Siskin - Spinus barbata
71. Long-tailed Meadowlark - Sturnella loyca
72. Austral Blackbird - Curaeus curaeus
73. Yellow-winged blackbird – Agelasticus thilius
74. Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensis
1. Southern Sea lion – Otaria flavescens
1. Wreath Lizard – Liolaemus lemniscatus
2. Thin tree Lizard – Liolaemus tenuis