Birding in Central Chile - January 2018

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

Participants: Eduardo Navarro


This trip report covers a wonderful 5 days birding in the central area of Chile. From the Pacific Ocean we went up into the high Andes and we spent a day a little bit south of Santiago looking for the most colourful parrot in Chile.

Day 1 Farellones

We started at 6:30 am driving up to the Farellones road. In our first stop we got the first endemic birds: Dusky tailed Canastero and from the windows of our car we got awesome views of Moustached Turca, two endemic birds in just a couple of curves up. In our second stop, we got good views of Striped Woodpecker and Tufted Tit-tyrant. Then we went in to the Yerba Loca Natural Reserve where we gotgorgeous views of the biggest hummingbird in the world. A Giant Hummingbird was feeding a few meters from us. In addition we could enjoy a Dusky Tapaculo singing and running in scrub land close to us.

In the Farellones cliffs we got a good collection of high altitude birds that included: Rufous banded Miner, Scaly-throated Earthcreeper and in addition we got a trio of Ground Tyrants: White browed, Spot-billed and Rufous-naped. Farellones always gives good views of raptors and we saw Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Variable Hawk and Mountain Caracara.

Day 2 Rio Cipreses National reserve

We left the city around 7:00 am and just on the road we started a day marked by owls. A full family of Burrowing Owls was moving around a winery field. We kept moving south and reached the south side of the Cachapoal river, where a large colony of Macaw like Burrowing Parrots were feeding with huge flocks flying around us. We kept on following the the river to reach Rio Cipreses National reserve. This reserve was created for the protection of a colony of Burrowing Parrots. They use the river cliff for breeding. In the entry to the reserve we got our second owl for the day. Two Great Horned owl were roosting in trees. In the reserve a single Austral Pygmy Owl was spotted from the car completing three owls in a day ! After a short walk or two into the reserve we found Giant Hummingbirds, Chilean Pigeon and Chilean Flicker to add to our list before driving back to Santiago.

Day 3 El Yeso Valley

The third day took us to the south east of Santiago in to the Yeso Valley and we started in the best way. Just on the road we got an excellent view of one of the most beautiful ducks, a single male Torrent Duck was roosting on a rock very close to us in the in the Maipo River. Then, when we were on the Yeso Valley road, we stopped to get another endemic bird for the central area of Chile: Crag Chilia which was feeding between the rocks. The road moved us up into the mountains and with awesome landscapes we stopped just to get closer views of Buff-winged and Grey-flanked Cinclodes which we enjoyed with the colorful Yellow-rumped Siskin. The Yeso dam with its turquoise colour gave us the best scenery for our first chance to try to find the highlight ofour day, the Diademed Sandpiper Plover. Unluckily for us wecould not find the DSP in its usual habitat but we got good views of Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Crested Duck and Black-fronted Ground Tyrants.

We decided to keep moving up in to the valley to reach the El Plomo hot spring. Birding just from the car gave us the chance to get really good pictures of some different species like Greater Yellow Finch and Mourning Sierra Finch. Into this natural reserve we walked to a flooded grassy area and again we couldn't find this elusive plover. We decided to stop for a great lunch to recover our energies so that we could finally get the Sandpiper Plover. Our only chance was go higher scanning every grassy area. Then from the car we saw something moving on the ground. I stopped the car, got my bins and bingo! There was our Diademed Sandpiper Plover. The rest is history, parking the car and getting gorgeous views and pictures of this beautiful bird.

Day 4 Coastal day

It is a good idea to start early for the coastal day to skip the traffic rush. On the way we got a good views of White-tailed Kite. We started in the Maipo estuary, one of the most important wetlands in central Chile. We arrived just as the sun began to light up and the birds slowly began to move around the coastline. Close to the parking we got a good gull selection including: Kelp, Brown-hooded, Franklin`s and the beautiful Grey Gull.

We started walking down the path that runs through the scrub, finding a good selection of birds that included: Spectacled Flycatcher, Long-tailed Meadowlark and Rufus-tailed Plantcutter. Later, we took it more slowly to find the specialist reed birds that included the jewel like Many-colored Rushtyrant, Sedge Wren, Wren-like Rushbird and out of the reeds we can got Plumbeous Rail. In addition we got a excellent views of the Ticking Doradito, a migratory bird who is coming every summer to breed in Chile.

Finally and at very low tide, we could see some shorebirds including Black-necked Stilt, Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling and Baird`s Sandpiper. Also there was a good collection of plovers that included Collared, Snowy and the uncommon Semipalmated. Huge numbers of Black Skimmer, South American Tern and some Elegant Tern completed the list for this place.

The Cartagena Lagoon is always a good stop. The local community has done an incredible job to keep this lagoon alive. We had very good views of a good selection of lake birds including: Cinnamon Teal, Red Shoveler, Yellow-billed Pintail, Yellow-billed Teal and Lake Duck. The coots were also well represented with Spot-flanked Gallinule and Red-coot gartered and White-winged coot. Also we found a White-tufted Grebe.

The lunch was a success. Installed in a comfortable terrace overlooking the sea enjoying a delicious fish meal and getting very good views of Peruvian Booby and flickering view of the endemic Seaside Cinclodes. We decided to have an extra stop in Cordova Creek looking for White-throated Tapaculo but unluckily for us we only heard it in a close scrub area and also had a Thorn-tailed Rayadito calling in a tree.

Our last stop took us to Algarrobo where were we were looking for one of the most cryptic herons - the Stripe-backed Bittern - was feeding in the reeds giving us gorgeous views of this beautiful bird.

Finally we completed our list of all the species of coots that can be seen in the central area of Chile adding to our list the elusive Red-fronted Coot plus some Pied-billed Grebe.

Day 5 Pelagic trip

Pelagic trips from Valparaiso are very famous for the albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters which feed from the Humboldt currents which is very rich in food bringing a lot of wild life to our coast. With all the of the boat just for Robert and myself we left the port around 6:30 and just as the sun was rising upwe spotted a marine sea otter. With a very calm sea and a beautiful light Robert found a fin whale blowing up close to us. After an hour and a half sailing something moved too fast for a common seabird, and to our surprise there was a Peregrine falcon in the middle of the ocean hunting a Wilson´s Storm Petrel! The first sea birds to appear were the Sooty Shearwater and then Peruvian Diving Petrel started to move around us. When we started to throw bait a good number ofgulls began to follow our boat and this motivated various albatross species to start to come to us that included Salvin`s and Black-browed Albatross and also the huge white back of a Royal Albatross was seen flying around the boat. The petrels were well represented with Southern and Northern Giant Petrel, Westland and White-chinned Petrel and a single Juan Fernandez Petrel. We decided to stop the bait and just used oil fish so that we could enjoy looking at the Wilson's Storm Petrel feeding from the sea.
Returning to the bay we completed our list of Cormorants, Neotropic, Red-legged and Guanay.

Species Lists

DUCKS (Anatidae)
Black-necked Swan Cygnus melancoryphus
Torrent Duck Merganetta armata
Crested Duck Lophonetta specularioides
Yellow-billed Teal (flavirostris) Anas flavirostris flavirostris
Yellow-billed Pintail Anas georgica
Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera
Red Shoveler Anas platalea
Lake Duck Oxyura vittata

NEW WORLD QUAIL (Odontophoridae)
California Quail Callipepla californica

GREBES (Podicipedidae)
White-tufted Grebe Rollandia rolland
Pied-billed Grebe Podilymbus podiceps

ALBATROSSES (Diomedeidae)
Southern Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora epomophora
Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris
Salvin's Albatross Thalassarche salvini

SHEARWATERS (Procellariidae)
Southern Giant-Petrel Macronectes giganteus
Northern Giant-Petrel Macronectes halli
Juan Fernandez Petrel Pterodroma externa
White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis
Westland Petrel Procellaria westlandica
Sooty Shearwater Ardenna grisea
Pink-footed Shearwater Ardenna creatopus

DIVING-PETRELS (Procellariidae)
Peruvian Diving-Petrel Pelecanoides garnotii

STORM-PETRELS (Hydrobatidae)
Fuegian (Wilson's) Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus chilensis

BOOBIES (Sulidae)
Peruvian Booby Sula variegata

CORMORANTS (Phalacrocoracidae)
Red-legged Cormorant Phalacrocorax gaimardi
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Guanay Cormorant Phalacrocorax bougainvillii

PELICANS (Pelecanidae)
Peruvian Pelican Pelecanus thagus

HERONS (Ardeidae)
Stripe-backed Bittern Ixobrychus involucris
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Cocoi Heron Ardea cocoi
Snowy Egret Egretta thula

IBISES (Threskiornithidae)
Black-faced Ibis Theristicus melanopis

Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Black Vulture Coragyps atratus
Andean Condor Vultur gryphus

HAWKS (Accipitridae)
White-tailed Kite Elanus leucurus
Harris's Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus
Variable Hawk Geranoaetus polyosoma
Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle Geranoaetus melanoleucus

RAILS (Rallidae)
Spot-flanked Gallinule Porphyriops melanops
Plumbeous Rail Pardirallus sanguinolentus
Red-gartered Coot Fulica armillata
Red-fronted Coot Fulica rufifrons
White-winged Coot Fulica leucoptera

PLOVERS (Charadriidae)
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Snowy Plover Charadrius nivosus
Collared Plover Charadrius collaris
Diademed Sandpiper-Plover Phegornis mitchellii

OYSTERCATCHERS (Haematopodidae)
American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus

AVOCETS and STILTS (Recurvirostridae)
White-backed (Black-necked) Stilt Himantopus mexicanus melanurus

SANDPIPERS (Scolopacidae)
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Sanderling Calidris alba
Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii
Magellanic (South American) Snipe Gallinago paraguaiae magellanica
Red Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius
Willet Tringa semipalmata

SEEDSNIPES (Thinocoridae)
Gray-breasted Seedsnipe Thinocorus orbignyianus

SKUAS (Stercorariidae)
Chilean Skua Stercorarius chilensis

GULLS (Laridae)
Brown-hooded Gull Chroicocephalus maculipennis
Gray Gull Leucophaeus modestus
Franklin's Gull Leucophaeus pipixcan
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus
Inca Tern Larosterna inca
South American Tern Sterna hirundinacea
Elegant Tern Thalasseus elegans

SKIMMERS (Rynchopidae)
Black Skimmer Rynchops niger

PIGEONS (Columbidae)
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Chilean Pigeon Patagioenas araucana
Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata
Picui Ground Dove Columbina picui
Black-winged Ground Dove Metriopelia melanoptera

OWLS (Strigidae)
Magellanic (Great) Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
Austral Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium nana
Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia

HUMMINGBIRDS (Trochilidae)
White-sided Hillstar Oreotrochilus leucopleurus
Giant Hummingbird Patagona gigas gigas

Striped Woodpecker Veniliornis lignarius
Chilean Flicker Colaptes pitius

FALCONS (Falconidae)
Mountain Caracara Phalcoboenus megalopterus
Chimango Caracara Milvago chimango
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

PARROTS (Psittacidae)
Monk Parakeet Myiopsitta monachus
Burrowing Parakeet Cyanoliseus patagonus

TAPACULOS (Rhinocryptidae)
Moustached Turca Pteroptochos megapodius
White-throated Tapaculo Scelorchilus albicollis
Dusky Tapaculo Scytalopus fuscus

OVENBIRDS (Furnariidae)
Rufous-banded Miner Geositta rufipennis
Crag Chilia Ochetorhynchus melanurus
Wren-like Rushbird Phleocryptes melanops
Scale-throated Earthcreeper Upucerthia dumetaria
Buff-winged Cinclodes Cinclodes fuscus
Gray-flanked (Oustalet's) Cinclodes Cinclodes oustaleti
Seaside Cinclodes Cinclodes nigrofumosus
Thorn-tailed Rayadito Aphrastura spinicauda
Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail (Central Chile) Leptasthenura a. aegithaloides
Cordilleran Canastero Asthenes modesta
Sharp-billed Canastero Asthenes pyrrholeuca
Dusky-tailed Canastero Pseudasthenes humicola

Chilean (White-crested) Elaenia Elaenia albiceps chilensis
Tufted Tit-Tyrant Anairetes parulus
Ticking Doradito Pseudocolopteryx citreola
Many-colored Rush Tyrant Tachuris rubrigastra
Austral Negrito Lessonia rufa
Spectacled Tyrant Hymenops perspicillatus
Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola maculirostris
Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola rufivertex
White-browed Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola albilora
Black-fronted Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola frontalis
Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant Agriornis montanus
Fire-eyed Diucon Xolmis pyrope

COTINGAS (Cotingidae)
Rufous-tailed Plantcutter Phytotoma rara

SWALLOWS (Hirundinidae)
Blue-and-white Swallow Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
Chilean Swallow Tachycineta meyeni

WRENS (Troglodytidae)
House Wren Troglodytes aedon
Austral (Sedge) Wren Cistothorus platensis hornensis

THRUSHES (Turdidae)
Austral Thrush Turdus falcklandii

Chilean Mockingbird Mimus thenca

TANAGERS (Thraupidae)
Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch Phrygilus gayi
Mourning Sierra-Finch Phrygilus fruticeti
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch Phrygilus unicolor
Band-tailed Sierra-Finch Phrygilus alaudinus
Common Diuca-Finch Diuca diuca
Greater Yellow-Finch Sicalis auriventris
Grassland Yellow-Finch Sicalis luteola

SPARROWS (Emberizidae)
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis

BLACKBIRDS (Icteridae)
Austral Blackbird Curaeus curaeus
Yellow-winged Blackbird Agelasticus thilius
Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis
Long-tailed Meadowlark Sturnella loyca

FINCHES (Fringillidae)
Yellow-rumped Siskin Spinus uropygialis
Black-chinned Siskin Spinus barbatus

House Sparrow Passer domesticus