Cristian was born in Santiago and started birding when he was a child with his father’s support. They used to visit the Batuco Wetlands, the highlands above Santiago and the southern forest during his childhood. In those days, they enrolled in SOCH (Sociedad Ornitológica Chilena), a now defunct ornithological association.
In recent years, he has collaborated with the Chilean NGO "Red de Observadores de Aves y Vida Silvestre de Chile" (ROC), actively participating in e-Bird’s early days in Chile and also as an e-Bird reviewer. He has led the census in the Maipo River estuary area for the Neotropical Waterbird Census organized by the ROC and Wetlands International for several seasons.
HHe has travelled through most of the habitats of Chile and several countries in South America like Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, and Argentina. The last one with a particular focus on natural history explorations in the Cuyo Region (Mendoza, San Juan, San Luis).
He is passionate about bird sounds and soundscapes, reflecting his love for promoting sound appreciation, deep listening and sound capture as a way to understand the ecological relationship between birds and their habitats. Nowadays, he maintains a growing collection of bird sounds on Xeno-Canto.
Find out more about the guide
When did your interest in birds and wildlife begin?
I started in my childhood, around 6 years old with the support of my father, whom also got interested and joined in SOCH (Chilean Ornithological Society). I remember those years in the field with happiness and gratitude, traveling in central Chile, searching for birds, enjoying nature with other passionate adults. I also spent time with people interested in exotic bird breeding, where I learned a lot about other bird topics.
Why did you decide to work as a birding and wildlife guide?
Because I have been interested in many ways in putting value in the territorial knowledge of neotropical birds, and a birding guide’s purpose is just that. To show the remarkable, unique and emotional of Chile’s native birds. My career as a birding guide has been wonderful. I have met a lot of interesting and passionate birders, whom has been amazed not only with the endemic birds, but also with superb landscapes and safe places for birding in Chile.
What do you enjoy the most of guiding a tour?
Birding! Enjoying nature with passionate birders!
What tour would you recommend for a visit to Chile?
I recommend all the trips surrounding Santiago, which shows remarkable ecosystems where many endemic birds live, as well as other tough-to-find neotropical birds that are easy to watch in Chile, like Black-headed duck (Heteronetta atricapilla) and the Chestnut-throated Huet-huet (Pteroptochos castaneus) in the southern central Chile.
Which is your favorite species? And why?
The Moustached Turca, of course! It's the classic Chilean endemic, it's always easier to hear than see, with a wide vocalization repertoire, they mark the Chilean soundscape with persistent deep calls and particular barking-like sounds. If you are lucky, you will be able to watch a quail-like bird with disproportionately large feet, long eyelashes and symmetrical white patches on the side of the head, from the bill to the neck. These marks give it its mustached name. I love it!
Are you involved in any research or conservation projects?
I have been participating in the International Wetlands Census at important places like the Maipo Estuary for several years, and also some scouting expeditions to inaccessible places to discover new things for ornithology. The most remarkable are probably the new discoveries of the Elliot's Storm-petrel, with new breeding colonies and also the unrecorded ornithoacustics of this species. I'm passionate about bird sounds, so I proposed to myself to record, collect, curate and investigate avian acoustics and all their related topics, such as animal behavior, sound characterization and soundscape ecology. The last one is a fresh point of view to aggregate accumulated knowledge of the acoustic relationships in nature and the territories’ acoustic heritage, which urgently needs to be valued and conserved.
What do you do when you are not guiding?
I love being outdoors and searching for new spots for field recordings and collecting bird sounds. I'm deeply connected to sound – I studied trumpet 20 years ago and participate in several music projects in improvisation and sound arts scene. I also practice cycling as way to stay fit, so I have ridden road bikes in all the Chilean Central Zone and have ridden up from my house to Santiago's Highlands (Farellones & Valle Nevado) more than fifty times in the last 10 years. This has familiarized me with the mountain roads like the back of my hand and all its secrets as the particular soundscape of this endemic landscape.
What dish or drink would your recommend visitors to try?
All kinds of sandwiches. I particularly recommend the "Italiano", that is a meat sandwich with smashed avocado, tomato slices and mayonnaise in warm hand-made bread. Regularly it's served with beef steaks, but can also have it with pork or grilled chicken. It's delicious. Another alternative is a "Barros Luco", that is also a meat sandwich, but it's only with melted tasty cheese. It's a great alternative as a fast and warm meal. These recommendations pair well with red wines like a Merlot or a young Carmenere, but a light beer is also a great alternative to enjoy them.
Tell us more about your interest in birdsong recording and soundscapes
Birds and music joined early in my life. I have childhood memories of me with a keyboard in the backyard surrounded by singing birds. Further on, when I started recording bird sounds and field recording it felt like something natural. This field practice as an ornithologist, showed me how much was unknown about birds. So since 2012 I aimed to document, classify, curate and update an ornithoacustic sound collection accessible in Xeno-Canto and Macaulay libraries. Locally, I'm already recognized as an avian sound promoter.
What do you enjoy the most about outdoor living?
I really love to stay focused in the present time, amazed about the miracle of life, particularly, the natural sounds and soundscapes. An outdoor journey give me, over all, happiness and gratitude. For me, a joyfull day consists of an installed spotting scope and listening to the sounds of nature. If I'm accompanied, even better!
¿Wine or beer?
Red Wine. If you are in Chile, tasting a red wine is a heritage encounter. But in the same way, drinking a beer with water from the Andes is a must.
As a personal recommendation, the most important thing is to say “Salud!”.