Erik Sandvig

Birding Guide

Erik was born in southern Chile, where he spent his formative years scrambling through bamboo thickets and flooded woodlands, discovering tapaculos, wiretails and rayaditos. These encounters inspired a curiosity for birds and their environment, leading him to pursue a career in science. Specifically, studying ecology and evolution of birds – subjects that he is always keen to discuss when leading a group.

Since his late teens he has taken every change he gets to travel throughout Chile, exploring its myriad of stunning landscapes and habitats, in an attempt to see all the birds it has to offer - soaking in all the “postcard-perfect” landscapes along the way. More recently, this drive has broadened and motivated him to search for birds further afield, embarking on birding trips to Ecuador, Morocco, Western Sahara, Israel, Cambodia, Madagascar, Australia, Canada, and throughout Europe.

During his undergraduate degree in biological sciences, Erik studied aspects of the ecology and conservation of the endangered Huemul deer in Patagonia. Then moving on to obtain a PhD at Oxford, studying the ecology and evolution of body size of island birds in Australia. He is also involved in eBird as a regional reviewer for southern Chile and is part of the Red the Observadores de Aves y Vida Silvestre de Chile (ROC), with whom he is involved in waterbird and Andean Geese population monitoring, and starting a long-term banding station. He is a native speaker of both English and Spanish.

Find out more about the guide

When did your interest in birds and wildlife begin? I became interested in the outdoors in my early years, during family camping holidays we took every summer to national parks in the mountains of southern Chile. My earliest memories of being interested in birds are from around 10 years old, when trailing behind my older brother who was given a bird field guide and had started birdwatching. Why did you decide to work as a birding and wildlife guide? I enjoy showing visitors Chile’s wonderful birds and landscapes. As a plus, guiding lets me spend more time outdoors and go birding in a wide variety of landscapes. What do you enjoy the most of guiding a tour? Sharing the enthusiasm of seeing a new bird or a breathtaking landscape with visitors is a gratifying experience. On longer multi-day tours I really enjoy the traveling itself and revisiting the different corners of the country. What tour would you recommend for a visit to Chile? Patagonia is a truly unique destination, culturally distinct from the rest of Chile, and with jaw-dropping landscapes at every turn. To boot, the birds that have adapted to the harsh Patagonian landscapes are fascinating specialists, some of them subject to real conservation concern. Which is your favorite species? And why? The White-throated Treerunner is a special bird for me, evoking memories of the forests of my childhood. Plus, it’s a unique Furnariid that acts like a woodpecker. Are you involved in any research or conservation projects? I collaborate as an ecologist on multiple projects with the Red the Observadores de Aves y Vida Silverstre de Chile (ROC). I currently work with them on monitoring projects of waterbids and the wintering population of Andean Geese at the Batuco wetland complex. What do you do when you are not guiding? I enjoy woodworking projects and beer brewing. What dish or drink would your recommend visitors to try? Season-permitting, Chirimoya juice (also known as custard apple) is a delicious and refreshing drink. Chilean seafood is second to none, and if you’re a fan, a variety of fish or mussels are usually available; as the coast is never very far away. Why did you decide to do a PhD? I studied biology at a University in southern Chile and felt like I wished to further my skills in research, with the aim of contributing to conservation projects in Chile. This took me to pursue a PhD in Zoology in the UK, at the University of Oxford, where I specialized in population and evolutionary ecology. ¿Wine or beer? Beer, but wine is ok too.