Birding in Patagonia – Tierra del Fuego, the steppe and Torres Del Paine
Birding in Patagonia takes you to some of Chile’s most famous and striking landscape, in search of its birds and mammals. We’ll cross the famous Straits of Magellan, bird Tierra del Fuego, drive through the Patagonian steppe and look for the recently rediscovered Austral Rail in the wonderful Torres Del Paine National Park. Many stunning species are found here, including King Penguin, Magellanic Plover, Ruddy-headed Goose, Chocolate-vented Tyrant, White-bridled Finch.
But Patagonia is not only a great destination for interesting bird and breathtaking landscapes, it’s also full of charismatic mammals, including Guanaco, Grey Fox, Peale’s Dolphin, and with some luck the rare Puma or a Fin Whale, when crossing the Straits of Magellan. Weather is unpredictable here, it can be sunny, cold, very windy, rainy, snowy, and pleasantly warm – all in a single day!
18th Feb – 23rd Feb 2021
7th Nov – 12th Nov 2021
6th Nov – 11th Nov 2022
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Private trips can be organized as requested
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Birding
Day 1 – 18th Feb: Arrival in Santiago
Day 2 – 19th Feb: Birding around Punta Arenas
Day 3 – 10th Feb: Tierra del Fuego and King Penguin colony
Day 4 – 21st Feb: Birding the steppes and Puerto Natales
Day 5 – 22nd Feb: Torres Del Paine and Sierra Baguales
Day 6 – 23rd Feb: Punta Arenas airport
- A comprehensive trip through Patagonian landscapes.
- Fabulous King Penguin colony
- The stunning Torres del Paine landscapes
- Patagonian specialties: Magellanic Plover, White-bridled Finch, Austral Rail, Ruddy-headed Goose.
- Relaxed pace. Some days cover large distances, but the driving will be broken up by multiple birding stops.
Ease of Birding
- Most species are easy to see. Some steppe species are low density and cover long distances is necessary to see them. The Austral Rail is a bit of a skulker and might take some effort to tease one out.
- 5 nights of accommodation
- Transport: Comfortable vehicle with qualified driver.
- Internal flights
- English speaking guide with birding equipment
- Snacks (fruit, nuts, cereal bars, water)
- All meals
- Park entrance fees
- eBird checklists for the day’s stops
- This tour runs from 6 to 10 participants with one tour leader. Over more than 10 participants would be consider an additional tour guide.
- Pre-Tour: 10th Feb. - 18th Feb. 2021 Santiago to the Araucaria Forests
- Post-Tour: Falklands Islands or Puma Safari in Torres del Paine
DAY 1 - 18th Feb: ARRIVAL IN SANTIAGO
Most international flights to Santiago are overnight. As they arrive in the early morning, participants will be able to spend a relaxing first day at a hotel close to the airport. During the afternoon their guide will meet them at the hotel in order to explain, discuss and answer last questions regarding the itinerary or any necessary detail before beginning the trip.
DAY 2 - 19th Feb: BIRDING AROUND PUNTA ARENAS
This morning we’ll have an early flight to the city of Punta Arenas in the very far south of Chile, on the Straits of Magellan. We’ll have a nice lunch in Punta Arenas and then head south birding along the coast, looking for Flying and Flightless Steamer-Ducks, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Imperial Cormorant, Upland Goose, Chilean Skua and the splendid Dolphin Gull. The tiny Austral Negrito is sure to be found as well. In the afternoon, we’ll drive to the Estancia San Juan, where the endangered Ruddy-headed Goose breeds. Along the coast we’ll also be looking for Kelp Goose, to complete the five Chilean geese collection, and head back towards Punta Arenas.
DAY 3 - 20th Feb: TIERRA DEL FUEGO AND KING PENGUIN COLONY
We’ll take the early morning ferry crossing (2 hrs) to Porvenir, which is the main town in the Chilean side of the mythical island at the end of the world, Tierra del Fuego. We should see scores of Southern Giant-Petrel, Magellanic Diving-Petrel, Chilean Skua, Black-browed Albatross and Peale’s Dolphins. We’ll spend the morning birding around Laguna Verde and Laguna Santa Maria. The bird species we‘ll be looking for in the next couple of days will be Ashy-Headed and Upland Goose, Two-banded Plover, Magellanic Plover, Chilean Skua, Short-billed Miner, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Flightless Steamer-Duck, and Crested Duck.
After lunch we’ll drive to Bahia Inútil to visit a colony of magnificent King Penguins. This colony is the most northerly colony of this species, and the only one outside Antarctic waters. On our way to our accommodation in Cerro Sombrero we’ll be looking for Rufous-chested Dotterel, Chocolate-vented Tyrant and Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant that breed in the Patagonian steppe. Night in Cerro Sombrero.
DAY 4 - 21st Feb: BIRDING THE STEPPES AND DRIVE TO PUERTO NATALES
After breakfast we’ll continue birding the Patagonian Steppe on our way to the northern tip of Tierra del Fuego and hop on a short ferry back to the continental mainland. This is a shorter ferry crossing (20 min) with good chances of seeing Commerson’s Dolphin, Magellanic Diving-Petrel, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel and White-chinned Petrel. Back on the mainland we will make a stop at a wetland in the steppe, Buque Quemado. A good spot for seeing a variety of waterfowl, including Silver Teal, Rosy-billed Pochard, Chiloe Wigeon, White-cheeked Pintail, Coscoroba Swan, and variety of shorebirds. In this area we’ll also try our luck and finding the elusive Patagonian Tinamou.
We’ll continue our trip towards Puerto Natales making our way across the vast steppe looking for Darwin’s Rhea, Austral Canastero, Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Common Miner, Patagonian Yellow-Finch and the stunning White-bridled Finch. We’ll spend the night in Puerto Natales.
DAY 5 - 22nd Feb: TORRES DEL PAINE AND SIERRA BAGUALES
This morning we’ll be heading north towards the most anticipated location of the trip, the incomparable and breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park. Of the entire trip, this will most likely be the most unforgettable scenic highlight. While the park is most famous for its astonishing scenery, it’s also rich in birds and mammals. Throughout the day Guanaco, Patagonian Hog Nosed Skunk and Gray Fox are among the mammals we are likely to encounter during our stay in this area. We’ll be birding in the eastern side of the park and its lakes looking for waterfowl, and on reed-fringed pools looking for the re-discovered Austral Rail. In the scrubby steppe we’ll be looking for Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant, Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant, White-throated Caracara and Patagonian Mockingbird. Cinereous Harriers are also fairly common. This is the best spot in Chile for Puma spotting, however, daytime sightings are rare.
After an early lunch we’ll leave the Park and drive to the scenic mountainous valley of Sierra Baguales. Here we’ll be looking for Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Patagonian Mockingbird, and the gorgeous Yellow-bridled Finch. On our drive up the valley the rocky cliffs surrounding us are a great place to watch Andean Condors soaring above us. The valleys in this area are also a breeding area for White-throated Caracara and the very rare Gray-bellied Shrike-Tyrant. Night in Puerto Natales.
DAY 6 - 23rd Feb: PUNTA ARENAS AIRPORT
Sadly this is the last day of our trip. After a relaxed breakfast we’ll make our way back to the airport in Punta Arenas where we’ll take our flight back to Santiago and connecting international flights.