Central Chile – Santiago to the Araucaria Forests
In Birding Central Chile we’ll visit all the main habitats of central Chile in search of its avian bounty, including 7 Chilean endemic species. We’ll travel from the highlands above Santiago, to the temperate Nothofagus forests further south, birding in interior and coastal wetlands along the way. We have included a fantastic pelagic trip into the Humboldt Current, where we can see multiple species of Albatross and many other tubenoses.
The range of landscapes we’ll enjoy during this trip are truly spectacular, accommodation is comfortable, the local cuisine is tasty and the world-famous Chilean wine a real treat. The climate on this trip ranges from warm and dry around the Santiago area to cooler temperate further South. We’ll focus on finding the Chilean endemics and near-endemics.
10th Feb – 18th Feb 2021
30th Oct – 7th Nov 2021
29th Oct – 6th 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 – 10th Feb: Arrival in Santiago
Day 2 – 11th Feb: Birding Farellones and Valle Nevado
Day 3 – 12th Feb: Full day on the Pacific Coast
Day 4 – 13th Feb: Pelagic trip off Valparaiso and coastal birding
Day 5 – 14th Feb: The Yeso Valley and High Andes
Day 6 – 15th Feb: Colbún Lake and Vilches
Day 7 – 16th Feb: Altos de Lircay National Reserve
Day 8 – 17th Feb: Cerro Ñielol and Temuco
Day 9 – 18th Feb: Araucaria forest
- A comprehensive trip through all habitats of Central Chile
- All central Chile’s endemic species
- Southern cone endemics of the temperate forests
- Incredible landscapes, from high mountains to prehistoric Araucaria forests
- Relaxed pace.
Ease of Birding
- Most species are easy to see. Most endemic species and Chilean specialties are quite reliable. Some understory and forest species can be skulkers, but playback usually lures them out.
- 10 nights of accommodation
- Transport: Comfortable vehicle, with a window seat for every passenger
- 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: 5th - 10th Feb. 2021 Birding Northern Chile – Altiplano & Desert Valleys
- Post-Tour: 18th - 23th Feb. 2021 Birding in Patagonia - Tierra del Fuego and Torres Del Paine
DAY 1 - 10th 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 - 11th Feb: BIRDING FARELLONES AND VALLE NEVADO
Central Chile is classified as one of the four Mediterranean Ecoregions of the world , characterized by rainy and cold winters and very hot and dry summers. The isolation imposed by the high Andes mountains to the east, the Atacama Desert to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west have produced high endemism rates in both flora and fauna, deserving of a place on the list of 25 Global Biodiversity Hotspots.
On our first full day in the Santiago area we will be exploring the Mediterranean scrub of the foothills and alpine areas of the Andes Mountains, doing various stops at different altitudes. We’ll be looking for high altitude specialists like Greater Yellow finch, Creamy-rumped Miner and White-sided Hillstar among other special Andean birds. At our picnic spot, we usually have Andean Condor soaring above, and Rufous-banded Miner, Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch and Greater Yellow-finch at close distances looking for some leftover crumbs from our lunch. We’ll also be on the lookout for Variable Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle and Mountain Caracara.
In the foothills we’ll be looking for 6 endemics: Chilean Tinamou, Moustached Turca, White-throated and Dusky Tapaculos, Crag Chilia and Dusky-tailed Canastero.
Today will be a great introduction to the birds of Central Chile, from common widespread species to local specialties. Climbing to higher elevations that are easily accessible from Santiago also offers stunning mountain landscapes. In the afternoon return to hotel, night in Santiago.
DAY 3 - 12th Feb: FULL DAY ON THE PACIFIC COAST
Leaving early from Santiago we will head towards the coastal city of San Antonio. Just south of the city we will visit a recently created reserve on the Maipo river estuary. This reserve protects one of the most important wetlands in central Chile, where we’ll be able to enjoy large groups of shorebirds, gulls, Black Skimmers, terns, pelicans.
The reedbeds at the reserve entrance are a great place to see the stunning, but skulking, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird, as well as Yellow-winged Blackbird and Sedge Wren.
After scanning the masses of migrant shorebirds on the mudflats in search of potential rarities we will pay some more attention to the passerines and look for the rare Ticking Doradito (a recent split from the Warbling Doradito), Spectacled Tyrant, Correndera Pipit and the Chilean endemics Dusky Tapaculo and Dusky-tailed Canastero.
Driving north along the coast we will have lunch at a seaside restaurant on the rocky shoreline. This location is also a great spot to find another Chilean endemic, the Chilean Seaside Cinclodes.
In the afternoon we will visit more protected wetlands, looking for Spot-flanked Gallinule, three coot species, Black-necked and Coscoroba Swan, Plumbeous Rail, Black-headed Duck and maybe even the secretive Stripe-backed Bittern.
We will also stop near a Peruvian Pelican colony where a few Humboldt Penguins are also breeding. Night in Valparaiso.
DAY 4 - 13th Feb: PELAGIC TRIP OFF VALPARAISO AND COASTAL BIRDING
We’ll leave the port just before sunrise and navigate around 20 km (12 miles) out towards the Humboldt Current; the round trip usually lasts roughly 6 hours. Chile has more than 4,000 kilometers of coastline and is considered as one of the best places in the world to do pelagic trips. This huge rise of nutrients brought by the current notably favors the observation of marine fauna. Exceptional trips have produced roughly 60(!) species of seabirds. With over half a dozen species of albatrosses, and multiple species of petrels, shearwaters, terns, diving-petrels, cormorants, gulls and terns.
Albatrosses are definitely the star of the show. Likely species include Salvin’s, Black-browed, Northern and Southern Royal, and Buller’s and Chatham are seen more infrequently. Other noteworthy tubenoses we can see are Masatierra, Juan Fernandez, White-chinned and Westland Petrels, Peruvian Diving-Petrel, Northern Giant Petrels, and Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (local subspecies is Fuegian). To round off the seabird lists we can also find Red Phalaropes, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, Kelp Gull and South American Tern.
After our pelagic trip and a delicious lunch, we will continue birdwatching along the coast. This time north of Valparaiso to look for the scarce and elusive Stripe-backed Bittern and any other species we might have missed the day before. Return to Santiago. Night in Santiago.
DAY 5 - 14th Feb: THE YESO VALLEY AND HIGH ANDES
The Yeso Valley is well known for being one of the most accessible places to see the sought-after Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. This beautiful and enigmatic mountain shorebird breeds in the high elevation bogs of the valley and will be our main target for the day. Members of Albatross Birding are proud to have led a research project on the species for many years, and thus are very knowledgeable of their habits and have a great track record for finding it.
In addition to the Sandpiper-Plover there are many other interesting species we will be stopping to look for on our way to higher elevations. Among them are the endemics Crag Chilia and Moustached Turca; Torrent Ducks in fast-moving rivers, and many Andean specialties like White-sided Hillstar, Andean Goose, Scale-throated Earthcreeper, Black-fronted and White-browed Ground-Tyrants, Greater Yellow-finch, Yellow-rumped Siskin, Andean Condors and Mountain Caracara. Reaching higher elevations we will also be able to see some more rare and localized species like Creamy-rumped Miner and Grey-breasted Seedsnipe.
The scenery here is simply superb and some of the most spectacular in Central Chile. High mountains, turquoise lakes, hanging glaciers and white-water rivers combine to make a magnificent spectacle. We’ll return to Santiago during the afternoon. Night in Santiago.
DAY 6 - 15th Feb: COLBÚN LAKE AND VILCHES
Today we’ll start driving south on our way to Talca and on towards Colbún Lake. Still in drier Mediterranean habitat our main targets will be the spectacularly colorful and very noisy Burrowing Parakeet, and the beautiful Spectacled Duck. Upon arriving at the lake we will scan for a number of other interesting ducks and grebe species and a chance to see Spectacled Tyrant and Andean Gull. We’ll then make a short trip north of the lake and spend the rest of the afternoon and the next day in the magnificent Altos de Lircay National Reserve. At dusk we’ll look for the elusive Rufous-Legged Owl and spend the night in a quiet and comfortable forest lodge in Vilches, just outside the reserve.
DAY 7 - 16th Feb: ALTOS DE LIRCAY NATIONAL RESERVE
Located at the southern limit of the Mediterranean Region, this park is in the ecotone (transition area between two biomes) between the Temperate Rainforest and the Mediterranean Ecoregion. Here we’ll see a mix of the bird communities characteristic of the more scrubby and dry Mediterranean habitat and the lush temperate Nothofagus forests. In Altos de Lircay, we’ll encounter our first forest specialists. While walking along forest trails participants will be amazed by the spectacular mature Nothofagus trees, as well as ferns, mosses and forest bird species that are unique to the southern cone of South America. Additionally, in this area we’ll also find interesting geological rarities.
We’ll spend a full day in Altos de Lircay exploring the extensive forest. We’ll be carefully listening for the nasal scolding of Chile’s least known Tapaculo, the Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet. We’ll also be looking for more Nothofagus forest’s specialties such as Austral Parakeet (the world’s most southerly distributed parrot species), Chucao Tapaculo with its explosive voice, Magellanic Tapaculo and the colorful Patagonian Sierra-Finch. This will be our first opportunity for seeing the truly spectacular Magellanic Woodpecker, and there is a chance to spot the rare and difficult-to-find Chilean and White-Throated Hawks. In the afternoon we’ll return to our accommodation at Hostería de Vilches.
DAY 8 - 17th Feb: TEMUCO AND CERRO ÑIELOL NATIONAL MONUMENT
After breakfast at our hostería we’ll head south towards Temuco, the capital city of the Araucanía Region. On our way we’ll stop by some meadowy agricultural areas to look for Screaming Cowbird, Hellmayr’s Pipit and Chilean Tinamou. By the time we reach Temuco the Mediterranean habitat will have been left behind completely and been replaced by lush Temperate Rain Forest.
Once in Temuco participants will visit the Cerro Ñielol Natural Monument, where we can find dense rainforest understory species, such as Black-throated Huet-Huet, Des Mur’s Wiretail, Chucao Tapaculo, Ochre–Flanked Tapaculo, and the near endemic Slender-billed Parakeet. The forests in the area are also a good spot to spot the uncommon Rufous-Tailed Hawk. Night in Temuco.
DAY 9 - 18th Feb: ARAUCARIA FOREST
In the morning we will head to higher altitude mixed Nothofagus and Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle Trees) forests surrounded by stunning mountainous landscapes. Here we will look for the newly split Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper, Magellanic Tapaculo, Austral Parakeet, Striped Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, White-throated Treerunner and other forest species. Today will be equals parts enjoyment of fantastic forest birds as of the magical forests. The silhouettes of Araucarias on the hillside and the snow-capped volcanoes on the horizon give a feeling of being in the midst of a truly prehistoric forest. After a full day of birding we will drive to Temuco’s airport for the short evening flight back to Santiago.