Magellanic Penguin Colony and Birding the Steppe


Magdalena Island, located north of Punta Arenas in the Strait of Magellan, is the second largest breeding colony of Magellanic Penguin. From Punta Arenas we’ll board a speedboat and spend the morning exploring the colony and surrounding waters to look for Imperial and Magellanic (Rock) Cormorant, Southern Giant Petrel and the scarce Magellanic Diving-Petrel.

The boat has capacity for 40 people and takes roughly one hour to reach the island. Over 60.000 pairs nest at this colony, with breeding taking place between October and March. Thereafter the penguins migrate up north to spend the austral winter. On the island we can also see South American Tern, Magellanic (Rock) Cormorant, Rufous-chested Dottorel, Chilean Skua, Magellanic Oystercatchers and more.

Back on the mainland we’ll have a nice picnic lunch and then drive into the flatness of the Patagonian grasslands for the rest of the day. Driving north-east we’ll immerse ourselves in the endless steppe. Although it may look devoid of life at first site, closer inspection will reveal a multitude of life. The first jolts of movement will likely be of Lesser (Darwin’s) Rhea, running frantically and flashing their wings. Other large birds commonly seen are Upland Goose, Ashy-headed Goose, Black-faced Ibis, Andean Condor, Chilean Flamingo and a variety of waterfowl, including Crested Duck, Chiloe Wigeon, Yellow-billed Teal and Yellow-billed Pintail. Among the grasses we may also flush Common and Short-billed Miner, Patagonian Yellow-Finch, and Long-tailed Meadowlark.

This is a flexible itinerary, ideal for people with limited time in Punta Arenas.

If you have more time, this tour can easily be extended to a more comprehensive tour of Patagonian birds

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  • Vacation Style Holiday Type
  • Activity Level Wildlife Photography

Private trips can be organized on any day from October to March.



  • Countless Magellanic Penguins
  • The vast steppe and its specialist species



  • Relaxed pace; short easy walks


 Ease of Birding

  • Most species show easily


  • Transport (1-3 SUV, 4-6 minivan)
  • Pick up/drop off at your hotel in Punta Arenas/port
  • English speaking guide with birding equipment
  • Snack (water, fruit, cereal bar)
  • Picnic
  • Park entrance fee
  • eBird checklists for the day’s stops

    Starting time: pick-up at your hotel in Punta Arenas around 6:30 a.m. Note this time may vary depending on time of sunrise.

    See map insert for an overview of the route and main hotspots visited during the tour.

    Ending time: drop-off at your hotel in Punta Arenas around 5:30 p.m.