Birdwatching in Chile Tour from the North to the South
This programme contains 18 days of birding adventures and enables participants to see all the main species and landscape highlights of one of the world´s most beautiful countries. You will experience mountains, glacier, volcanoes, the world´s highest lake, Pacific Ocean, driest desert and spectacular Torres Del Paine. Birds vary as sceneries do, you will see from Albatross, Condor, Southernmost Parrot, Hummingbird species, Chilean and Southern Cone endemics, Many-Coloured Rush Tyrant, Burrowing Parakeet and Diademed Sandpiper-Plover.
Alternative Tour Name: ALL CHILE: North to South, the most complete tour!!
Early in the morning we will fly from Santiago to the city of Arica which is right next to the Peruvian border. This first portion or northern extreme of Chile is known as the “Big North” containing the vast Atacama Desert and the High Andean steppes of the Altiplano.
Although located in the driest desert on earth we will start birding in Arica´s surroundings. This is only possible because of the existence of rivers and small water courses fed by runoff from the High Andes allowing the existence of fertile valleys, well-cultivated flood plains that form rich oasis in this harsh environment.
Our most important target species will be hummingbirds (Trochilidae): Sturdy Oasis Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail and the critically endangered Chilean Woodstar (world’s population estimated at 350 individuals) (The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017). In order to look for this scarce and stunning little bird it will be necessary to visit Camarones Valley in southern Arica where an important part of the population of Chilean Woodstar occurs.
In this same valley participants will be able to sight other unique birds species like Pied-crested Tit-Tytant, Tamarugo Conebill and the new species of bird described for Chile Raimondi’s Yellow-Finch.
After lunch, birding will take place along the coastline at the estuary of one of the most important rivers in the region, Lluta River. The main target species here will be shorebirds, hopefully Killdeer, Snowy Plover, American and Blackish Oystercatchers, Surfbird, Willet and a beautiful species selection of Gulls and Terns.
This day´s schedule starts with an enjoyable 6 hours pelagic trip. Sailing into the Humboldt Current will allow visitors to spot many sub-Antarctic species of seabirds and warm water Petrels.
During navigation it is possible to find Salvin's, Buller's and Black-Browed Albatross, Northern Giant-Petrel, White-Chinned and Westland Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Elliott´s Storm-Petrel, Markham's Storm-Petrel, Peruvian Diving Petrel, Humboldt Penguin, Chilean Skua and Swallow-tailed Gull. Inshore species should include Red-Legged and Guanay Cormorants, the splendid Inca Tern, Peruvian Boobies and Peruvian Pelican.
A tasty lunch at a restaurant on the beach will be waiting for the group after the pelagic trip. Later, with birding stops on the way, the plan considers heading to the arable areas outside Arica and then to the town of Putre. During this ride we will be searching for some specialties like the impressive Peruvian Thick-knee, Pacific Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, Groove-Billed Ani, Burrowing Owl, Andean Swift, Peruvian Elaenia (the form here of White-Crested Elaenia), Vermilion Flycatcher, local race of Bran-Coloured Flycatcher (a strong candidate for a future split), Cinereous Conebill, Chestnut-Throated Seedeater, Blue-Black Grassquit, Slender-Billed Finch and Peruvian Meadowlark and much more.
After this intensive birding day we will spend the night in the beautiful town of Putre. With an altitude of 3.500 m a.s.l. (11.483 ft) Putre will be the gateway for next day’s adventures at the high elevation Andean ecosystems.
In the heart of the Altiplano of the region of Arica-Parinacota and about 50 kilometers away from Putre it is possible to find Lauca National Park a spot of outstanding natural beauty. It was declared part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) in 1981. The towering snow-capped volcanoes of Pomerape and Parinacota soar to over 6.300 m a.s.l. (11.811 ft) and they reflect perfectly in the deep blue water of Chungara and Cotacotani Lakes, both, important attractions of the park. However, the highlight of this excursion is the dazzling Chungara Lake one of the highest altitude lakes in the world. It delights visitors with its impressive landscape and its hordes of amazing and unique species of birds.
Some of the birds present in this habitat are; Andean Grebe (the form here of Silvery Grebe), Puna Teal and Giant Coot along with a variety of species of ducks and Andean Gulls. While driving up to the lakes we will search in the high altitude bogs for the stunning and difficult to find Diademed Sandpiper Plover. Other target birds for this area are; Puna Rhea, Andean Flicker, White-Winged Cinclodes, Black Siskin, Puna Tinamou, Puna Ibis, Andean Goose, Mountain Caracara, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Andean Avocet, Andean Gull, Puna Miner, Puna and White Fronted Ground-Tyrants, Andean Negrito, White-Winged Diuca-Finch and White-Throated Sierra-Finch. We will also be looking for Flamingos, and with some luck we will be able to spot all three of its species: Chilean, Andean and Puna. At the end of an excellent and adventurous day we return to our lodge in Putre.
We will spend the morning around the andean village and we will be looking for Bare-Faced Ground-Dove, White-Throated Earthcreeper, Yellow-Billed Tit Tyrant, Canyon and Dark-Winged Canastero, Blue-and-Yellow Tanager, Cream-Winged and White-Winged Cinclodes, Streaked Tit-Spinetail, D'Orbigny's and White-Browed Chat-Tyrants, Chiguanco Thrush, Black-Throated Flower-Piercer, Golden- Billed Saltator, Black-Hooded and Ash-Breasted Sierra-Finches along with Greenish Yellow-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater and maybe Ornate Tinamou and Spot-winged Pigeon. We will then drive slowly down the windy mountain road back to Arica looking for any birds we may have missed on the way to Putre. We will then return to our hotel in Arica.
In the early morning of this day we will visit for the last time the Luta river estuary. After this we will take our flight back to Santiago.
Night in Santiago.
Like only four other places in the world, all central part of Chile has been classified as a Mediterranean Region because it has Mediterranean Climate (rainy and cold winters and very hot and dry summers). Due to the high rates of biodiversity and endemism the Mediterranean region of Chile has been classified as one of the 25 Hot Spots in the world with priority on its conservation.
We will take a morning drive to Central Andes range to look for high altitude specialists like Greater Yellow finch, Rufous-Banded and Creamy-Rumped Miners and White-Sided Hillstar among other special Andean birds. Massive Andean Condors should be above and sometimes below us. We are hoping to see Variable Hawk, Black-Chested Buzzard Eagle and Mountain Caracara. We will also be birding in lower altitudes, looking for 5 endemics: Chilean Tinamou, Moustached Turca, White-Throated and Dusky Tapaculos, Crag Chilia and Dusky-Tailed Canastero.
This will be a great birding day with fantastic views of the scenery and spectacular landscapes. In the afternoon return to hotel, night in Santiago.
This day we will start very early to head west towards the central coast. This one and a half hour trip will give participants the opportunity to visit some of the most interesting lowland wetlands. Among them the Maipo river estuary, Cartagena and El Peral lagoons are the best spots to observe waterfowl species.
When visiting these wetlands participants should see a wide variety of bird species. Some of them include Black-necked and Coscoroba Swans, three species of Coots, Spot-Flanked Gallinule, Plumbeous Rail, Lake Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Chiloe Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, Great Grebe, Silvery Grebe, White-tufted Grebe, Many-Colored Rush-Tyrant, Wren-Like Rushbird and many others. At the Maipo estuary we will also be looking for a variety of Gulls, Black Skimmers and some species of Terns, including the rare Snowy-Crowned Tern. It will be likely to spot the beautiful White-tailed Kite and a good number of other shore and marsh birds. Within the reeds of marshes participants will get a chance to see the Ticking Doradito and the noisy little endemic Dusky Tapaculo. Leaving the estuary we will drive gradually towards north along the coast. We will stop for lunch in a restaurant, which is next to the sea and is a great place to look for the endemic Seaside Cinclodes. Along our way back to Valparaiso there will be some other interesting birding sites. Night in Valparaíso.
Early in the morning we will sail out of the port and go around 19 km (12 miles) out into the ocean. We will have the chance to see several species of Albatrosses, including Salvin's, Black-browed, Buller's, Northern and Southern Royal and Chatham. Tubenoses are main feature of this pelagic trip and hopefully we will spot Masatierra, Juan Fernandez, White-chinned and Westland Petrels, Peruvian Diving-Petrel, Northern Giant Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrel (local subspecies is Fuegian), 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 towards to the 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.
In order to avoid the morning rush hour traffic this day we will leave the hotel very early. In this opportunity, we will go towards the south east of Santiago, heading to the Andes Mountain Range to the very scenic Maipo river valley from where we will take the road to El Yeso Reservoir situated in a superb mountainous landscape 2.500 m above sea level (8.202 ft) . During the trip participants will enjoy the landscape as we make strategic stops to look for endemic bird species: the beautiful and scarce Crag Chilia and the fast running Moustached Turca.
As arriving in the reservoir we will continue driving beyond until reaching an area with high altitude bogs. This is Chile´s favorite site and the perfect habitat to find one famous target bird; the rare and charismatic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover.
We will see a variety of Sierra-Finches and Furnarids here; the latter includes Grey-Flanked Cinclodes, Rufous-Banded Miner, Creamy-Rumped Miner and Scale-Throated Earthcreeper. Ground-Tyrants are everywhere, including White-Browed, Ochre-Naped, Black-Fronted, Cinereous and Spot-Billed. We will also look for Torrent Ducks, which are regular on the streams. One of the hummers that we will be looking for is White-Sided Hillstar. We also will have a chance to spot Black-Billed Shrike-Tyrants and Grey-breasted Seedsnipe. Return to Santiago, night in Santiago.
We will drive towards the south to get to Talca and then continue our trip to Colbún Lake. Still in the Mediterranean Region our main targets will be the large, spectacularly colourful and very noisy Burrowing Parakeet and beautiful Spectacled Duck. Hopefully we will also find a good number of other interesting ducks and grebe species and an opportunity to see Spectacled Tyrant and Andean Gull. We will then make a short trip to the north to spend the rest of the day and the next in the magnificent Altos de Lircay National Park. At dusk we will look for the hard to see Rufous-Legged Owl before spending the night in a quiet and comfortable forest lodge in Vilches.
Located in the southern border of the Mediterranean Region, this park is in the ecotone (transition area between two biomes) between the Temperate Rain Forest and the Mediterranean Region. Usually an ecotone appear on the ground as a gradual blending of the two communities or ecosystems. Because of this, in Altos de Lircay it is possible to observe the occurrence of species of Nothofagus forest. While walking along trails participants will be amazed with the spectacular mature Nothofagus trees as well as ferns, mosses and forest bird species that are unique to the southern cone of Southamerica. There are also interesting geological rarities.
We will spend full day in Altos de Lircay to explore the extensive forest. We will be looking for the nasal scolding of Chile's least known Tapaculos and Chestnut-Throated Huet-Huet. We will also be looking for more Nothofagus forest’s specialties such as Austral Parakeet (the world's most southerly parrot species), Chucao Tapaculo with its explosive voice, Magellanic Tapaculo and the colourful Patagonian Sierra-Finch. This will be our first opportunity to see the truly spectacular Magellanic Woodpecker, and there is a chance to spot rare and difficult to find Chilean and White-Throated Hawks. After a long day we will return to Vilches
After having breakfast at “Hosteria de Vilches” we will travel towards to the South to spend the night in the city of Temuco the Capital of the Araucanía district. Here the Mediterranean Region will have disappeared completely and been replaced by the Temperate Rain Forest.
In the city of Temuco participants will visit Cerro Ñielol Natural Monument where it is possible to spot Black-throated Huet-Huet, the uncommon Rufous-Tailed Hawk, Des Mur's Wiretail, Chucao Tapaculo, the near endemic Slender-billed Parakeet and Ochre-Flanked Tapaculo. Night in Temuco.
In the morning we will head to higher altitude Nothofagus and Araucaria forest with fabulous mountainous landscape views. Here we will look for the new split Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper, along with Magellanic Tapaculo, Austral Parakeet, Striped Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, White-Throated Treerunner and other forest species. After a full day of birding we will drive to Temuco’s airport for the short evening flight back to Santiago.
We will catch the first flight of the day to the very far south city of Chile, Punta Arenas. We will be birding on the coast near the city, and looking for Flying and Flightless Steamer-Ducks, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Imperial Cormorant, Upland Goose, Chilean Skua along with the splendid Dolphin Gull. Tiny Austral Negrito is sure to be found as well. In the afternoon, we will drive to the Estancia San Juan, where we will see the very rare Ruddy Headed Goose breeds. We will look also for Kelp Goose, and end our trip in Punta Arenas.
We will take the early morning ferry crossing (2.5 hrs) to Porvenir, which is main town in the North-West sector 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 will spend the afternoon birding in visiting Laguna Verde and Laguna Santa Maria. Bird species the next couple of days will be Ashy-Headed and Upland Goose, Two- Banded Plover, Magellanic Plover, Chilean Skua, Short-Billed Miner, Tawny-Throated Dotterels, Flightless Steamer-Duck, Black-necked Swan and Crested Duck.
After breakfast we will drive to Bahia Inútil to see a colony of magnificent King Penguins. In the afternoon we will be looking for Rufous-Chested Dotterel, Chocolate-Vented Tyrant and Cinnamon-Bellied Ground-Tyrant before returning to our lodge in Cerro Sombrero.
After leaving Tierra del Fuego we will arrive in the extreme far south of Chile. In this area the Temparate Rain Forest has disappeared and the Patagonian Steppe dominates the landscape.
We will bird our way to North-East of the Tierra del Fuego island, where we will take our ferry to mainland (Punta Delgada). This is a shorter ferry crossing with the great chance of seeing Commerson´s Dolphin, Magellanic Diving-Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel and White-Chinned Petrel, and other seabirds. Back on the mainland we will make a stop at Buque Quemado because there is a great chance of seeing variety of waterfowl, including Silver Teal, Rosy-billed Pochard, Chiloe Wigeon, White-cheeked Pintail, Coscoroba Swan, and variety of shorebirds. We will continue our trip to Puerto Natales and will look for Darwin's Rhea, Austral Canastero, Chocolate-Vented Tyrant, Band-Tailed Earthcreeper, Common Miner Patagonian Yellow-Finch and White-bridled Finch. We will spend the night in our hotel in Puerto Natales.
After leaving Early in the morning we will head to the place that everybody was expecting, the incomparable and gorgeous Torres Del Paine National Park. Probably, of the entire expedition, this will be the most unforgettable scenic highlight. While the park is most famous for its astonishing scenery, it is also rich in bird and mammal life. We will be looking for Dark-Faced Ground- Tyrant, Cinnamon-Bellied Ground-Tyrant, White-Throated Caracara and Patagonian Mockingbird. We will 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. Cinereous Harriers are fairly common.
Guanaco, Patagonian Skunk and Gray Fox are some mammals we may also see. This is the best spot in Chile for Puma watching but daytime sightings are extremely rare. Leaving the Park we will take the road to Sierra Baguales looking for Band-Tailed Earthcreeper, Patagonian and the pretty Yellow Bridled Finch and a variety of Ground-Tyrants. As well as White-Throated Caracara and the very rare Gray-Bellied Shrike-Tyrant we would hope for good views of Andean Condor before heading back to spend the night in Puerto Natales.
Sadly this is the last day of our expedition. We will drive back to Punta Arena’s airport where we will take our flight back to Santiago and connecting international flights or one for an extension trip.
Pied-crested Tit-Tytant, Tamarugo Conebill, hummingbirds, Salvin’s, Buller’s and Black-Browed Albatross, Northern Giant-Petrel, White-Chinned and Westland Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Elliott´s Storm-Petrel, Markham’s Storm-Petrel, Peruvian Diving Petrel, Humboldt Penguin, Chilean Skua, Swallow-tailed Gull, Peruvian Thick-knee, Pacific Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, Groove-Billed Ani, Burrowing Owl, Andean Swift, Peruvian Elaenia, Cinereous Conebill, Chestnut-Throated Seedeater, Blue-Black Grassquit, Slender-Billed Finch,Peruvian Meadowlark, Puna Rhea, Andean Flicker, White-Winged Cinclodes, Black Siskin, Puna Tinamou, Puna Ibis, Andean Goose, Mountain Caracara, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Andean Avocet, Andean Gull, Puna Miner, Puna and White Fronted Ground-Tyrants, Andean Negrito, White-Winged Diuca-Finch, White-Throated Sierra-Finch
What is included?
- Accommodation as specified above (twin/double room)
- Meals as specified above
- Transport (all costs related with fees, ferries, gas etc.)
- Pick up/drop off at the hotel
- National park and private reserve entrance fees
- English speaking guide with spotting scope and playback equipment
- Bird list
- Tips for waiters
What is not included?
- Single room supplement
- Internal Flights (Santiago-Arica-Santiago,Temuco-Santiago,Santiago-Punta Arenas-Santiago. About 600-700 USD)
- Alcoholic drinks
- Á la carte dishes
- Extra transfers or assistance not included in the main tour (prices by request)
- International flight tickets
- Bank and visa fees
- Excess baggage charges
- Additional nights during the trip due to flight cancellations
- Insurance of any kind