11-day trip from Santiago de Chile | $4,998 p.p. | Group size: 4-8
6-day Northern Chile pre-extension | 6-day Southern Patagonia post-extension
Birding Chile journey is a Quest for the endemics and specialties of the Heart of Chile. We will bird throughout the most scenic areas of the country, visiting a wide range of habitats, including mountain areas, rocky seashores, oceanic waters, scrubby slopes, broad-leaf woodlands, temperate and sub-Antarctic forests and wind-swept steppes and islands. Discover the birdlife of Chile in the hands of a Chilean-based company and the expertise and field skills of highly experienced local guides.
Birding Chile Journey is an exciting birdwatching journey aimed to discover the endemics and specialties of this 3,000-mile long and narrow biogeographical island and explore and enjoy its marvelous landscapes, excellent infrastructure, great cuisine and fabulous wines. Chile is a land of huge contrasts, truly a geographic extravaganza. On this birding adventure we will explore Chile’s incredibly diverse habitats and marvel at some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth, while enjoying top-class hotels, cuisine and wines. From Mediterranean scrub to lush rainforests and coastal marshes, from the windswept steppes of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia, to the impressive lakes and volcanoes of south-central Chile, our search for the avian specialties of this long and narrow country will take us from the high Andes to the cold and productive waters of the Humboldt Current in the Pacific. We will find many interesting species, some of them with very restricted distributional ranges and some endemic to the country.
• Four (4) pelagic trips and 6 ferry rides offering great opportunities for pelagic specialties of the eastern Pacific and Southern Ocean.
• The magnificent Andean Condor and Magellanic Woodpecker and stunning waders including Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, Magellanic Plover, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Rufous-chested Dotterel and Two-banded Plover.
• Up to nine endemic species including Slender-billed Parakeet, Crag Chilia, Moustached Turca and White-throated Tapaculo. We will also search for the quasi-endemic Chestnut-throated Huet-huet.
• A spectacular system of national parks and nature reserves protecting some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
After our arrival, we will move a short distance north of Chile’s capital to visit some marshes around the locality of Batuco. Our targets here will be Cocoi Heron, Rosy-billed Pochard, White-cheeked Pintail and South American Painted Snipe. The Coastal Range separates Chile’s central valley from the Pacific coast and we will drive across it through La Dormida Pass. The highest peak around, Mount La Campana (The Bell), dominates the entire scene; this area receives enough moisture from the ocean to sustain broad-leaf forests and a xeric shrub community named matorral (Chile’s equivalent to California’s chaparral). Overnight Viña del Mar (L,D)(Guide).
Today we will make an unforgettable visit to the cold and productive waters of the Humboldt Current, considered one of the world’s finest pelagic birding destinations. Here, we should see a great variety of tubenoses including up to six albatross species: Black-browed, Salvin’s, Buller’s, Chatham, Wandering (Antipodean) and both Northern and Southern Royal albatrosses. We also hope to find Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, Pintado, Masatierra, White-chinned and Westland Petrels, Pink-footed, Buller’s and Sooty Shearwaters, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, and Peruvian Diving Petrel. Other seabirds we may encounter include Red Phalarope, Sabine’s Gull and Chilean Skua. There are good chances of seeing cetaceans although they are always difficult to predict; on recent trips we have recorded Dusky Dolphin, Southern Right Whale Dolphin, and Orca! In the afternoon, we will head to the productive rocky coast north of Valparaiso. We have planned a visit to a protected breeding colony of the endangered Humboldt Penguin; the endemic Seaside Cinclodes and the delightful Marine Otter are both possible here as well. Before ending the day, will stop in a coastal marsh to see a variety of waterfowl including Red Shoveler, Yellow-billed Pintail, Speckled Teal and Chiloe Wigeon, all three lowland coot species (Red-gartered, White-winged and Red-fronted), Spot-flanked Gallinule and Plumbeous Rail, which is surprisingly quite easy to spot as it often walks in the open. Overnight Viña del Mar (B,L,D)(Guide).
During the morning we will bird at La Campana National Park, where we will be looking for an interesting array of passerines, all endemic to Chile: Dusky-tailed Canastero, Moustached Turca, Dusky Tapaculo and White-throated Tapaculo. We are also likely to encounter the remarkable Giant Hummingbird, Striped Woodpecker, Austral Pygmy Owl and Chilean Pigeon. During the afternoon we will search in the vicinity of Farellones for several Andean species including Mountain Caracara, White-sided Hillstar, Rufous-banded and Creamy-rumped Miners, Cinereous, Black-fronted, White-browed and Rufous-naped Ground-tyrants plus Greater Yellow-Finch, Grey-hooded and Band-tailed Sierra-Finch. We will also look for the endemic Chilean Tinamou and Chilean Mockingbird and we might have the chance of seeing Red-backed (Variable) Hawk and Aplomado Falcon. Overnight Santiago (B,L,D)(Guide).
We will have a full day to explore the surroundings of El Yeso reservoir in the Andean foothills, where will hopefully be rewarded with sightings of the endemic Crag Chilia plus our first Andean Condors, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, and several other Andean specialities such as Black-winged Ground Dove, Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant and Yellow-rumped Siskin. Careful scanning of grasslands and streams may produce the stunning Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, our main target species for the day. El Yeso valley is a lovely mountain spot where we will also have good chances for Mountain Parakeet flocks. During the afternoon we will visit another valley, Baños Morales. This location offers great chances for several other specialties including Mountain Caracara, White-sided Hillstar, Rufous-banded and Creamy-rumped Miners, Cinereous, Black-fronted, White-browed and Rufous-naped Ground Tyrants plus Greater Yellow Finch and Grey-hooded and Band-tailed Sierra Finches. Overnight Santiago (B,L,D)(Guide).
This morning we will explore the productive Maipo river mouth and surrounding coastal wetlands, including El Peral Reserve. Our target birds here will be the cryptic-colored Stripe-backed Bittern, the brood-parasitic Black-headed Duck and the striking Many-colored Rush Tyrant; we will also have a chance to find the scarce and local Ticking Doradito. We will continue driving south along the central valley and the Panamerican Highway in direction to Talca (35°S). The forested rural locality of Vilches will be our base for two nights. Rufous-legged Owl usually roosts in the woodlands behind the lodge, a very good reason for a short owling night excursion. Overnight Vilches (B,L,D)(Guide).
At dawn, we will visit the temperate southern beech forests of Altos de Lircay Nature Reserve to seek for several Patagonian woodland specialties. The Nothofagus forests are the home for an interesting array of species, including the rare Rufous-tailed and White-throated Hawks, Austral Parakeet, Thorn-tailed Rayadito and White-throated Treerunner. We will keep searching in the undergrowth bamboo thickets for the quasi-endemic Chestnut-throated Huet-huet and Magellanic Tapaculo, our main target birds here. Along the road we might see the largest of the tyrant flycatchers, the Great Shrike-Tyrant, which usually perches on wires looking for large insects and even small birds and rodents! We will head to the mountains once more to briefly visit Lake Colbún where our search will focus on the threatened local race of Burrowing Parakeet, which usually congregates in noisy flocks. Overnight Vilches (B,L,D)(Guide).
Today we will be driving along the Pan-American Highway southwards to the city of Temuco, gateway of northern Patagonia. We will visit Cerro Ñielol, a very interesting and well preserved urban nature forest where we will try to find the rare Rufous-tailed Hawk, Black-throated Huet-huet and Des Murs’s Wiretail. Overnight Temuco (B,L,D)(Guide).
During the morning we will visit the slopes of the Llaima Volcano located east of Temuco, in the gorgeous Conguillio National Park. This protected area offers spectacular vistas and remarkable vegetation, including stands of the peculiar Chilean Pine (also known as Araucaria or Monkey-puzzle tree). These woodlands are reminiscent to pre-historic landscapes and we will have good chances of seeing the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet and Magellanic Woodpecker together with a variety of Patagonian songbirds such as Des Murs’s Wiretail, Fire-eyed Diucon, Patagonian Tyrant, Austral Blackbird and Black-chinned Siskin. The soils of the forests and volcano slopes show an attractive array of wildflowers including several species of ground orchids, anemones, geraniums and lady slippers. Overnight Temuco (B,L,D)(Guide).
We will drive towards Puerto Montt (41°S) and as we head south in clear skies we will admire a line of volcanos which form part of the section of the Andes; the most striking is no doubt Volcano ‘Osorno‘ and its almost perfect cone-shaped profile. The city of Puerto Montt is located at the very end of Chile’s central valley. The topography south of here starts to break out, forming the maze of archipelagos and channels known as the Patagonian Fjords. The grasslands, orchards and agricultural fields are ideal habitat for Black-faced Ibis, Chimango Caracara, Southern Lapwing, Chilean Flicker, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, Common Diuca Finch and Grassland Yellow Finch. Today we explore the lush temperate rainforest of Alerce Andino National Park, located just one hour south of Puerto Montt. Here we will search for other Patagonian rainforest specialties including Chilean Hawk, Green-backed Firecrown, the skulking Black-throated Huet-huet, Ochre-flanked Tapaculo and White-crested Elaenia. Later, on route back to Puerto Montt, we will scan the intertidal mudflats in search of wintering flocks of Nearctic visitors such as Hudsonian Godwit, Red Knot and Sanderling; other common coastal birds include the stocky Flightless Steamer Duck, Black-necked Swan, American Oystercatcher, Brown-hooded Gull and the local Snowy-crowned (Trudeau’s) Tern. Overnight Puerto Montt (B,L,D)(Guide).
We drive south to the ferry across the Chacao Channel. This short 30-minute journey offers great marine wildlife viewing opportunities and we are likely to see pods of Peale’s Dolphin, groups of South American Sea Lion and a great array of seabirds including Southern Giant Petrel, Sooty and Pink-footed shearwaters, Imperial and Red-legged cormorants, Peruvian Pelican and South American Tern. Once in the island we’ll take a scenic drive to the little fishermen’s cove of Puñihuil. Here we will circumnavigate the islets to see one of the few mixed breeding colonies of Humboldt and Magellanic penguins. Marine Otter, Magellanic Cormorant, Kelp Goose and Flightless Steamer Duck are all usually found here, too. If you are interested to spend more time at sea to have more opportunities for wildlife, we can arrange for a highly recommendable 3-4 hour boat trip to Metalqui Island. Pygmy Blue Whales, one of the races of the world’s largest living animal, are often seen from December until March; we also have other great pelagic prospects such as the poorly-known Subantarctic Shearwater, which probably nests in this rugged, densely forested coastline. Overnight Puerto Montt (B,L,D)(Guide)
Early morning with the first light of the day, we will take a boat trip into the Reloncavi Sound to look for seabirds, particularly the recently discovered Pincoya Storm Petrel, a new species to science, overlooked during many years because of its strong similarities to sympatric Wilson’s Storm Petrels. The range of this species seems to be very local and restricted to the nearby waters south of Puerto Montt and between Chiloé Island and the Continent. (B,L)(Guide).
Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Crag Chilia
Far South Expeditions is one of the most important nature tour operation in Chile. Our company, based in Punta Arenas, the capital city of Chilean Patagonia, was founded by Claudio F. Vidal and Enrique Couve in 1997, and since then we have specialized in offering high-quality birding, wildlife and nature expeditions for small groups and individuals.