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Chile Birding Adventure - 21 Days

Chile Birding Adventure
6998

A comprehensive 21-day quest for the endemics and specialities of Chile, a 4,000+ km long and narrow country in Southern South America. You will explore this pristine, scenic, tourist-friendly, modern and quiet nation from the Atacama, the world’s driest desert in the north, down to the mythical Tierra del Fuego Island in the south.

Day 1
Day 1 - Flight to Arica – Arica coastal areas

Our Chile birding adventure begins today!  You will be met by your leader at Santiago airport for a morning flight (c.2.5 hours) to Arica, at 18°S, Chile’s northernmost city. After our arrival, you will be transferred to our seaside hotel, a convenient base for our explorations of Arica’s coastal areas and the surrounding oasis valleys in search of a wealth of desert-loving bird species. Along the rocky coast south of Arica we expect to see a great array of seabirds including Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, the stunning Inca Tern plus Belcher’s and Grey Gulls. Other birds include Little Blue Heron, Willet, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Surfbird, Franklin’s Gull and Elegant Tern. Overnight Arica (Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 2
Day 2 - Azapa, Chaca and Camarones valleys – Lluta River mouth

Early in the morning, we will search the bird-rich valleys of Azapa and Chaca, the haunt of specialties such as Croaking Ground Dove, Chilean Woodstar, Peruvian Sheartail, Oasis Hummingbird, Tamarugo and Cinereous Conebills, Bran-coloured and Vermillion Flycatchers, Peruvian Meadowlark and the odd-looking Slender-billed Finch. We will extend our journey southwards along the coast to the Camarones Gorge where we expect to see Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant and Yellowish Pipit. In the afternoon we will comb the productive estuary of the Lluta River in order to study the various coots, egrets, shorebirds, terns and gulls gathered here to roost, usually in large numbers. Overnight Arica (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 3
Day 3 - Pelagic trip off Arica – Drive to Putre – Putre surroundings

Early morning we will take a boat trip off Arica to continue our search for the endemic seabirds of the Humboldt Current. We will look for Peruvian Diving Petrel and we may also find Elliot’s and Markham’s Storm Petrels. The delightful Inca Tern will be a common sight around the harbour plus Common and South American Terns. The endangered and local Peruvian Tern is another potential species for the morning. Later we will leave the coast and head towards the imposing slopes of the Andes, but first we will search around the lowland cultivated valleys for the intriguing Peruvian Thick-knee. Andean Swifts and Grayish Miners are possible species just before we reach the hyper-arid desert stretch, as we drive up to the highlands and into our destination, the mountain village of Putre. The picturesque Andean settlement of Putre is located at 3,400 meters above sea level (11,483 ft); this friendly Aymara village will be our base for the following two nights. The “pre-puna” semi-arid bushy slopes are very rich in species. Sparkling Violetear and Andean Hillstar, Creamy-breasted and Canyon Canasteros, Golden-billed Saltator and Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Hooded and Thick-billed Siskins are among the range of exciting birds that occur here.The gardens, cultivated terraces, eucalyptus groves and rocky walls surrounding Putre are the perfect habitat for Aplomado Falcon, Mountain Parakeet, Bare-faced Ground Dove, Spot-winged Pigeon, White-throated, Plain-breasted and Straight-billed Earthcreepers, White-winged Cinclodes, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Chiguanco Thrush, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Band-tailed Seedeater and Black-hooded, Mourning and Ash-breasted Sierra Finches. Overnight Putre (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 4
Day 4 - Putre – Polylepis forests and specialties

Today we will spend the morning hours birding around Putre for any missing birds and in the afternoon we will look for the bird specialties that are mostly restricted to the Polylepis forest environment. Polylepis is a group with the highest-living species of trees, and some habitat-restricted species like D’Orbigny’s Chat-Tyrant, Giant Conebill, Thick-billed Siskin and White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant. This is also where we can find the rare Andean Deer (locally known as Taruca), and we might be rewarded with haunting views of small herds scattered in the hillsides. Overnight Putre (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 5
Day 5 - Parinacota – Lauca National Park

The altiplano (or High Andean plateau) is truly a ‘mecca’ for wildlife and we will have the whole day to discover its many secrets and stunning landscapes. Established to protect the highest lake in the world, Lauca National Park (a World Biosphere Reserve) supports a great diversity of Andean (or ‘puna’) specialities. All three flamingo species – Chilean, James’s and Andean flamingos are often found here. On the other hand, the surrounding barren plains are a very good habitat for both Puna Rhea and Puna Tinamou. The high-altitude bogs, locally known as ‘bofedales’, hold a remarkable number of species (all endemic to this eco-region) including Puna Ibis, Andean Goose, Puna Teal, Giant and Andean Coots, Rufous-bellied and Gray-breasted Seedsnipes, Andean Avocet, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, and the exquisite Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. Lake Chungara will be the highest spot during our entire trip (4,500 meters / 14,763 ft) and is surrounded by awe-inspiring volcanos; this is a magnificent place and probably one of the most beautiful vistas that we will have during our whole Chilean Birding Adventure. Among the species, we will see here are Andean Gull, Andean Flicker, Cordilleran Canastero, Puna and White-fronted Ground Tyrants, Andean Negrito, White-winged Diuca Finch and Black Siskin. Overnight Putre (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 6
Day 6 - Surire – Drive to Arica

Early in the morning we drive to the impressive Surire saltpan basin, where we will look for high-altitude specialties like Andean Swallow, Andean Lapwing, Puna Flamingo and Rufous-naped Ground Tyrant among others.  Mammals like Vicuña and the large rodent, Vizcacha are also present here. In the afternoon we drive back to Arica. Overnight Arica (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 7
Day 7 - Flight to Santiago – Lampa – Batuco

We will spend the morning birding around Arica to catch our plane back to Santiago in the afternoon. 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 comunity named ‘matorral’ (Chile’s equivalent to California’s chaparral). Overnight Olmue (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 8
Day 8 - La Campana National Park – Cachagua – Mantagua

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. In the afternoon, we will head to the productive rocky coast north of Valparaiso. We will visit 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 Quintero (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)(Guide)

Day 9
Day 9 - Pelagic trip off Quintero – Drive to Cajon del Maipo

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!After a whole morning at sea, we will enjoy the delicious seafood of Quintero. Afterwards we will drive up to the stunning ‘Cajon del Maipo’, a deep and gorgeous Andean valley above Santiago. While ascending the foothills we will look for the endemic Chilean Tinamou and Chilean Mockingbird and we have chances of seeing Variable Hawk and Aplomado Falcon as well. Overnight Cajon del Maipo (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 10
Day 10 - El Yeso Reservoir and Baños Morales

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 Cajon del Maipo (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 11
Day 11 - Maipo River estuary and El Peral Reserve – Colbún – Drive to Vilches

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-coloured 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 the direction to Talca (35°S). 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. The forested rural locality of Vilches will be our base tonight. Rufous-legged Owl usually roosts in the woodlands behind the lodge, a very good reason for a short owling night excursion. Overnight Vilches (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 12
Day 12 - Altos de Lircay Nature Reserve – Drive to Temuco

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! Later we will stop for some marsh birds near Chillán to continue heading south towards Temuco, the northern gate to Chile’s Lake District (38°S), where we will be in the afternoon. Overnight Temuco (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 13
Day 13 - Conguillio National Park – Llaima Volcano

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 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 14
Day 14 - Drive to Puerto Montt – Alerce Andino National Park

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 specialities 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 (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 15
Day 15 - Ferry ride to Chiloe Island – Pelagic trip off ChiloeFerry ride to Chiloe Island – Pelagic trip off Chiloe

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 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 little known Subantarctic Shearwater, which probably nests in this rugged, densely forested coastline. Overnight Puerto Montt (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 16
Day 16 - Pelagic trip off Reloncavi Sound – Flight to Punta Arenas – San Juan Bay

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 for 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. Later we will take an evening fight to Punta Arenas (53°S), Chile’s southernmost city. This can be a truly enjoyable plane journey, as we fly over seemingly endless Patagonian icecaps, deep fjords and the rugged peaks of the southern Andes. After our arrival, we will bird along the coast of the mythic Straits of Magellan looking for Flying Steamer and Crested Ducks, Kelp Goose, King and Rock Cormorant and Magellanic Oystercatcher. The coastal grasslands can produce other interesting geese including the ubiquitous Upland Goose, the smaller Ashy-headed Goose and the endangered Ruddy-headed Goose. Overnight Punta Arenas (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 17
Day 17 - Ferry ride to Tierra del Fuego – Useless Bay for King Penguins

This morning, we will take a 2-hour ferry ride across the Straits of Magellan towards the town of Porvenir, in Tierra del Fuego. We will be entertained by an interesting array of tubenoses such as Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Southern Fulmar, the delightful Cape (or ‘Pintado’) Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Wilson’s Storm Petrel and Magellanic Diving Petrel. We will see other seabirds including Magellanic Penguin, Chilean Skua, Kelp and Dolphin Gulls and South American Tern. Possible marine mammals will include the common South American Sea Lion and playful pods of Peale’s Dolphin. Once we land in Tierra del Fuego, we will check the coast where we shall see Crested Duck, Chiloe Wigeon, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers, Magellanic Oystercatcher and Dark-bellied Cinclodes, among several other ‘goodies’. We will continue east to explore the large embayment of Useless Bay (Bahía Inútil), where it is likely to find a wealth of seabirds and other aquatic birds. On route we will be checking for potential raptors including Variable Hawk, Aplomado and Peregrine Falcons. Magellanic Horned Owl nests in some ravines we will pass by. The main target of our visit to this scenic part of the island is the newly established King Penguin breeding colony. This splendid species congregates year-round on this site and they have successfully started to breed and raise young here. Later, and before heading back to Porvenir, we will drive through the shrubby slopes and moorlands of the Baquedano Hills searching for Rufous-chested Dotterel, Austral Canastero and the stunning White-bridled Finch. Overnight Porvenir (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 18
Day 18 - Laguna Verde – Ferry to mainland – Pali Aike road

During the morning we will visit some alkaline lagoons east of the village. Our target here will be the local and odd-looking Magellanic Plover. This enigmatic wader looks more similar to a little dove rather than to any shorebird, and is often seen feeding ‘scratching’ the mud with its bright pink legs! Other birds of the area will include Two-banded Plover, Wilson’s Phalarope, the abundant White-rumped Sandpiper, Short-billed Miner and the ubiquitous Austral Negrito. The windswept steppes of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia hold a number of specialities including Least Seedsnipe, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Short-billed Miner, Band-tailed Earthcreeper and Chocolate-vented Tyrant. A short ferry ride will allow us to be on the mainland once again and if we are lucky, to see the striking Commerson’s Dolphin following the wake. Chilean Flamingo, Coscoroba Swan, Silver Teal plus thousands of waders such as Wilson’s Phalarope, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers will be common at the roadside wetlands while we explore and enjoy the beauty of this ‘big sky’ country. On the journey, we should encounter Lesser Rhea, Cinereous Harrier, Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant and Patagonian Mockingbird. Large herds of camel-like Guanacos will be a common sight along the entire drive towards Puerto Natales and other possible mammals will include Southern Grey (Chilla) Fox, Patagonian Hairy Armadillo and Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk. Overnight Puerto Natales (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 19
Day 19 - Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine is one of the ‘gems’ of Chile and certainly one the most visited parks in Patagonia. We will have the whole day to explore its diverse habitats, but above all, to appreciate the colossal magnitude and rugged beauty of the awe-inspiring granite peaks which name the park. The reed-fringed lagoons of the eastern side of the park will keep us busy during the whole morning. Here we will find a wealth of waterbirds including Great, Silvery and White-tufted Grebes, Ruddy (Andean) and Spectacled Ducks, Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, and with luck, the elusive and recently re-discovered Austral Rail. We also hope to see Andean Condors and Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle hovering in these turbulent skies. During the afternoon we will visit Lake Grey to enjoy the stunning sight of its southern shore dominated by stranded blue icebergs. We will scan the fast-flowing rivers hoping to find the remarkable and colourful Torrent Duck. birding chile trip. Overnight Puerto Natales (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 20
Day 20 - Sierra Baguales – Drive to Punta Arenas

Early in the morning we will explore the impressive Sierra Baguales Range, located northeast of Torres del Paine. Along the road and in the scrubby gullies, we will look for more restricted-range songbirds in Chile such as Patagonian Mockingbird and Grey-bellied Shrike-Tyrant. As we continue exploring this montane habitat we might find the local White-throated Caracara, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Rufous-banded Miner, Cinnamon-bellied and Ochre-naped Ground Tyrants, Patagonian and Greater Yellow Finches and the stunning Yellow-bridled Finch. Overnight Punta Arenas (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)

Day 21
Day 21 - Punta Arenas – Flight to Santiago

Transfer to Punta Arenas airport for our connecting flight to Santiago. End of the trip. (Breakfast) (Guide).

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21 Days

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This tour is operated by: Far South Expeditions

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Tour Facts

  • 21 Days
  • Santiago airport
  • Punta Arenas airport