An Andean Condor rests just off the road near the UNESCO World Heritage Perito Moreno Glacier. Photo: Judy Davis
Argentina contains a greater variety of habitats than any other South American country. Stretching from the sub-tropical forests around Iguazú Falls to the sub-Antarctic island of Tierra del Fuego, the landscapes are as varied as one could wish, and the birds are similarly diverse. Our tour starts in the pampas southeast of Buenos Aires, home to countless waterbirds and raptors, and moves south to explore the Valdez peninsula, which typifies many people’s image of Patagonia: dry stony plains covered in xerophytic bushes and dotted with tinamous and rheas, remote shingle beaches teeming with elephant seals and sea lions, whales just offshore, and colonies of seabirds. We’ll then visit Los Glaciaeres National Park to see search the forests and steppes for a variety of birds from seed-snipe to sierra-finches, with opportunities to be stunned by the scenic beauty of the Perito Moreno Glacier. Finally we’ll visit “the land of fire,” Tierra del Fuego, where we’ll look for Magellanic Woodpeckers in magnificent southern beech forests and sail down the Beagle Channel among albatrosses, penguins, and sea-lions.
Day 1: The tour starts this evening in Buenos Aires. Night in Buenos Aires.
Day 2: We’ll spend the morning at Costanera Sur, a wetland on reclaimed land very close to the city center. Depending on water levels, this reserve can hold a wealth of waterbirds, including such delights as White-tufted Grebe, Lake Duck, Black-necked and Coscoroba Swans, and sometimes the rather local Black-headed Duck. Plumbeous Rails and White-winged, Red-gartered, and Red-fronted Coots nest in the aquatic vegetation, and Monk Parakeets chatter from the surrounding trees. In the late morning, we’ll depart for San Clemente del Tuyo, a coastal resort southeast of Buenos Aires, where we will spend two nights exploring coastal, wetland, and pampas habitats. Night in San Clemente.
Day 3: After an early morning stop at San Clemente harbor to look for the endangered Olrog’s Gull, we’ll visit nearby Punta Rasa, an area of sand dunes and salt marshes rich in birds. The shorebird flocks on the beaches and mudflats should include American Oystercatcher and hundreds of White-rumped Sandpipers; we also expect large flocks of wintering terns, including a few of the local Snowy-crowned Tern, and groups of Black Skimmers. We may see Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail and Long-tailed Reedfinch in the reeds and rushes. On the edge of town we’ll look for Firewood-gatherer, named for its habit of building enormous nests of dry sticks. In the afternoon we’ll explore the pampas areas just inland, where we should see a wide selection of pampas birds including Maguari Stork, Whistling Heron, White-faced Ibis, Yellow-billed Pintail, Rosy-billed Pochard, Southern Screamer, Snail Kite, Long-winged Harrier, Guira Cuckoo, Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, and Yellow-winged Blackbird. We’ll also search for Greater Rhea, Spotted Nothura, Silver Teal, and South American Painted-Snipe. Night in San Clemente.
Day 4: Following an early morning departure from our hotel, we’ll spend the day at many different sites, including a reed-fringed canal where we’ll search for Black-headed Duck, Curve-billed Reed-haunter, Sulphur-bearded Spinetail, Wren-like Rushbird, Warbling Doradito, and Many-colored Rush-Tyrant. In the afternoon we’ll look for Giant Wood Rail and any other pampas birds we may have missed during our time in San Clemente. We’ll arrive in Buenos Aires in the late afternoon. Night in Buenos Aires.
Day 5: We’ll spend this morning birding locally around the city, where our focus will be on species of more wooded habitats, including Dark-billed Cuckoo, Freckle-breasted Thornbird, and Black-and-rufous and Black-capped Warbling Finches. After lunch at a nearby parilla, we’ll take a late-afternoon flight to Trelew in Patagonia. Night in Trelew.
Day 6: This morning we’ll visit the vast Magellanic Penguin colony at Punta Tombo. En route to the colony we’ll probably see our first Elegant Crested Tinamous crosssing the road in front of the bus; this is by far the most obliging member of a typically skulking family. The penguin colony is a reserve, but carefully roped-off walkways allow us access and provide superb viewing and photographic opportunities. In the bay beneath the colony there should be a few Great Grebes in their attractive breeding plumage, and it’s here that we’ll look for the Chubut Steamerduck, a recently split species of very limited range. Southern Giant-Petrels cruise back and forth offshore, and a few pairs of Brown (Southern) Skuas scavenge among the penguins. In the afternoon we’ll drive north to the famous Valdez Peninsula, stopping en route at a colony of unique Burrowing Parrots, the only species in its genus. Night in Puerto Piramides.
Day 7: Starting early, we’ll visit the cliffs near our hotel and scan the bay for Southern Right Whales, a few of which are normally present and sometimes offer stunning views. Blackish Oystercatchers may be feeding around the edge of the bay, and South American Terns should be just offshore. After breakfast we’ll drive around the peninsula, stopping to look for Darwin’s Rheas, Tawny-throated Dotterels, Burrowing Owls, Guanacos, Patagonian Foxes, and bizarre Patagonian Hares (Maras). Our destination is Punta Norte, where the beaches will be littered with Southern Elephant Seals; a few South American Sea Lions are here as well. On rare occasions, Orcas can be seen cruising up and down offshore. Night in Puerto Piramides.
Day 8: Weather permitting, an optional whale-watching boat trip will be available this morning, an incredible opportunity to see Southern Right Whales up close. For those who do not wish to go out on the boat, there will be the option to return to the nearby desert areas to look for any species we may have missed the day before. Following our departure from Puerto Piramides, we’ll concentrate on passerines in the dry scrub of the peninsula, searching for White-throated Cachalote, Scale-throated Earthcreeper, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, Sharp-billed and Patagonian Canasteros, Rusty-backed Monjita, Gray-bellied and Lesser Shrike-Tyrants, Patagonian Mockingbird, Patagonian Yellow-Finch, and Carbonated Sierra-Finch. In the late morning we’ll drive to Puerto Madryn, where we’ll have lunch before visiting another area of dry scrub on the edge of town in search of any species missed in the morning. In the late afternoon we’ll enjoy the spectacle of thousands of waterbirds attracted to one of the few large areas of water in this part of Patagonia, the Trelew sewage ponds. Night in Trelew.
Day 9: This morning we’ll fly to El Calfate in southern Patagonia, where we’ll be based for two nights. After checking in to our hotel, we’ll visit the shores of nearby Lake Argentino to look for the delightful Magellanic Plover, the only species in its family, as it pirouettes in the mud on bubblegum-pink legs. Other birds of interest are likely to include Chilean Flamingo, Cinereous Harrier, Crested Duck, Red Shoveler, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Two-banded Plover, and Least Seedsnipe. Night in El Calafate.
This turned out to be one of my all-time favorite trips! In addition to outstanding birds, we had wonderful mammals and scenery too. The Argentinian people were warm, friendly, and helpful. Judy and David were knowledgeable and experienced, and worked tirelessly to show us the birds. I’d travel with them again in a heart beat!
- Connie Wolcott
Day 10: We’ll spend the whole day exploring Los Glaciaeres National Park and the Moreno Glacier, a vast tongue of ice slowly descending from the Andes into Lake Argentino. The glacier has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a major tourist destination. We’ll visit the best viewpoint and watch chunks of ice falling into the lake below with a tremendous crash. En route to the glacier we’ll pass through beautiful beech forests, open meadows, and farmland, with highlights likely to include Black-faced Ibis, Ashy-headed Goose, Andean Condor, Cinereous Harrier, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Austral Parakeet, Chilean Flicker, and the exotic Rufous-tailed Plantcutter. We also have our best chance here for the scarce Spectacled Duck. Night in El Calafate.
Day 11: After more local birding to search for Tawny-throated Dotterel and Chocolate-vented Tyrant, we’ll catch a flight to Ushuaia on the south side of Tierra del Fuego, adjacent to the spectacular Beagle Channel. Depending on our flight, we may have time to walk around the harbor, where Flightless Steamerducks and Dolphin Gulls are both tame and common, and we’ll be able to study our first Kelp Geese and Chilean Skuas. Night in Ushuaia.
Day 12: We’ll spend the day in Tierra del Fuego National Park, a beautiful landscape of southern beech forests, lakes, and rivers. Here we’ll be concentrating mainly on forest birds, hoping to see the magnificent Magellanic Woodpecker, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, White-throated Treerunner, Fire-eyed Diucon, Chilean Swallow, Austral Thrush, Black-chinned Siskin, Patagonian Sierra-Finch, and the delightfully entertaining Thorn-tailed Rayadito. Returning to town in the afternoon, we may stop at the local abattoir, a reliable site for White-throated Caracara, along with scores of gulls and Chilean Skuas. Night in Ushuaia.
Day 13: This morning we’ll visit the Martial Glacier, just above the town. Our focus during the walk will be the search for Yellow-bridled Finch and Ochre-naped and Dark-faced Ground-Tyrants.
In the afternoon we’ll make a trip by boat down the Beagle Channel. This will essentially be a pelagic trip, though we’ll also visit various islands inhabited by sea lions and seabirds. Black-browed Albatrosses, giant petrels, and skuas will be continuously in sight. Magellanic Diving-Petrels nest along the channel, and as they flush from the water, we’ll marvel at their resemblance to the Northern Hemisphere’s Dovekie. We’ll stop at cormorant rookeries containing two different species, Blue-eyed and Rock, and we’ll also encounter Dolphin Gulls and South American Terns. We’ll stop at a Magellanic Penguin colony; though it is smaller than the one at Punto Tombo, this colony attracts other species of penguin from time to time, and a few pairs of Gentoo Penguins have nested here in recent years. In the evening we’ll cruise back up the Beagle Channel, amazed once again by the magnificent scenery and the wealth of seabirds. Night in Ushuaia.
Day 14: After breakfast we’ll drive across Tierra del Fuego, passing through a spectacular mountain landscape of snow-capped peaks, forested slopes, and glacial lakes; we’ll visit sites along the way for any species we might still be missing. On arriving in Rio Grande, we’ll stop on the edge of town to look for the elegant Rufous-chested Dotterel in the area’s few remaining patches of original “tundra.” We’ll then drive to a large estancia, searching for two rarities, Austral Canastero and Ruddy-headed Goose, the scarcest of Argentina’s five Chloephaga geese. Night in Rio Grande.
Day 15: This morning we’ll visit a cliff-nesting colony of Black-faced Ibis, and in the grassy dunes near the beach we’ll search for Short-billed Miner. If the tide is in, we will have the opportunity to observe vast numbers of migrant Red Knots and wintering shorebirds. After lunch, we’ll drive back to Ushuaia, stopping along the way for regional specialties we may have missed up to this point. A late-afternoon flight will take us to Buenos Aires. Night in Buenos Aires.
Day 16: We’ll spend the day visiting Otamendi Natural Reserve north of Buenos Aires, where we’ll search for Gilded Hummingbird, Checkered Woodpecker, Straight-billed and Curve-billed Reedhaunters, Diademed Tanager, and Solitary Cacique. We’ll also have a chance to renew our acquaintance with many of the other pampas birds seen earlier on our trip. The tour will conclude this evening in time to connect with international flights back to North America.
Updated: 03 February 2010
- 2013 Tour Price : $7,100
- Single Occupancy Supplement : $900
* Tour invoices paid by check carry a modest discount. Details here.
* This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird. Please review the explanation of our Sunbird pricing here.
Maximum group size eight participants with one leader.