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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Cruise: Buenos Aires to Santiago

Birding Sea and Land

Thursday 14 February to Thursday 28 February 2019
Pre-tour to Santiago area from Monday 11 February
Post-tour to Ceibas & IguazĂș Falls to Monday 4 March
with Fabrice Schmitt and Steve Howell as leaders
February - March 2020
with Fabrice Schmitt and Steve Howell as leaders

Price Pending

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A Yellow-nosed Albatross cruises by our ship northwest of the Falkand Islands Photo: Will Russell

Have you dreamed of taking an extended pelagic trip along the Humboldt Current, traveling to such legendary places as Cape Horn, the Beagle Channel, the Strait of Magellan, or the Falkland Islands, and seeing in the process 30 to 35 species of tubenose, 8 species of albatross, 4 species of penguin, 3 species of diving-petrel, among others? If so, you may not have imagined that this can be done brilliantly on a Princess cruise ship which is of course both comfortable and well-appointed, but it’s also stable enough to permit telescope use even in these turbulent waters. We feel this cruise offers the best accessible seabirding experience in South America and probably one of the best in the world. 

If we have your attention, we should say that in addition to spending six full days at sea, we’ll arrange land based expeditions to such wonderful areas as the Nothofagus forest near Puerto-Montt, the Patagonian steppe around Punta Arenas, penguin colonies on the Falklands, and the South American Sea Lion colony on the Valdes Peninsula. During our landings we’ll look for the most-wanted specialties such as Chucao Tapaculo and Black-throated Huet-huet around Puerto-Montt; Magellanic Plover near Punta Arenas; Magellanic Woodpecker at Ushuaia; King Penguin, Brown Skua, and Ruddy-headed Goose on the Falklands; and Elegant Crested-Tinamou and Lesser Rhea on the Valdes Peninsula.

The short pre-tour extension around Santiago offers birding in both the High Andes and coastal wetlands. We’ll have good chance of seeing seven of the twelve species endemic to Chile plus the elegantly named Diademed Sandpiper Plover, all in remarkably beautiful natural settings. The five-day post-tour extension in Argentina will sample the birds of Ceibas area before continuing on to spectacular Iguazú Falls and its semi-tropical birdlife.

Details on booking space with both WINGS and Princess Cruises can be found here.

Note the 2020 cruise will be in reverse order, starting in Buenos Aires and ending in Santiago, followed by a continuation of the cruise up the Pacific cost to Los Angeles, California.


Day 1: The pre-cruise extension begins this evening in Santiago. Night in Santiago.

Day 2: We’ll leave early for the ski resort of Farellones, stopping at different elevations, from the Mediterranean matorral shrublands to the alpine zone at 8250 feet. Our route is excellent for several Chilean endemics, including the cryptic and difficult-to-see Chilean Tinamou and the charismatic Moustached Turca. At high elevation we’ll almost certainly find Rufous-banded Miner, Black-winged Ground-dove, Band-tailed Sierra-finch, and Greater Yellow-finch, but the Andean Condor will probably attract most of our attention—we have good chance of seeing a few of these giants during our picnic lunch near Farellones. After lunch we will reach the highest point of our excursion, Valle Nevado at 9,850 feet, where we usually have excellent views of condors. The rare Creamy-rumped Miner and Black-fronted Ground-tyrant are also often here. Night in Santiago.

Day 3: We’ll spend all day at high elevations (8000–9000 feet) in the Maipo and Yeso valleys, where the delicate Diademed Sandpiper Plover, one of the most beautiful shorebirds in the world, will be our main target. Other interesting species will include Crag Chilia, a stunning ovenbird endemic to Chile. In the high-elevation bogs we should see Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Greater Yellow-finch, White-sided Hillstar, and White-browed Ground-tyrant, and we have a chance for the rare Creamy-rumped Miner. The scenery here is absolutely stunning and is as much of a reason to make the journey as the birds. Night in Santiago.

Day 4: We’ll leave early for the coast near Santiago, where we’ll visit several interesting wetlands and scrublands. A short trip to the Maipo River estuary will demonstrate just how important these coastal wetlands are for many migrant species—gulls, shorebirds, terns, and skimmers are usually found in great numbers. There are also several interesting resident species including Dusky Tapaculo, Austral Negrito, and Correndera Pipit. On the rocky shore we may find a few Blackish Oystercatchers along with one of the last possible endemics to be seen here, the Seaside Cinclodes. After lunch we’ll wend our way to the port of San Antonio and board our ship this afternoon. Night onboard the Princess cruise ship.

Those not taking the pre-cruise extension will meet the group on the ship at a time and place to be designated later.


Day 4: The cruise begins this afternoon in San Antonio, Chile, near Santiago. The ship will be leaving in the evening, and boarding will occur during the afternoon.  Our birding experience will begin once our vessel is underway, as the two hours leaving Valparaiso will be our only opportunity to see species like Inca Tern, Humboldt Penguin, Guanay Cormorant, Peruvian Booby, and Peruvian Diving-Petrel. Very soon we’ll find our first albatrosses, Salvin’s being the most common here, along with shearwaters and petrels.

Day 5: On our first full day at sea we’ll familiarize ourselves with the different kinds of seabirds found here: albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels belonging to the genus Pterodroma or Procelaria, and others. The most common albatrosses will be Salvin’s and Black-browed, but we’ll probably find a few Northern Royal Albatrosses as well. We’ll sail within a few miles of Mocha Island, where 90 percent of the world’s population of Pink-footed Shearwaters breeds, so that species should be common. We’ll also learn to separate White-chinned Petrel, Westland Petrel, and Sooty Shearwater, three similar-looking seabirds but perhaps the most sought-after species will be Stejneger’s Petrel, a bird almost impossible to see anywhere other than on our cruise route where it is usually common. We even have a chance of finding rarer Pterodroma petrels such as Juan Fernandez and De Filippi’s and with a bit of luck we’ll see our first whales; Fin and Humpback are the most common here.

Day 6: We’ll leave the ship as soon as it arrives in the Puerto-Montt harbor and drive south to the wonderful Alerce Andino National Park. We’ll be birding in impressive Nothofagus forest, looking for four species of tapaculo, Chucao, Ochre-flanked, and Magellanic, as well as Black-throated Huet-huet. All of them will be easy to hear, but we’ll have to be lucky to see them! The most common bird will be the migrant White-crested Elaenia, but there are lots of other species including White-throated Treerunner, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Austral Parakeet, Patagonian Sierra-finch, and even the rare Magellanic Woodpecker can all be seen. On our way back to Puerto-Montt we’ll make several stops, perhaps seeing the splendid Black-faced Ibis or the local (sub)species of Ringed Kingfisher. We may also find a few Hudsonian Godwits that have come from northern Alaska or Canada to winter on the rich mudflats on Chiloé Island and near Puerto-Montt.

Our ship will leave in the afternoon, and everyone will want to stay on the outside deck to look for Pincoya Storm-Petrel, discovered in 2009 by a group of birders making a similar cruise and officially described in 2013. So far, this enigmatic species  (or just a morph?) has been seen only in the Chiloé Bay, and we have good chance of seeing it as we leave Puerto-Montt.

Day 7: During the night we’ll sail south of Guafo Island, where a few million Sooty Shearwaters breed, which explains why the species will probably be the most common bird of the day. The Stejneger’s Petrel should also be regular, and although they are very fast fliers and usually avoid the ship, we should have some good views.

Today could be an eight-albatross day: Black-browed, Salvin’s, and Northern Royal will be the most common, but we also have good chance of finding the huge Snowy and Antipodean as well as Southern Royal, and with good luck even Chatham Island and Buller’s.

Day 8: We’ll wake up with impressive views of the Amalia Glacier in the Chilean Fjords. After absorbing that wonderful scenery for about an hour, we’ll sail through the Chilean channel toward the open sea and the entrance to the Strait of Magellan. The landscapes will be absolutely stunning, but in addition to the scenery we should be surrounded by Black-browed Albatrosses, Chilean Skuas, and Southern Giant-Petrels. We’ll focus on diving-petrels, trying to find the rare (and not well named) Common Diving-Petrel among the more numerous Magellanic Diving-Petrels. We should also see a few Magellanic Penguins and may find our first Slender-billed Prion!

Day 9: We’ll have a full day to explore the Patagonian steppe around Punta Arenas, where our main target will be the pink-bubble-gum-legged Magellanic Plover, a species alone in its own family. We’ll have as well a good chance of finding Lesser Rhea, Upland and Ashy-headed Geese, Two-banded Plover, Austral Negrito, and Black-faced Ibis among many others. We’ll also visit lakes and wetlands where we expect several duck species, including Crested Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Red Shoveler, Flying Steamer-duck, Coscoroba Swan, and maybe even the uncommon Silver Teal.

After our birding in the steppe, we’ll make a more stops along the Strait of Magellan, looking for Kelp Goose, Flying Steamer-duck, Magellanic Oystercatcher, and groups of Peale’s Dolphin, which sometimes fish very close to shore.

Day 10: We’ll sail all morning into the Beagle Channel and toward the Argentinean town of Ushuaia (the southernmost town in the world). We’ll pass by islands covered with hundreds of breeding Imperial Cormorants, and we’ll likely see good numbers of the elegant South American Tern as well as Chilean Skuas. Arriving around noon in Ushuaia, we’ll drive directly to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, looking in the fantastic Nothofagus forest for the impressive Magellanic Woodpecker. We also have good chance of finding the beautiful Spectacled Duck and the “loon-like” Great Grebe, and the landscapes surrounding Ushuaia are stunning.

On the way back to Ushuaia we’ll stop at a less scenic place, the garbage dump, looking for White-throated Caracara, usually found there with its two relatives, the Chimango and the Southern Caracara. Additional stops on the coast should also provide excellent views of Kelp Goose, South American Tern, and Flying and Flightless Steamer-ducks, as well as good numbers of the beautiful red-billed Dolphin Gull. We’ll leave Ushuaia in the evening, sailing all night in the Beagle Channel.

Day 11: We’ll have an early breakfast, exiting the Beagle Channel and following our way toward Cape Horn. Black-browed Albatrosses and Sooty Shearwaters will probably be swarming around us when we sail around Cape Horn Island. After passing the storied Cape, we’ll begin our journey toward the Falklands Islands. We’ll carefully check the common Black-browed Albatrosses for the rare Grey-headed Albatross. We should also see a few Wandering and Southern Royal Albatrosses, and even the very rare Light-mantled Albatross can be expected here. Small seabirds will also be very interesting, and we have a good chance of seeing Black-bellied and Grey-backed Storm-petrels and Common Diving-petrel.

Day 12: Just before we arrive in Stanley, several hundred Gentoo Penguins, breeding in the dunes, will welcome us to the Falklands. Once off the boat, we’ll immediately begin our drive to Volunteer Point. It will be a longish, off-road drive on a pretty bad track, but we’ll be rewarded by a huge mixed colony of King, Gentoo, and Magellanic Penguins. Other species that can be seen here include Upland and Ruddy-headed Geese, Two-banded Plover, Rufous-chested Dotterel, Southern Giant-Petrel, Falkland Steamer-duck, Dark-faced Ground-tyrant, and with some luck even a few White-bridled Finches. After our return to Stanley we should have enough time to enjoy some shopping or a beer in a truly British pub. Our ship will depart in the evening toward Puerto Madryn in Argentina, and we’ll want to be outside looking for Greater Shearwater and Soft-plumaged Petrel.

Day 13: We’ll now be sailing in the South Atlantic, and we’ll find a completely different species mix than we did the previous day: Soft-plumaged Petrel can be abundant, as well as Greater and Manx Shearwaters. We’ll also look for the elegant Atlantic Petrel, the minuscule Gray-backed Storm-petrel and the rare Sooty Albatross.

Day 14: We’ll arrive in Puerto Madryn, and we’ll try to leave the ship as early as possible as our drive to the wonderful Valdes Peninsula National Park is quite long but we may see Guanaco, Lesser Rhea, or Elegant Crested Tinamou along the way. The Valdes Peninsula is also well known for Orcas coming on the beach to catch young Sea Lions during their first swim, but we’ll have little chance of actually seeing that impressive hunt.

We’ll stop first at a Sea Lion colony, where we’ll look for Snowy Sheathbill, Rock and Imperial Cormorants, and Cayenne Terns. Along the coast we’ll search for the Argentinean endemic White-headed Steamer-duck and also American and Blackish Oystercatchers and the rare Olrog’s Gull. The scrublands are interesting too, and we’ll walk into steppic habitat looking for Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail, Patagonian Canastero, Mourning Sierra-finch, Patagonian Yellow-finch, or Grey-bellied Shrike-tyrant. Around Puerto Madryn we may even find a flock of the fancy Burrowing Parakeet.

Day 15: On our last day of seawatching, heading north toward Montevideo, Uruguay, we’ll have a great chance of finding new species like Yellow-nosed Albatross and (hopefully) Cory’s Shearwater and we may find a few Long-tailed or even Pomarine Jaegers.

Day 16: We’ll spend the morning in Montevideo’s lovely botanical garden, where Monk Parakeet, Rufous Hornero, and Picazuro Pigeon are common. Birding along the alleys of the garden, we’ll have a good chance of finding Green-barred and White-spotted Woodpeckers, White-crested Tyrannulet, Short-billed Elaenia, White-throated Hummingbird, Swainson’s Flycatcher, and with some luck even a pair of Grey-necked Wood-Rails.

After lunch in the park, we’ll wend our way to the coast and nearby wetlands. We’ll scan for shorebirds and gulls we have not yet seen, and in the reedbeds and shrubs we’ll look for Curve-billed Reedhaunter, Great Pampa-finch, Firewood-gatherer, and the beautiful Spectacled Tyrant and Freckle-breasted Thornbird.

Day 17: Arriving at Buenos Aires, we’ll leave the ship as early as possible and drive to the Costanera Sur Reserve, close to the harbor. The number of potential new species today is huge, and birding here (it will be hot!) will be very different from our last days in cold Patagonia. We’ll look for Giant Wood-rail, Gilded Sapphire, Checkered Woodpecker, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Masked Gnatcatcher, Red-crested and Yellow-billed Cardinal, Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch, among many others. At day’s end we’ll drive back to the ship for our last night on board.

Day 18: We’ll disembark in time to catch international flights home.


We’ll take advantage of being in Argentina to make a trip to the stunning Iguazú Falls. With a height of 200 to 270 feet and a width of 1.7 miles, the 275 drops of Iguazú may be the most impressive falls in the Americas. Iguazú has the sixth-greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world, with an average rate of 61,660 cubic feet per second.

But Iguazú is not only a scenic place, it is also a wonderful birding destination. We’ll spend a day at the Iguazú National Park, enjoying both the falls and the birds, and then explore the surrounding Iguazú area and its avifauna.

The extension also includes a day of birding in the Ceibas area, a mix between pampas and Chaco habitat. This area is usually extremely birdy, and a visit there should not be missed.

Day 18: The pre-cruise extension begins this morning in Buenos Aires. We’ll spend all day near Ceibas, birding a variety of habitats, especially wetlands and Chaco scrubland. In this bird-rich area more than 100 species are often seen in a single day, including such stunning birds as Giant Wood-Rail, Southern Screamer, Long-winged Harrier, White-fronted and White Woodpeckers, Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper, Curve-billed Reedhaunter, Lark-like Brushrunner, Chotoy Spinetail, White Monjita, and Red-crested Cardinal. Birding will be easy in this pampas-like open to semi-open habitat, and we’ll have great photo opportunities. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch in the field and be back in Buenos Aires in the afternoon. Night in Buenos Aires.

Day 19: In the morning we’ll fly from Buenos Aires to Iguazú. After lunch at our hotel we’ll bird the hotel grounds looking for Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Thrush-like Wren, and the first Green-headed Tanagers. In the evening we’ll visit the Jardín de los Picaflores, where Black Jacobin, Versicolored Emerald, Black-throated Mango, Gilded Hummingbird, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird and others will be buzzing around the feeders. Night in Iguazú.

Day 20: We’ll make an early departure for the Iguazú National Park. But before visiting the falls themselves, we’ll bird the first hours of the day in the periphery of the park, looking for Robust Woodpecker, Spot-backed and Tufted Antshrikes, Eared Pygmy-tyrant, Yellow Tyrannulet, Green-headed Tanager, and the superb Chestnut-bellied Euphonia.

When the temperature begins to get hot, we’ll head toward the falls, where we’ll have our lunch. We’ll spend the rest of the day enjoying the falls but also the wildlife usually seen here, such as South American Coati and Black-and-white Tegu. In the heat of the day we’ll especially appreciate the refreshing spray at the falls! Night in Iguazú.

Day 21: We’ll leave very early to arrive at Urugua-í Provincial Park at dawn for a picnic breakfast and a chance to find the rare Black-fronted Piping-Guan. The rest of the morning will be spent on the trail system, looking for Surucua Trogon, Red-breasted Toucan, Ochre-collared Piculet, Large-tailed Antshrike, White-shouldered Fire-eye, Speckle-breasted Antpitta, Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner, Drab-breasted Pygmy-tyrant, Swallow-tailed Manakin, Riverbank Warbler, Chestnut-headed Tanager, and so many more.

After a picnic lunch at the reserve we may bird the Urugua-í trail system a bit more or just drive back to our hotel. A few stops along the way will add more new species to our already impressive list. Night in Iguazú.

Day 22: After some early birding near the hotel, we’ll transfer to the airport and fly back to Buenos Aires. The extension ends with transfers to the airport for flights home. 

Updated: 16 February 2018


  • 2019 Tour Price Not Yet Available
  • (2018 Cruise and Land Excursion Price $3,000)
  • 2020 Tour Price Not Yet Available
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* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

* The cruise price noted above covers only the seven land excursions during the cruise plus the leaders’ time on-board ship.  It does not include your berth on the the Star Princess (2019) which must be booked directly with Princess Cruises. Details on booking space with both WINGS and Princess Cruises can be found here.

*** The 2020 cruise will be run in reverse, starting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and ending in San Antonio (Santiago), Chile. The reversed itinerary will be posted online in early 2019. It’s possible in 2020 to continue on the ship on our Santiago - Los Angeles cruise.

Maximum group size 14 plus leaders.