Perhaps best known as a destination for the adventurous traveller, Patagonia has an incredibly rich array of native wildlife. It’s home to a total of 360 different species of birds, including 40 that are endemic to the region and that include both marine species and land-dwelling birds.
But where are the best places for seeing these birds, which range from Magellanic penguins to hooded grebes? And when is the ideal window of time for seeing them in their natural environment?
Bariloche and Around
Situated directly on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi and surrounded by a range of wetlands and lakes, Bariloche is an excellent place to start a birdwatching tour, with Laguna Verde and La Vega Wetland rich in birdlife.
- Laguna Verde: Great grebe, pied-billed grebe and Magellanic woodpecker.
- La Vega wetland: Upland goose, ashy-headed goose, black-faced ibis and grass wren.
Valdés Peninsula and Punta Tombo
A short distance from Puerto Madryn on the coast of Argentina, the Valdés Peninsula is one of Patagonia’s most important wildlife zones. Bird life includes:
- South American, royal and sandwich terns, black-browed albatross, southern giant petrel, blackish and American oystercatchers, Magellanic penguin and brown skua.
- Punta Tombo: Magellanic penguin.
Most famous as the closest city to the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate is also surrounded by a range of excellent places for birdwatching.
- Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve: Chilean flamingo, upland goose, southern lapwing, black-necked and coscoroba swans, Magellanic plover and cinereous harrier.
- Los Glaciares National Park: Andean condor, Austral parakeet, Austral pygmy owl, spectacled duck and Chilean swallow.
This private park near Cochrane along the Carretera Austral has been working to restore former areas of farmland back to wilderness and is now home to a variety of bird species including:
- Andean condor, Magellanic woodpecker, upland goose, black-necked swan, black-faced ibis, Austral negrito, Austral parakeet, carpintero woodpecker, southern lapwing, Darwin’s rhea, southern crested caracara and Chilean flamingo.
Torres del Paine National Park
Although better known for its resident puma population, Torres del Paine National Park has an impressive range of native birdlife.
- Andean condor, Southern crested caracara and chimango caracaras, black-chested buzzard eagle, ashy-headed geese, upland geese, spectacled duck, austral parakeet, Austral pygmy owl, Magellanic woodpecker, Chilean flicker, striped woodpecker, great, silvery and white-tufted grebes, white-winged coot.
Seno Última Esperanza
Puerto Natales, the gateway town to Torres del Paine, is situated on the shores of Seno Última Esperanza, a huge fjord that is also rich in birdlife. Expect to see the following feeding here:
- Imperial cormorant, South American tern, black-necked and coscoroba swans, Chiloe wigeon and yellow-billed teal and crested duck.
Around 30km from Punta Arena, Isla Magdalena is home to a 120,000-strong colony of Magellanic penguins, as well as the following other birdlife:
- Imperial and rock cormorants, dolphin and kelp gulls, Chilean skua and South American tern.
Tierra del Fuego
At the far end of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago of islands cut off from mainland Chile and Argentina by the Straits of Magellan. In the vast areas of steppe and lagoons, you’ll see
- Lagoons and ponds: Magellanic plover, two-banded plover, Wilson’s phalarope, white-rumped sandpiper and Chilean flamingo.
- Fields and meadows: endangered ruddy-headed goose, peregrine falcons, great horned owl, upland goose, black-necked and coscoroba swans and silver teal.
Home to the only colony of king penguins in the continent, Bahía Inútil and Parque Pinguino Rey (the reserve that protects the colony) also have the following resident species of birds:
- Flightless and flying steamer ducks, imperial, king and rock cormorants and kelp geese.