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Chile

Fantastic birds, ranging from the incredible Diademed Sandpiper-Plover to the Critically Endangered Chilean Woodstar, mega tapaculos such as Chucao Tapaculo, Huet-huets and Moustached Turca, Rufous-legged Owl, Red-legged Cormorant, a colony of Humboldt Penguins and two excellent pelagics. With incredible scenery, from the Atacama Desert to the Andes, then across the Nothofagus forests, this is a tour never to be forgotten.

Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension

Visit the remote island of Tierra del Fuego where Magellanic Plover and King Penguins abound, and the impressive Magellanic Woodpecker is pleasingly common. Then explore the magnificent Torres del Paine National Park where we hope to see not only Puma, but a whole range of exciting birds like Austral Rail, the rare White-throated Caracara and the beautiful Yellow-bridled Finch.

Next dates

1-15 December 2024

Tour length: 15 days

Group size limit: 7

Leaders:

Joshua Bergmark and a local leader

Guaranteed departure

Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension

15-20 December 2024

Tour length: 6 days

Group size limit: 7

Leaders:

Joshua Bergmark and a local leader

Guaranteed departure

1-15 December 2026

Tour length: 15 days

Group size limit: 7

Leaders:

Chris Venetz and a local leader

Spaces available

Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension

15-20 December 2026

Tour length: 6 days

Group size limit: 7

Leaders:

Chris Venetz and a local leader

Spaces available

Read last year’s tour report here!

Day 1: Our Chile birding tour begins this morning at Iquique Airport and will be timed to coincide with the arrival of a morning flight from Santiago which everyone can book closer to the date. After arriving, we will go check some spots along the coast where we hope to see Humboldt Penguin, Red-legged Cormorant and Belcher’s (Band-tailed) Gull, amongst others. Later we will drive to some Tamarugo woodlands inland from the coast in search of Tamarugo Conebill, which is found only in northernmost Chile and southernmost Peru. Overnight at Iquique.

Day 2: This morning we will embark on a pelagic off Iquique. It must be stressed that pelagics off Iquique are generally far better than those off Arica, where most tour operators sail from. Our main targets here are Markham’s and Elliot’s Storm Petrels. There are also fair chances for the much-wanted Hornby’s Storm Petrel, which has been seen on our last two pelagics there. We might also see Back-browed and Buller’s Albatrosses, Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Peruvian Diving Petrel, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, Neotropic, Red-legged and Guanay Cormorants, Chilean Skua, Grey, Swallow-tailed, Belcher’s and Franklin’s Gulls, the stunning Inca Tern and Elegant and Peruvian Terns. We will be back on land by lunch time, and afterwards we will drive north towards Arica. On the journey we will make several stops to search for the Critically Endangered endemic Chilean Woodstar, as well as for Raimondi’s Yellow Finch, discovered here in Chile just a few years ago. Other species we hope to see include Oasis Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail, Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant and Slender-billed Finch. In the evening we will search for Tschudi’s Nightjar. Overnight at Arica.

Day 3: After some birding around Arica, visiting the always birdy Lluta river mouth, and also searching for Peruvian Thick-knee and anything we might have missed the previous day, we will start driving out of the Lluta Valley, climbing through the desert foothills into the high Andes. We will be making some stops en route, searching for Peruvian Pygmy Owl, Greyish Miner and Straight-billed Earthcreeper, before reaching Putre, where we will spend the following two nights.

Day 4: Dawn will see us in a gulley close to the village, where we will search for some key targets such as White-throated Earthcreeper and Dark-winged and Canyon Canasteros. Some widespread species we are likely to see here include Bare-faced and Black-winged Ground Doves, Andean Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Plain-breasted Earthcreeper, White-winged Cinclodes, Streaked Tit-Spinetail, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Chiguanco Thrush, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Black-hooded and Ash-breasted Sierra Finches, Greenish Yellow Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Hooded Siskin and Spot-winged Pigeon. Later we will commence our exploration of the altiplano in the stunning Lauca National Park with its snow-capped volcanoes, tussock grasslands, deserts, steppes, and deep blue lakes. A number of specialities occur here, including White-throated Sierra Finch, Puna and Ornate Tinamous, Giant Coot, Puna Snipe and Golden-spotted Ground Dove, and we will have our first chance to see Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. We will also be on the lookout for other widespread high Andean species such as ‘Puna’ Rhea, Andean Goose, Puna Teal, Andean Duck, Puna Ibis, Mountain Caracara, Andean Coot, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, Andean Avocet, Andean Gull, Andean Flicker, Puna Miner, Cordilleran Canastero, Puna, White-fronted and Rufous-naped Ground Tyrants, Andean Negrito and Glacier Finch. Up to three flamingo species (Chilean, Andean and the rare Puna or James’s) can often be found at Lauca in good numbers too. Overnight at Putre.

Day 5: All morning birding at Lauca National Park and surroundings. In the afternoon we will return to Arica for an overnight stay.

Day 6: Today we will take an early flight back to Santiago. Afterwards we will make our way into the Andes, searching for  Chilean Flicker, Andean Condor, Chilean Pigeon, Sharp-billed Canastero and endemic Crag Chilia, Moustached Turca and White-throated Tapaculo, amongst others. Night in Santiago.

Day 7: We will spend most of the day birding various areas around the coast where our main targets will be endemic Dusky Tapaculo and Dusky-tailed Canastero. Other species we will search for include the very shy Black Rail, Ticking Doradito, the beautiful Many-colored Rush Tyrant, Stripe-backed Bittern, Chilean Elaenia, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, Fire-eyed Diucon, Chilean Mockingbird, Chilean Swallow, Common Diuca-Finch, Austral Blackbird and Black-chinned Siskin. We will have lunch at a very scenic seaside restaurant, watching endemic Chilean Seaside Cinclodes as we sample local fish. Night near Santiago.

Day 8: Today we will do a very exciting pelagic trip off Valparaiso into the bird-rich waters of the Humboldt Current. December is the best time of year for the uncommon Juan Fernandez Petrel, but we additionally expect several species of albatrosses including Northern and Southern Royal, Salvin’s, Buller’s, Black-browed and if lucky, even Chatham Albatrosses. Tubenoses such as Westland, Masatierra (De Filippi’s) and White-chinned Petrels, Northern Giant Petrel, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters are also targets, while Red-necked and Red Phalaropes or Sabine’s Gull could be sighted. After lunch we will search for any species we might have missed the previous day back on dry land, including Black-headed Duck and Rosy-billed Pochard at a nearby lake. Night near Santiago.

Day 9: We will spend most of the day birding in the high Andes, amidst some fantastic scenery. The incomparable Diademed Sandpiper-Plover will be one of our main targets here, together with Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, White-sided Hillstar, Rufous-banded Miner, Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Creamy-rumped Miner, Magellanic Tapaculo, White-browed, Ochre-naped, Cinereous and Black-fronted Ground Tyrants, Grey-hooded, Mourning and Band-tailed Sierra Finches, Greater Yellow Finch and Yellow-rumped Siskin. amongst others. If lucky, we might see Mountain Parakeet or even Great Shrike-Tyrant. Night near Santiago.

Day 10: This morning we will drive southwards to Vilches, stopping en route to look for Chilean Tinamou at a couple of reliable spots, as well as Burrowing Parrot and Spectacled Duck. In the late afternoon we will explore the extensive Nothofagus forest in the Andean foothills, searching for the rare Chestnut-throated Huet-huet. Other species we might see include Green-backed Firecrown, Austral Pygmy Owl, Austral Parakeet, Chucao Tapaculo, Striped Woodpecker, White-throated Treerunner, Thorn-tailed Rayadito and Patagonian Sierra Finch. In the evening we will try for Rufous-legged Owl in the hotel grounds. Night at Vilches.

Day 11: After some final birding in the Vilches area, searching for whatever we might have missed the previous day, we will head southwards towards Temuco for an overnight stay. Night at Temuco.

Day 12: In the early morning we will head towards the mountains to search for the uncommon, and recently described, Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper. Afterwards we will retrace our steps, and will visit a certain spot that has been reliable for the rare Rufuus-tailed Hawk. Then we will continue southwards to Puyehue National Park for a two nights stay at the luxurious Termas de Puyehue resort, which usually has Slender-billed Parakeets in the garden!

Day 13: The old Nothofagus forest of Puyehue is home to the huge near-endemic Black-throated Huet-huet, which we should see, as well as Ochre-flanked Tapaculo, Des Murs Wiretail and the uncommon Patagonian Tyrant.

Day 14: Today we will head to Puerto Montt, and from there we will take a ferry across to Chiloé Island. We have a fair chance of seeing the recently-described Pincoya Storm Petrel, as well as Magellanic Diving Petrel and Imperial and Rock Cormorants. During our time in Chiloé Island, we will see ‘Chiloe Steamer-Duck’, Hudsonian Godwit, Kelp Goose and Magellanic Oystercatcher. We will also visit a mixed colony of Magellanic and Humboldt Penguins.

Day 15: After some final birding on Chiloé we will take the ferry back to Puerto Montt and continue to the Puerto Montt Airport, where the main Chile tour ends this afternoon. Those continuing on the extension will fly to Punta Arenas.

 

PATAGONIA & TIERRA DEL FUEGO: KING PENGUINS AND PUMAS EXTENSION (can be taken as a stand-alone tour)

Day 1: In the afternoon we will fly from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas in southernmost Chile for an overnight stay. Depending on the time of our arrival, we might already start with our Patagonia exploration, searching for Ruddy-headed and Ashy-headed Geese on their breeding grounds not far from town, as well as Magellanic Woodpecker and Fuegian and Flying Steamer Ducks.

Day 2: In the morning we will take the ferry from Punta Arenas to Porvenir on the island of Tierra del Fuego, where we will stay overnight. Seabirds we are likely to see include Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant-Petrel and Magellanic Diving Petrel. We might see some lingering Southern Fulmars too. Once we get to dry land we will drive to a lake where we will search for the sought-after Magellanic Plover, a unique bird placed on its own family. Other target birds for the day include the endangered Ruddy-headed Goose, Lesser Horned Owl, Two-banded Plover, the smart Rufous-chested Dotterel, Dolphin Gull, Short-billed Miner and Patagonian Yellow Finch. We will also visit Bahía Inútil, where a colony of King Penguins – the only one in “mainland” South America – has recently been established.

Day 3: In the early morning we will make the short ferry crossing to the mainland. Commerson’s Dolphins, a stunning species endemic to Patagonia and the Falklands, is usually seen on these waters. Once on the mainland, we will head towards Torres del Paine National Park area for a two nights stay. During the journey we will search for as ‘Darwin’s Rhea’, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Chocolate-vented Tyrant and White-bridled Finch. If very lucky we might come across a Patagonian Tinamou.

Day 4: We will spend all day exploring the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most scenic places in the whole world and a good-enough reason to join this extension! A professional Puma tracker will come along during our two day stay, and is included in the tour price, highly increasing our chances of seeing this incredible and sought-after feline at what is definitely the best site in the world to see it. Either today or tomorrow we will also visit the impressive Sierra Baguales. We will search for the localized Austral Rail, the rare White-throated Caracara and the beautiful Yellow-bridled Finch, as well Silvery Grebe, Coscoroba Swan, Upland Geese, Spectacled Duck, Cinereous Harrier, Austral Canastero, Cinnamon-bellied Ground Tyrant, Grey-bellied Shrike Tyrant and Patagonian Mockingbird. We have another good chance here to find the impressive Magellanic Woodpecker.

Day 5: All morning birding in the Torres del Paine / Sierra Baguales area, searching for any birds (or cats!) we might have missed. After lunch we will head back to Punta Arenas for an overnight stay.

Day 6: The extension ends this morning at Punta Arenas Airport.

Tour details

MAIN TOUR 2024
Cost:
$  7600
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 810

EXTENSION 2024
Cost:
$  5000
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 350

Please note that our extension includes flights from Puerto Montt, all tourism permits, a legally accredited driver for operating tours within national parks, and a dedicated local Puma Tracker to accompany us while birding in Torres del Paine. These inclusions may make our price seem expensive compared to similar offerings by other companies. We are also staying in excellent hotels for the duration of the tour.

Accommodation: Mostly good, occasionally medium standard hotels throughout our stay.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy with only a couple of moderate effort walks, mostly due to the altitude.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.