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Original Query

from: Rick Waldrop

24 December 1996

I'm going to Chile in a couple of weeks and need current info on birding in the Santiago/Paraiso/ Vina del Mar area.  Pearman's guide is great but if anyone out there has anything more up to date, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Rick Waldrop
Cleveland, TN


Response #1

From: Alvaro Jaramillo

24 December 1996

For those interested in Chile, Pearman is the one and only bird finding guide available.  You can also order trip reports, yet some of these have been incorporated into Pearman's guide.

I have recently come back from leading a bird trip to Chile.  I have sent a summary of this trip to Birdchat, most of the sites we visited are detailed quite well in Pearman's book.  However, do not just keep to the known sites if at all possible.  There are countless of great birding spots in Chile that need to be discovered.  There are also new country records waiting to be had- explore!

My suggestions in Santiago/Viña del Mar/Valparaiso would be the following:

Go to the mountains-

From Santiago visit at least one of the big three access sites to the high Andes.

1)The Yeso Valley, just south of Santiago, this is the most reliable site for the Diademed Plover.  Past the Carabineros (police) checkpoint the road keeps going to Baños Morales, you will veer off to the right to follow the Yeso Valley.  Baños Morales is a really underbirded site, but is very good.  The trail to the glacier certainly has some goodies to be discovered, perhaps a reliable site for Yellow-bridled Finch or Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe??  Who knows.  A few years back I had a bird get away on me which was almost surely a Creamy-rumped Miner, a rather rare and local species.  Laguna Negra, which is paralel to Yeso Lake has not been birded (to my knowledge).  If you can figure out how to access it, let me know.

2) The Farellones Road, which climbs up from the Las Condes neighbourhood of Santiago.  It takes you to a couple of ski resorts wich are pretty good birding.  Stop en route at the Yerba Loca reserve (big sign on the road) and look for birds in the dense riparian areas and gullies.  Further up there is less cover, and most species are easy to observe from the car.  A hike up one of the ski runs may be fruitful.

3) The Portillo area along the international road between Los Andes, Chile and Mendoza, Argentina.  This spot is the best for the Creamy-rumped Miner and also has other more expected highland species.  The drawback is that you have to drive for more than an hour before the birding starts.

If you had to pick one of these places, I would go and do the Yeso Valley.  Condors are relatively common in the three sites.

Do some Mattorral birding.  The Mattorral is the dry woodland, analogous to the Chaparral of California.

A great site is La Campana National Park, about an hour out of Viña/Valparaiso.  However, there are some nice spots closer to Santiago.

The lower reaches of the Farellones and Cajon del Maipo (en route to El Yeso) are ok, and you could explore them for birds such as the White-throated Tapaculo and more common things like Dusky-tailed Canasteros and so forth.  A really nice spot that is not in the guides is the Rio Clarillo reserve which can be accessed from Puente Alto, a suburb on the south end of Santiago.  The reserve is 18km from Pirque, which is 4 km south of Puente Alto (accross the Maipo River).  There are signs to the reserve from Pirque, you can also reach this spot on a bus.  If you are lost, ask most people will be glad to help.  When asking for directions, always make sure that you greet the person first (Buenos dias, Buenas tardes etc.) it is an expected courtesy in Chile.  Look for White-throated Tapaculo and Dusky Tapaculo in the dense, moister gullies along the main road in the reserve.  Moustached Turca is common here as are Chilean Pigeon (at least during fall-winter-spring) and Chilean Mockingbird.  Chilean Tinamou is not difficult to see if you follow their high pitched whistles, the California Quail is far more abundant though.  If you wait until dark, Band-winged Nightjars are common.

Do some marsh/freshwater lake birding.

This will be difficult this year, as the Central Zone of Chile is experiencing a severe drought.  Many of the lakes/reservoires are very low and some marshes are bone dry.  The best known site for South American Painted Snipe in the country, the Lampa marshes are dry and hopeless for the Painted Snipe.  The Peñuelas reservoire near Valparaiso is well below its normal level such that the reedbeeds are dry.  You will have to search for marhsbirds elsewhere, however, there are lots of ducks and coots on the reservoire.  Its is still worth several hours birding, at least.  I don't know how other lakes are doing (Lo Ovalle, El Peral, Perales, Lag.  Aculeo) but Huechun, north of Lampa is dry as well.  The best place to look for marsh birds may be to head north of Concon (along the coast north of Viña) and look for wet, marshy places there.

Finally, head to the coast and do some sea/shorebirding.

If you don't mind spending the money, do take a pelagic out of Valparaiso its well worth it.  Make arrangements the day before with one of the skippers at the docks (Aduana area of the port) and make sure that they know what you are after.  Some of them may have never worked with birders and may try and take you just around the harbour, you won't see much there unless you are doing a winter trip.  Make sure that they know you will need to spend at least four or five hours out at sea and that you want to go as far as possible.  The guys that know what they are doing will bring up the topic of chumming and getting chum for you to use.  Ruben Pulgar is one of the skippers that has done birding trips but he is also likely the most expensive.  There are hourly rates posted at the docks, but these do not apply for pelagic trips.  Pelagics tend to be more expensive and a fair amount of haggling may be in order to get a reasonable price.  They will need your name and passport number in order to get clearance from the Port Officials to take you out, this takes a day usually.

Otherwise you can seawatch from any one of the points along the coast.  Seawatching is poorest in the summer months, however.  As well, do visit the shorebirding spots such as the mouth of the Aconcagua river in Concon and any rocky area along the coast.  The big rock at Reñaca is great birding at times.  Keep in mind that December-February is the main tourist season at Viña, so it will be loaded with beachgoers from Chile and Argentina.  Everything becomes more expensive during this season.  The restaurants on the outskirts of Concon are great for seafood.  If you see a Peruvian Tern anywhere, do let me know.  I want to track down reliable sites for this rare species.

If anyone has birded Chile and has notes or trip reports, I would love to have a look at them.  I plan to set up a Birding Chile page on the WWW in the near future.

Good Birding,


Alvaro Jaramillo    Where there's smoke doesn't mean Half Moon Bay, CA     there is fire.     Just means there's smoke.


Response #2

from: Wim Vader

When I was in Santiago in December, Lago Penuelas was virtually dry.  We visited the Laguna el Peral, en route to the coast at Punta de Tralca S of Valparaiso.  This lagoon had a lot of waterfowl and three species of coots, and even bathing Franklin Gulls (No doubt more interesting for a Norwegian than for most Americans).  We also visited the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover place and found the birds.Unless you are especially geared on finding this particular (and truly fascinating) bird, it is far from sure that this is worth the long rattling ride on potholed dusty roads, meeting big lorries with gypsum every few minutes.

My sum total of Santiago experience is all of two days,so don`t take this too serious.

Wim Vader,
Tromsö Museum,
Tromsö , Norway


Response #3

from: Gail Mackiernan

Major sites:

1) Coast near Valparaiso, for seawatching (chance of 4-5 spp.  of Albatross, Humboldt Penguin, etc.), also for landbirds esp.  near mouth of river at Con-Con (just north of Valp.) and shorebirds incl.  Rufous-chested Dotterel.

2) Cerro de la Campana NP, between Santiago and the coast, for landbirds incl.  endemic Crag Chilea.

3) Lago Penuelas (sp.?) which is a NP between Santiago and Valparaiso, for waterbirds including a number of South American grebes and ducks, landbirds could include Many-colored Rush-Tyrant.

4) Inland in the Andes east and a bit south of Santiago, for high-mountain birds.  Chance for Condor.  There is a site for Diademed Plover near El Yeso, which was being kept quiet but (proabably unfortunately) is described in the Chilean birding guide, so...its upstream of the reservoir, in the short green bog area.  The road is a bit rough up there.

This is all from trip reports -- my trip to Chile last year was postponed so I have tons of info but no personal experience!

Gail Mackiernan,
University of Maryland,