The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Argentina Tours

SOUTHERN & CENTRAL ARGENTINA – From Córdoba and the Pampas to Patagonia and Hooded Grebe

Monday 21st November – Wednesday 7th December 2022

Leader: Mark Pearman

17 Days Group Size Limit 8
Tierra del Fuego Extension

Wednesday 7th December – Sunday 11th December 2022

5 Days Group Size Limit 8
Tuesday 21st November – Thursday 7th December 2023

Leader: Mark Pearman

17 Days Group Size Limit 8
Tierra del Fuego Extension

Thursday 7th December – Monday 11th December 2023

5 Days Group Size Limit 8


Birdquest’s Southern & Central Argentina birding tours are a classic South American birding experience. Our Southern & Central Argentina birding tour provides very comprehensive coverage and produces an extraordinary number of regional endemics and other specialities as travel from the dry sierras of the Córdoba region southwards through the Pampas to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.

Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world – almost a third the size of Europe! Stretching for over 2200 miles (3500 km) from the Bolivian border to the sub-Antarctic coasts of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina possesses an enormous variety of landforms and climates which is reflected in its great diversity of wildlife. Argentina is a classic destination, undoubtedly one of the best birding countries in the world, not only offering superb, mostly easy birding but also good accommodations, food, transport and roads.

Over 1000 species of birds have been recorded in Argentina, an amazingly high total for a country which lies almost entirely outside the tropics and thus cannot boast any lowland tropical rainforest. With its fantastic scenery and marvellous and generally easy, open-country birding, ranging from impressive avian spectacles to a host of endemic species, Southern and Central Argentina is definitely one of the greatest birding journeys one can undertake. The contrasts are extreme, ranging from the arid landscapes of the Córdoba region of central Argentina to the wild moorlands, mountains and fjords of Tierra del Fuego in the far south, and from the humid grasslands of the pampas and the windswept, semi-desert plateau of Patagonia in the east and southeast to the icy, snow-clad peaks of the Andes with their glaciers, mountain lakes and forests of breathtaking beauty in the west.

For the birdwatcher, Southern and Central Argentina birding tours provide an overwhelming variety of novel and spectacular experiences: rheas, tinamous, a great variety of seabirds (including penguins in their tens of thousands, albatrosses and diving-petrels), flamingos, most of South America’s wildfowl, Andean Condor, some superb shorebirds including Magellanic Plover (now treated as a monotypic bird family), seedsnipes, Snowy Sheathbill, a bewildering array of ovenbirds with evocative names (miners, earthcreepers, cinclodes, horneros, cacholotes, spinetails, canasteros, thornbirds, rayaditos and treerunners), a plethora of tyrant-flycatchers and an exceptional assortment of finches and icterids, never mind the seals and whales!

Ours is the most comprehensive Southern & Central Argentina birding tour available, producing more of the speciality birds than any other.

Our Southern & Central Argentina birding tour will take us from the isolated mountain ranges of the Córdoba region in central Argentina to the far south of the country in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. By doing so we can experience the region’s fantastic avian diversity in full as we seek out some of the continent’s most spectacular birds amidst some of the world’s finest scenery.

During the first part of our Argentine adventure, we will explore the isolated and little known Sierra de los Comechingones in the Córdoba region, where we should find three highly localized endemic ovenbirds, Olrog’s and Córdoba Cinclodes, and Córdoba Canastero.

We will also visit the saline flats of Salinas Grandes, home of the endemic Salinas Monjita, and check out some woodland for the rare Black-bodied Woodpecker.

Next, we will explore the famous Pampas. After starting in Buenos Aires region, where we will look for Red-and-white Crake, we will explore the pampas of Buenos Aires province around San Clemente del Tuyu with its great abundance and variety of wetland and grassland birds, including South American Painted-snipe, Olrog’s Gull, White-throated Hummingbird, Hudson’s Canastero and Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail.

Eventually, we work our way south to Bahia Blanca for the rare and threatened endemic Pampas Meadowlark and Pampas Pipit, and San Antonio Oeste for yet more endemics or near-endemics, including Hudson’s Black-Tyrant, Carbonated Sierra Finch, Cinnamon Warbling Finch and the rare Yellow Cardinal.

Travelling still further south, our Southern & Central Argentina birding tour will reach Trelew on the windswept Patagonian steppes of Argentina’s Chubut province, where the highlight of our stay will be the vast penguin colony at Punta Tombo (nearly a million birds!), never mind another great collection of endemics and regional specialities, including Lesser Rhea, Darwin’s Nothura, Elegant Crested Tinamou, Chubut Steamer Duck, Snowy Sheathbill, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Patagonian Canastero, Lesser (or Least) Shrike-Tyrant, Rusty-backed Monjita, Short-billed Pipit, Patagonian Mockingbird and Patagonian Yellow Finch.

Finally, we will explore southern Patagonia, penetrating far into the interior to visit sites for the critically endangered endemic Hooded Grebe, the rare Austral Rail, the strange Magellanic Plover, Patagonian Tinamou, Tawny-throated Dotterel and Chocolate-vented Tyrant.

We will also enjoy the outstanding scenic grandeur of the El Chaltén region, where the high peaks lakes and humid southern beech forest are inhabited by Bronze-winged (or Spectacled) Duck, Andean Condor, Austral Parakeet, Rufous-legged Owl, Austral Pygmy Owl, Chilean Flicker, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Chilean Elaenia, Fire-eyed Diucon, Chilean Swallow, Austral Thrush and Austral Blackbird. Argentina is so spectacular a country, and the birding so enjoyable, that we are going to find it hard to leave after experiencing it for ourselves!

During the optional extension to our Southern & Central Argentina birding tour, we continue to the island of Tierra del Fuego, at the very tip of South America. Here we will explore the grasslands and wetlands of northern Tierra del Fuego, home of the endangered Ruddy-headed Goose, Rufous-chested Dotterel, Two-banded Plover, the Magellanic form of the South American Snipe (which may represent a distinct species), Short-billed Miner, Austral Canastero and Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant.

Moving further south, we will be able to admire the spectacular landscapes around Ushuaia, the most southerly city in Argentinba and the world, as we look for Kelp and Ashy-headed Geese, Flying and Fuegian (or Flightless) Steamerducks, White-throated Caracara, Magellanic Oystercatcher, White-bellied Seedsnipe, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Black-chinned Siskin, Patagonian Sierra-Finch and the uncommon Yellow-bridled Finch, while a boat trip in the Beagle Channel should produce Gentoo Penguin, Black-browed Albatross and Magellanic Diving-Petrel.

Birdquest has operated Argentina birding tours since 1989.

What makes the Birdquest Southern & Central Argentina birding tour special? A fantastic, unequalled birding itinerary, unmatched leader experience and a smaller group size limit. Perfect!

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good or medium standard throughout. Road transport is by small coach or minibus and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort during our Southern & Central Argentina birding tour is mostly easy, but there are some moderate walks. During the Tierra del Fuego extension there will be one rather hard uphill hike in search of White-bellied Seedsnipe.

Climate: Rather variable. Temperatures will range from warm or hot in the pampas to cool or even cold in the south. Sunshine is likely to alternate with overcast conditions and we are likely to see some rain (or possibly even snow at high altitude in the far south). It will be rather humid in the pampas and it is often windy in the south.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Southern & Central Argentina birding tour are good.


  • Searching for the rare and critically endangered Hooded Grebe, the 'grailbird' of Argentina and indeed South America's entire 'Southern Cone'
  • Experiencing wild landscapes from the sierras to the pampas and south to the steppes, glaciers and icy Andean peaks of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego
  • Visiting the Sierra de los Comechigones and the vast Salinas Grandes in search of rare ovenbirds and Salinas Monjita
  • Tempting out a Red-and-white Crake on the edge of Buenos Aires
  • All those waterbirds in the Pampas around San Clemente del Tuyu
  • Tracking down South American Painted-snipe and the restricted-range Hudson's Canastero and Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail
  • Finding the endangered and sought-after Pampas Meadowlark near Bahia Blanca
  • Watching all those Burrowing Parrots doing exactly that near our hotel in San Antonio Oeste
  • Visiting the huge Magellanic Penguin colony at Punta Tombo, and also watching Chubut Steamer Ducks
  • Enjoying our first Darwin's (Lesser) Rheas running across the Patagonian steppe, or perhaps grazing quietly just a short distance from us
  • Admiring Elegant Crested Tinamous and flushing a Darwin's Nothura
  • Teasing out a shy Austral Rail from its swampy home
  • Finding the monotypic Magellanic Plover and realising it is quite strange, with pratincole-, tern- and dove-like characters
  • Finally coming across those big Patagonian Tinamous
  • The quest for the Hooded Grebe – into the wild we go!
  • Smart Tawny-throated and Rufous-chested Dotterels, which have to be two of the world's best 'shorebirds'
  • The awesome scenery at El Chaltén, with Mount Fitzroy towering over the valley
  • Finding handsome Spectacled Ducks and odd-looking Rufous-tailed Plantcutters
  • Andean Condors parading past, with an extraordinary mountain backdrop
  • Watching a big Rufous-legged Owl peering down at us from a Nothofagus tree
  • The amazing scenery of Los Glaciares national park
  • Seeking out some of the last Ruddy-headed Geese in Tierra del Fuego
  • The hike up into the mountains, the magnificent scenery and the feeling of relief when we find the cryptic White-bellied Seedsnipe
  • Flocks of Black-browed Albatrosses, Chilean Skuas and a good chance for Magellanic Diving Petrel during our Beagle Channel boat trip
  • Huge yet very approachable Magellanic Woodpeckers in the splendid Tierra del Fuego National Park
  • Smart Kelp and Ashy-headed Geese, White-throated Caracaras and all the other joys of birding the Ushuaia region
  • A Gentoo Penguin colony with (if they keep turning up) a handsome pair of King Penguins in their midst
  • Visiting the southernmost city in the world, at the end of the 'Fin del Mundo' highway


  • Day 1: Morning tour start at Cordobá airport. Drive to Icho Cruz. Visit Pampa de Achala.
  • Day 2: Icho Cruz region including Pampa de Achala, then drive to Capilla del Monte.
  • Day 3: Salinas Grandes and Capilladel Monte area.
  • Day 4: Capilla del Monte, the return to Cordobá airport. Flight to Buenos Aires.
  • Day 5: Drive across the pampas to San Clemente del Tuyu.
  • Day 6: Santa Clemente del Tuyu area, including Punta Rasa.
  • Day 7: San Clemente del Tuyu, then drive to Bahia Blanca via Mar del Plata.
  • Day 8: Bahia Blanca area (Pampas Meadowlark), then drive to San Antonio Oeste.
  • Day 9: San Antonio Oeste area, then drive to Trelew.
  • Day 10: Trelew region, including Punta Tombo.
  • Day 11: Trelew region, then fly to El Calafate.
  • Day 12: Drive to La Angostura.
  • Day 13: La Angostura area and Hooded Grebe excursion.
  • Day 14: La Angostura, then drive to El Chaltén.
  • Day 15: El Chaltén, then drive to El Calafate.
  • Day 16: El Calafate region, including Glaciers National Park.
  • Day 17: El Calafate, then late morning tour end at airport.
  • Day 1: Flight from El Calafate to Ushuaia. Drive to Rio Grande.
  • Day 2: Rio Grande region, then return to Ushuaia.
  • Days 3-4: Ushuaia area, including Tierra del Fuego National Park and boat trip on Beagle Channel.
  • Day 5: Ushuaia area, then late morning tour end at airport.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.


Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights: Córdoba-Buenos Aires, Trelew-El Calafate and El Calafate-Ushuaia.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)

2022: £5940, $8490, €6910, AUD10950. Córdoba/El Calafate.
Tierra del Fuego Extension: £1740, $2490, €2020, AUD3210. El Calafate/Ushuaia.
2023: provisional £6010, $8590, €7000, AUD11080. Córdoba/El Calafate.
Tierra del Fuego Extension: £1780, $2550, €2070, AUD3280. El Calafate/Ushuaia.

Single Supplement: 2022: £650, $930, €750, AUD1190.
Tierra del Fuego Extension: £190, $280, €220, AUD360.
Single Supplement: 2023: £650, $940, €760, AUD1210.
Tierra del Fuego Extension: £190, $280, €220, AUD360.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.


Southern & Central Argentina: Day 1  Our tour begins this morning at Córdoba airport in Argentina’s third-largest city. From the airport, we will head for the small village of Icho Cruz for an overnight stay. This afternoon we will have our first visit to the Pampa de Achala for some very special birds.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 2  Not far away from Icho Cruz is the Pampa de Achala in the Sierra de los Comechingones, a mountain range which is much older than the Andes. These rugged sierras stretch across the horizon, one rocky ridge after another. Here rushing streams tumble through Polylepis-filled gullies down to the pampa grasslands below. These hills are not only very imposing but offer marvellous views of the vast plains stretching away into the distance. The main attractions here are three ovenbirds with amongst the most restricted distributions of all South American birds, centred on these isolated mountains in central Argentina. We shall make a concerted effort to locate all three. Olrog’s Cinclodes is frequently to be found hugging the banks of the rushing streams in dipper-like fashion, while Córdoba Cinclodes can be found leaping about on the rocky outcrops with fluttering wings. Grassy slopes are the haunt of the Córdoba Canastero (sometimes split from Puna Canastero).

In addition to these exciting endemics, we should also see Brushland Tinamou, Black Vulture, Rufous-banded Miner, White-winged Cinclodes, Chaco Earthcreeper, Sooty-fronted and Stripe-crowned Spinetails, Lark-like Brushrunner, the noisy Brown Cacholote (often on its huge stick nest), Chiguanco Thrush, Tawny-headed Swallow, Stripe-capped Sparrow and Plumbeous Sierra Finch

The beautiful Olive-crowned Crescentchest (now placed in its own family rather than with the tapaculos), is not uncommon in these parts and its trilling song should give away its presence. With a bit of luck, we should also see one or two of the scarcer denizens of the area, which include White-collared Swift, the eye-catching Red-tailed Comet, Rufous-naped Ground Tyrant, White-bellied Tyrannulet and Ash-breasted Sierra Finch.

After spending much of the day at the Pampa de Achala and in more wooded habitats at lower altitudes in the surrounding region, we will transfer to the mountain village of Capilla del Monte for a two nights stay.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 3  Today we shall head north to Salinas Grandes, a large area of inland salt marsh. This is the type locality for the comparatively recently-described Salinas Monjita and we have a good chance of finding this rare endemic flycatcher at a site where it is fairly regular.

Other birds we are likely to see today in the dry country north of Córdoba include the rare Spot-winged Falconet, Blue-tufted Starthroat, the very impressive Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Crested Hornero, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Red Pileated (or Red-crested) Finch, Many-coloured Chaco Finch, Black-crested Finch and Black-capped Warbling Finch.

During our visit to the Capilla del Monte region, we will also visit an area of woodland where we have a fair chance of finding the rare Black-bodied Woodpecker.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 4  After some final birding around Capilla del Monte we will return to Córdoba and take a flight to Buenos Aires for an overnight stay.

Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is a sprawling modern city on the shores of the Rio de La Plata. It lies on the edge of the great Argentine pampas, a rich, fertile region of open grasslands largely devoted to cattle ranching, but with innumerable shallow lakes and marshes teeming with waterbirds.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 5  Early today we will visit a small tract of swampy woodland holds a population of Red-and-white Crakes and with persistence, we should get views of this secretive but handsome little critter.

Afterwards, we will head off across the pampas towards the small seaside resort of San Clemente del Tuyu for a two nights stay.

On the way, we will investigate just a few of the myriad of lakes and marshes scattered throughout the grasslands. This is easy and wonderful birding, and the San Clemente region is likely to produce such spectacular birds as Greater Rhea, Maguari Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, Southern Screamer and Black-necked Swan.

In addition, either today or while based at San Clemente, we will encounter many other species, most likely including Spotted Nothura (a small partridge-like tinamou of the grasslands), White-tufted Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Black-crowned Night Heron, Cocoi, Whistling and Striated Herons, Western Cattle, Great and Snowy Egrets, Bare-faced and White-faced Ibises, ulvous and White-faced Whistling Ducks, Coscoroba Swan, Yellow-billed (or Speckled) and Silver Teals, Yellow-billed Pintail, Chiloe Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, Red Shoveler, Rosy-billed Pochard, Lake Duck, the strange, parasitic Black-headed Duck (which often lays its eggs in the nests of coots!), Snail Kite, the handsome Long-winged Harrier, Roadside Hawk, Southern Crested and Chimango Caracaras, American Kestrel, Giant Wood Rail,  Plumbeous Rail, Spot-flanked Gallinule, White-winged, Red-gartered and Red-fronted Coots, Limpkin, White-backed Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Lesser Yellowlegs, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Picazuro and Spot-winged Pigeons, Eared Dove, Picui Ground-Dove, Monk Parakeet, the incomparable Guira Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Gilded Sapphire, Ringed Kingfisher and Campo Flicker.

Passerines include Hudson’s Canastero, Sulphur-bearded Spinetail, Rufous Hornero, Freckle-breasted Thornbird, Wren-like Rushbird, Small-billed Elaenia, White-crested Tyrannulet, Warbling Doradito, the beautiful and aptly-named Many-coloured Rush-Tyrant, Bran-coloured, Vermilion and Fork-tailed Flycatchers, the fantastic Spectacled Tyrant, Yellow-browed and Cattle Tyrants, Tropical Kingbird, Great Kiskadee, Grey-breasted and Brown-chested Martins, White-rumped Swallow, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Rufous-bellied Thrush, House Wren, Masked Gnatcatcher, Hooded Siskin, Southern Yellowthroat, Shiny Cowbird, Baywing (or Bay-winged Cowbird), Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, White-browed, Scarlet-headed and Yellow-winged Blackbirds, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Black-and-rufous Warbling Finch, Grassland Yellow Finch and Great Pampa Finch.

There is a fairly good chance of seeing the much sought-after South American Painted Snipe in this area and If we are lucky we will find one or two of the more elusive denizens of the area, which include Stripe-backed Bittern and Dot-winged Crake.

Coypus, here in their native habitat, graze peacefully amongst the many wildfowl.

Thickets and relict patches of native tala forest hold scrub and woodland species such as Dark-billed Cuckoo, Checkered Woodpecker, Spix’s Spinetail, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Red-crested Cardinal and Variable Oriole.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 6  We will focus some of our attention today on Punta Rasa, a low peninsula stretching north from San Clemente with a wide ocean beach to the east and extensive salt marshes, tidal mudflats and sandy dunes to the west. Situated in the outer reaches of the Rio de la Plata estuary, this is a very important staging and wintering area for a wide variety of ducks, waders, gulls and terns, and also attracts a good number of passerine migrants. Punta Rasa has become a popular birding locality for birdwatchers from Buenos Aires.

Here we will be looking in particular for such species as Great Grebe, Chilean Flamingo, American Golden Plover, Hudsonian Godwit, White-rumped, Pectoral and Baird’s Sandpipers, the endangered Olrog’s Gull, Kelp and Brown-hooded Gulls, Royal and Snowy-crowned Terns, Cabot’s Tern (sometimes lumped in Sandwich), Black Skimmer, White-throated Hummingbird, Tufted Tit-Spinetail, Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail, Firewood-gatherer (named after its enormous stick nest), Sedge Wren, Blue-and-white Swallow, Hellmayr’s and Correndera Pipits, and Long-tailed Reed and Saffron Finches.

The rest of our time will be spent in areas of pampas with marshes, pools and lagoons, looking for many of the species mentioned for yesterday.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 7  After some final birding in the San Clemente area we will drive southwest to Bahia Blanca for an overnight stay.

Along the way, we will be on the lookout for such species as Red-winged Tinamou, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Grey-hooded (or Grey-headed) Gull and Short-eared Owl.

We will make a stop at the town of Mar del Plata where there is a large and impressive rookery of South American Sealions. The seal colony is a favourite scavenging area for Snowy Sheathbills,

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 8  We will devote the first part of the day to looking for one of the rarest and most localized endemic species in Argentina, the Pampas Meadowlark, which is threatened with extinction due to the conversion of natural pampas into pastures.

After we have located the meadowlark, and also the restricted-range Pampas Pipit, Grassland Sparrow and Long-tailed Meadowlark (and possibly even the dainty Bearded Tachuri), we will head for San Antonio Oeste for an overnight stay.

Along the way, we will look for the rare endemic Yellow Cardinal as well as Pale-breasted Spinetail and the showy White Monjita.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 9  In the morning we will visit an area which is home to three localized and uncommon Argentine breeding endemics, Hudson’s Black-Tyrant, Carbonated Sierra-Finch and Cinnamon Warbling-Finch. Other birds we may well see today include two further endemics, Sandy Gallito and White-throated Cacholote (although both are fairly rare in southern Argentina), as well as Short-billed Canastero, White-tipped Plantcutter, the recently-described Straneck’s (or Monte) Tyrannulet, the delightful Greater Wagtail-Tyrant, the uncommon Black-crowned Monjita, Southern Martin, Chaco Warbling-Finch and Golden-billed Saltator.

Later we will head south to Trelew in Chubut province for a two nights stay.

As we cross the vast semi-desert plains we will begin to appreciate the immensity of the flat, desolate, treeless, wind-swept ‘wasteland’ that is northern Patagonia (a land named, it seems, from the Spanish word patacones, meaning ‘big feet’, used by the invaders as their name for the local Amerindians).

We will stop along the way near Puerto Madryn. The bays in this area, situated at the base of the Valdés Peninsula, are important mating and calving areas for the Southern Right Whale and we may see one or more of these magnificent creatures offshore, although we will be in the area right at the end of the whale season.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 10  The wild steppe landscape of the Trelew region holds some great birds, including Lesser Rhea, Elegant Crested-Tinamou, Common Miner, the endemic Patagonian Canastero, Lesser (or Least) Shrike-Tyrant, the endemic Rusty-backed Monjita and Short-billed Pipit, as well as a variety of terrestrial mammals such as Guanaco (a smaller cousin of the Llama) and Patagonian Mara (an enormous rodent that sits on its haunches, rather like a kangaroo).

A highlight of our time in Patagonia will be a visit to Punta Tombo – a tiny peninsula compared to the Valdés to the north, but the site of the largest seabird colony on the Patagonian coast. This two miles (three kilometres) long peninsula of red volcanic rock with sand dunes, rocky shores and sandy beaches supports up to a million breeding Magellanic Penguins along with small numbers of Rock and Imperial Shags, Chilean Skuas, Dolphin and Kelp Gulls, and South American Terns. Watching the penguin colony at close range is quite an experience as thousand upon thousand of adults guard their burrow entrances, feed their young chicks, call noisily or march to and from the beach and the adjacent ocean (where thousand upon thousand more are loafing or feeding). Southern Giant-Petrels are also attracted by the prospect of some scrumptious carrion and they are sometimes joined by one or two Northern Giant-Petrels.

Punta Tombo is also the best locality for observing the endemic Chubut Steamer-Duck, first described in 1974 and only known from coastal Chubut province.

Other birds which we may well find in the Trelew region, or further to the south in Patagonia, include Silvery Grebe, Crested Duck, Cinereous Harrier, Variable Hawk, American and Blackish Oystercatchers, the amazing Burrowing Parrot, Scale-throated Earthcreeper, the near-endemic Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, Sharp-billed Canastero, Grey-bellied Shrike-Tyrant, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, Austral Negrito, Patagonian Mockingbird, Mourning Sierra-Finch, Common Diuca-Finch and Patagonian Yellow-Finch. With just a bit of luck, we will also encounter Darwin’s Nothura.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 11  After spending much of the day in the Trelew region we will take a flight to El Calafate in southwestern Argentina for an overnight stay.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 12  Today we will travel to a typical old Patagonian estancia at La Angostura for a two nights stay.

This estancia is where the Austral Rail was rediscovered. It was a species lost to science and considered extinct for 50 years until it was rediscovered here in the late 1990s. With patience and just a little luck (this is a species much more easily heard than seen), we will observe this mega-rarity for ourselves.

Staying at La Angostura is a delightful experience, with hospitable hosts, good food and the opportunity to see a working estancia in action. The marsh and nearby lake here are full of waterbirds, making for a most enjoyable experience. New birds here may well include Black-faced Ibis and Andean Duck. This is also a very good area for Patagonian Tinamou.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 13  Today we will visit some remote upland lakes where we will be searching for the striking Hooded Grebe. One of those ‘near-mythical’ species, the Hooded Grebe was first described as recently as 1974! These enigmatic birds have a tendency to change their breeding sites whenever conditions become unfavourable, making them hard to predict and locate, and the population is now showing signs of collapse, so the species is critically endangered. Even so, we should be rewarded with views of some of these lovely birds swimming on the blue waters, a truly memorable experience!

Other species that we will be wanting to find in this remote region are the handsome Tawny-throated Dotterel and the smart Chocolate-vented Tyrant. We will also encounter the handsome Upland Goose, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Buff-winged Cinclodes, Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant and Grey-hooded Sierra-Finch.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 14  After some early morning birding at La Angostura we will head southwestwards to El Chaltén for an overnight stay.

El Chaltén is spectacularly positioned close to one of the highest peaks in the Patagonian Andes, Mount Fitzroy (3405m or 11,171ft) and lies not far from the border between Argentina and Chile. Assuming the weather is good or at least reasonable during our stay, we will enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of Patagonia, including the awesome snowfields and glaciers that cover much of Mount Fitzroy. (The mountain is named in honour of Robert Fitzroy, captain of the famous Beagle, who charted large parts of the Patagonian coast.)

During our time around El Chaltén, we will be concentrating our attention on finding species such as the smart Bronze-winged (or Spectacled) Duck, Austral Parakeet, Chilean Flicker, the strange Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, the unusual Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Chilean Elaenia, Fire-eyed Diucon, Chilean Swallow, Austral Thrush and Austral Blackbird. This is a good area for seeing both the large Rufous-legged Owl and the diminutive Austral Pygmy Owl. We will also have our first chances for the impressive Magellanic Woodpecker (the largest of the South American woodpeckers) and White-throated Treerunner. There is even a chance of finding the noisy Black-throated Huet-Huet, a large tapaculo restricted to southern Chile and adjacent Argentina. Andean Condors are still common in this superb area and we should see them frequently as they soar over the wild landscape.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 15  After spending the morning around El Chaltén we will head further south to El Calafate, a small town situated on the shores of Lago Argentino, where we will spend two nights.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 16  Our principal target at El Calafate itself is the enigmatic Magellanic Plover (which is now placed in its own monotypic family), but the wetlands here also hold a superb concentration of other waterbirds, including large numbers of Chilean Flamingoes.

The southern Andes are renowned for their exceptional scenic grandeur, for this is a land of jagged peaks and permanent snows, mighty glaciers and great lakes, and extensive southern beech forests. Some of the region’s finest scenery lies in Glaciers National Park, only a short distance to the west of El Calafate. We will spend some highly rewarding time in this wonderful park, gazing in awe at the magnificent scenery, watching in amazement as huge chunks of ice break off from a glacier and crash into the lake, and birding the humid forests and lakeshores.

The park is a very good spot for both Magellanic Woodpecker and Magellanic Tapaculo, as well as a number of other birds restricted to southernmost South America.

Southern & Central Argentina: Day 17  After some early morning birding around El Calafate, the main section of our tour ends at El Calafate airport later this morning.


Southern & Central Argentina (Tierra del Fuego): Day 1  Those continuing on the Tierra del Fuego extension will take a flight across to Ushuaia on the island of Tierra del Fuego and then drive to the town of Rio Grande, where we will stay overnight.

Southern & Central Argentina (Tierra del Fuego): Day 2  Tierra del Fuego, named by Magellan after the warning fires that the now-extinct Ona Amerindians lit when they saw his ships, lies at the extreme southern tip of South America and is a wild land of grassland, windswept moors, Nothofagus beech forests, snow-capped peaks and glaciers. Today we will search the wide-open grasslands of northern Tierra del Fuego for the rare Ruddy-headed Goose, whose ‘mainland’ population (as opposed to the still-thriving Falkland Islands population) has become rare through hunting and through the overgrazing of its habitat by the hundreds of thousands of sheep. We will also be looking out for Rufous-chested Dotterel, Two-banded Plover, the Magellanic form of the South American Snipe (which may represent a distinct species), Least Seedsnipe, Short-billed Miner, Austral Canastero and Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant.

Late in the day, we will return to Ushuaia for a three nights stay.

Southern & Central Argentina (Tierra del Fuego): Days 3-4  Ushuaia is situated at 55 degrees south and is the most southerly large city in both Argentina and the world. Spring should have reached even this remote extremity of South America and we will have the benefit of long daylight hours, but the weather will still be rather cool at sea level and snow is by no means impossible when we are up in the mountains. Although the bird diversity at this latitude is very low, the quality is outstanding.

During our stay at the veritable ‘ends of the earth’, we will visit Tierra del Fuego National Park, a spectacular region of seacoasts, forests, lakes and snow-capped mountains on the Chilean border.

Species we should encounter amidst the wonderful scenery of the Ushuaia area include the attractive Kelp and Ashy-headed Geese, Fuegian (or Flightless) and Flying Steamer-Ducks, White-throated Caracara, Magellanic Oystercatcher, the huge Magellanic Woodpecker (usually positively easy to find and get close to in this area!), Dark-bellied Cinclodes, White-throated Treerunner, Black-chinned Siskin and Patagonian Sierra-Finch.

We will also visit a spectacular high mountain area to search for the uncommon and sometimes rather elusive White-bellied Seedsnipe, and also Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant and the restricted-range Yellow-bridled Finch.

One afternoon we will take a boat trip out into the Beagle Channel in search of seabirds. We should enjoy great views of large numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses and Chilean Skuas, while a small colony of Gentoo Penguins have established themselves in the area (and in recent years there have often been one or two impressive King Penguins hanging around as well). We also have a good opportunity to encounter the diminutive Magellanic Diving Petrel. There is always the chance of seeing one of the more uncommon visitors, such as Southern Fulmar or Wilson’s Storm Petrel.

Southern & Central Argentina (Tierra del Fuego): Day 5  After some early morning birding, the Tierra del Fuego extension to our Southern & Central Argentina birding tour will end later this morning at Ushuaia airport.


by Mark Pearman

View Report


by Mark Pearman

View Report

Other 'Southern Cone' of South America birding tours by Birdquest include: