Nature tourism

Birdwatching in Chile: Flamingos, penguins, condors and more

From Patagonia in the south to the Atacama Desert in the north, Chile is teeming with interesting and exotic species of birds.

Monday, July 25, 2011  
Chile is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Chile is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Chile's diverse climate and natural habitats translates into a huge variety of bird life, making it a birdspotter's paradise. The country has more than 450 species of birds, two percent of which are exclusive to the country. However, in areas like northern Patagonia, up to 60 per cent of the bird species are only found in Chile.

In all of Chile's national parks and reserves, you can find birds worth watching and photographing. In the lakes of the Chilean Altiplano, the most obvious attraction is the flamingos but discerning birdwatchers will also be rewarded with sightings of black-headed Andean Gulls, Andean Avocets and a wide variety of coots.

Another treasure of Chile's bird life is the Humboldt Penguin which can be found along the country's northern coast. A penguin basking in the sun with the stunning Atacama Desert in the background is a photo opportunity not to be missed.

Of course, you can't forget the majestic Andean Condor which can be seen in most parts of the country, as it lives all along the Andes mountain range. But some places are prime viewing areas, such as Cajón del Maipo, not far from Santiago, the San Rafael glacier in the Torres del Paine National Park and the Alerce Andino National Park.

Birding is increasingly popular in Chile and the number of tour operators catering to birdwatchers' needs is steadily growing. One of the best is Birding Chile, which has a network of ornithologists and birdwatching aficionados who can provide assistance. Another options is to use the services of Birding Pal, an international community which has a list of Chilean members who are able to act as guides.

Another handy tool, if you speak Spanish, is the Birds of Chile website, which has photos along with descriptions and habitat information for most local birds.