Eight Great Places To Find The Birds of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile

Birds of Patagonia: Cinereous Harrier
The chance to see the birds of Patagonia was a key reason that we embarked on our trip to southern Chile and Argentina. Read on to find out where to go birding in Patagonia and the avian species you can expect to find along the way. 

The Birds of Bariloche Argentina

Bariloche is a great place to seek out Patagonian birds with many species flocking to Argentina's lake district. 

Birds on Nahuel Huapi Lake

We spotted plenty of ashy-headed geese and southern lapwing on Lago Nahuel Huapi, the surreal blue lake in Bariloche.
Patagonia birds: ashy-headed goose
Birds of Patagonia: Southern lapwing
We also saw more common birds including seagulls galore. The gulls accompanied our Cau Cau boat cruise on the lake in Bariloche.
Birds of Patagonia: Seagulls chasing a boat in Bariloche Argentina

Birds of Circuito Chico near Bariloche

Waves lapping up to shore in Bariloche Argentina

Circuito Chico is an easy half day scenic drive in Bariloche. In addition to amazing views of the lake district of Argentina, we spotted plenty of birds (including more ashy-headed geese and southern lapwings with chicks) during our visit in November. Spring had definitely sprung in the Southern Hemisphere!
Birds of Patagonia: Ashy-headed Goose and baby

Birds of Patagonia: Adult southern lapwing and chick
The Birds of Cerro Otto

Ride the vertigo inducing Teleférico Cerro Otto (cable car) to the summit for sweeping views over Bariloche. We found that birds of prey like the crested caracara seemed to gravitate to Cerro Otto. 

Birds of Patagonia: crested caracara in a tree

We also spotted smaller birds of Patagonia like the buff-winged cinclodes at the top of Cerro Otto.
Birds of Patagonia: Buff-winged Cinclodes

The Birds of Ruta de Siete Lagos

The Seven Lakes Drive is another scenic day trip that you can do from Bariloche Argentina. The traditional reason to do this drive is to marvel at the scenery. However, the road trip offers the added bonus of plenty of opportunities to see the birds of Patagonia. 
Blue lake and mountains near Bariloche Argentina on Ruta de Siete Lagos
Birds of Patagonia: chiloe wigeon
We spotted chiloe wigeon ducks and our ubiquitous friend, the ashy-headed goose.
Birds of Patagonia: Ashy-headed goose

Patagonia Birds at Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve in El Calafate

Path through the grass and fluffy clouds at Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve in El Calafate Argentina
Heading further south, we landed in raw, windswept El Calafate Argentina, home of the Perito Moreno Glacier. El Calafate is home to the amazing Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve. Dress warmly and in layers when you visit because the howling wind is biting. Braving the elements was totally worth it to see all the awesome birds of Patagonia that call the lake home.
Cinereous Harrier hovering over the grass at Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve in El Calafate Argentina
Birds of Patagonia: close-up photo of a Cinereous Harrier in the grass
We spotted cinerous harriers and other birds of prey almost suspended in mid-air due to the strong wind as they scouted their next prey.
Birds of Patagonia: spectacled tyrant
I love, love, love this spectacled tyrant. Just look at that eye!
Birding in Patagonia: Upland Goose at Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve in El Calafate Argentina
Upland geese were prevalent visitors at Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve.
Birds of Patagonia: Ruddy duck with distinctive blue beak
We also saw male Argentinian ruddy ducks with their bright blue bills scooting around the lake 
Birds of Patagonia: coscoroba swan in flight
Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve in El Calafate is also home to coscoroba swans.
The sandy shore of Lago Argentina with glacial blue water beyond in El Calafate Argentina
Just beyond the boundaries of the wetlands part at Laguna Nimez you'll find the shores of enormous Lago Argentino. Look carefully, you may spot Chilean flamingos against the backdrop of the glacial blue lake like we did.
Chilean Flamingo on the shore of Lago Argentino in El Calafate Argentina

The Birds of Perito Moreno Glacier

Patagonian sierra finch bird near Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate Argentina
The main attraction near El Calafate is Perito Moreno Glacier. The boardwalks and forests around the glacier are also a good place to go birding. We spotted a Patagonian sierra finch or a 'yellow fatty' as I affectionately called them before I could get to a computer and my birding books to make the identification.
Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate Argentina

The Birds of Puerto Natales Waterfront

Waves on the shore in Puerto Natales Chile.
Venturing even further south and across the border into Chile, we arrived in Puerto Natales, another great home base for seeing the birds of Patagonia.
Birds of Patagonia: Chilean Skua
Waves lapped up to shore on Golfo Almte Montt as birds like Chilean skua and black-necked swans (including some with chicks!) bobbed up and down in the rough waters.
Birds of Patagonia: Black-necked swan with chick
Birds of Patagonia: Pair of black-necked swans with chick

The Birds of Torres del Paine National Park 

Chile's Torres del Paine National Park features some of the most amazing views in the world and is also a great spot to go birding in Patagonia. 
Lake with mountains behind and picturesque clouds in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia
On our day trip to Torres del Paine National Park from Puerto Natales, we spotted ducks like chiloe wigeons, spectacled ducks, and spectacled teals.
Birds of Patagonia: Chiloe wigeons 
Spectacled duck at Torres del Paine National Park in Chile
Birds of Patagonia: Spectacled teal
White-tufted grebes scooted around the water and dove at regular intervals.
Birds of Patagonia: White-tufted grebe 
The coolest Patagonian bird that we saw in Torres del Paine National Park had to be the rhea, a large flightless bird related to the ostrich and emu. We spotted this rhea at the side of the road on the way out of the park but couldn't stop in time. We made a U-turn at the first possible moment and drove back a good mile to see this awesome bird grazing at the side of the road.
Birds of Patagonia: Rhea in Torres del Paine National Park

Andean Condors and the Birds of Lago Sofia

Lago Sofia near Puerto Natales Chile with snow-capped mountains behind

Lago Sofia is another easy Patagonian day trip from Puerto Natales. We bumped along a dirt road for about 15 minutes and then parked our car at the side of the road. A rough trail leads up and to the left as you are facing the lake.
Birds of Patagonia: long-tailed meadowlark
We spotted some awesome birds of Patagonia at Lago Sofia including a long-tailed meadowlark and a fire-eyed diucon.
Birds of Patagonia: Fire-eyed Diucon
The ultimate reason to visit Lago Sofia, however, is the chance to see Andean condors. It's possible to take an organized half-day tour to see the condors at Lago Sofia but they tend to be pretty expensive and less flexible than driving yourself. We opted for the self-drive. On our hike at Lago Sofia, we saw Andean condors soaring; lifted by the wind. Every time the wind kicked up, more birds would take flight.
Hill with Andean Condor nests near Lago Sofia in Chile
Our hike ended in front of a fenced-off rocky hill. Using the 65x zoom lens on my Canon SX60, I was able to see the Andean condors perched on the nooks and crannies in the rocks. Such an amazing sight to behold!
Birds of Patagonia: Andean Condors

Birds In and Around the Mylodon Cave

Mylodon statue outside the Mylodon cave near Puerto Natales Chile
Puerto Natales in Chile is also famous for the Mylodon Cave (Cueva del Milodón Natural Monument). The Mylodon cave is famous thanks to the 1865 discovery of a piece of well-preserved skin that turned out to be a remnant from the mylodons that once roamed the area but went extinct over 10,000 years ago. 
Tree and mountain view above the Mylodon Cave near Puerto Natales Chile
Hiking the trail up and above the Mylodon cave, you'll get sweeping views of the valley below and may see some Andean condors soaring on the wind.
Patagonian sierra finch
We spotted more Patagonian sierra finches at the cave. 
Birds of Patagonia: pair of crested caracaras
On the gravel road from Puerto Natales to the Mylodon Cave, you might spot crested caracaras and chiloe wigeons by small ponds on the farms at the side of the road.
Birds of Patagonia: Chiloe wigeon in a pond

Birds on the Strait of Magellan at Punta Arenas

I've been fascinated by the Strait of Magellan for years. I love stories of explorers blazing a trail and sailing off into the unknown. So, when we had the chance to visit Patagonia, we knew we had to go far enough south to see the Strait of Magellan. With this in mind we drove from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas where the waters of the Strait of Magellan lap right up to the city. Punta Arenas is a great places to see the birds of Patagonia. In fact, the old crumbling pier on the Strait of Magellan in the middle of the city is crowded with cormorants and other sea birds. I wonder if all those birds caused the pier to collapse in the first place. What do you think?

Birds on The Old Pier in Punta Arenas

Birds of Patagonia: cormorants on the old pier in Punta Arenas Chile
Birds of Patagonia: close-up portrait of a cormorant
Cormorants on the Strait of Magellan at sunset
Cormorants flying above the old pier in Punta Arenas Chile

On the Shores of the Strait of Magellan in Punta Arenas

Upland geese and chicks on the shores of the Strait of Magellan in Punta Arenas
Walking along the shores of the Strait of Magellan in Punta Arenas, we also saw more upland geese, crested ducks, and various seabirds foraging along the shore.
Crested ducks on the Strait of Magellan in Punta Arenas Chile

Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes

Wooden fence and view of the Strait of Magellan at Fort Bulnes near Punta Arenas Chile
White-cap wave on the Strait of Magellan near Punta Arenas Chile
Just outside Punta Arenas, you can visit Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes and take a walk around Fuerte Bulnes, the original settlement in the area. There you'll find beautiful views of the Strait of Magellan and plenty of birds.
Birds of Patagonia: seaside cinclodes with a bit of food in its mouth
We saw a super-intelligent seaside cinclodes bringing food back to the nest inside one of the historic wooden buildings. It saw us and walked around the other side of the building instead of heading straight for the nest in case we represented danger.
Birds of Patagonia: Flightless steamer-ducks
Flightless steamer-ducks and other birds splashed in the Strait of Magellan near Fuerte Bulnes.

Map of Where to Find the Birds of Patagonia

For more details on where to see birds in Patagonia, check out this handy map. 

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to see the birds of Patagonia on a visit to Argentina and Chile. What are you favorite places for birdwatching in South America? Leave a comment and tell me about the coolest birds you've encountered on your travels.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Eight Great Places To Find The Birds of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile
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