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A Report from

Costanera Sur Reserve - Buenos Aires - Argentina, 6 and 7 May  2000,

Ignaas Robbe

I was on a business  trip in Latin America and I decided to stay the weekend in Buenos Aires to bird in the Costanera Sur Reserve at the borders of the Rio de la Plata river.  I had been there several times  before and expections where high as this is a unique area with rich bird life so close to Buenos Aires' city centre.

To reach the reserve you just walk down the Avda Corrientes from the "Obelisco" then you take the bridge over the dock straight on until some old docks and then you go right, to the entrance of the reserve itself, a 20 minutes walk from the Obelisco.

When I arrived at the gate  around 1 pm on Saturday May 6th, there was something I did not expect : the reserve was exeptionally closed for the weekend due to a risk of flooding after heavy rainfalls the previous days.

I explained to a warden that I was so disappointed I couldn't get in. The man must have read the true disappointment on my face as he  gave me a  permission to enter the reserve and to bird alongside the tracks. How bad luck turned into good luck !! I was totally alone in the park, no other people  were allowed, so minimum disturbance for the birds. I had the reserve practically for me alone the whole weekend !!

Herewith a list of the birds seen that weekend, with some comment (only observations with 100% certainty here - see bottom of page for some comments on identification problems) ;

Names were taken from the "Collins illustrated checklist birds of Southern South America and Antarctica" by Martin R. de la Pena and Maurice Rumboll. Some guides use other names for certain species. This book is a must for birders who travel to Argentina or Chile. Some plates are very good, other plates have been drawn from stuffed birds or museum specimen apparently and could be improved (especially the smaller birds).

Pied billed grebe (Podylimbus podiceps) : a minimum of 5 birds in the reserve.

White tufted grebe (Podyceps rolland) : tens of birds both in winter/moulting and summerplumage (most in summer plumage actually)

Great grebe (Centropelma microterum) : 1 bird present through the weekend, still in summer plumage

Neotropic (Olivaceous) cormorant ( Phalacrocorax olivaceus) : about 10 birds present on both days

Rufescent tiger heron (Tigrosoma lineatum) : a great observation the first day of an adult bird fishing not so far from the entrance

White necked heron (Ardea cocoi) : 2 - 3

Great egret (Egretta alba) : only 1 seen

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula) : some birds flying over now and then. Very tame individuals can be seen fishing early in the morning alongside the old docks (on the way to the reserve). When the whether is nice a good opportunity to take pictures.

Maguari stork  (Ciconia maguari) : a bird flying north in the afternoon of the 6th, and 6 birds arriving at dawn on the 7th

Roseate spoonbill (Ajaia ajaja) : a very special Latin name for a special bird : 1 adult flying direction north on the 6th

Southern screamer (Chauna torquata) : on both days 2 individuals seen flying (very close though)

White faced tree-duck (Dendrocygna viduata) : some 50 birds present - very nice species

Coscoroba (Coscoroba coscoroba) : common

Black-necked swan (Cygnus melancoryphus) : common

Brown pintail (Anas georgica) : 1 on the 6th, 3 on the 7th

Silver teal (Anas versicolor) : 2 males the 7th

Rosy billed pochard (Netta peposaca) : 1 male th 6th, 3 males the 7th (same remark as with Snowy Egret, very tame birds can sometimes be seen in the old docks early in the morning - easy to photograph).

Lake duck (Oxyura vittata) : common

Crested caracara (Polyborus plancus) : 2 individuals seen feeding on a Coot sp.(Fulica sp.) on the 6th. One bird seen on the 7th.

Chimango caracara (Milvago chimango) : regulary seen 

Moorhen or Common gallinule (gallinula chloropus) : common

Red garthered coot (Fulica armillata) : common

Red fronted coot (Fulica rufifrons) : common

Southern lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) : only one seen - in the breeding season very easy to see here.

Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana) : about 10 birds (all adults) counted in the whole reserve. Is very common in the breeding season here and quite tame.

Kelp gulls (Larus dominicanus): regulary seen flying over - also sitting on borders of Rio de la Plata

Grey hooded gulls (Larus cirrocephalus) : about 25 birds flying north in de evening of the 6th

Picazuro pigeon (Colomba picazura) : common

Picui ground dove (Colombina picui) : can easily be seen in the lawns alongside the dirt path and on the banks of the Rio de la Plata

White tipped dove (Leptotila verreauxi) : nice observation of a feeding bird the 7th.

Monk parakeet (Myiopsitta  monachus) : common

Guira cuckoo (Guira guira) : 5 birds in the evening of the 6th near the gate of the reserve

Green kingfisher (Chloroceryle americana) : a female the 6th

Green barred woodpecker (Colaptes melanchloros): common - can be seen feeding on the lawns and in dead trees. I photographed a couple from very near by.

Field flicker (Colaptes campestris) : one seen in the evening of the 6th.

Bar winged cinclodes (Cinclodes fuscus): one bird seen on both days

Rufous hornero (Furnarius rufus) : very common. A very tame species here.

Freckle breasted thornbird (Phacellodomus erythrophthalmus) : common, can easily be heard and with some patience be seen.

Lark-like brushrunner (Coryphistera alaudina) : 1 on the 6th, a group of  3 on the 7th. I do not know the satatus of this bird in Argentina, but I think luck was on my side here as they are quite shy birds.

Rufous capped antshrike (Thamnophilus ruficapillus) a male in the evening of the 7th.

White crested tyrannulet (Serpophaga subcristata) : 3 + birds on the 6th, in the evening of the 7th I saw a flock of about 10 with one bird having the plumage of the subspecies Serpophaga s. munda.

Pied water tyrant (Fluvicola pica) : this lovely species can easily be seen, I saw only males.

Cattle tyrant (Machetornis rixosus) : I counted about 3 - 4 birds present in the reserve

Great kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus) : this noisy bird is common here as in most parts of South America

House wren (Troglodytes aedon) : common

Masked gnatcatcher (Polioptila durnicola): very common

Rufous bellied thrush (Turdus rufiventris) : common

Creamy bellied thrush (Turdus anaurochalinus) : 3 birds seen the 6th, none the day after

Chalk-browed mockingbird (Mimus saturninus) : very common an exceptionally tame. They are very easily lured with some bread.

White banded mockingbird (Mimus triurus) : fairly commmon

European starling (Sturnus Vulgaris) : only one bird the 7th. This species is breeding in and around Buenos Aires and is spreading into other parts of the country.

Hepatic tanager (Piranga flava) : a male the 6th

Yellow billed cardinal (Paroaria capitata) : 4 birds on both days

Red crested cardinal (Paroaria coronata) : 2 birds the 7th

Rusty collared seedeater (Sporophila collaris) : only birds seen in female plumage. Do the males have another plumage outside the breeding season?

Great pampa finch (Embernagra platensis) : quite common in the pampasgrass fields. Quite tame and could easily been photographed.

Black capped warbling finch (Poospiza cinerea) : common, a lovely bird

Black and rufous warbling finch (Poospiza nigrorufa) : common

Rufous collared sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis) : very common

Yellow winged blackbird (Agelaius thilius) : common

Chestnut capped blackbird (Agelaius ruficapillus): a male the 7th

Hooded siskin (Carduelis magellanica) : just one the 6th and some small flocks the 7th

House sparrow (Passer domesticus) : common

Remarks on identification ;

When you go out birding in a country or continent where you are not 100% familiar with the species, it is not a shame when you cannot identify all the species you see (especially when you bird alone). My opinion is that you go out birding to enjoy and relax and get kicks from observations and not just to "tick species" or to make your "life list" longer.Keeping a life list is good fun and you can put some competition in birdwatching, but should not be the main aim of birdwatching.

So, here some birds I could not stick a name on ;

A kind of caracara which was neither Crested or Chimango
A species of hawk
1 or 2 species of Spinetails
A lot of flycatchers and "warbler-like" birds (usually referred to as LBB's - little brown birds)

On May 7th I saw a tyrant which looked very much like the Streak throated bush tyrant (Myiotheretes striaticollis) - unfortunately the observation was too short to make a field sketch. This bird does not belong here, it's distribution lies much more to the North-East. To be honest, I do not see which other species it could have been, but in South-America you can never be careful enough.

A kind of thrush.
Some seedeater - like birds and finch-like birds.
There were some yellowfinches I could not identify with certainty, I have photographed some, so I can check at home.
A few "should-be-easy-to-identify" blackbirds and swallows.
And a lot of sounds....;


Costanera Sur in Buenos Aires is a great reserve an a great starting point for birding in the bird-rich continent of South-America. So many birds so close to a major world city is a great experience. Every season, every visit is different. Even if you have only a few hours to spend in Buenos Aires, go - you will not be disappointed.

Ignaas Robbe  -   Wevelgem  -  Belgium


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