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A Report from

Argentina - Iguazu, Ibera, Buenos Aires, San Luis, December 2-12, 2005,


By Francis Toldi  (with John Toldi)

Between December 2 and 12, 2005 I had the great pleasure to be birding in Argentina with my brother, John Toldi.  With limited time in this large and diverse country, we restricted our birding to four areas:  Iguazu, the edge of the Ibera marshes, Costanera Sur reserve in Buenos Aires and southeastern San Luis Province in the western central area of Argentina.  Rather than give a full blow-by-blow account of the trip I will describe some of my general impressions together with some logistical comments for each area, then provide some comments on birder’s resources for Argentina generally.  I have also included an annotated list of all species noted.  I did prepare a daily narrative trip report, which I can e-mail upon request.

Iguazu National Park.

The National Park that includes and surrounds Iguazu Falls is justly famed as both a scenic and birding destination.  Many trip reports and readily available birdfinding resources describe the birding options in this area, so I won’t describe the area in detail.  See the annotated list for coverage of all species noted here.   Here are a few observations to assist with planning:

Esteros del Ibera.

More general observations:

The following is a master list of species we found on our four passes over Road 40 (in and out in the late afternoon of December 6, in and out on the morning of December 7) listed by kilometer point.  There are no kilometer markers on the road, so be sure to set “0” at the intersection of Highway 14 and Road 40 (the Pellegrini Road).   Also see the comments for many of these species in the separate annotated species list.  When key species were seen only on one occasion I’ve noted it in the annotations.  For very common birds I only note the first time we found that species.  Many species occurred frequently along the road.  This was birding at its best:  excellent viewing conditions, a steady stream of great birds, an ideal birding companion, and pretty, scenic country.  It is open country birding, so you don’t have the magnificent forest, but there is still plenty of habitat out in the plains.  Some portions are heavily cultivated and fairly birdless, but much is still in very good condition.  Our only major disappointment was that we couldn’t find a Strange-tailed Tyrant, one of the birds that lured us to this location, and which had been reliably reported from this area, albeit some years earlier and at a different time of year.  Perhaps they are more localized during the breeding season as many species are, and one must go deeper into their preferred habitat to find them at this time of year.

Anyway, here’s the list.  See additional comments on specific birds in the annotated species list.  Since this is mostly just a list of species I’ve dropped the contrasting all caps format I use to highlight birds in the narrative parts of this report.

Km 0 – Red-Crested Cardinal, Sayaca Tanager, Hooded Siskin

Km 0.8 – Great Pampa-Finch, Greater Thornbird

Km 1.0 – Chimango Caracara, Wood Stork

Km 2.1 – Striated Heron, White-necked Heron, Savannah Hawk, Southern Crested Caracara, Southern Lapwing, Smooth-billed Ani, Monk Parakeet, Eared Dove, Rufous-sided Crake (heard only), White-rumped Swallow, Hooded Siskin, Ochre-breasted Pipit, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, White-fronted Blackbird,  Yellow-rumped Marshbird

Km 2.5 – Ochre-breasted Pipit (probably a different bird)

Km 2.7 – Giant Woodrail, Lesser Grass-Finch

Km 3.3 – Grassland Sparrow

Km 4.6 – White-tailed Hawk;  Also saw European Hare here (introduced)

Km 5.1 – Bare-faced Ibis, Maguari Stork, White-faced Tree Duck, South American Stilt

Km 5.2 – Whistling Heron, Brazilian Duck, Masked Gnatcatcher, Double-collared Seedeater

Km 5.4 – Ruddy Ground Dove, Saffron Finch, Yellowish Pipit

Km 6.2 – Tawny-headed Swallow

Km 7.6 – Neotropical Cormorant, Roadside Hawk, Long-winged Harrier (dark phase)

Km 7.9 – Cattle Egret

Km 8.5 – Ringed Kingfisher

Km 8.7 – American Kestrel; also large cattle herd in the middle of the road, following by gauchos with their characteristic “cowboy berets” and alert, on-the-job herding dogs!

Km 9.2 – Long-winged Harrier (light phase), Black-and-white Monjita, White-browed Blackbird, Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, Saffron-cowled Blackbird; we called this place “blackbird acres”—note that they would disappear for periods of time into the tall weeds and then reappear minutes later.

Km 10 – Snowy Egret, Wood Stork, Rufous-sided Crake (heard another), White-tipped Dove, Little Thornbird, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant; also saw Pampa Cavy (guinea pigs) here

Km 10.4 – Black-crowned Night Heron

Km 12.2 – Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Black Vulture

Km 12.3 – Jabiru Stork (evening of 12/6 only)

Km 18.2 – Chilean Flamingo, Snail Kite

Km 18.5 – Dark-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Chestnut Seedeater, Marsh Seed-Finch

Km 18.8 – Limpkin (evening of 12/6 only)

Km 19.0 – Long-tailed Reed-Finch

Km – 19.2 – Greater Kiskadee, Rufous-collared Sparrow

Km 19.5 – Roseate Spoonbill, Brazillian Duck Chestnut Seedeater

Km 27.8 – Greater Rhea

Km 29.0 – Spotted Nothura, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, White-fronted Blackbird; also saw large Tegu Lizard and Gray Fox (with 2 adorable pups) in this vicinity

Km 30.5 – Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Wattled Jacana

Km 35.3 – White-rumped Hawk (juvenile), Burrowing Owl

Km 45.4 – Picui Ground Dove

Km 45.8 – (at bridge over Rio Aguapey) Spotted Sandpiper, Campo Flicker, Blue-and-white Swallow, White-winged Swallow, Gray-breasted Martin, White Monjita

Buenos Aires (Costanera Sur).

Newly arrived birders who are amped up on “just arrived adrenalin” can find some good, if pretty common, birds along the verges and trees of Buenos Aires boulevards.  At the domestic air terminal we were thrilled to see EUROPEAN STARLINGS were flying about, along with some unidentifiable swallows silhouetted against the bright sky.  Starlings are apparently a fairly recent arrival in the area, but sure seem to be doing well!  We also saw EARED DOVE, CHALK-BROWED MOCKINGBIRD, RUFOUS-BELLIED THRUSH and SAFFRON FINCH on the sidewalk just outside the terminal.

Fortunately you don’t have to go far to see REALLY good birds.  Costanera Sur is within walking, easy bus-ride or cheap cab-ride distance from most places birders might be staying in Buenos Aires.  The park is well maintained, heavily used and enjoyed by many different types of people, including  families, joggers, walkers, solitude-seekers, lovers and—yes—birders.  I was pleased to see what appeared to be a large number of local birders out and about as well, and not just visiting gringos like us.  The backdrop of downtown BA on one side and the mighty La Plata River on the other is quite magnificent.  Also remarkable is the amount of quality habitat and the large number of species at this location.  See the annotated list for details on the 75+ we saw at this location in a morning and early afternoon at this great place.  Highlights included SOUTHERN SCREAMER, BLACK-HEADED DUCK, LAKE DUCK, 9 species of shorebird (probably due to unusually low water occasioned by a drought—great for shorebirds, but not so good for waterfowl and gallinules), SPECTACLED TYRANT, GLAUCOUS-BLUE GROSBEAK and many other species.  We only had (10 power) binoculars.  A scope would have been nice, though not critical, and we could see everything except the smaller shorebirds well enough.  Bring your own snacks and water, and change for the soda machine at the main entrance.  You might want to consider doing what we did, and following up with a meal at one of the many nearby restaurants.  We tried  La Caballeriza at Puerto Madero, a nice part of the old port area that has been fixed up for shopping, dining and general tourism.  We timed it so that we hit the last of the lunch rush at around 3:00 p.m.  We were probably the last seated in the full restaurant, but when we left we were the only ones there.  OK, so we did stay for over two hours!  We had more marvelous Argentine beef, potatoes, a fresh salad and a terrific Malbec.

San Luis Province.

It is pointless to give precise directions to the areas we birded in San Luis because they were all on private lands not open to the public.  In any case, most birders would choose to go further north, where some interesting endemics are more likely.  I am including some descriptions of the birds we found in this area because this corner of Argentina is so rarely birded.  Even though much of our time in this area was on “family time” with birding only in early morning and late afternoon, we still managed to find a lot of great birds.  Despite my joy in seeking and finding special birds in various places around the world, the long hours of pleasure I get before a trip plotting out course, reviewing trip reports, checklists and advice from friends, there is something really exciting in just going somewhere and seeing what you can find there.  Try it sometime!   The annotated list tells the full story, but here are the highlights.

The habitat was primarily chaco scrub—mostly small gnarly mesquite-like thorn trees, with grasslands interspersed.  There were also a number of ponds, mostly with fairly low water due to an ongoing and quite serious drought.  The property was an active cattle ranch, but well-managed with due regard for the limits of grazing density and natural landscape.  

As we entered the ranch before dawn  a BAND-WINGED NIGHTJAR flushed from the roadside.  Pulling into the ranch complex we were delighted with a full view of a SCISSOR-TAILED NIGHTJAR in the headlights of the truck.  After sunrise we spent a few hours birding the property, with highlights for the morning including DARWIN’S NOTHURA, SILVERY GREBE, WHITE-TUFTED GREBE, BUFF-NECKED IBIS, CHILEAN FLAMINGO (what a gorgeous bird in flight), BLACK-NECKED SWAN, SOUTHERN WIGEON, WHITE-CHEEKED PINTIL, CINNAMON TEAL, RED SHOVELER, SPOT-WINGED FALCONET (lurking around the MONK PARAKEET nests at dawn—I loved watching the nest colonies in the big trees right over the ranch house), SCALED PIGEON, CHECKERED WOODPECKER, NARROW-BILLED WOODCREEPER (I never could find a Scimtar-billed, which John has seen commonly around the ranch house trees), TUFTED TIT-SPINETAIL, PALE-BREASTED SPINETAIL, STRIPE-CROWNED SPINETAIL, BROWN CHACOLOTE, WHITE-TIPPED PLANTCUTTER (I really loved the “creaky branch” call of these guys), SOUTHERN SCRUB FLYCATCHER, WHITE-BELLIED TYRANNULET, BRAN-COLORED FLYCATCHER, GREATER WAGTAIL-TYRANT, VERMILLION FLYCATCHER (an old friend), SOUTHERN MARTIN, LONG-TAILED MEADOWLARK, BLUE-AND-YELLOW TANAGER and COMMON DIUCA FINCH. 

By around 5:00 p.m. it was cooling down a bit.  We borrowed one of the ranch trucks and drove out to some ponds and scrublands further away from the ranch house.  We found some new birds to go along with the repeat sightings of many on the morning’s list.  The new ones included:  GREATER RHEA (an adult with 13 young trotting along behind!), SPOTTED NOTHURA, DARWIN’S NOTHURA (darn, those little tinamous are tough!  We called them “UTO’s” or “Unidentifiable Tinamou Objects”), GOLDEN-BREASTED WOODPECKER (lumped with Green-barred, I believe), SHORT-BILLED CANASTERO, CRESTED HORNERO, WHITE MONJITA, WHITE-BANDED MOCKINGBIRD.  Among the other critters we saw were European Hare and European Rabbit, both introduced.

We devoted the next morning as well to birds. Mostly we saw the same birds as the day before.  We were growing more confident in identifying vocalizations, always a nice phase on a trip.  The new birds consisted of ELEGANT-CRESTED TINAMOU (no doubt on that one!), RED-WINGED TINAMOU, STRIPED CUCKOO, BLUE-CROWNED PARAKEET (only a single bird), LARK-LIKE BUSHRUNNER, WHITE-CRESTED ELAENIA and SMALL-BILLED ELAENIA (see notes on these two species in the Annotated List),  and a pretty good look at some SCREAMING COWBIRDS.  We also found the skeletal remains of a Greater Rhea, a very interesting sight.

All packed up and waiting to leave, we stepped out back for some photos.  A BRUSHLAND TINAMOU ran right by us—the last of the UTO’s in the area that I hadn’t seen yet, and what should have been the easiest to find!  That signaled the end of the birding for this trip.


There are a variety of resources for the traveling birder in Argentina.  Although they are not as comprehensive as exist for other South American countries, there are still very decent quality materials available.  This is a brief overview (with annotations) of the reference materials that we used on our trip.





Web Resources


·        For traveling within the country there are a number of options, depending on the time available, the trip budget and the distance of the locations.  Domestic air travel is not as expensive as we had expected, but don’t overlook the excellent network of long range overnight buses.   They leave from an enormous terminal in Buenos Aires and are well-timed to allow a night departure with a morning arrival at the destination.  The seats tilt back far enough to allow a reasonable chance for a good night’s sleep.

·        Car rental is always a possibility, and cars are available, but for the independent traveler I would recommend only renting for local transportation with the longer stretches covered by bus or plane.

Full annotated list of all species noted

Francis Toldi, Burlingame, CA


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