Zen Birding in Santiago and Central Chile
Keeping a lookout for different bird species where you are traveling can be a good way to stay in the moment, remain conscious of your surroundings and notice nature’s subtle reminders that you are far from home. While Chile doesn’t have as many bird species as some other countries in South America, there are interesting birds to spot here, and it is generally considered “easy” birding: there is no thick Amazon jungle foliage hiding the birds or intense heat and humidity to be endured. Even right in and around Santiago, where most trips to Chile will start and end, a good guide can help you spot and identify many of the over 120 species of birds that can be found here, including 7 endemics.
On a stroll through the Parque Esculturas (Sculpture Park) in Santiago’s tree-lined Providencia neighborhood, keep an eye out for pairs of Southern Lapwings along the banks of the Mapocho River. You’ll probably hear their loud calls long before you see their curious masked faces, as they are the noisiest of the bunch. Up in the park’s unique Araucaria araucana pines (also known as Monkey Puzzle trees), there are large nests of green Monk Parakeets, which are an introduced species, not to be confused with the larger green Austral Parakeets that are endemic to Southern Chile and Argentina. Chimango Caracaras, members of the Falconidae family, can also sometimes be seen perched among the park’s eclectic collection of sculptures by local artists.
A recent morning visit to another of Santiago’s parks, Parque Mahuida, well off the typical tourist route in the La Reina neighborhood (home to Chile’s current president, Michelle Bachelet), yielded sightings of 15 other species, including the Chilean Swallow, Chilean Tinamou, Chilean Flicker, and the Chilean Mockingbird (until some were recently found in Argentina, these were thought to be endemic to Chile). This park is in the pre-cordillera, or the foothills of the Andes, and has some nice hiking trails and good views of the city on a clear day.
Another great area to explore around Santiago is Parque Yerba Loca on the winding road east from Santiago up to the ski town of Farellones, a perfect place for spotting Andean Condors soaring high on the mountain breeze. Alternatively, heading the other direction, northwest from Santiago towards the coast, a stop at the marshes of Lampa allows a chance to spot many water birds, including the South American Painted-snipe. Once out on the Pacific coast, in addition to several species of gulls and pelicans, a colony of Humboldt Penguins can be observed on a small protected island just off the coast from Cachagua, near the beach towns of Maitencillo and Zapallar.
Chile may not be a destination known for its birds, but keep your eyes and ears open here and you may be surprised at what you can find! If you’d like to include a specialized birding guide for any of your excursions on any of our custom itineraries in Chile or throughout South America, please just say the word.