July 08, 2022 #ChileDiverse

15 surprising birds to look out for when traveling through Chile

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From small hummingbirds of 7 centimeters long barely visible in a couple of valleys in the extreme north of Chile, to imposing condors along our entire mountain range, huge rheas present in Chilean Patagonia, or the largest woodpecker in South America, our country enjoys a great variety of birds that characterize it. Not all of them fly, but some run up to 60 km/h, and others are so strong that they are capable of living in torrential rivers. Here are some of the most emblematic, attractive and representative birds from north to south of the country, compiled with the collaboration and information of the Chilean Bird and Wildlife Watchers Network.

  1. Arica hummingbird

This endemic species of Chile inhabits, feeds and breeds mainly in the valleys of Camarones, Chaca and its surroundings in the region of Arica and Parinacota. It is the smallest bird in Chile, measuring between 7 and 9 centimeters long, with a weight of 2 to 3 grams, and is one of the most endangered species in the country, due to habitat degradation. For this reason, it is critically endangered, according to the international conservation category, with an estimated population of less than 300 individuals. It has a metallic green head and upper parts, and a white breast.

To help protect it, the Picaflor de Arica Natural Monument was created, which protects an area of the Chaca ravine (Arica and Parinacota region).

Image: Pius Marshall
  1. Chilean Flamenco

This aquatic bird can be seen in Chile from the region of Arica and Parinacota to Tierra del Fuego. It inhabits shallow waters (either fresh or salty), from the coast up to 4600 meters above sea level. Therefore, it is commonly found in areas such as Laguna Chaxa in the Atacama salt flat (Antofagasta region), in the El Yali national reserve (Valparaíso region), in Chiloé (Los Lagos region) and in Patagonia. It is up to 1.30 meters tall and weighs up to 7 kilograms. Its plumage is light pink, with darker areas near the tail. It is the southernmost flamingo species in the world.

Image: Pius Marshall


  1. Mountain plover

The Andean plover is distributed between the mountain range of central Peru to the mountain range of central Chile, from the region of Arica and Parinacota to Curicó (Maule region). It uses wetlands, high altitude meadows and riverbanks in the upper part of the mountain range, from where it obtains its food (aquatic arthropods). It is 20 centimeters long, has a black head with a kind of white crown around it, a white chest with very fine black lines, a grayish back and yellow legs.

Image: Pablo Gutierrez
  1. Black woodpecker

It is the largest woodpecker in South America and one of the largest woodpeckers in the world. It is an endemic species of the temperate and subantarctic forests of Chile and Argentina, inhabiting in our country from the region of O'Higgins to Magallanes, mainly in oak and araucaria forests. It measures up to 48 centimeters long, its body is completely black in the case of females and black with a red head in the case of males, and its wings are white underneath, something that characterizes it in flight. It feeds mainly on invertebrates found under the bark of old trees, and nests in cavities located in trees up to eight meters high. Like many species of woodpeckers, it beats trees loudly and rhythmically.

  1. Humboldt Booby

The Humboldt booby inhabits coastal areas, mainly cliffs, large rocks and cliffs, between the region of Arica and Parinacota and Chiloé (Los Lagos region). It is a bird dependent on the Humboldt Current, since its main prey is associated with this cold current. To fish, it launches itself out to sea on an almost vertical booby trawl from a height. Entering the water at high speed, it reaches several meters deep where it uses its wings to dive until it surfaces again.

Image: Pablo Gutierrez
  1. Condor

This imposing bird, which occupies a prominent place in Chile's national coat of arms, inhabits the entire Andean region of South America. In our country, the condor is found throughout the Andes Mountains, reaching the coasts in the northern and extreme south of Chile. This is one of the largest flying birds in the world: it can measure up to 1.20 meters long, weigh up to 15 kilograms, and when it spreads its wings it reaches a wingspan of up to 3.2 meters. It has a collar of white feathers around its neck, a black body with some metallic sheen, and in the case of males, a dark reddish crest. It can travel up to 200 km in a day in search of food: carrion or dying animals. Thanks to its dense plumage, it can withstand very cold climates.

  1. Ñandú

This South American endemic bird is present in southern Chile and central and southern Argentina. In our country, the rhea inhabits the Patagonian steppe of the Aysén and Magallanes regions. It is the largest bird in Chile, measuring up to 1.80 meters in height and weighing up to 25 kilograms in females and 35 kg in males. It cannot fly, but it can run at high speed, reaching up to 60 km/hour. It is a good swimmer if it needs to cross a water course, its body is gray and has an elongated neck. It feeds on plants, fruits, insects and even small mammals and lives up to 15 years.

  1. Black-browed Albatross

The black-browed albatross is distributed in most of the seas of the southern hemisphere. In Chile it is found off the coast from north to south, being more abundant in southern waters. It has a white body, black wings and yellow beak. It measures up to 80 cms long and 225 cms with its wings extended. It feeds mainly on fish and crustaceans, as well as carrion and waste thrown into the sea by ships. Due to incidental fishing and the introduction of mammals into its nesting sites, this species has suffered large population declines in recent decades. Fortunately, these have been improving in recent years. Chile is home to approximately 18% of the breeding population of the species in the world.

Image: Pablo Gutierrez
  1. Loica

In Chile, the loica is distributed between the regions of Atacama and Magallanes, and lives mainly on the ground in low and humid terrain, and towards the mountain range up to heights of 2,500 m. It has an intense orange chest color and the rest of the body is dark brown. It measures up to 28 cms long. It eats insects, fruits and seeds.

Image: Pius Marshall
  1. Turkish

This endemic species of Chile is concentrated between the Atacama and Maule regions, mainly on rocky slopes. It is about 25 centimeters long. Its intermittent whistling song accompanies any observer who climbs the mountain. It nests in caves that it digs in hillsides or walls of ravines, being very difficult to detect. To search for food, it can lift heavy rocks with its large legs.

Image: Pablo Gutierrez
  1. Juan Fernandez hummingbird

The Juan Fernández hummingbird is a species endemic to the Juan Fernández Archipelago, found only in dense forests on Robinson Crusoe Island, where today there are no more than a thousand specimens, according to the Oikonos organization, which is dedicated to the conservation of different species. It measures 13 centimeters long, and feeds on plants and small insects, nesting in clearings inside the forest, only in the Juan Fernández luma tree (endemic to the area), where the female makes the nest with moss and plant remains. Today it is critically endangered due to habitat loss and degradation caused by human activities and invasive plants.

Image: Rolando Recabarren
  1. Tricahue

Also known as the canyon parrot, the tricahue is a very colorful and boisterous species found mainly in the Andean foothills of the O'Higgins and Maule regions, and to a much lesser extent in some sectors of the Atacama and Coquimbo regions. It inhabits semi-arid foothills environments, near rivers or river boxes. It measures up to 47 centimeters long, and its body has different colors: orange chest, dark green head and back, as well as yellow, blue and grayish tones. It feeds on grains, fruits and flowers.

  1. Chucao

This bird is distributed between southern Chile and Argentina. In the case of our country, between the regions of O'Higgins and Aysén. It lives in temperate forests, reaches 20 cm in length and has a reddish chest. It feeds on insects and other invertebrates that it looks for by scratching the ground with its little legs like chickens do.

Its name comes from the Mapudungun "chukaw", which means "bird of the mountain". According to Mapuche belief, it is the main bird of doom, since it predicts to travelers whether they will have a good or bad trip, depending on whether it sings to the right or to the left of the person, respectively.

Image: Pius Marshall
  1. Current Cutting Duck

The current-cutting duck is an aquatic species that occupies exclusively torrential water courses in the Andes Mountains, from Colombia to Tierra del Fuego. It measures up to 43 centimeters, its body is black and white and its legs and bill are reddish in color. It feeds mainly on micro invertebrates that live in the most oxygenated areas of the rivers, and to a lesser extent on small fish found in the waterways. Its body is slender and has great resistance, it is not good for flying, but it is good for swimming, living exclusively in torrential rivers: it can be found swimming against the current or resting perched on a rock.

Image: Pius Marshall
  1. Humboldt penguin

Also known as northern penguin, child bird or donkey duck, it inhabits the coasts and seas of Peru and Chile, in the Humboldt Current. In our country it is located from the north to Chiloé (Los Lagos region). It is white with black, measures about 70 cm and weighs up to 5 kgs. It feeds mainly on anchovies, silversides and small sardines.

Its main threats are mortality caused by entanglement in fishing nets and illegal capture. The Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, off the coast of the Atacama and Coquimbo regions, concentrates the largest breeding colonies of this species.


Image of Chile