The most comprehensive birding tour of Northern Argentina available, on this birdwatching adventure par excellence we target every single endemic and near endemic bird the region has to offer! Our tour kicks off in the seldom-explored northwest, a haven of endemicity that provides the avid birder with a selection of little-known, range-restricted species along with some of the finest scenery in all Argentina. From such diverse areas as Quebrada de las Conchas, to the spectacular Humahuaca Valley and Yungas Cloud forests of Calilegua, no better backdrop exists against which to search out the region’s avian gems. We continue across the rarely-visited Gran Chaco of north central Argentina before settling in for some remarkable wetland birding on the Esteros del Iberá, one of the largest marshland ecosystems in the country. Continuing into the province of Misiones to search the last remnants of San Pedro’s native Araucaria forest, we conclude the tour at one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world, the gargantuan Cataratas del Iguazú (Iguazú Falls)! Amongst the many fine birds we will specifically target are such desirable and localised species as Rufous-throated Dipper, Tucuman Mountain Finch, Tucuman Amazon, White-throated Cacholote, Strange-tailed Tyrant, Yellow Cardinal, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Black-fronted Piping Guan, Helmeted Woodpecker, spectacular Andean Condor, exquisite Red-tailed Comet, and the extraordinary Lyre-tailed Nightjar. This tour is suitable for those who enjoy easy and accessible birding, awe inspiring landscapes, comfortable travel, fine cuisine and comfortable lodgings, and comes very highly recommended!
Rufous-throated Dipper, Vinaceous-breasted & Tucuman Amazons, Golden-collared Macaw, Grey-hooded, Green-cheeked & Mitred Parakeets, Sandy & Crested Gallitos, Brown & White-throated Cacholotes, Yellow Cardinal, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Spot-winged Falconet, Andean, Ornate & Tataupa Tinamous, Black-fronted Piping Guan, Black-legged Seriema, Chaco Chachalaca, Dusky-legged Guan, Chilean, James’s & Andean Flamingos, Giant Coot, Andean Goose, Puna Teal, Puna Ibis, Puna Plover, Andean Avocet, Andean Gull, Dot-fronted, Helmeted & Blond-crested Woodpeckers, Ocellated Piculet, Scalloped Woodcreeper, Striped Owl, Sickle-winged & Lyre-tailed Nightjars, Moreno`s Ground Dove, Yungas Dove, Plush-crested Jay, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Olive Spinetail, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Olive-crowned Crescentchest, Stripe-backed Antbird, Puna, Maquis, Canastero, Steinbach´s & Scribble-tailed Canasteros, Rock & Buff-breasted Earthcreepers, Lark-like Brushrunner, Canebrake Groundcreeper, Rufous-naped Ground Tyrant, Andean Tyrant, Sharp-tailed Grass Tyrant, Strange-tailed & Streamer-tailed Tyrants, Greenish Tyrannulet, Suiriri Flycatcher, Andean Slaty Thrush, Chaco Puffbird, Creamy-bellied Gnatcatcher, Purple-crowned Plovercrest, Red-tailed Comet, White-sided Hillstar, Golden-rumped Euphonia, Orange-headed Tanager, Tucuman Mountain Finch, Yellow-striped Brush Finch, Many-colored Chaco Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra Finch, Black-masked Finch, Lesser Grass Finch, Marsh & Plumbeous Seedeaters
Guanaco, Vicuña, Southern Mountain Viscacha, Culpeo, Black-horned Capuchin, Black-and-gold Howler Monkey, Grey Brocket
yungas cloud forest, araucaria forest, interior atlantic forest, rainforest, montane forest, woodland, high andean grassland, monte desert, cacti scrubland, dry chaco, altiplano lakes, lagoons, wetlands, marshlands, rivers, streams
hot and humid in the lower lying regions, moderate to very cold in the higher altitudes, strong winds can be expected at times
spectacular scenery, incredible Iguazú falls, pristine & little-explored wilderness, great cuisine, super-friendly people
Day 1: San Miguel de Tucumán, transfer to Tafi del Valle
Our Argentina bird safari starts this morning in Tucuman, the largest city in the north-western region of Argentina. After assembling, we will transfer to the small settlement of Tafi del Valle, passing initially through flat farmland before climbing up the steep, angular foothills of the Andes. We will bird intermittently up the Yungas cloud forest shrouding the Rio Los Sosa Valley. Of particular interest are a few localised specialities including the endemic Yellow-striped Brush Finch, Rusty-browed Warbling Finch and sprightly Brown-capped Whitestart, while along the swift waterways, we will search for Torrent Duck and the extremely localised Rufous-throated Dipper.
Day 2: Tafi del Valle
We have a full day of our Argentina bird safari to bird the montane forest and high Andean grasslands around Tafi del Valle. Some of our primary targets include the endemic Tucuman Mountain Finch, Moreno`s Ground Dove and White-browed Tapaculo, as well as the outrageously colourful Red-tailed Comet, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Puna and Scribble-tailed Canasteros, chances for the immense Andean Condor, Aplomado Falcon, Buff-breasted Earthcreeper, Paramo Pipit, Ornate Tinamou and Ash-breasted Sierra Finch. After a satisfying day’s birding, we will then return to our lodgings in Tafi del Valle, where we have the opportunity to sample some of the exquisite locally made cheeses or dine on fresh trout from Lago Angostura.
Day 3: Tafi del Valle to Valles Calchaquíes
This morning on our Argentina bird safari, we depart Tafi del Valle and ascend the valley further until cresting at ‘El Infiernillo’ (the Little Hell) at some 3,042masl. Once over the pass, we leave behind the moist, high altitude grasslands and scattered forest groves and drop into the dry Calchaquíes Valley. Species are markedly different in this Monte desert habitat, stunted with tall cardon cactus. Some of the key birds we can expect to see include the endemic Sandy Gallito, Steinbach´s Canastero and Cinnamon Warbling Finch, along with White-fronted Woodpecker sallying for insects, Patagonian Mockingbird, Golden-rumped Euphonia, and, if we are very lucky, the nomadic endemic White-throated Cacholote.
Day 4: Valles Calchaquíes to Cabra Corral
This morning on our Argentina bird safari, we will continue birding through the Monte desert habitat looking for further endemics and specialities. In the afternoon, we then transfer through the well-tendered vineyards of Cafayate, marvelling at the stunning views of Quebrada de las Conchas (Ravine of the Shells) on our way to Moldes.
In the verdant wine lands of Cafayate, we will search for large flocks of Green-cheeked Parakeet, the local subspecies of Burrowing Parrot, as well as explore the thorny scrub and dry streambeds for Ringed Warbling Finch, the localised endemic Steinbach’s Canastero, Green-barred and Checkered Woodpeckers, Chaco Puffbird, the outrageous Ultramarine Grosbeak, Chaco Earthcreeper, White-winged Black Tyrant, and hyperactive endemic Rufous-naped Ground Tyrant along the river banks, and Sandy Gallito (known locally as ‘little rooster’) scurrying across the desert floor.
This afternoon, we will bird the surroundings of Cabra Corral, searching for both Black-legged and Red-legged Seriemas amongst other dry woodland specialities. After what should be an excellent day’s birding, we will still have ample time to indulge in some of the exquisite locally produced wine.
Day 5: Cuesta del Obispo (Cachi Road)
We have a full day of our Argentina bird safari to explore the rich Cuesta del Obispo area. After a steep ascent passing dry, eroded slopes and cacti scrubland, we will bird patches of Yungas cloud forest and high Andean grasslands. Species we hope to find today include the range-restricted Rock Earthcreeper, Andean Condor, Chaco Chachalaca, Grey-hooded Parakeet, Dusky-legged Guan, the tiny Tataupa Tinamou, Suiriri Flycatcher, Plain-colored Seedeater, Rufous-bellied Saltator, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail and Maquis Canastero.
Day 6: Cabra Corral to Calilegua National Park
We depart early this morning, heading for Calilegua National Park via the Lerma Valley. Some of today’s target specialities include Andean Tinamou, White-sided Hillstar, another chance for Rock Earthcreeper, Spectacled Tyrant, Pampa Finch, Dot-fronted Woodpecker, migrant Slaty Elaenia, Stripe-capped Sparrow, Cinereous Tyrant, Striped and Cream-backed Woodpeckers, White-barred Piculet, impressive Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Black-legged Seriema, Masked Gnatcatcher, Olive-crowned Crescentchest, Crested Gallito, Black-crested Finch and the beautiful Many-colored Chaco Finch.
Of mammalian interest, we will keep our eyes peeled for herds of rare Guanaco, the delightful Southern Mountain Viscacha (something of a cross between a rabbit and an oversized squirrel!) and Culpeo, the locally occurring fox species.
Day 7: Calilegua National Park and Yungas Cloud Forest
We have a full day’s excursion to Calilegua NP to explore the fantastic Yungas cloud forest. Our main targets here are Golden-collared Macaw, Green-cheeked and Mitred Parakeets, Blue-fronted and the endemic Tucuman Amazons, Ocellated Piculet, Dot-fronted Woodpecker, Giant Antshrike, reclusive White-throated Antpitta, White-throated Quail-Dove, Plush-crested Jay, migratory Andean Slaty Thrush, the banana-billed Toco Toucan, Yungas Dove, Orange-headed Tanager, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher and the sparkling Blue-capped Puffleg, among other more widespread species.
Day 8: Calilegua area to Quebrada de Humahuaca
After some final early morning birding in the Calilegua area, we will drive through the Quebrada de Humahuaca. This narrow, arid valley was a major trade route over the last 10,000 years and is still the most important thoroughfare from the high Andes to the temperate plains of south-eastern South America. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the former Camino Inca is the present-day location of the Pan-American Highway.
History aside, the incredibly coloured vistas here offer excellent and unrivalled photographic opportunities. We will spend the afternoon birding at various stops en route, searching for Cinereous Harrier, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Grey-hooded Parakeet, Andean Swift, Straight-billed Earthcreeper, Andean Tyrant, Rufous-banded and Common Miners, White-tipped Plantcutter, Black-hooded Sierra Finch and Blue-and-yellow Tanager, amongst many others.
Day 9: Quebrada de Humahuaca to La Quiaca
Today on our Argentina bird safari, we drive north to the border town of La Quiaca. Most of our day will be spent visiting Laguna de los Pozuelos, a National Natural Monument. This huge, saline Altiplano Lake is home to hundreds of thousands of birds. Waterfowl, waders, flamingos and ibises can be seen in large numbers if conditions are favourable. Some of the more regular species on offer include Chilean, James’s and Andean Flamingos, Giant Coot, Andean Goose, Mountain Caracara, Puna Ibis, the stylish Andean Avocet, Puna Teal, Andean Gull, the uncommon Puna Plover and, if luck is on our side, even Puna Tinamou. Other water bodies in the surrounding area could yield Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, White-tufted and Silvery Grebes, Giant Coot and the difficult but spectacular Horned Coot.
Day 10: La Quiaca area
We will spend the day birding around the scenic La Quiaca area, where we will find typical Altiplano habitat and see the local people’s humble adobe houses. These are usually isolated from predators with elaborate rockwork fences, painstakingly constructed to secure their herds of sheep and llamas. Some targets in this area include Puna Canastero, bright Citron-headed Yellow Finch, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Black-fronted Ground Tyrant, Straight-billed and Buff-breasted Earthcreepers, eye-catching Red-backed Sierra Finch and Wedge-tailed Hillstar. We will also keep our eyes peeled for herds of Vicuña, a wild relative of the domesticated Llama.
Day 11: La Quiaca to Joaquín V. González
We have a long drive ahead of us today on our Argentina bird safari, heading back down the Quebrada de Humahuaca to the town of Joaquín V. González. Once out of the Andean foothills, the habitat changes dramatically, becoming dry and thorny – the dry Chaco. While most of the day is set aside to travel, we will make the odd stop along the way for Greater Rhea, Black-legged Seriema, Chaco Puffbird, Lark-like Brushrunner, Little Thornbird, Brown Cacholote and Spot-winged Falconet, to name just a handful. After a long drive, we will then settle down for a two-night stay.
Day 12: Joaquín V. González area
We will spend the entire day birding in and around the town of J.V. González. Large tracts of the Chaco have sadly been felled here to make way for agriculture, but fortunately, there are still some easily accessible patches to be found. Alongside more common species such as Blue-crowned Parakeet and Eared Dove, we will be searching for a number of trickier skulkers including Olive-crowned Crescentchest, Crested Gallito and Stripe-backed Antbird. Other species that could put in an appearance include Brushland and Quebracho Crested Tinamous, Savanna Hawk, Chaco Chachalaca, Blue-fronted Amazon, Blue-tufted Starthroat, Pale-crested and Checkered Woodpeckers, Chaco Earthcreeper, Crested Gallito, Rufous and Crested Horneros, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, White Monjita and Many-colored Chaco Finch, amongst numerous others. We will also spend a few hours looking for nocturnal denizens, which might include Spectacled Owl, Little Nightjar and Common Potoo.
Day 13: Joaquín V. González to San Lorenzo
After breakfast this morning on our Argentina bird safari, we have most of the morning to search the dense stocks of surrounding Dry Chaco Forest again for any of the Chaco Specialities that we may not have seen yet. Otherwise, we will simply look to get better views of such species as Black-legged Seriema, Stripe-backed Antbird, Short-billed Canastero, Great Antshrike, Great Rufous and Scimitar-billed Woodcreepers, Straneck’s Tyrannulet, Solitary Cacique, Greyish Saltator, Cinereous Tyrant, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher and up to three Woodpeckers – White-fronted, Checkered and Green-barred.
After lunch we head to San Lorenzo village, situated in the mountains surrounding the large city of Salta. We have time to rest before our flight tomorrow, or we can bird the gardens for some of the commoner species that we have probably already seen by now Sayaca Tanager, Brown-capped Whitestart, White-bellied Hummingbird, Small-billed Elaenia and Smoke-colored Pewee.
Day 14: Flight from Salta to Puerto Iguazú
This morning on our Argentina bird safari, we will leave Salta and fly to Puerto Iguazú in the north-eastern corner of Misiones. This afternoon, we will visit a private house hosting an incredible array of hummingbirds – the tightly packed feeders normally attract no less than seven species of these flying jewels at any moment! Some of the common hummers here include Black Jacobin, Planalto Hermit, Black-throated Mango, Gilded Sapphire and Violet-capped Woodnymph. There is also the chance to see a few species currently in the process of enlarging their distributions and only recently recorded in Argentina, such as Sword-tailed Hummingbird and Thrush-like Wren. Besides the hummers, other colourful species we should see here include Bananaquit, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia and Epaulet Oriole. After an absorbing start to our time in the north-east of the country, we will then transfer to our hotel located at the edge of the very productive forest, where we will spend our next three nights.
Day 15: Iguazú National Park
The most remarkable natural wonder of Misiones Province is Iguazú National Park, with its unparalleled waterfalls. The park also protects the vast majority of one of the most important forests south of the Amazon – the Interior Atlantic Forest. The forests here host dozens of unique orchid species, small primates, rare bats and several endemic birds. The highlight, though, is standing, rather awestruck, at the incredible split level waterfalls (Cataratas del Iguazú), formed where Rio Iguazú plunges some 80 meters, forming a fan of cascades with more than 250 individual waterfalls!
Here, we will enjoy the falls to their fullest by strolling the park’s walkways and stopping at their many lookouts. These trails have been built at different levels and visitors have a chance to see the falls from both above and below. A narrow gauge train takes us from the park’s entrance to the start of the trails and then onto the most spectacular fall of them all – Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), which we visit late in the afternoon. Aside from the waterfalls, Iguazú holds many attractive, commonly found birds including Surucua Trogon, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Blue Manakin, Plush-crested Jay, five species of euphonia and several species of tanagers. We can also expect to see thousands of Great Dusky Swifts and several species of forest raptors, while the forest canopy is home to noisy flocks of various parrots and parakeets as well as a cornucopia of colourful Rhamphastids including Toco and Green-billed Toucans, Chestnut-eared Aracari, and Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanets.
The lower layers of this rainforest are inhabited by Black-Fronted Piping Guan, Spot-backed Antshrike, Black-billed Scythebill and no fewer than twelve species of woodpecker! The magic of the forest is also further accentuated by the distinctive calls of Solitary Tinamou, Spot-winged Wood Quail, Tufted Antshrike and Southern Antpipit, among other vocal species.
Day 16: Urugua-í Provincial Park
This provincial reserve was created to protect an area of roughly 60 000 hectares of the Misiones Hilly Forest, and sits around 600 meters above sea level. This makes it unique for the area, as most of the province’s forests are found at lower altitudes. In addition, this particular ecosystem has a very dense understory of bamboo, which proves highly attractive for a good number of species that we won’t be able to see around Iguazú. We will, therefore, spend a full day here, exploring the reserve’s different habitats.
The riverine forest along the Uruzú River is excellent for birding, with such species as the sought after Black-fronted Piping Guan, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper and Riverbank Warbler. The bamboo stocks host Spotted Bamboowren, Planalto Tapaculo, Dusky-tailed and Bertoni’s Antbirds, Surucua Trogon, Squirrel Cuckoo, White-eyed and Maroon-bellied Parakeets, Ochre-collared Piculet, Grey-bellied Spinetail, Black-capped and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaners, Plain Antvireo, Sibilant Syristes, Blue Manakin, Black-tailed Tityra, Eastern Slaty and White-necked Thrushes, Chestnut-headed, Swallow and Guira Tanagers, Chesnut-vented Conebill, Red-crowned Ant Tanager, Blackish-blue Seedeater and Speckle-breasted Antpitta. Green-chinned Euphonia is also possible as is Black Hawk-Eagle. The very rare Greenish Tyrannulet is a resident in Urugua-í, and our chances of seeing it are particularly good. On our way back to Iguazu in the early evening, we will also try to find some night dwellers such as Buff-fronted Owl and Long-trained Nightjar.
Day 17: Iguazu National Park to San Pedro
This morning on our Argentina bird safari, we will make our way back to Iguazu National Park to explore some of the more remote trails, including the Macuco – which runs through a patch of the forest, away from the falls. This remarkable trail is where we have our best chance of finding Black-horned Capuchin monkeys. Birding here is also very rewarding with White-bearded Manakin resident in a small patch of bromeliads at the trail’s entrance, and Blue Manakin being rather common along the trail. The forest floor plays home to Short-tailed Antthrush and Spot-winged Wood Quail. Southern Antpipit and Rufous Gnateater are easily seen skulking in the understory, while higher up in the canopy, spectacular species include Black-throated Trogon and Robust Woodpecker.
We depart Iguazú and travel south-east to the small town of San Pedro. After checking into our hotel, we will then head back out to visit the nearby provincial park of La Araucaria. This small reserve protects a relict tract of the Paraná Rainforest, of which Araucaria angustifolia, a species of monkey-puzzle tree, comprises a sizeable percentage. Here we will make a special effort to see the very rare and localised Vinaceous-breasted Amazon. A small population of this special parrot roosts inside the reserve, so our chances are particularly good. We will end the day looking Stygian and Striped Owls.
Day 18: San Pedro to Esteros del Iberá
This morning on our Argentina bird safari, we will pay a second visit to La Araucaria and focus on finding some highly localised specialities including Canebrake Groundcreeper and Araucaria Tit-Spinetail. After what promises to be another successful morning, we will leave San Pedro and indeed Misiones behind and head south to the Iberá Marshes in the province of Corrientes.
Roadside birding en route will be rewarding as we cross a good part of the marshes, as well as grasslands and lagoons. We will check suitable habitat (short grazed or recently burnt fields) along the way for the rare Ochre-breasted Pipit which is sometimes found amongst the commoner Correndera and Yellowish Pipits. The Iberá Marshes are amongst the most extensive wetlands in Argentina, with some areas here virtually inaccessible due to a lack of good roads, thereby creating a naturally protected sanctuary for wildlife. The region is also home to a wide array of waterfowl, with its swamps, open water lagoons and woodlands being a birder’s paradise! The Ibera marshes remain one of South America’s last strongholds for Strange-tailed Tyrant, a species we will dedicate as much time as is necessary to find.
Days 19 & 20: Esteros del Iberá
We have two full days of our Argentina bird safari to explore the myriad of wetlands and grasslands looking for some of Argentina’s most sought after species. On one morning, we will take a boat tour of the lagoons to search for Stripe-backed Bittern, Rufous-sided Crake, Black-capped Donacobius, Long-tailed Reed Finch, Yellow-headed Caracara and eight species of heron, to name just a few possibilities! This is also a great opportunity to view mammals including the rare Marsh Deer, Capybara and Southern River Otter, as well as a few reptiles such as Spectacled Caiman and Yellow Anaconda.
The local grasslands can also produce some really special birds, with good chances for Strange-tailed Tyrant, Lesser Grass Finch and Marsh Seedeater as well as two outrageously coloured icterids: the rare Saffron-cowled and rather more widespread Scarlet-headed Blackbirds. In fact, there are a large number of icterids to be seen during our time in Ibera, with such delights as Brown-and-yellow and Yellow-rumped Marshbirds as well as Unicoloured, Yellow-winged and Chestnut-capped Blackbirds. Seedeaters will also feature high on our list of target families, with a host of possibilities including the rare Marsh, Tawny-bellied, Dark-throated, Rufous-rumped, Rusty-collared, Double-collared and Chestnut Seedeaters all up for grabs. Aside from the targeted species, we can look forward to finding a number of other species with a somewhat wider distribution such as Red-winged Tinamou, Plumbeous Ibis, Campo Flicker, Warbling and Crested Doraditos, Black-backed Water-Tyrant, White-headed Marsh-Tyrant, Yellow-browed Tyrant and Yellow-billed Cardinal.
Further mammal species are likely to include Black-and-gold Howler Monkey and Grey Brocket. We will also spend time exploring the ‘Espinal’, a thorny woodland area where we will try to find one of Argentina’s rarest birds, the Yellow Cardinal!
Day 21: Esteros del Iberá to Posadas and depart
On our last morning in Argentina, we shall spend a few more hours birding between the Ibera Marshes and Posadas for such species as Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Chopi Blackbird and Scarlet-headed Blackbirds, Yellowish Pipit, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Pale-vented Pigeon. Thereafter, we will enter the provincial capital of Misiones, Posadas and head for the local airport terminal. We then take a short flight to Buenos Aires where the tour will end as we catch our international departure flights home.