Argentina can be a wonderland for bird-watchers, especially in the northeastern marshes and gallery forests along the great river systems, the humid pampas, and southern Patagonia’s steppes and seas. For visitors and especially dedicated bird-watchers from the Northern Hemisphere, the great majority are new additions to their life lists.
In the gallery forests along the Plata estuary, common birds include the boyero negro (black cacique), an oriole-like species that breeds in hanging nests; the rufous-capped antshrike, and the pava de monte (black guan). Common aquatic species include coots, ducks, and swans.
Marshland species include the junquero (marsh wren), the polychrome sietecolores (literally, “seven colors”), and the striking federal, with black plumage crowned by a scarlet hood. There are also several species of rails and crakes.
Many of these same species extend across the pampas, especially in inundated low-lying areas, which also attract large numbers of migratory birds. The pampas’ signature species is the tero (southern lapwing), whose local name derives from its call, but it and other similar species have a wide distribution. With its curved beak, the widely distributed bandurria (buff-necked ibis) is a striking presence.
In the Mesopotamian marshlands, the diversity is astounding—Iberá has more than 250 species, including large conspicuous ones like the chajá (horned screamer), cormorants, several species of storks, herons, and egrets, and many waterfowl. Subtropical Misiones is habitat for overlapping tropical species like the red-breasted toucan.
The Andean condor soars above the deserts and puna of the north, while migratory birds like flamingos, along with coots, ducks, and geese, frequent its shallow lakes. Common throughout the Andes, the condor reaches its most easterly point in the Sierras de Córdoba .
In northern Patagonia’s dense forests, some birds are heard as often as they’re seen, especially the reticent songbird chucao. Others, like the flocks of squawking Patagonian parakeets that flit through the woods, are more conspicuous.
Some 240 bird species inhabit the South Atlantic coastline and Tierra del Fuego, including the wandering albatross, with its awesome four-meter wingspan, the black-necked swan, Coscoroba swan, flightless steamer duck, kelp gull, and several species of penguins, most commonly the Magellanic or jackass penguin.
Its numbers reduced on the pampas, where it roamed before cattle, horses, and humans turned native grasslands into ranches and granaries, the ostrich-like choike or ñandú (greater rhea) still strides across some less densely settled parts of the country. The smaller ñandú petiso (lesser rhea) is fairly common in the Patagonian provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, and Santa Cruz; a rare subspecies survives on the heights of the northwestern puna.