ABOUT ARGENTINA BIRDING
|# Excl Vagrants:||1048|
|# Near Endemics:||80|
CLIMATE & SEASONS
The climate of Argentina varies with both altitude and latitude. The high Andes of western Argentina is generally cool to cold. In the north this tundra climate is above 11,500 ft, but this climate becomes increasingly lower in elevation toward the south, reaching sea level in souther Tierra del Fuego. The Andes creates a rain shadow, making most of the country relatively dry with limited rainfall. The country has mostly a temperate climate with very limited impact of tropical air masses in the far north. Most rainfall is in the northeast, while the driest part of the country is in the extreme northwest and and southern part of Patagonia. Warm and moderate climates predominate in the center and north. There is a distinct fainy season in the austral winter months that results in many cloudy days with damp weather, especially in the Pampas. The best time to go birding in Argentina is spring from October to January when resident species are breeding. December-January are perhaps the best months for viewing mammals in the extreme south.
The distribution of birds in Argentina is intimately related to the major ecoregions in the country. These regions are heavily influenced by topgraphy and local climate. The various regions are not disjunct. They gradually change from one to the other through transition zones. Below is a general breakdown of the main ecoregions in Argentina.
Puna and High Mountains
The Puna and high altitudes on the eastern slope of the Andes is a region of dry scrub, cactus, and rocky slopes. The Puna or altiplano is dominated by dry grassland and sparse bushes. This region generally extends from around 6500ft to 11,800ft in the area around Jujuy and Salta. Farther south it extends as low as 3400ft. This region is in the rain shadow of the Andes and hence receives very little precipitation. A transition of Pre-Puna grades into the lower altitude Monte Desert. Specialty birds of the Puna region include Puna Tinamou, Andean Goose, Andean Flamingo, Horned Coot, Giant Coot, Slate-colored Coot, Puna Ibis, Puna Miner, Cordoba Cinclodes, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Red-backed Sierra Finch, and Puna Yellow-Finch. Birds of the Pre-Puna include Bare-eyed Ground Dove, Creamy-breasted Canastero, and Brown-backed Mockingbird.
Monte DesertThe Monte Desert exists solely in Argentina and is home to several endemic birds. The habitat is arid steppe dominated by thorn bushes. It receives very little rainfall. This region extends from Salta south through Tucuman as far as Rio Negro and northeast Chubut Provinces. Endemics of this region are Sandy Gallito, Steinbach's Canastero, White-throated Cacholote, Carbonated Sierra Finch, and Monte Yellow-Finch. In addition, Straneck's Tyrannulet, Hudson's Black-Tyrant, Black-crowned Monjita, White-banded Mockingbird, and Cinnamon Warbling Finch are endemic breeders in the region while Patagonian Canastero, Rusty-backed Monjita, and Lesser Shrike-Tyrant are mainly found in the Monte desert but also occur in Patagonian steppe.
The Yungas is a region of forests mostly between 1300ft and 8500ft in altitude on the eastern slope of the Andes. It extends mainly from Jujuy south to Salta, Tucman, Catamarca, and La Rioja Province. Lower elevation Yungas forest occurs in north-central Argentina bordering on Paraguay. Hence, it is primarily in northwest Argentina. At higher elevations the characteristic vegetation is Polylepis above about 7800ft, with Podocarpus, alder, and cloud forest at lower elevations to about 4200ft. Tawny Tit-Spinetail and Giant Conebill are found only in Polylepis forest. Species mainly in Podocarpus forest are Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Buff-banded Tyrannulet, and Fulvous-headed Brushfinch. Typical birds of Alder forest include Tucuman Parrot, White-browed Tapaculo, Yellow-striped Brushfinch, and Tucuman Mountain-Finch. Subtropical forest extends from about 5200ft down to about 1800ft depending on latitude. At still lower elevation down to about 1300ft is foothill forest.
Arid Inter-montane Valleys
The inter-montane valleys of northwest Argentina extend from the border with Bolivia as far south as Salta. This is a region of Polylepis forest, dry scrub, cactus, and dry woodland. They extend in altitude from about 7200ft up to 10,400ft. Small farms are widespread in this region. Bolivian Woodpeckers are found in sparse woodlands along rivers. Bolivian Earthcreepers are found in sparse shrubs on rocky slopes. This is the only region in Argentina where Cliff Parakeets occur.
The dry Chaco region covers much of north-central and central Argentina from the northern border to around Buenos Aires. It's a region of dry woodlands, sierran chaco woodlands, humid chaco woodlands, savanna, and gallery forest. The dry chaco extends from Jujuy and eastern Salta province through eastern Tucuman south to northwest Cordoba Province.
Wetlands and Campos
The Ibera Wetlands and campos region is a relatively small area located north of Buenos Aires. The wetlands covers some 20,000 SqKm and is home to over 350 species of birds and is in some ways comparable to the Pantanal in Brazil, though substantially smaller in extent. Notable species include Black-and-white Monjita, Strange-tailed Tyrant, Saffron-cowled Blackbird, Marsh Seedeater, and Rufous-rumped Seedeater. The Campos is a region of rolling grasslands. Much of the campos is utilized for raising cattle, which has greatly impacted native grasses. Key species in the campos include Black-and-white Monjita, Strange-tailed Tyrant, Saffron-cowled Blackbird, Marsh Seedeater, and Rufous-rumped Seedeater. There is also some gallery forest along the Uruguay and Parana Rivers.
Extreme northeast Argentina features a small region of subtropical Parana Rainforest, riverine forest, and bamboo stands. This region formerly connected to the Atlantic Forest of southern Brazil, but the Parana forest in Brazil has now been largely cleared. Some 400 species of birds occur in this part of Argentina.
The thorn woodlands of the Espinal region occurs in a band from northeastern Uruguay and extrem southwestern Brazil throuch the pampas east and south of Buenos Aires bordering on the dry chaco region to the south. This biome is almost entirely in Argentina. A number of chaco species including Lark-like Brushrunner and Short-billed Canastero are also found in the Espinal.
The Pampas region is a vast grassland that extends from the Paraguay border south through central Argentina and wrapping around south of Buenos Aires to the Atlantic coast. The pampas is a major agricultural region and only small disjunct patches of the original grassland remains. There are a number of wetlands in the pampas as well as two mountain ranges. The latter are home to Cordilleran Canastero, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, and Greater Yellow-Finch among others. The marshes are home to some important species such as the poorly known Dot-winged Crake and Straight-billed Reedhaunter as well as Red-and-white Crake, Curve-billed Reedhaunter, Freckle-breasted Thornbird, Hudson's Canastero, Sulphur-bearded Reedhaunter, Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail, and Warbling Doradito. The grasslands are home to very localized species, namely Pampas Pipit and Pampas Meadowlark.
The Patagonian steppe is an arid grassland south of the pampas and is the largest biome in Argentina. Key species in the grassland include Patagonian Tinamou, Ruddy-headed Goose, Short-billed Miner, and Austral Canastero. They also support the migratory Ruddy-headed Goose. Various marshes and wetlands exist among the grasslands. In addition to widely distributed wetland birds, some of these lakes are the breeding grounds for the poorly known Austral Rail and Magellanic Plover. Brushlands in the north as well as parts of Valdes Peninsula are home to Band-tailed Earthcreeper and Patagonian Canastero. Near endemics oabove the tree line are White-bellied Seedsnipe and Yellow-bridled Finch.
The Patagonian Forest is a temperate evergreen and deciduous forest in the Subantarctic on the glaciated eastern slope of the far southern Andes and in Tierra del Fuego. These region is home to a majority of the endemic birds in Argentina. These include Rufous-tailed Hawk, Rufous-legged Owl, Magellanic Woodpecker, Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Des Murs's Wiretail, Fire-eyed Diucon, and Patagonian Sierra Finch.
Coastline and Ocean
The mudflats, sandy and pebble beaches, salt marshes, rocky cliffs, kelp forest, and inshore and offshore oceanic waters are home to many migratory shorebirds, waterfowl, and seabirds. The shoreline and oceanic waters extend from Buenos Aires to Tierra del Fuego, and the bird species composition varies considerably with latitude. The Valdes Peninsula mid-way south is a key birding locale, not least for the Magellanic Penguin rookery and Southern Elephant Seal breeding beaches located there. Also found there are Brown Skua, Magellanic Cormorant, and Imperial Cormorant among many others. The extreme south in the calm waters of Beagle Channel and nearby islands around Tierra del Fuego are home to birds such as Flying Steamer-Duck, Flightless Steamer-Duck, Crested Duck, Spectacled Duck, Snowy Sheathbill, Rufous-chested Dotterel, Gentoo Pengui, occasionally King Penguin, Northern Giant-Petrel, Magellanic Diving-Petrel, Magellanic Cormorant, and more.
Sub-Antarctic Heath and Atlantic Islands
Numerous islands are found south of Tierra del Fuego. In addition, the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, though governed by Great Britain, has also been claimed by Argentina and is biologically affilated with it. The habitat on these islands is primarily subantarctic heath, tussock grass, and kelp forest. A large breeding colony of Gentoo Penguins is located on Isla Martino along the Beagle Channel. A variety of seabirds can be seen in the channel as noted above. Notable land birds include Austral Pygmy-Owl, Austral Parakeet, Magellanic Tapaculo, Fire-eyed Diucon, Patagonian Tyrant, Patagonian Mockingbird, Austral Thrush, Austral Blackbird, Patagonian Sierra Finch, and Yellow-bridled Finch.