Birding Northwest Argentina

After our trip to Tierra del Fuego and cruise to Antarctica, we flew from Ushuaia to Córdoba, Argentina to start a nine-day trek from the north-central region all the way north to the Bolivia border.

Birding sites we hit in Córdoba, Salta, and Jujuy

We did this trip with Martín Toledo from Beagle Birding, a birding company based in Córdoba. Martín is a fantastic guide and eBird reviewer. His knowledge of locations and bird calls was excellent.

Southwest of Córdoba, heading towards Villa Dolores

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting the area to look like, but it what we found was a variety of habitats and regions that seemed to change every time we went over a pass or around a corner. There are a lot of hidden gems here.

White-tipped Plantcutter, whose voice sounds like fishing line being pulled off a reel by a large fish

Our first day of birding was on December 18, in the dry, hot Chaco habitat west of Córdoba. This was good timing because we could birding in the morning and take a break from the heat at midday and watch the World Cup final game between Argentina and France. It was a singular experience to be here when Señor Messi got his World Cup championship. It was utter, happy bedlam, even in the small town of Villa Dolores.

A sudden splash of green pasture

Heading north the countryside was constantly changing. Much of it reminded us of southern Utah or western Colorado.

Sandstone sculptures everywhere

A trip through this region produces a lot of species because three very distinct biomes are covered: the Chaco a dry floodplain which is sparsely populated and features a lot of throny plants; the Yungas, a narrow strip of subtropical forest; and the Puna, the high, cold shrublands with altitudes up around 12,000 feet.

Wild llamas were abundant
East of Humahuaca
Andean Flicker
Birding the Puna
Long-tailed Chinchilla, an endangered species
A view from high in the cold, dry Puna
Lesser Horned Owl, like a distant wasp’s nest, if you are not looking closely enough
A splash of color up high
Andean Flamingo

There are plenty of endemics or near-endemic specialties to go after here, especially in the furnariid family: canasteros, earthcreepers, and so on. Some of our favorite sightings included James’s Flamingo, Ornate Tinamou, Lesser Rhea, and d’Orbigny’s Chat-tyrant.

But the biggest surprise was a sudden encounter with an Andean Cat, an endangered species of only some 1,500 individuals. It was only apparent as it was gliding along a rocky slope that we were scanning for birds.

Do you see the cat?

According to our guide, there are no records of photographs of this species in Argentina except for those taken by camera traps. We were incredibly fortunate to see and photograph this animal.

Andean Cat, aka Andean Mountain Cat

Final tally: 216 species and 95 lifers in 10 days with approximately 1,000 miles covered. eBird trip report.

From here we flew back to Buenos Aires, north to Bogotá, and then hopped over to Calí for a few days of birding in Valle del Cauca, Colombia on the way back home.

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