Birds of Patagonia | Patagonia Unbound

Birds of Patagonia

White-throated Hawk

WHITE-THROATED HAWK

The white-throated hawk is another bird of prey found in Patagonia. It is mostly found in two different patches. The southern temperate forest of Argentina and Chile and the Andes. The southern population is migratory and arrives in the southern temperate forest in September or October and leaves the beginning of April.

The white-throated hawk prefers to nest in tall trees. This bird seems quite tolerant of humans, even during breeding.

It’s a small hawk with a dark brown back, long and slightly-barred tail, white throat and underparts, with chestnut streaking on the flanks. The underwings are white, barred in brown and the legs are yellow. Juveniles have the underparts streaked in blackish.

The white-throated Hawk is a diurnal predator, feeding on small mammals, birds, lizards and a high proportion of insects, which they catch on flight. They occasionally consume large-sized prey such as hares, american kestrels, austral parakeets and magellanic woodpeckers. They hover at low levels to hunt their prey along ridge tops and will also ambush prey from a concealed perch.

Patagonia Hummingbirds

HUMMINGBIRDS 

Hummingbirds are among the smallest bird ranging from three to five inches long. They are known as hummingbirds because of the humming sound created by their beating wings which flap at high frequencies audible to humans. They hover in mid-air at rapid wing-flapping rates, typically around 50 times per second, allowing them also to fly at speeds exceeding 34 mph.

Hummingbirds have the highest metabolism of any homeothermic animal. To conserve energy when food is scarce, and nightly when not foraging, they go into torpor, a state similar to hibernation. This slows their metabolic rate to 1/15th of its normal rate.

Andean Condor

ANDEAN CONDOR

The Andean condor, or vulture is found in the Andes Mountains and along the Pacific coasts of western South America. The Andean condor has a wingspan of up to 10 ft 6 in.

It is a large black vulture with a ruff of white feathers surrounding the base of the neck and large white patches on the wings. The head and neck are nearly featherless, and are a dull red color, which may flush and change color in response to the bird's emotional state. In the male, there is a wattle on the neck and a large, dark red comb or caruncle on the crown of the head. Unlike most birds of prey, the male is larger than the female.

The condor is primarily a scavenger, feeding on carrion. It prefers large carcasses, like deer or cattle. It reaches sexual maturity at five or six years of age and nests at elevations of up to 16,000 ft, generally on inaccessible rock ledges. One or two eggs are usually laid. It is one of the world's longest-living birds, with a lifespan of over 70 years in some cases.

Chilean Flamingo

CHILEAN FLAMINGO 

The Chilean flamingo has greyish legs with pink joints and a large amount of black on its bill. Young chicks may have no sign of pink coloring at all, but instead remain grey.

The Chilean flamingo lives on coastal mudflats, estuaries, lagoons, and salt lakes. Here it finds food like algae and plankton that it filters with comb-like structures on its bill.

Chilean flamingos live in large flocks. They require crowded conditions to stimulate breeding. During breeding season, males and females display a variety of behaviors to attract mates, including head flagging—swiveling their heads from side-to-side in tandem—and wing salutes, where the wings are repeatedly opened and closed. Males and females cooperate in building a pillar-shaped mud nest, and both incubate the egg laid by the female. When the chicks are born, they don't gain adult coloration for two to three years. Both male and female flamingos are capable of feeding their young by producing a nutritious milk-like substance in their crop gland.

Upland Goose

UPLAND GOOSE 

The upland Goose is a herbivore, feeding mostly on seeds, leaves, stems, and other plant matter. They are very gregarious, and flocks of thousands of birds can be found grazing in one pasture alone. In fact, the farmers of Patagonia consider the upland goose to be a pest because it feeds on pastures meant for cattle and sheep.

Upland geese breed in densely-vegetated areas on plains or slopes, mostly in September and October, or November on the Falkland Islands. Males attract females through a courtship display in which they whistle loudly, to which the female responds with softer cackles. They are monogamous, and if a male encroaches on another's territory, a violent fight may break out. Males have been found injured or dead after these fights.

They build their nest on the ground, concealed by dense vegetation, often located near water. A clutch consists of five to eight eggs which are incubated for about one month. When the chicks hatch, they are covered in greyish-brown down. They don't remain in the nest for more than a day, quickly going to a nearby water source or feeding area. They are able to feed themselves from birth. They fledge in nine to ten weeks and reach maturity in three years.

Steamer Ducks

STEAMER DUCKS 

There are four species of steamer duck and all four are found in Patagonia. All steamer duck species are flightless except for one species, the flying steamer duck. Though even the flying steamer duck rarely takes to the air. Their name comes from their fast nature when swimming. They flap their wings into the water while using their feet, creating an effect like a paddle steamer. They can be aggressive and are capable of chasing off predators like petrels.

Red-Backed Hawk

RED-BACKED HAWK

The Red-backed hawk is a medium-size raptor found along the Andean region. This bird migrates north during the autumn and winter months.

This bird of prey has a wide variation when it comes to coloring. The most common shows white underparts, except the barred wings and rufous back with barring on flanks and belly. On all variations the tail is white ending on a back band.

The Red-backed hawk preys mostly on small mammals like mice, rats, rabbits and tuco-tucos, but they take birds, snakes and insects as well.

They build their nest on trees, power and telephone poles, rocky cliffs and even on dense grasslands, using large sticks to form a large concave structure. Nests are refurbished and reused year after year. The female lays two to three white eggs with variable reddish-brown markings. Incubation last 26-27 days and the chicks are able to fly after 45 days.

Rufous Tailed Hawk

RUFOUS-TAILED HAWK

The Rufous-tailed hawk is found along both sides of the Andes clear down to Tierra del Fuego. It does not have a heavy population and its habits make it difficult to see. This makes the Rufous-tailed Hawk biology quite unknown.

It has a dark-brown back, white throat and ochre ventral parts streaked and spotted in dark-brown. These dark spots are more abundant on the flanks. The wings are long and wide with white, barred in dark-brown underwings. The tail is white and slightly barred, with grayish undertail. The thighs are cinnamon and legs dark-yellow. Juveniles have a white throat and breast, with the rest of the underparts streaked. The tail is heavily barred in gray and the malar is black.

As opposed to other hawks, it is remarkably elusive, flying away at the slightest disturbance, making it really hard to see in detail. They tend to perch on the highest branches of the trees, but when feeling observed they move to the medium part of the trees, making it very hard detect. The size and shape of their claws suggest that they prey mainly on medium-size birds, like magellanic woodpeckers and rock pigeons. There are reports of Rufous-tailed hawk preying on birds much bigger than them, like the ashy-headed goose.

The mating period starts in July or August. Along all this period until the breeding season ends, the hawks build and repair their nests. Incubation starts in mid spring and last 30 days. The chicks stay in the nest for 55 to 60 days and start to fly by midsummer.

Magellanic Penguin

THE MAGELLANIC PENGUIN 

The magellanic penguin breeds during spring along the coasts of southern Patagonia, both in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.

Starting in September they gather in huge colonies set in sandy areas. They are monogamous. The male is the first to arrive to the nesting area. He reclaims his burrow from the previous year, a small cave excavated in the sand or under the bushes. Then he waits there for the female, who finds him among thousands of other penguins only through his call.

The female lays two eggs and both parents take care of the incubation and raising of the chicks, taking turns while the other goes out to sea to look for food. All this activity requires a great deal of physical endurance for the penguins. They have to walk the distance to the coast, dive into the sea, hunt for their food (fish, squids and crustaceans) and return to the nest to feed their chicks.

The activity in the penguin colonies is frenetic during the reproduction period. Sometimes at the end of the day the colony members leave their burrows and say goodnight by calling together. A visit to the penguin colonies is a worthy spectacle.

Once the breeding period has ended, the penguins head back to the sea and the colonies remain deserted until the following spring. When they are not on land in their burrows the penguins live in the sea.

Austral Pygmy Owl

AUSTRAL PYGMY OWL 

The Austral Pygmy Owl lives in the Andean-Patagonian forest from north of Neuquen to Tierra del Fuego. Being fairly diurnal it is common to see them perched during the winter months under the sun in highly visible places. They feed on small birds.