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P.S.: Don't forget to look for us in Facebook at Birding BA Tours
I hope this information can be useful for you to plan your next trip to Buenos Aires and I look forward to join you as your birding tour guide while you are here!
Thank you and enjoy!
ABOUT BUENOS AIRES’ WILDLIFE
The geographic location is the main thing in favor of the high biodiversity that Buenos Aires presents, despite of the temperate non-tropical weather: the Río de la Plata ("La Plata river", or "River Plate") is part of the second largest South American basin, and its waters flows down from southern Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, northern Argentina and Uruguay, bringing seeds of plants and trees from the rainforest. These plants grow on the shore of the main rivers of the basin (Paraná and Uruguay rivers), creating an ecosystem known as “riverside forest”, which southernmost distribution reaches the north-west of Buenos Aires province, by the Río de la Plata. This ecosystem is now almost extinct on the shore of the river, but some elements of it still remain, especially in some nature reserves. In any case, the original distribution of this riverside forest was restricted just to the shore of the river. Usually, this area also presents marshes, water streams and lagoons, which are home to a different assemblage of fauna and flora, very specialized and adapted to this different kind of ecosystem.
In addition, the ammount of native trees planted on the streets and parks (although most of them are not native to Buenos Aires area, but to the north-east and north-west of Argentina) provides food and home for many species of birds. And also many birds of prey are atracted by the abundance of pigeons (both native and introduced species).
BUENOS AIRES BIRDS
Around 20 species of birds can be commonly seen in downtown. Between them we can cite the Picazuro Pigeon (Patagioenas picazuro), Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata), Picui Ground-Dove (Columbina picui), the very common introduced Rock Dove (Columba livia), the Rufous-bellied Thrush (Turdus rufiventris), the Creamy-bellied Thrush (Turdus amaurochalinus), some species of swallows like the Grey-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea) the Brown-chested Martin (Progne tapera), the White-rumped Swallow (Tachycineta leucorrhoa) and Chilean Swallow (Tachycineta leucopyga), also the Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus), the common Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis), Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), the "omnipresent" introduced House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), many species of parrots and parakeets (cited below), and even the Argentine national bird, Rufous Hornero (Furnarius rufus), and many many others. The Glittering-bellied Emerald (Chlorostilbon aureoventris), a kind of hummingbird, is also common in every park with flowers of the city (mainly in summer).
male and female of Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) - Photo: Roberto Ares
There are some species of birds more likely to be seen in the city center or neighborhoods than on the nature reserves, such as the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), which has made of the tall buildings of downtown Buenos Aires its new habitat. Another surprisingly common bird of prey is the gregarious Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), which can be seen hunting pigeons in couples and even groups. Finally, the most common Argentine raptors, the Southern Crested and Chimango Caracaras (Caracara plancus and Milvago chimango, respectively) are also very common in the city.
White-eyed Parakeet (Aratinga leucophtalma) - Photo: Marcelo Gavensky
Reddish-bellied Parakeet (Pyrrhura frontalis) - Photo: Marcelo Gavensky
Species restricted to particular habitats
Using the same division made before on the different native natural habitats of Buenos Aires, following are some of the most common and remarkable species of the area, by habitat:
- Riverside & Espinal forests
These two native forest ecosystems of the region are home for many interesting species. Many of them share both habitats, and some have adapted to the new landscape, living even in exotic-tree constituted forests (or plantations). But some of them are very restricted to their native ecosystems, and can not be found anywhere else.
White-barred Piculet (Picumnus cirratus), recently found in Costanera Sur - Photo: Marcelo Gavensky
The Riverside forest is the most biodiverse habitat in Buenos Aires province. Thus, this also applies to birds. Here the White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi) is very common, although is more easy to hear its singing than to see it. Two species of hummingbirds are more likely to see in this kind of habitat than in others: the White-throated Hummingbird (Leucochloris albicollis) and the Gilded Sapphire (Hylocharis chrysura). There is a long list of passerines (sparrow-like birds), been the most remarkable species the Sooty-fronted Spinetail (Synallaxis frontalis), Rufous-capped Antshrike (Thamnophilus ruficapillus), Variable Antshrike (Thamnophilus caerulescens), White-winged Becard (Pachyramphus polychopterus), Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodynastes maculatus), Green-winged Saltator (Saltator similis) and more.
Female of White-lined Tanager (Tachyphonus rufus) - Photo: Ignacio A. Chantada
There are many interesting tiny passerines in this forest, like the Bran-colored Flycatcher (Myiophobus fasciatus), the Mottled-cheeked Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes ventralis), the Golden-crowned Warbler (Basileuterus culicivorus), the colorful Tropical Parula (Parula pitiayumi) and the Masked Yellowthroat (Geothlypis aequinoctialis).
Tropical Parula (Parula pitiayumi) - Photo: Roberto Ares
Other colorful species are the Rufous-browed Peppershrike (Cyclarhis gujanensis), Sayaca Tanager (Thraupis sayaca), Yellow-billed Cardinal (Paroaria capitata), Ultramarine Grosbeak (Cyanocompsa brissonii), Indigo Grosbeak (Cyanoloxia glaucocaerulea) and one of the most beautiful birds of the area: the Diademed Tanager (Stephanophorus diadematus). Also two remarkable birds of this ecosystem are the common Epaulet Oriole (Icterus cayanensis) and the outstanding Solitary Black Cacique (Cacicus solitarius), which is less common than the other species, but it can still be found even nesting in its large and pending nest.
Juvenile of Indigo Grosbeak (Cyanoloxia glaucocaerulea) - Photo: Ignacio A. Chantada
The Espinal forest influence adds some remarkable species to the list although – as said before – most of their range of distribution includes other habitats (even in Buenos Aires area). The Checkered Woodpecker (Veniliornis mixtus), the Freckle-breasted Thornbird (Phacellodomus striaticollis), the very common Masked Gnatcatcher (Polioptila dumicola) and White-crested Tyrannulet (Serpophaga subcristata), the White-lined Tanager (Tachyphonus rufus), the Hepatic Tanager (Piranga flava), the colorful Blue-and-Yellow Tanager (Thraupis bonariensis), the Golden-billed Saltator (Saltator aurantiirostris) and the conspicuous Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata).
In the marshes and lagoons of the area, depending on the water level (which depends on the rain that has fallen during the year) many species of aquatic birds can be easily watched: more than 15 species of ducks and relatives live and even (not all of them) breed here.
The list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some passerines strongly related to the marshes, which are: Wren-like Rushbird (Phleocryptes melanops), Sulphur-bearded Spinetail (Cranioleuca sulphurifera), Yellow-throated Spinetail (Certhiaxis cinnamomea), the Many-colored Rush-Tyrant (Tachuris rubrigastra) and the Warbling Doradito (Pseudocolopteryx flaviventris). These species sole habitat is the reed on lagoons, marshes and other aquatic ecosystems. Other passerines related to this kind of environments are the Spectacled Tyrant (Hymenops perspicillatus), the Sooty Tyrannulet (Serpophaga nigricans) and the blackbirds: Chestnut-capped Blackbird (Agelaius ruficapillus), Yellow-winged Blackbird (Agelaius thilius), the Brown-and-Yellow Marshbird (Pseudoleistes virescens) and the declining Scarlet-headed Blackbird (Amblyramphus holosericeus).
Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) - Photo: Roberto Ares
Snowy-crowned Tern (Sterna trudeaui) - Photo: Roberto Ares
- The Pampas grassland
This ecosystem shares many of the birds present in the others, but there are some species not findable anywhere else. In Buenos Aires most of these species are passerines (although some of the best representatives of the pampas are non-passerines, like the Greater Rhea and a couple of species of tinamous, which are extinct in the area of the city). Among the non passerines there are two species of falcons, the Aplomado Falcon (Falco femoralis) – not common in the city reserves – and the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), the Guira Cuckoo (Guira guira) and two species of woodpeckers: the Field Flicker (Colaptes campestris) and the Green-barred Woodpecker (Colaptes melanochloros).
The list of passerines is long, being the most remarkable the Firewood-Gatherer (Anumbius annumbi), the Hudson’s Canastero (Asthenes hudsoni), the Cattle Tyrant (Machetornis rixosa), named after its habit of being around the cattle or even on it; some summer visitors like the Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savana), the colorful Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus), the Double-collared Seedeater (Sporophila caerulescens) and the Rusty-collared Seedeater (Sporophila collaris); the Grassland Yellow-Finch (Sicalis luteola), the Saffron Yellow-Finch (Sicalis flaveola), the Hooded Siskin (Carduelis magellanica) and some blackbirds like the Screaming Cowbird (Molothrus rufoaxillaris), the Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), the Bay-winged Cowbird (Agelaioides badius) and the White-browed Blackbird (Sturnella superciliaris).
Where to go birding in Buenos Aires city?
A view of the city from Costanera Sur - Photo: Marcelo Gavensky
COSTANERA SUR ECOLOGIC RESERVE
This is one of the best world’s urban reserves, and an incredible example of how nature can recover itself from the destructive actions of mankind. The place where the reserve is now located, was gained to the river (La Plata river) for a building mega-project that was ment to extend the area of Costanera Sur, at the end of the 70'. Then the project was suspended, and it all started: nature began taking the new substrate for itself, plants and trees began growing in the levees, and birds began using the lagoons and plants of the new place. After a hard struggle between ecologysts and the building corporation, in 1986 the area obtained legal protection as a natural reserve.
On recente years, the lagoons (the most representative environment of Costanera Sur) started to get dry and now (November, 2011) they are totally dry. The level of water in the lagoons depends very much on the amount of rains during the years, and usually, after a period of raining days, the lagoons get filled again.
Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur - Image: Google Maps
Marsh vegetation is abundant where the lagoons were located, and in the sides of the levees grows a more diverse flora, with trees and others.
Regarding birdwatching, Costanera Sur is amazing. On its aproximately 350 hectares, more than 300 species of birds were seen (although many of them were occasional). When the lagoons are filled, there are many species of aquatic birds, with dozens of ducks, mallards, swans, coots and gallinules. Also, from spring to autumn it's posible to watch some of the aquatic migrants that stop here to rest and feed: plovers, sandpipers, yellowlegs and phalaropes.
In the increasingly abundant vegetation there are a lot of interesting species of passerines and non passerines to watch. In different seasons there are different species: the most diverse season is the summer (including spring time and the begining of autumn) because of the migrants that come here to look for they food and, some of them, to breed. In winter they go back to the North, but there are other migrants that come from the South of Argentina (Patagonia) to spend the coldest months here, in a more temperate weather (comparing with the South).
View of the reserve - Photo: Marcelo Gavensky
In other words, a visit to Costanera Sur is always recommended, no matter the season. The amount of species possible to be watched in one day (or half day) depends on the weather, the level of water in the lagoons and, of course, the ability of the watcher and its familiarity with the species of the area and their voices. It's hard to go to Costanera and watch less than 40 species, and if the lagoons have water there should be around 15 or 20 species more (aquatics). Personally, this last few months with very little or no water in the area (excluding the river), the list of species identified in half day (3 to 4 hours) or full day tours (4 to 8 hours) often goes from 50 to 75. These numbers are just to give you an idea of the huge diversity of birds and the easiness to watch them. Numbers are also relative to the watcher, and it is likely to watch many more (or sometimes less) species. Some years ago, with the lagoons filled with water, it was posible to watch more than 100 species on a single day.
With water in the lagoons: Rufescent Tiger-heron (Tigrisoma lineatum), White-faced Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna viduata), Coscoroba Swan (Coscoroba coscoroba), Black-necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus), Ringed Teal (Calloneta leucophrys), Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana), Scarlet-headed Blackbird (Amblyramphus holosericeus), and others.
Black-necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus) - Photo: Roberto Ares
Outside of the lagoons: Gray-necked Wood-rail (Aramides cajanea), Black-hooded Parakeet (Nandayus nenday), Guira Cuckoo (Guira guira), Scissor-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis brasiliana), Checkered Woodpecker (Veniliornis mixtus), Sooty-fronted Spinetail (Synallaxis frontalis), Freckle-breasted Thornbird (Phacellodomus striaticollis), Spectacled Tyrant (Hymenops perspicillatus), Masked Gnatcatcher (Polioptila dumicola), Blue-and-yellow Tanager (Thraupis bonariensis), White-lined Tanager (Tachyphonus rufus), Black-and-rufous Warbling-finch (Poospiza nigrorufa), Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata), Golden-billed Saltator (Saltator aurantiirostris), Solitary black Cacique (Cacicus solitarius), and more.
Freckle-breasted Thornbird (Phacellodomus striaticollis)
Red-crested Cardinal (Paroaria coronata) - Photo: Ignacio A. Chantada
Sooty-fronted Spinetail (Synallaxis frontalis)
Solitary Black Cacique (Cacicus solitarius)
Summer visitors: some of the most remarckable summer visitors (migrants) in Costanera are Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus), Streaked Flycatcher (Myiodinastes maculatus), Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus), Fork-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus savana), Gray-breasted Martin (Progne chalybea) and Double-collared Seedeater (Sporophila caerulescens).
Female of Double-collared Seedeater (Sporophila caerulescens) - Photo: Roberto Ares
Dark-faced Ground-tyrant (Muscisaxicola maclovianus) - Photo: Marcelo Gavensky
Winter visitors: some of the species that come from Patagonia in winter are Bar-winged Cinclodes (Cinclodes fuscus), Dark-faced Ground-tyrant (Muscisaxicola maclovianus), Rufous-backed Negrito (Lessonia rufa), White-bellied Tyrannulet (Serpophaga griseiceps) -this species comes from West Argentina, not Patagonia-, White-tipped Plantcutter (Phytotoma rutila) and White-banded Mockingbird (Mimus triurus).
Ribera Norte - Photo: Marcelo Gavensky
RIBERA NORTE & VICENTE LÓPEZ ECOLOGIC RESERVES
Ribera Norte Ecologic Reserve lays in the municipalty of San Isidro, in the North of Gran Buenos Aires area. Its features are different to Costanera Sur. It is much smaller but has a very high diversity of flora and fauna. It's located in a natural shore of La Plata river, with vegetation corresponding to the riverside forest and the marshes and lagoons ecosystems.
The lagoon of Ribera Norte has always water because it's conected to the river, and during the "sudestadas" (strong storms with wind comming from the South-East, very common during the winter) the level of the river goes higher, flooding part of the area.
Refugio de la Ribera Norte - Image: Google Maps
Vicente López Ecologic Reserve is the smallest of the three reserves named. As it's name suggests, it's located in the municipalty of Vicente López (between Buenos Aires city and San Isidro, in the North of Gran Buenos Aires).
Vicente López - Photo: Marcelo Gavensky
Image: Google Maps
Something remarckable about this reserve is that it shows very well the native vegetation of La Plata river shore (riverside forest and lagoons), although it was all planted to restore the original ecosystems. Because of the small size of this place, the amount of species is not as large as in the other reserves, nevertheless it is a good place for birdwatching, since it shares many species with Rivera Norte and its lagoon always has water (this makes it a good spot for aquatic birds).
The list of species is shorter than the one of Costanera Sur, but extremely rich considering the small size of the area, with some specialties that are much more common here than in the other reserves.
Resident species: many aquatic species are resident here, being some of the most remarckable the Brazilian Duck (Amazonetta brasiliensis), Plumbeous Rail (Pardirallus sanguinolentus), Rufous-sided Crake (Laterallus melanophaius), Common Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus) and the Sooty Tyrannulet (Serpophaga nigricans), although this species is not aquatic, but use to live always near the water. Among the non aquatic birds there are White-tipped Dove (Leptotila verreauxi), Chicli Spinetail (Synallaxis spixi), Mottled-cheeked Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes ventralis), Rufous-browed Peppershrike (Cyclarhis gujanensis), the scarce Diademed Cardinal (Stephanophorus diadematus), Sayaca Tanager (Thraupis sayaca), Yellow-billed Cardinal (Paroaria capitata), Red-rumped Warbling-finch (Poospiza lateralis) and the Grayish Saltator (Saltator coerulescens).
Mottled-cheeked Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes ventralis)
Brazilian Duck (Amazonetta brasiliensis)
Visitor species: during the summer there are some migrants common in the riverside forest, such as the Bran-colored Flycatcher (Myiophobus fasciatus), Small-billed Elaenia (Elaenia parvirostris), and the Red-eye Vireo (Vireo olivaceus). In winter there is a very interesting visitor: the White-throated Hummingbird (Leucochloris albicollis).
I suggest a visit to these two reserves (Vicente López and Ribera Norte) in one day, because they are close to each other and small enough to get to know them well in a few hours.
A view of Costanera Norte - Photo: Marcelo Gavensky
COSTANERA NORTE ECOLOGIC RESERVE ("Ciudad Universitaria")
This place currently offers a good oportunity for watching aquatic birds in BA, since the lack of water in the other reserve of the city (Costanera Sur). It is also known by the name name "Ciudad Universitaria" because of the place where it's located (the main campus of the University of Buenos Aires). It's a very small place but in a few hours it is possible to see more than 50 species, including some scarce aquatic birds and others (raptors and passerines).
So far it's still a non fully protected area, but there is a project to daclare it ecologic reserve, a title that diserves very much.
Views of Costanera Norte (Ciudad Universitaria) - Photos: Marcelo Gavensky
As I suggested before, aquatic birds are the main specialties of this small place. It's a good place for herons, with the White-necked Heron (Ardea cocoi) and the Rufescent Tiger-heron (Tigrisoma lineatum) as the most remarkable ones. Other aquatic species include Brazilian Duck (Amazonetta brasiliensis), Limpkin (Aramus guarauna), Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana), Common Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus), the Ringed Kingfisher (Ceryle torquata) and some passerines such as the Wren-like Rushbird (Phleocryptes melanops) and the Warbling Doradito (Pseudocolopteryx flaviventris).
Non aquatic birds include some interesting raptors, such as the Harris's Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), a breeding resident in the area.
Wattled Jacana (Jacana jacana)
Rufescent Tiger-heron (Tigrisoma lineatum)
Common Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus) - Photo: Roberto Ares