Magellanic Plover, Pluvianellus socialis, a shorebird on a class of its own

Magellanic Plover, Pluvianellus socialis is the sole member of family Pluvianellidae, and despite its name it is not really related to true Plovers, Charadriidae, but closer to Chionidae, the Sheathbills. However, it wasn’t until 1975 that it was separated from Plovers and placed into its own monotypic family, Pluvianellidae and genus, Pluvianellus.

Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider
Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider

Some authors have suggested placing it within the Sheathbill family, but several morphological and behavioural traits separate it from that group, such as the use of a crop to carry food to the chicks, the slight asymmetry of the bill, and the use of the feet to dig in the ground for food.

A medium-sized shorebird, the shape of its body recalls a small dove or seedsnipe more than a plover. Generally found along the shores of shallow saline lakes and lagoons with rocky and muddy shores, very exposed to the wind, with variable water levels. Also on rocky coasts, especially during migration periods.

Magellanic Plover © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
Magellanic Plover © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions

It can be easily overlooked due to its extremely cryptic colouration, especially as it blends with the pebbles that are commonly part of their habitat, and finding it usually involves a fair amount of time and patience, trying to discern its minute shape among vast extensions of pebbles and stones in the shores of Patagonian water bodies.

© Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
© Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions

Territorial, normally in pairs or family groups. Also associates with other plovers and sandpipers, like Two-banded Plover, Rufous-chested Dotterel and Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers. Forms flocks during migration and winter.

Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider
Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider

Endemic to Patagonia, local and partially resident in the extreme south of Chile and Argentina, in Chile restricted to Magallanes district, and it is classified as Near Threatened (NT) in the IUCN Red List.

Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider
Magellanic Plover, Photo © Juan Pablo Rider

Puma, Mountain Lion, Puma concolor, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Crouching among the low bushes near a hilltop, an adult Puma, Puma concolor stares at us in the distance in the cold morning air in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. The largest and top patagonian predator, it is second in size only to the Jaguar among American cats. It ranges from Alaska south to Tierra del Fuego, and its stealth, mostly nocturnal and crepuscular habits make it hard to be spotted in the wild.

Photo taken during one of our current season’s Patagonia Explorer programmes, covering part of Southern Patagonia including Torres del Paine NP and Tierra del Fuego in Chile and Los Glaciares NP in Argentina.

Puma, photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Puma, photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Austral Parakeet, Enicognathus ferrugineus, Punta Arenas, Chile

A blaze of green and red against the stark winter white, an Austral Parakeet Enicognathus ferrugineus feeds on the seeds of a short bush that sticks out through the snow blanket in the shore of the Straits of Magellan near Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia. Southernmost of all parrots in the world, it is found to the very tip of the South American continent.

Austral Parakeet, photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Austral Parakeet, photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Andean Huemul Deer, Hippocamelus antisensis

A female Andean Huemul Deer, Hippocamelus antisensis checks us out in the distance while feeding in the first light of day at the foothills of the Andes mountains near Putre, Arica, Northern Chile. One of the largest but least known mammals of the country, it is very rare and shy, and as such it is only occasionally seen.

Andean Huemul Deer, photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Andean Huemul Deer, photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Magellanic Oystercatcher, Haematopus leucopodus, Pali Aike NP, Magallanes, Patagonia, Chile

Tail cocked in an alert posture, a Magellanic Oystercatcher, Haematopus leucopodus guards over its breeding territory in the middle of the patagonian steppe of Pali Aike National Park in Magallanes, Chile, a Guanaco in the background. One of the three southern cone oystercatchers, it is the only one to leave the coast for the inland plains, especially in breeding season.

Magellanic Oystercatcher, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Magellanic Oystercatcher, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Puna Ground Tyrant, Muscisaxicola juninensis, Arica, Chile

Approaching its nest located inside a crevasse in the rocks, a Puna Ground Tyrant, Muscisaxicola juninensis briefly pauses on top of a boulder with a beakful of insect prey that will be fed to its offspring. One of the highest-living tyrant flycatchers, it is found in the high Andes above 3,500m above sea level.

Puna Ground Tyrant, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Puna Ground Tyrant, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Fire-eyed Diucon, Xolmis pyrope, Magallanes, Patagonia, Chile

Surveying from an advantage perch, a Fire-eyed Diucon Xolmis pyrope waits for any flying insects coming across its field of view, ready to take off and snatch its prey in mid-air before returning to its watching post by the edge of a Nothofagus forest patch in Magallanes, chilean Patagonia. One of the relatively common southern cone Tyrant flycatchers, it excels in sally-gleaning and can be readily identified by its general grey colours and striking bright-red eye.

Fire-eyed Diucon, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Fire-eyed Diucon, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Puna plover, Charadrius alticola, Antofagasta, Chile

Carefully looking for any movement betraying the presence of its insect prey, a Puna Plover Charadrius alticola makes a dash run for a tiny mosquito in the seemingly barren vastness of the Atacama Salt Lake near San Pedro de Atacama in Antofagasta, Chile. The highest-living plover, it is found only in high-altitude lakes in the Andean plateau between 3000 and 5000m.

Puna Plover, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Puna Plover, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Magellanic & Imperial Cormorants, Straits of Magellan, Patagonia, Chile

Sitting  low above the water, a Magellanic Cormorant Phalacrocorax magellanicus surfaces while feeding in the cold waters of the Straits of Magellan, closely followed by an Imperial Cormorant Phalacrocorax atriceps. The two southernmost cormorants in the Americas, they are found along both Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Patagonia.

Magellanic & Imperial Cormorants, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Magellanic & Imperial Cormorants, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Striped Woodpecker, Veniliornis lignarius, Torres del Paine NP, Patagonia, Chile

Perching on a dead branch, a female Striped Woodpecker Veniliornis lignarius looks for insect larvae in Torres del Paine NP, Chilean Patagonia. The smallest of Patagonian woodpeckers, it is found around the edge of Nothofagus southern beech stands.

Striped Woodpecker, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Striped Woodpecker, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions