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

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

White-throated Caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis, Chilean Patagonia

White-throated Caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis,

Endemic to the Patagonian Andes. Occurs in mountain areas, forested hills, high Patagonian steppes and borders of rivers. Often seen around rubbish dumps, slaughter-houses and other human settlements.

Scarce to locally common resident in Patagonia.

White-throated Caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis, *juvenile © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
White-throated Caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis, *juvenile

Alone or in pairs. Sometimes in family groups. Scavenger, mainly feeding on the corpses of cattle, but also preying on small rodents.

Often seen perched high on cliffs, hillsides or fences. Shy and very wary.

White-throated Caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis, © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
White-throated Caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis, © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions

Rufous-tailed Hawk, Buteo ventralis, Patagonia, Chile

Rufous-tailed Hawk, Buteo ventralis, medium-sized raptor.

Habitat, in open Nothofagus and Araucaria forested sectors: forest borders, parks and adjacent shrubby coastal areas. Also in secondary forest. From the coast to the Andes.

Endemic to Patagonia, rare to locally common resident along both slopes of the Andes.

Alone or in pairs. Perches on trees, posts and fences. Flight high and gliding, sometimes circling at considerable height. Wary, although sometimes allows approach.

Rufous-tailed Hawk, Buteo ventralis, *adult © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions

 

Rufous-tailed Hawk, Buteo ventralis, *juvenile © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions

 

Austral Rail, Rallus antarcticus, Patagonia, Chile

Austral Rail, Rallus antarcticus, the smallest member of Rallus genus. Endemic to Patagonia. Very scarce to locally frequent in some places in southern regions of Argentina and Chile, resident through eastern Patagonia south to central-eastern Magallanes. Scarce and local summer resident, that breeds in Torres del Paine National Park, Chilean Patagonia.

Present on lagoons, ponds and in damp grasslands adjacent to marshy areas with abundant dense reeds, situated on the shrubby patagonian steppe.

Alone or in pairs. Also in family groups. Rather territorial during the breeding season. Curious. Loud and singular call. Spends most of its time hidden in vegetation making it very difficult to observe. Considered as a vulnerable species. Its population is estimated to be between 2,500 – 10,000 individuals.

© Jorge Ruiz

Austral Rail, Rallus antarcticus, © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions

Cinereous Harrier, Circus cinereus, San Gregorio, Magallanes, Chilean Patagonia

Cinereous Harrier, Circus cinereus, smallish and beautiful raptor. Their habitat includes damp terrains, grasslands, cultivated fields and arid Patagonian steppes with scattered bushes.

The southernmost populations migrate nothwards to more temperature regions of Central Chile and Argentina. Although, many individuals remains in the southern regions during the colder months.

Hunts by long and low glides with slow wing-beats, above the reeds, bushes and grasslands, looking and chasing for its prey, composed mainly by rodents, small birds, frogs and insects.

A small and very territorial group protect the breeding territory in the middle of the patagonian steppe with Greenbush, Lepidophyllum cupressiforme.

♂ Cinereous Harrier, © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
♂ Cinereous Harrier, © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
♀ Cinereous Harrier, Photo © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
♀ Cinereous Harrier, © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
♀ Cinereous Harrier, Photo © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions
♀ Cinereous Harrier, © Sebastián Saiter, 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