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

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

Magellanic Oystercatcher, Haematopus leucopodus, Straits of Magellan, Chile

Showing its distinctive black-and-white plumage and yellow eye ring, a Magellanic Oystercatcher, Haematopus leucopodus walks along the pebble shore of the Straits of Magellan looking for invertebrate prey. The most restricted of chilean oystercatchers, it is only found in both Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Patagonia.

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

Southern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialoides, Valparaiso, Chile

Taking off after feeding in the surface a Southern Fulmar, Fulmarus glacialoides taxies vigorously to become airborne in the cold and rich waters of the Humboldt Current in the South-eastern Pacific off Valparaiso in Central Chile. The sole member of genus Fulmarus in the Southern Hemisphere, it is identified by its silvery-grey plumage colour and pink bill with a blue nose tube and black tip, and after breeding in and around Antarctica it disperses across the southern oceans looking for highly productive cold marine currents where it feeds mostly on pelagic invertebrates.

Southern Fulmar, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Southern Fulmar, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Magellanic Tucotuco, Ctenomys magellanicus, Tierra del Fuego, Chile

Sticking out its head through the opening of its den, a Magellanic Tucotuco, Ctenomys magellanicus,  takes a look around before venturing out in the open to look for food.  Its galleries are oriented to minimize the impact of the cold patagonian wind, with openings covered with vegetation.

Magellanic Tucotuco,
Magellanic Tucotuco, Photo © Sebastián Saiter, Far South Expeditions

Dolphin Gull, Leucophaeus scoresbii, Straits of Magellan, Chile

Flying along the shores of the Straits of Magellan, a small flock of Dolphin Gull, Leucophaeus scoresbii passes by the observer.

A Patagonian gull, this bird treats us with its elegant grey plumage spiced up by its coral red bill and legs.

Dolphin Gull, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions
Dolphin Gull, Photo © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions

Magellanic Cormorant, Phalacrocorax magellanicus

Extending wings, tail and webbed feet, a Magellanic Cormorant, Phalacrocorax magellanicus brakes in the air just before alighting on a kelp bed in the north western shore of the Straits of Magellan near Punta Arenas in Patagonia, Chile. A southern South American cormorant, its distribution is restricted to both Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Patagonia.

Magellanic Cormorant © Rodrigo Tapia
Magellanic Cormorant © Rodrigo Tapia