Our Beautiful World

The Andes, Fauna and Nature   

Part 3. Patagonia

Animals, birds and flowers on this page:

Upland Goose, Chloephaga picta
Cougar, Felis concolor
Slipper flower, Calceolaria L
Darwin's Rhea, Rhea pennata
Guanaco, Lama guanicoe
Lily of the Incas, Alstroemeria
Chilean Flamingo,
Phoenicopterus chilensis

Patagonian Weasel,
Lyncodon patagonicus
Andean Flamingo,
Phoenicopterus andinus
Southern River Otter,
Lontra provocax
Puna Flamingo, Phoenicoparrus jamesi . .
Magellanic Woodpecker,
Campephilus magellanicus

. .

From a rearranged translation of Vladimir Dinets original pages to norwegian, with supplements.

Klikk på flagg for norsk versjon

Pages for Latin America

Upland geese , Chloephaga picta,
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentina.


Andes of Patagonia are virtually uninhabited. The highest mountains are covered with extensive icefields.
In the far south, the mountains continue to Tierra del Fuego and the Scotia Arc.

Map obtained http://www.birdtheme.org/maps/chile.jpg


Views of Cerro Fitzroy, PN Los Glaciares, Argentina.

Torres del Paine, Chile.
The eastern slope is very windy and relatively dry, with intermontane
valleys either covered with shortgrass steppe or filled with huge glacial
lakes. The southern part of that area is the most scenic.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in Chile and Parque Nacional Los
Glaciares in Argentina have some of the world's most impressive
mountain landscapes, such is Fitzroy Range (above). Remote and
pristine just a decade ago, these parks are now popular tourist

PN Torres del Paine.


Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Argentina.
Perito Moreno Glacier in good weather

Upland Goose, Chloephaga picta

Female Upland Goosem, male and female
Upland Goose or Magellan Goose, Chloephaga picta, Torres del Paine, Chile
Photo: ©  http://www.arthurgrosset.com

The Upland Goose or Magellan Goose, Chloephaga picta, is a South American member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae. It is in the shelduck subfamily, Tadorninae. Males have a white head and breast, whereas the females are brown
with black-striped wings and yellow feet, and could be mistaken for Ruddy-headed Geese. These birds are 60–72.5 centimetres
long and weigh 2.7–3.2 kilograms. They are found in open grasslands.

Farmers look at those birds as a pest, and kill them in great numbers, still they remain numerous.

Perito Moreno in PN Los Glaciares is now the most visited glacier in South America.

Perito Moreno Glacier in bad weather.
Perito Moreno Glacier in good weather.

This glacier is easily accessible. It's also very active.
Small-scale calving can usually be seen every hour or two; larger icebergs break off at least once a day.

Perito Moreno Glacier flows from the South Patagonian Icefield.

Perito Moreno Glacier enters the forest
in some years.

Alfa male guanaco on a lookout.
PN Los Glaciares

Cougar, Felis concolor

Torres del Paine National Park
Photo: ©
Willam L Franklin, National Geographic, January 1991

The Cougar, Felis concolor, is not an animal you should get too near, at least not on a hillside like this.

The Cougar, Felis concolor, is not an animal you should get too near, at least not on a hillside like this.
The cougar, also known as puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount or panther, depending on the region, is a mammal
of the family Felidae, native to the Americas. This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any large wild terrestrial
mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America.

An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in every major American habitat type. It is the second heaviest cat in
the Western Hemisphere, after the jaguar.

Notice the antenna on the left ear. Scientists are still trying to learn about this animal.
Torres del Paine National Park

Photo: ©
Willam L Franklin, National Geographic, January 1991

A capable stalk-and-ambush predator, the cougar pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources include ungulates
such as deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic cattle, horses and sheep, particularly in the northern part
of its range. In its southern range it include fish, birds, (i.e. the Nanduen, Rhea pennata,  which can not fly), mouse,
Lamas, Guanoacos, foxes and many others.
Darwin's Rhea,
Rhea pennata

It will also hunt species as small as insects and rodents. This cat prefers habitats with dense underbrush and
rocky areas for stalking, but it can also live in open areas. The cougar is territorial and persists at low population densities.
Individual territory sizes depend on terrain, vegetation, and abundance of prey.

While it is a large predator, it is not always the dominant species in its range, as when it competes for prey with other
predators such as the jaguar, grey wolf, American Black Bear, and the grizzly bear. It is a reclusive cat and usually avoids
people. Attacks on humans remain fairly rare, despite a recent increase in frequency.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cougar

More about the Cougar - click here

Darwin's Rhea, Rhea pennata

Darwin's Rhea in Patagonia, Chile

Darwin's Rhea, Rhea pennata, also known as the Lesser Rhea or Nandu, is a large flightless bird, but the smaller of the two extant
species of rheas. It is found in the Altiplano and Patagonia in South America.

It stands at 90–100 cm tall and weighs 15–25 kg, and has larger wings than other ratites, enabling it to run particularly well.
It can reach speeds of 60 km/h, enabling it to outrun predators. The sharp claws on the toes are effective weapons.
Their plumage is spotted brown and white, and the upper part of their tarsus is feathered.

The males of this species become aggressive once they are incubating eggs. The females thus lay the later eggs near the nest, rather than
in it. Most of the eggs are moved into the nest by the male, but some remain outside, where they rot and attract flies. The male,
and later the chicks, eat these flies. The incubation period is 30–44 days, and the clutch size is from 5–55 eggs.
The eggs are 87–126 mm and are greenish yellow. Outside the breeding season, Darwin's Rhea is quite sociable: it lives in groups
of from 5 to 30 birds, of both sexes and a variety of ages.

ARKive video - Lesser rhea chicks with adults
Lesser rhea chicks with adults
BBC Natural History Unit

Darwin's Rhea lives in areas of open scrub in the grasslands of Patagonia and on the Andean plateau (the Altiplano), through the
countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. It is known locally by various names, depending on the location: For example suri, choique, ñandú petiso, or ñandú del norte. The name 'ñandú' comes from the bird's name in Guaraní ñandú guazu, meaning big spider,
posibly in relation to their habit of opening and lowering alternatively wings when they run. All subspecies prefer grasslands, brushlands
and marshland. However the nominate subspecies prefers elevations less than 1,500 m, where the other subspecies typically range
from 3,000–4,500 m, but locally down to 1,500 m in the south.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin's_Rhea

Guanaco, Lama guanicoe

A guanaco, Lama guanicoe, is being borned, with legs first.
The Guanacos make up 55% of the food for the Cougar,
Torres del Paine National Park

Photo: © Willam L Franklin, National Geographic, January 1991

The guanaco, Lama guanicoe, is a camelid native to South America that stands between 107 and 122 cm at the shoulder and weighs about 90 kg. The colour varies very little (unlike the domestic llama), ranging from a light brown to dark cinnamon and
shading to white underneath. Guanacos have grey faces and small straight ears. The name guanaco comes from the South
American language Quechua word wanaku (old spelling, huanaco). Young guanacos are called chulengo(s).

The guanaco is native to the arid, mountainous regions of South America. Guanaco are found in the altiplano of Peru, Bolivia,
Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. In Chile and Argentina, they are more numerous in Patagonian regions, in places like
the Torres del Paine National Park, and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. In these areas, they have more robust populations,
since there are limitations on grazing competition from livestock. Bolivian Indians have been known to raise guanaco to help
them regain their population stability. A guanaco’s typical lifespan is 20 to 25 years.

Estimates, as of 2011, place their numbers at 400,000 to 600,000.

ARKive video - Guanaco herd feeding, juveniles play-fight; guanaco grazes and shelters during a snowstorm

Guanaco herd feeding, juveniles play-fight;
guanaco grazes and shelters during a snowstorm

BBC Natural History Unit

Guanaco live in herds composed of females, their young and a dominant male. Bachelor males form a separate herd.
While female groups tend to remain small, often containing no more than ten adults, bachelor herds may contain as many
as 50 males. When they feel threatened, guanaco alert the herd to flee with a high-pitched bleating call. The male will usually
run behind the herd to defend them. They can run with a speed of 56 km per hour, often over steep and rocky terrain.
They are also excellent swimmers. The guanaco have an unusual method of survival - licking all the nutrients and dew from
desert cacti.

Guanacos are one of the largest wild mammal species found in South America (along with the manatee, the tapir, and
the jaguar). . They have only one natural predator, the mountain lion. Guanacos will often spit when threatened.

To protect its neck from harm, the guanaco has thicker skin on its neck, a trait still found in its domestic counterparts,
the llama and alpaca, and its wild cousin, the vicuña. Bolivians use the necks of these animals to make shoes, flattening
and pounding the skin to be used for the soles.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanaco

As so many other animals, the guanaco also cooperates with another creature to avoid dangers and threets. Is works
closely with the Nandu (Lesser Rhea), which has a very sharp eyeview, so combined with its own well delevoped sence
of smell and good hearing, make them together a first class alarm-system.

Andean foothills have plenty of wildlife, such as guanacos, pumas and huge concentrations of birds,
especially around small lakes. In winter some wildlife is easier to see, but the weather can be brutal.

Chilean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus chilensis

Chilean flamingos
Phoenicopterus chilensis,
PN Los Glaciares.

Chilean flamingos
Phoenicopterus chilensis,
PN Los Glaciares.

There are many shallow saltlakes up in the mountains. That is why most bird stay away from them.
The exception is the flamingos. Here you can find the Andean Flamingo, Puna Flamingo and
Chilean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus chilensis.

Chilean Flamingo, Flamenco chileno, (left) Note the grey legs with the red joints and feet.
Compare with Andean Flamingo, Phoenicoparrus andinus, (right) with yellow feet.
They are often seen at the same Andean sites
Photo: ©  http://www.arthurgrosset.com

The Chilean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus chilensis, is a large species, 110–130 cm.
It breeds in temperate South America from Ecuador and Peru to Chile and Argentina and east to Brazil.
Like all flamingos it lays a single chalky white egg on a mud mound.

The plumage is pinker than the slightly larger Greater Flamingo, but less so than Caribbean Flamingo. It can be differentiated
from these species by its greyish legs with pink "knees", and also by the larger amount of black on the bill (more than half).
Young chicks may have no sign of pink coloring whatsoever, but instead remain grey.

The Chilean flamingo's bill is equipped with comb-like structures that enable it to filter food—mainly algae and plankton—
from the water of the coastal mudflats, estuaries, lagoons and salt lakes where it lives.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilean_Flamingo

ARKive video - Chilean flamingo - overview
Chilean flamingo, Phoenicopterus chilensis - overview
BBC Natural History Unit

When the salar is covered with water, three species of flamingo use it for nesting.
The most common is Chilean flamingo, found here in flocks of thousands.
The birds feed on single-cell algae that grow rapidly






Chilean Flamingo,
Phoenicopterus chilensis.
When the salar is dry, the flamingo flocks move elsewhere, but flocks of varying size can usually be found at smaller lakes nearby, especially at Salar de Coipasa to the north, a huge salt flat that always has water in the center.

Chilean Flamingo, Laguna Coipasa.

The Andean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus andinus, is one of the rarest flamingos in the world. It has a pale pink body with
brighter upperparts, deep vinaceous-pink lower neck, breast, and wing-coverts. It is the only flamingo species with yellow legs
and three-toed feet. The bill of the Andean Flamingo is pale yellow and black. This flamingo is native to the wetlands of the high
Andes mountain range from southern Perú to northwestern Argentina and northern Chile. The Andean Flamingo is a migratory
bird with the ability to travel up to 1.100 km(?) in one day. These flamingos are filter-feeders and their diet ranges over the
entire spectrum of available foods, from fish to invertebrates, from vascular plants to microscopic algae.

Andean Flamingos, Phoenicopterus andinus
at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre, Gloucestershire, England.


Andean flamingos feed from the bottom layer of the lake for small particles, mainly diatoms. Andean Flamingos have a deep-
keeled bill; the upper jaw is narrower than the lower jaw and this creates a gape on the dorsal surface of the bill.
The Andean Flamingo’s bill morphology creates a feeding mechanism that aids in their feeding of diatoms called inertial
impaction. This mechanism entails that food particles denser than water, such as diatoms, would impact the filtering surface
in the bill causing water to flow out of the mouth and leaving diatoms in the flamingo’s bill.

In the summer, Andean Flamingos live in salt lakes and migrate to the lower wetlands for the winter. The cause of this migration
from summer to winter is possibly due to the extreme aridity of salt-flats during the winter. The path of migration is unknown,
but it is thought to occur between the Chilean breeding grounds and the wetlands of central and western Argentina.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andean_Flamingo

James's Flamingo, Phoenicoparrus jamesi, is also known as the Puna Flamingo. It populates the high altitudes of Andean
plateaus of Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. It is closely related to the Andean Flamingo, and the two make up the genus
Phoenicoparrus. The Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo and James's flamingo are all sympatric, and all live as a colony
(including shared nesting areas). The James flamingo was thought to have been extinct until a remote population was
discovered in 1956.

James's Flamingo, Phoenicopterus jamesi
Photo: Iain and Sarah

The James's Flamingo have a very long neck that is made up of 19 long cervical vertebrae allowing for a lot of movement and
rotation of the head. Their long thin legs also characterize them. The knee is not visible externally but is located at the top of the
leg. The joint at the middle of the leg, which most assume to be the knee joint is actually the ankle joint. Its plumage is very pale
pink, with bright carmine streaks around the neck and on the back. When perched a small amount of black can be seen in the
wings, these are the flight feathers. There is bright red skin around the eyes, which are yellow in adults. The legs are brick red
and the bill is bright yellow with a black tip.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James's_Flamingo

Mating Ritual: James's Flamingo
Photo: Pedros Szekely
and that ends up the Flamingos.

The western side of Patagonian Andes is no less scenic, but seldom visited. It is a labyrynth of fjords, islands,
and channels, with slopes covered by dense temperate rainforests, mostly of southern beech (Notofagus).
It can be accessed by Puerto Montt-Puerto Natales ferry, or by Carretera Austral,
one of the most beautiful and remote highways in the world.
Most of the region is now protected by a network of huge, very pristine National parks.

Rainbow over Carretera
Austral in Parque
Nacional Queluat
Unidentified flower,
Carretera Austral in
PN Queluat.

The first section of the Carretera Austral , moves along the Seno Reloncaví from Puerto Montt to Chaiten , which covers
approx. 220 km between fjords and forests. Highlights include the Alerce Andino National Park with ancient larch forests,
the age of some of these native trees over 3 thousand years, and Pumalin Park, in charge of the Foundation of the same
name and directed by American Douglas Tomkins, offering beautiful trails through the extraordinary landscape of this region.
It is also possible to sail to visit a colony of sea lions. Pumalin Park is accessed after a ferry crossing from Hornopirén to
Caleta Gonzalo

This area has a lot of endemic plants, most of them survivors of ancient Antarctic flora.
Parasitic plants are especially diverse. Wildlife includes two endemic species of deer,
numerous rodents, and some little-known predators such as Patagonian weasel, Lyncodon patagonicus

Patagonian Weasel, Lyncodon patagonicus

Patagonian Weasel - Museum of Patagonia - San Carlos de Bariloche Argentina
Photo: Serge Ouachée

The Patagonian Weasel, Lyncodon patagonicus, is a small mustelid that is the only member of the genus Lyncodon.
Its geographic range is the Pampas of western Argentina and sections of Chile. An early mention of the animal is in the
Journal of Syms Covington, who sailed with Charles Darwin on his epic voyage aboard the HMS Beagle.

The Patagonian Weasel has a head and body length of 300-350 mm, with a 60–90 mm tail. Its fur is whitish with black
and dark brown tones mixed in. It has small ears, short legs and a bushy tail. The animal has not been thoroughly studied
in the wild, and knowledge of its behavioral patterns is unsure. It reportedly has been kept as a working pet by local
ranchers to destroy rodents.

Southern River Otter, Lontra provocax

Southern River Otter, Lontra provocax,
Museum of Patagonia - San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
Photo: Serge Ouachée

The Southern River Otter, Lontra provocax, is a species of otter that lives in Chile and Argentina. Although called a "river otter", it inhabits both marine and freshwater environments.This is a subspecies of Lontra canadensis. The southern river otter is listed as endangered, due to illegal hunting, water pollution, and habitat loss.

This medium-sized otter's body can grow up to 70 cm long, with a tail adding about 40 cm. Body weight averages
at about 5-10 kg. Its skin is dark-brown on the top and has a lighter cinnamon color on its underside.

Although the female and her young will live in family groups, males are usually solitary. Litter sizes average one to
two pups, but up to four can be born at a time. Their diet includes fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and birds.

The southern river otter can be found in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats, but are mostly found in
freshwater lakes and rivers. Having a significant amount of dense vegetation, especially along the shorelines, must
be present to use as cover. Their habitat also needs the root systems of mature trees, as well as fallen tree debris.

Magellanic Woodpecker, Campephilus magellanicus

Magellanic Woodpecker Male, Campephilus magellanicus,
National Park of Tierra del Fuego, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Photo: Serge Ouachée

The Magellanic Woodpecker, Campephilus magellanicus, is a very large woodpecker found along the Andes of Chile
and southwestern Argentina; it is resident within its range. This species is the southern-most example of the genus Campephilus, which includes the famous Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

The Magellanic Woodpecker is 45 cm in length. Males of this species weigh 310-365 g, and females weigh 275-310 g.
They are the largest South American woodpeckers and one of the largest woodpeckers in the world (Black Woodpeckers and Great Slaty Woodpeckers are the only larger extant species).

Magellanic Woodpecker Female, Campephilus magellanicus,
National Park of Tierra del Fuego, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Photo: Serge Ouachée

This species is mainly black, with a white wing patch and a grey, chisel-like beak. Males have a crimson head and crest.
Females have a mainly black head, but there is an area of red coloration near the base of the bill. Juvenile Magellanic
Woodpeckers resemble females of the species, but have a smaller crest and are browner in color. In its range, this bird is
unmistakable in appearance.

Magellanic Woodpeckers inhabit mature Nothofagus and Nothofagus-Austrocedrus forests, where they feed mainly on
grubs and adult beetles, but also on small reptiles. They breed in late fall to early winter, digging a nest cavity 5-15m
above the ground. Females lay 1-4 eggs.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magellanic_Woodpecker

Slipper flower, Calceolaria L
Lily of the Incas, Alstroemeria


The most famous flowers of Chile include 12 species of Calceolaria (left) and 35 species of Alstroermia (right, with Brachysternus beetle). Isla Chiloe.

Slipper flower, Calceolaria L. also called Lady's purse and Pocketbook flower or Slipperwort, is a genus of plants in the Calceolariaceae family, sometimes classified in Scrophulariaceae by some authors. This genus consists of about 388
species of shrubs, lianas and herbs, and the geographic range extends from Patagonia to central Mexico, with its distribution centre in Andean region. Calceolaria in Latin means shoemaker.

Calceolarias have usually yellow or orange flowers, which can have red or purple spots.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calceolaria

Lily of the Incas, Alstroemeria, or commonly called the Peruvian Lily Lily of the Incas, is a South American genus of about
120 species of flowering plants. Almost all of the species are restricted to one of two distinct centers of diversity, one in central
Chile, the other in eastern Brazil. Species of Alstroemeria from Chile are winter-growing plants while those of Brazil are summer-
growing. All are long-lived perennials except A. (Taltalia) graminea, a diminutive annual from the Atacama Desert of Chile.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alstroemeria

Many parts of the region have never been explored thoroughly.
If there is a place on Earth where you might still hope to find dinosaurs,
it's probably the remote valleys of Southern Chile.
Cold-resistant dinosaurs have lived there in the past; other "living fossils" are still present.


Parque Nacional Queluat.

Edge of Perito Moreno Glacier forms a tiny ice shelf.


Hanging Glacier, Parque Nacional Queluat


Perito Moreno Glacier

Its going to get even colder on the next page

Part 4. Tierra del Fuego

Back to Part 2

All pictures, unless otherwise stated, Copyright © Vladimir Dinets


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