Friday, 8 February 2013

Common Birds of Buenos Aires

Barb and I arrived in Buenos Aires last Friday afternoon and soon were settled in an apartment in the Palermo district of the city.  We chose this area due to its proximity to a number of parks, quick access to the subway (“subte”) and because it was within walking distance of our Spanish and tango lessons.  When I saw the comment on this blog from my friend, Jose Gustavo, I was even more motivated to improve my Spanish.  We birded many times together in Venezuela and he very patiently tried to teach me some birding Spanish.

Birding wasn’t on the agenda but, with all of the large trees lining the streets, there were always birds to be seen.  From the apartment balcony, I have seen about 10 species including one lifer – Burrowing Parrot.  One landed on the balcony above me but I was not fast enough with the camera.  I have been trying to learn the calls of the 3 parrot species in the area and this morning I heard squawks that sounded like a car trying to start.  “Hmm, I wonder which one that is” and I listened closely.  The sound was repeated a few times and then the engine caught!
View from our apartment
A walk in the local park on Saturday produced many common birds, some of which are the same as in Calgary – Rock Pigeon, European Starling, House Wren and the ubiquitous House Sparrow; some which make it to the southern U.S. – Neotropic Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Kiskadee and Monk Parakeet; some are southern cousins of North American birds – Chalk-browed Mockingbird,Rufous-bellied Thrush; and some which common throughout South America – Rufous-Collared Sparrow, Eared Dove, Rufous Hornero.
Snowy Egret

Chalk-browed Mockingbird
Rufous Hornero
Sunday, we ventured to the street market in San Telmo.  There I found an Argentina bird guidebook (I had looked earlier in some book stores without success), albeit without the accompanying DVD.  It is an excellent guide with both Spanish and English, photos and illustrations and a numerical code indicating the likelihood of finding a bird (all of the birds I’ve seen so far are common, thus the title of this posting).  I don’t know why the book isn’t available in North America. There were not many birds in this old part of town but we saw some interesting sights. 
Tango - we just learned this step so perhaps Barb needs a dress like this!
This week, we have developed a bit of a routine:  an early morning walk in the park, Spanish lessons at noon, mid-afternoon by the pool or perhaps another outing, a tango lesson (just two per week) and then dinner at a nearby restaurant.  It is mid-summer here so the daytime highs are in the high 20’s and overnight lows around 18 … quite pleasant compared to Calgary at this time of year!

Buenos Aires has a well know ecological reserve – reserva ecologica Costanera Sur – which is just a half hour walk from the city centre.  I had visited it over 10 years ago while on a business trip and remembered it as a fantastic place.  However, it has been very dry in Buenos Aires the past few years and the lagoons have all dried up!  Still, there is a lot of good habitat but one has to work a lot harder to see the birds.  To compound problems, the reserve doesn’t open until 8 a.m. which is about an hour and a half after sunrise. I went to the reserve on Tuesday and by 10 a.m. it was too hot for me and the birds.  Some of the birds I saw were Green-barred Woodpecker, Streaked Flycatcher, Hooded Siskin, Saffron Finch, and Double-collared Seedeater.  I had one lifer in the reserve – a Golden-billed Saltator.  I also found my first mammal of the trip but am not sure what is was.  I asked a man who was watching it and he called it a “Cu-ee”.  This is a medium-sized rodent with prominent (but not large) ears and no apparent tail.  I was just about to take a photo when a jogger ran by and the animal scurried into the bushes.
Green-barred Woodpecker
Streaked Flycatcher
The parks nearby the apartment have many beautiful large trees but no understory.  Thus, most of the birds I’m seeing are those found in inhabited or open areas.  There are a few small lakes that have a variety of waterfowl, most of which appears to be of the barnyard variety.  Still, I have picked up some life birds such as White-winged Coot and Red-fronted Coot.
Red-fronted Coot
Some of the trees are still in bloom and the Palo Barracho with its pink flowers attracts the parakeets and hummingbirds.
Palo Barracho trees

Monk Parakeet
Gilded Hummingbird
In English we have an expression “trash bird” which usually refers to a bird that one was hoping to find and which turns out to be very common.  Here, the Monk Parakeet is truly a trash bird!
Trash birds!  Monk Parakeets
In this post, I have shown a few of the birds I have seen.  If you wish to view photos of all the birds I have photographed in Argentina, go to:

I have made contact with a local birder and, in the coming week, I am hoping to venture a little further afield.  Maybe I’ll have some uncommon birds to show you in the next post!


1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian, Great to read your first post - my suggestion for your mammal would be Brazilian Guinea Pig (Cavia aperea), as a quick search of the web found photos of this species taken at Costanera Sur. At least you have managed to get into the reserve - when we were there, it poured with rain all day, and they wouldn't let us we had to bird from the edge !
    Looking forward to tango pics of you and Barb !