An introduction to some of the best places
to watch birds in Misiones Province, Argentina.
- Iguazu National Park
- Las Araucarias Provincial Park
- Urugua-i Provincial Park
- Kaa Yari Provincial Park
- Salto Encantado
- Saltos de Moconá
- Cruce Caballero Provincial Park
- San Sebastian de la Selva
Spectacular is not the word – you cannot visit Misiones and miss out on Iguazú. Recently named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, there’s a big bonus to spending a day marvelling at the 350 separate water chutes that make up Iguazú Falls… it’s great birding too!
The Iguazú Park list stands at over 420 species, by far the most of any protected area in Argentina so, as you might expect from a park of over 250 000 ha of largely pristine Atlantic Forest, even the most demanding birder will be rewarded here.
First of the day for many visitors are the virtually unmissable Toco Toucans close to the park entrance. Chopi Blackbird, Blue-winged Parrotlet and seasonal migrants such as Plumbeous Kite, Swallow-tailed Kite, Streaked Flycatcher and Vermillion Flycatcher may soon make appearances and as we go into the forest, the birding gets intense. Iguazú is one of the few places in Argentina you can hope to see White-bearded Manakin; and species like Streak-capped and Rufous-winged Antwrens, Blond-crested Woodpecker, Black-capped Foliage Gleaner, Ochre-collared Piculet and Plain-brown Woodcreeper can be seen along the Macuco Trail. We’ll be looking out for the real treats too, like Spot-billed Toucanet, Violaceous Quail Dove and Black-fronted Piping Guan and round the Devil’s Throat we’ll be watching out for Social Flycatcher, White-winged and Black-banded Swallows and not forgetting the huge swirling flocks of Great-dusky Swifts.
Las Araucarias Provincial Park (99ha)
San Pedro’s own reserve is right in town. At 99ha Las Araucarias is not that large, but receives a steady stream of enthusiasts as it’s home to some good-sized Araucaria trees and is one of the best places to see Canebrake Groundcreeper and Araucaria Tit-spinetail. Other regulars are Red-breasted Toucan, Vinaceous-breasted Amazon, Azure Jay and even the odd Helmeted Woodpecker.
Urugua-i Provincial Park (133 000ha) R 19.
After the bustle of the well-trodden trails of Iguazú, it’s a pleasure to walk the Uruzú loop in Urugua-í. Not only that, you can expect some of the best birding in Argentina here, too – in PP Urugua-i the difficult Passerines of the Atlantic Forest abound and it’s practically the only place still offering regular sightings of Black-fronted Piping-Guan. Other good birds regularly seen are White-browed Foliage-Gleaner, Sao Paulo Tyrranulet, Scale-throated and Planalto Hermits, Southern Bristle Tyrant, White-throated Spadebill, Rufous-crowned Motmot, Spot-winged Woodquail and, in bamboo stands, Blackish-blue Seedeater, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher and Large-headed Flatbill.
Kaa Yari Provincial Park (part of Biosphere Reserve Yaboti)
This reserve, part of the Yaboti Biosphere mosaic, was put on the birding map when Black-capped Manakin, new for Argentina, was found here in 2004. Soon after, researchers found breeding evidence and ever since, along with other Kaa Yari specialities like Brown-breasted Pygmy-Tyrant, Thick-billed Saltator and Rufous-tailed Antthrush, the locality has deservedly attracted the attention of international birding groups in growing numbers.
Salto Encantado (Cuña Piru Provincial Park)
(13 227 ha) R14.
Another locality attracting growing interest from birders is the spactacular and accessible Salto Encantado reserve. Walking the transition forest trail that takes you past what we would have to call Misiones’ third most spectacular waterfall, Rufous-winged Antwren, Diademed Tanager, the plucky little Black-breasted Plovercrest and Rufous-breasted Leaftosser may all make appearances while we can hope for glimpses of the rarer birds like Solitary Tinamou, Eastern Slaty-Thrush, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow and Cream-bellied Gnatcatcher. Overhead, Argentina rarity Black-and-white Hawk Eagle shares airspace with Great Dusky Swifts, which give all onlookers a special treat at the end of the day when they come down in a great swarm and enter their roosting site behind the cascading water.
Saltos de Moconá (part of Biosphere Reserve Yaboti)
The Mocona Falls arise from a unique geological formation that produces a three kilometre-long waterfall – the longest continuous waterfall in the world – and a plunge pool at the bottom over 100m deep.
At the entrance to the falls is a new visitor centre and museum. A good trail behind the building offers many of Misiones’ southern forest specialities, by far the most impressive of these is Long-trained Nightjar. Look for this species on the road coming down from the trail – those lucky enough to see this bird don’t soon forget it!
Cruce Caballero Provincial Park (600ha) R14.
Housing a treasure-trove of old growth Araucaria and tree fern habitat, Cruce Caballero is the best, and one of the last, places in Argentina where we can find the upland rarities unique to the Atlantic Forest biome. Solitary Tinamou, Rusty-barred Owl, White-browed Foliage-Gleaner, Sao-Paulo Tyrannulet, Planalto Tapaculo, Black-billed Scythebill and Green-chinned Euphonia are all good possibilities, and we may be among those lucky enough to see the extremely rare Helmeted Woodpecker.
Please note: this last species is now critically endangered in Argentina and, in consultation with Felix de Azara field workers studying here, we have agreed not to use playback to attract Helmeted Woodpecker in this reserve.
We strongly urge others to respect the needs of endangered species and use playback with caution and moderation at all times in protected areas and natural habitats.
Due to variable access conditions, visits to Cruce Caballero should be made only in 4×4 vehicles.
For sheer diversity of habitat and birding pleasure, the private reserve of San Sebastian de la Selva is hard to beat. Relax in comfort in the charming lodge with its huge wooden furniture and look out onto a lake where Yellow-browed Tyrant, Common Tody Flycatcher and – unique in Argentina – Masked Water Tyrant, come down to the fields while Short-tailed Nighthawk swoop down to drink at dusk. Behind, the forest is bustling with Rusty-breasted Nunlet, Robust Woodpecker, Black-throated Trogon and the plaintive cry of Collared Forest-Falcon at dawn may alert us to the presence of this elusive raptor.
Speciality birds here are Ocellated Bamboowren, Variegated Antpitta, Speckle-breasted Antpitta and down at the feeders, Scaled Doves and Yellow-browed Woodpeckers together with Plush-crested Jays, Violet-capped Woodnymph and even the occasional Blackish Rail.