Northwestern Argentina is a land full of spectacular landscapes and this incredibly varied region has a great diversity of natural habitats, ranging from Yungas Cloudforest to dry Chaco Woodlands and High Andean Lagoons. The three provinces in the northwestern most part of Argentina, Jujuy, Salta and Tucuman, host some pristine representatives of these habitats, all worth visiting for birders to find both diversity and good numbers of native species. Our birding adventure begins in the Province of Tucumán, exploring the Yungas Cloudforest. Forming a wedge along the southern Andean chains of Bolivia and northwestern Argentina, the Yungas Cloudforest supports one of the greatest biological diversities in the Neotropics. It harbors a wide variety of forests and woodlands, each hosting its own and unique community of flora and fauna, and all varying according with their altitudinal ranges. Wildlife is abundant in this humid environment. Ferns, bromeliads and other epiphytic plants are particularly stunning here, and they cover every single corner of the forest. This biological treasure is well protected within the boundaries of several national parks and nature reserves, and we plan to explore it thoroughly in different areas.
The Yungas surrounding Tafí del Valle offer great chances for such stunning birds as Rufous-throated Dipper and Torrent Duck to name but a few. Tucumán is also a wonderful area for exploring the Monte at the Calchaqui Valleys and the mountains of the Aconquija. The latter is home to several specialties including White-browed Tapaculo, White-winged Cinclodes, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Paramo Pipit, Buff-breasted Earthcreeper, Cordilleran and Puna Canasteros, Grey-hooded Parakeet, Slender-billed Miner, and three endemics: Tucuman Mountain-Finch, Yellow-striped Brushfinch and Moreno’s Ground-Dove. After crossing the Aconquija, we will enter dense Monte habitat as we cross into the Province of Salta. This is a wonderful habitat for other Argentine endemics including Sandy Gallito, White-throated Cacholote and Cinnamon Warbling-Finch. No birding tour to northwestern Argentina would be complete without visiting the Andean habitats of the famous Cachi Road, an area well reputed among birders the world over for its remarkable diversity of birds. We will follow this road on our way to Los Cardones National Park, looking for birds like Andean Condor, Aplomado Falcon, Andean Flicker, Rock Earthcreeper, White-tipped Plantcutter, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, White-winged Black Tyrant, Black Siskin, Rufous-sided Warbling Finch and the highly localized Rufous-bellied Saltator. After birding Cachi Road, we will continue west, into the dry Chaco forest, where we’ll spend time looking for specialties including Stripe-backed Antbird, Quebracho Crested Tinamou, Spot-winged Falconet and many others. We will then move on to the Yungas forests in the Province of Jujuy to go exploring Calilegua National Park, one of the most important reserves in Argentina, specially created to protect an extensive patch of pristine Yungas cloudforest, where birds like King Vulture, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Amazonian Motmot, Blue-crowned Trogon, White-throated Antpitta, Yungas Manakin, Crested Oropendola and Black-backed Grosbeak are all possible.
We will finally head up to the northwestern most part of Argentina, where we’ll spend the next few days birding and exploring the Humahuaca Valley and the high Andes, with their amazing lagoons, home to spectacular birds like Giant Coot, and three species of flamingos. Exploring the southernmost end of the Humahuaca Valley is a must for birders, since it is here where chances are high to find such unique species as Red-faced Guan and Lyre-tailed Nightjar. We will bird the road that connects the small village of Yala with a local reserve, looking for these and other forest specialties, including Mitred Parakeet, Fulvous-headed Brushfinch, Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch and Spot-breasted Thornbird to name but a few. Continuing north, and up to higher elevations, we will leave behind the Yungas and the Alder forest and enter the pre-Puna. The Andes in this part of Argentina are very dry, but they are crossed by a series of humid valleys, with Humahuaca standing out for its unique setting. Nestled amidst spectacular rock formations of the most incredible and diverse colors, this is the heart of one of the richest cacti flora on Earth, and home to a wide array of birds, mammals and other wildlife. The small village of Pozuelos Pampa is the gateway to the high Andean Puna and to one of the most spectacular reserves in the dry Andes of Argentina: Lake Pozuelos Natural Monument. This mountain ringed basin with shallow brackish water harbors thousands of Andean, Chilean and Puna Flamingos so we hope to witness the spectacle of large concentrations of these creatures amidst the solitude and grandeur of high Andean landscape. We will finally reach the Bolivian border at the small village of La Quiaca. From here we will explore the highest reaches of the Puna, reaching 4,000 meters (13,000 ft.) above sea level, searching for specialties including Puna Tinamou, Golden-spotted Ground-Dove, Wedge-tailed Hillstar, Red-backed Sierra-Finch and Puna Yellow-Finch among others. After exploring Humahuaca Valley and the High Andean Puna, we will drive south, all the way down the Andes and, depending on your selected departure flight, on to the airports of Jujuy or Salta, where our birding adventure in northwestern Argentina ends.