This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you book or purchase through these links. You can read my full disclosure policy here.In March I got to go back to a place I love. South America. Previously, I had only been to Perú, but this time I got to visit Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Once again, I felt right at home in Latin America (mainly because I speak Spanish among other reasons). This trip was all about Patagonia and want to know the biggest reason I was so excited? Wildlife, of course! One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to see animals in their natural habitats. So, in order to help you have my same joyful experience, I wanted to share my wildlife guide of Patagonia animals with you!
Patagonia is a geographical location spanning the southernmost region of South America. Shared by both Argentina and Chile, it has two coasts on the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and is divided by the Andes Mountain Range.
Patagonia got its name in 1520 from Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer. There, he described the native tribes as “patagóns” or giants thought to be double the normal human height with some as tall as 12-15 feet. Now, those people are believed to have been Tehuelches, the indigenous people who were above average European height and whose descendants live in Argentina today.
A serene and extremely safe area to visit, Patagonia is most famous for its gorgeous landscapes, hiking, and…wildlife!
Wildlife Guide to Animals in Patagonia
1 | Chilean Flamingo
Found in South America from Ecuador, Perú, and Brazil to Chile and Argentina, the Chilean Flamingo is closely related to the American Flamingo and is considered large at 43-51 inches tall. They are usually found in salt lagoons and soda lakes. Because these areas have become compromised and flamingos prefer ideal breeding conditions, they have a conservation status of near-threatened.
Chilean Flamingos can be recognized by their slightly pinker (than other types) feathers, gray legs with pink joints and black covering most of their bills.
2 | Patagonian Sierra-Finch
On the way out to view Petrohué Falls in Chile, I found this little cutie, a Patagonian Sierra-Finch. While I did zoom in on him, I still happened to be close enough that I was scared he was going to fly away. Then I thought about how many people he probably sees every day!
The Patagonian Sierra-Finch can be identified by its gray hooded-head and bright yellow body (male). The females are not quite as distinctive.
3 | Patagonian Culpeo Fox
The Patagonian Culpeo Fox looks a lot like the red fox and is a cross between the red fox and a coyote in size. With males averaging 25 lbs and females around 19 lbs, it is a good-sized animal. They have gray and reddish fur, white chins and reddish legs.
So, imagine my surprise as we were standing on the deck outside our amazing hotel lobby to look over and see this Patagonian Culpeo Fox saunter out about 20-30 feet away. He lazily glanced our way (in my mind’s wild imagination, he gave a little chin-raise as if to say “what’s up”) before returning his gaze far out into the distance over the lake. It was earlier morning so I wonder if he had just woken up and was contemplating his agenda for the day.
Regardless, he allowed us to get some fantastic photos of him and I was an extremely happy camper!
4 | Guanaco
Smile and say cheese!
Oh, the Guanaco. Closely related to the llama and the alpaca, the Guanaco is a member of the camel family. They are pale brown on top, white on bottom and have grayish heads. An adult stands about 43 inches tall at the shoulder.
They are everywhere in Patagonia. I mean everywhere. If you’ve been to Yellowstone, then they are the equivalent of bison in Yellowstone. For those of you who know what I’m talking about, you know just what “everywhere” means!
5 | Southern Crested Caracara
I took a photo of this little guy without knowing what he was. A lot of times (dare I say most) with wildlife photography, you have to shoot first (camera shot only!) and ask questions later. This was one of those times.
Let me introduce you to the Southern Crested Caracara, a member of the Falcon family and a bird of prey. Weighing in at 2-3 lbs and with a wingspan of 47-52 inches, it is the second-largest type of falcon in the world according to body mass.
They’re a decorative bird with dark brown heads, stomachs and wings, whitish throats, yellow legs and yellow to reddish-orange faces. This is a juvenile which has gray legs and more of a pinkish-purple face.
Although you can’t really tell in the two photos above (as hard as I tried!), this guy was trying hard to attract the female. And I can confidently tell you, she was having none of it!
6 | Andean Condor
I’m not positive I saw an Andean Condor when I was in Perú, but there was no mistaking seeing one in Torres del Paine. As a member of the vulture family, I wouldn’t call it a majestic bird, but watching it fly is an experience.
It’s also worth mentioning that it is the largest flying bird in the world by measurement of both weight and wingspan combined. Males typically weigh between 24 and 33 lbs with females averaging 18 to 24 lbs. An average wingspan for the Andean Condor is between 8 ft 10 inches to 10 ft 6 inches.
The Andean Condor is black with a white ring of feathers around its neck. Males also have white patches on their wings (that make the wings look torn) and the male is larger than the female which is not typical with birds of prey.
7 | South American Sea Lion
Also known as the Patagonian Sea Lion, the South American Sea Lion can be found on much of the coast of its namesake. Adult males and females are dark orange or brown in color with snouts that turn up. They literally have their noses in the air, but it thankfully doesn’t have the same connotation as it does for humans. 😜
Males can weigh up to 770 lbs, grow up to 9 feet long and are twice the size of females which weigh up to 330 lbs and are 6-7 ft long on average.
We saw hundreds of these sea lions while cruising the Beagle Channel, a strait which runs between Argentina and Chile. Since it was March and the pups are born between December and February, we got to see so many new families!
8 | Turkey Vulture
This is the same Turkey Vulture we see in North America as it is common from Canada to the southern tip of South America. Ironically, this was the first time I had seen one I could easily capture on camera and I had never seen one just hanging out with sea lions!
The Turkey Vulture feeds entirely on carrion which is the decaying flesh of a carcass. Appetizing thought, right? 😝 In the United States, it is a legally protected species.
9 | Black-browed Albatross
I was excited to catch this Black-browed Albatross in flight. The Black-browed Albatross is exceptionally cool because like its name states, it has a black brow that gives it a unique look. With an average weight of 6-10 lbs and an average wingspan of 6-7 feet, it is actually a medium-sized albatross and has a natural lifespan of around 70 years.
10 | Imperial Cormorant
The Imperial Cormorant is just an all-around interesting bird. This was another situation of getting the photo now and asking questions later. Initially, from a distance, I thought these were penguins. Then I saw their necks and realized they didn’t look like the necks of penguins.
There’s a reason for that. They aren’t! They are Imperial Cormorants also known as Blue-Eyed Shags. Funky name! They have a really pretty blue element to their eyes although it’s hard to tell in these photos. Had I known this as I was taking the photos I would have tried to emphasize them, but I was possibly too far away for my lens.
They have black glossy feathers, white necks and bellies, yellow legs, pinkish legs, an orange-yellow beak and a blue ring around their eyes!
11 | Humpback Whale
There are four types of whales that can be seen in Patagonia-the Southern Right, Blue, Humpback, and Orca (which is technically the largest member of the dolphin family, not a whale). The most common, the Humpback Whale, is what we saw while cruising the Beagle Channel out of Ushuaia, Argentina.
Southern Humpback Whales reach an average of 60 feet long and weigh 35 to 50 tons! There are three distinct populations of humpbacks (North Pacific, North Atlantic, and Southern Hemisphere) and they don’t interact with each other.
They are known for their acrobatic breaches and frequently treat viewers with what I call a “tails up”!
12 | Kelp Gull
Lower, Right Corner: Kelp Gull
Also called the Dominican Gull, the Kelp Gull is a breed found on coasts and islands throughout the southern hemisphere. They have an average weight of 2.5 lbs and an average wingspan of 4-4.5 feet. Adult Kelps can be recognized by their black backs and wings, white underbellies, heads, tails and “mirrors” (white dots/circles) on their tails along with yellow bills that have a red spot.
13 | Dusky Dolphin
I’m two for two in the dolphin category for South America. My first visit to South America, I saw these pink Amazon River dolphins. My second visit to South America, I got to see these Dusky Dolphins!
Most dolphins (minus the elusive pink Amazon River dolphins) are highly engaging, acrobatic animals, right? Well, just
double triple that with the Dusky Dolphin. They are extremely fast and love to put on a show!
Weighing up to 210 lbs, they have highly unique markings. They are black or dark gray on their dorsal side and gray to white color on their ventral side. It’s almost in an ombre pattern. The Dusky has two-toned dorsal fins that are black and grayish-white. They also have what almost looks like a triple-toned head with the top being black, the middle (eyes to the upper jaw) a grayish color and the bottom is white.
14 | South American Gray Fox
There is some discrepancy on what type of fox this little guy is. So if you know, please speak up! 🗣️ I can make a serious argument both for and against the Patagonian Culpeo Fox and the South American Gray Fox.
Deep down, I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s a Culpeo; however, since he also fits so much of the South American Gray description and they are commonly mistaken for red foxes like the Culpeo, I decided to put him here.
The South American Gray Fox is smaller than the Culpeo but has a reddish-brown head interspersed with white like the Culpeo. It has a black-tipped tail and a black spot on its chin. This fox doesn’t seem to have the black spot on his chin and that’s one reason why I believe it might be a Culpeo. But he looks like so many Gray Fox photos.
15 | Dolphin Gull
The Dolphin Gull has gray feathers with darker gray wings. They also have red on their bills which match their bright red-orange legs. They are scavengers, opportunistic birds of prey.
16 | Magellan Goose
The Magellan Goose, also known as the Upland Goose, is usually found in the grasslands and agricultural lands in Patagonia. We saw these in the Beagle Channel. The females (left) are brown with black markings and yellow legs and the males (right) are white with black markings and gray legs.
NOW IT’S TIME TO FINISH STRONG WITH THE 4 ANIMALS YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!
17 | Magellanic Penguins
I have always wanted to see penguins in the wild and thought I would have to go to Antarctica to achieve this (which I still want to do). Good news! You can see them right here in Patagonia. We took a day trip from Ushuaia, Argentina out into the Beagle Channel and made a stop at Isla Martillo to see these beautiful animals.
The first type of penguin I saw was the Magellanic Penguin. They are around 2-2.5 feet tall and can weigh between 5 and 14 lbs. They are a nervous type of penguin so please don’t get too close or chase them. I know it looks like I’m close and at times, I am because they came close to the boardwalk NOT because I approached them.
This is where my camera with its fantastic zoom was golden!
Magellanic Penguins have black backs and flippers and white tummies. They are both black and white on their heads and have a distinctive double black horizontal band on the neck area just above the chest.
The Magellanic Penguin mates for life and interestingly enough returns to the same burrow every year for mating season.
The males get the burrow ready each year before the female arrives and the female can recognize her mate by his call alone.
18 | Gentoo Penguin
The second type of penguin we saw was the Gentoo Penguin. They can be recognized by a white stripe that extends around the head and their bright orange bills and legs. They are the third-largest penguin behind the Emperor and the King Penguin.
When you get so excited and just can’t hide it! Happy Feet, anyone? 🐧😍
They are monogamous and infidelity is usually punished by banishment from the colony!
19 | King Penguin
The last type of penguin we saw was a complete surprise. The King Penguin isn’t typically seen outside of Antarctica although this lone guy apparently frequents the area. The second-largest penguin behind the Emperor Penguin, the King Penguin can stand up to 3.25 feet and weigh up to 40 lbs.
They have beautiful markings with their black heads, orange cheeks and bills, gray backs and white stomachs.
When I think about penguins, this is usually what I picture for some reason. Maybe because I see them in movies or National Geographic specials?
20 | Patagonian Puma
I bet you thought I wasn’t going to include the Patagonian Puma, did you? I don’t blame you. As they are a rare sighting, I would have bet against it also.
Just when our group thought our puma hopes were shattered, our driver spotted this beautiful female in the distance. And I do mean distance. Admittedly, it isn’t my best shot but it took me forever just to find her with my naked eye. We also weren’t allowed at that time (for safety reasons) to get off the bus so I shot this from a good distance (almost 100mm zoom) and through the window of our minibus.
I’ll take it, thanks!
Where there is a female, there is usually…yep, a cub. She had one cub that we know of. Cubs stay with their mom until two years of age. This cub was a bit less shy than mom and posed for a bit. He even did a Lion King type pose on a rock. But, he only held that pose for a second and I couldn’t find him quick enough to get the shot.
And just like that, our group became the “Puma Group” as we were the first of our guide’s group to see a puma in the wild in Patagonia. Unfortunately, it is a rare sighting. If you are in Torres del Paine where we saw these (or anywhere remote), please do be aware at all times of your surroundings, especially when hiking or backpacking in Patagonia. Although rare, you never know when you might happen upon one of these beautiful cats.
IMPORTANT: If you do happen to find yourself opposite a puma DO. NOT. RUN. I know that might be your first instinct, naturally. DON’T DO IT. If you run, you’re prey and it’s over. Instead, raise your arms using any type of clothing and/or bags you have to try to look bigger and more intimidating than the puma. Look the puma in the eye. Pumas are wary of humans and don’t consider them prey. Unless they run.
Pretty exceptional experiences we had here in Patagonia. I absolutely LOVE getting to see wildlife and the Patagonia animals did not disappoint. There are several others we missed that I would love to have seen, but I’m ecstatic about what we did see. Pumas and King Penguins are rare!
The End…No, literally 😂- for some reason, all animals love to show me their rear ends!
Have you been down to Patagonia and seen any of these Patagonia animals? If not, which one would you hope to see most on your epic adventure? As always, I love hearing from you so drop me a line below!
‘Til next time…