The Esteros del Íbera wetlands are one of South America’s best birding hotspots. The extensive network of marshes, grasslands and lagoons are home to over 350 species of birds, as well as numerous other species of flora and fauna that thrive in this pristine site. Located in the province of Corrientes, in the north-east of Argentina, the Esteros del Íbera wetlands cover approximately 13,000 km², making it one of the largest wetland sites, not only in South America, but in the whole world. Íbera is also conveniently situated between two key birding locations – the world famous Iguazú Falls to the north and the city of Buenos Aires to the south.
The birding here is among the best in all of Argentina. The variety of habitats in the íbera wetlands allow for a great diversity of water and land dependant birds. As expected, waterbirds thrive in Íbera, and are present in huge numbers throughout the year. Flocks of Ibis, Egrets and Herons are a guaranteed sighting among the marshes throughout the year, while various species of ducks dabble and dive in the lagoons. Some of the highlights for
birdwatchers include the Roseate Spoonbill 𝘗𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘭𝘦𝘢 𝘢𝘫𝘢𝘫𝘢, Jabiru Stork 𝘑𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘳𝘶 𝘮𝘺𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘢 and Whistling Heron 𝘚𝘺𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘮𝘢 𝘴𝘪𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘢𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘹
Not all the birdwatching takes place at the water’s edge however. Íbera’s grasslands and savannas are among the most productive in Argentina, making them a haven for huge flocks of passerines. The emblematic Scarlet-headed Blackbird 𝘈𝘮𝘣𝘭𝘺𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘱𝘩𝘶𝘴 𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘦𝘶𝘴is a grassland specialist, where it co-habits with Seedeaters, Spinetails and the highly sought after Reedhaunters. One of Íbera’s most important residents is the Strange-tailed Tyrant 𝘈𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘳𝘶𝘴 𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘰𝘳𝘢, an instantly recognisable bird classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss of its favoured grasslands throughout its range makes the Íbera grasslands the most reliable site in Argentina to see this symbolic species.
Biodiversity as a whole is incredibly rich in the Esteros del Íbera wetlands. It is home to various species of large mammal, including the Giant Anteater, Maned Wolf, Capybara, Giant River Otter and the famed Jaguar, which was recently reintroduced to the area having been previously declared locally extinct. Reptiles, such as caimans and the anaconda, amphibians, fish and invertebrates of all shapes and sizes inhabit the marshes and waterways, while water hyacinth and other species of aquatic plant characterise the wetlands with their abundant, brightly coloured flowers. The scale of biodiversity here is so important that the area was officially designated a National Park in 2018.
The natural base for getting to the Esteros del Íbera is the city of Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina and the main transport hub for southern South America, as well as being an excellent base for numerous birding trips. Arriving at Íbera from Buenos Aires means following the Paraná River, the second longest river in South America, enabling birders of all levels to get their eye in before the main show. Alternatively, it is possible to arrive from the north, where many birders are already based in the Argentinean province of Misiones, home of the Iguazú Falls. Here, the spectacular forest birding provides various species that can be seen nowhere else in Argentina.
Argentina is a birdwatching treasure chest, with the Esteros del íbera being one of its most valuable jewels. The great news is that large scale tourism still hasn’t reached this magical wetlands site, rendering it largely unknown on a global scale, and therefore pleasantly pristine.
The mixture of high quality birding, outstanding biodiversity and beautiful, unspoiled scenery makes Íbera a must visit destination on your next birding trip to southern South America.
How to get to Ibera: http://www.buenosdiasbirding.com/trip/esteros-del-ibera