Home »Información

Flora y fauna

It's the simplest activity to embark on while you travel, it does not require an equipment or protection, you just need to look to the horizon and enjoy the forests, rivers and glaciers and the life around them. You can also do a bit of bird watching, a popular activity around the globe, which means taking photographs of birds and then classifying them.

It can be done all along the Chilean territory, every day of the year. You can take the opportunity to photograph the animals and trees around you, to compare them later to the ones you already know or to show to your friends back home.

Chile's flora and fauna varies depending on the latitude. Animals in northern Chile have feathers and fur to protect them of the weather, which is very hot during the day and extremely cold in the nighttime, as well as the lack of water. As you travel South, the coats in animals get thicker to protect themselves from low temperatures and heavy winds, and muscles develop to run up and down and winding roads filled with mountains and rivers.

Many of the animals you will be able to see in Chile, are species that you cannot find anywhere else in the world, so this activity takes a hint of uniqueness and surprise. A big number of animals in the country, especially inside the National Parks in the South, are under regional, estate and global care, due to their "endangered species" label, given to them decades ago.

That is why it is recommended for visitors to not have direct contact with animals, and especially with their habitat, all of which are kept alive barely, with a delicate balance that cannot be broken under any circumstances.

Nature has determined that in this part of the globe there are no animals that are a threat to humans, such as big predators or poisonous snakes. The Puma, the biggest predator of the area, never goes close to humans and it is very difficult to see it, even in its natural habitat, due to the low number of specimens left. That is why is fundamental that the ecological system of Patagonia to be kept and taken care of.

The animals you can see in Patagonia are the puma, foxes, guanacos, ostriches, two kinds of deer - the Pudu and the Huemul- and the flamingo. Further south, near the Magellan's Strip and Antarctica, you can see sea wolves, penguins, seals, birds, dolphins and-bigger and more impressive than all- whales.

MAMMELS

Puma: we talked a bit about it before, so you know it's a shy animal that stays away from humans and that it is very hard to see, even in its natural habitat. The Chilean puma is a small feline, compared to lions and leopards, which feeds of smaller animals such as guanacos, hares and birds. It can be found all over Southern Chile, especially in the Torres del Paine National Park. It can be 80 kilos heavy and 2.8 meters long. It's similar to a cougar, but bigger.

Guanaco: it's part of the camelide family, where camels come from. The Chilean guanaco can be found across its entire geography, and especially in the extremes of the country. In Aysen, it appears in the pampas and in Tierra del Fuego, as well as in the Torres del Paine National Park. It's a big animal, about 2 meters tall, thin and friendly; you can easily approach them to take pictures of them. Some people domesticate them and use them to carry different things, especially in the desert, and some are used as photographic objects, so tourists can pose next to them. They live in groups, usually one male and several females, although there have been groups found to be formed by several males. The guanaco is related to the llama and the alpaca, which live in the northern part of the country. It is recommended that you don't get too close to them, because they spit.

Pudú: this animal belongs to the deer family. It is small, about 40 cm tall and 10 kg heavy, and it's the smallest of its kind in America. In Chile, it lives in forests from Curico to the South, but it is more abundant in the Chiloe Island. It eats herbs and insects, and it is in serious risk of disappearing. It is very shy and delicate. It only comes out at night to look for food. It is recognized by its size, the small rounded horns on the top of its head and the white spots covering its back and legs, especially in younger specimens. It's one of the exclusive animals in Chile, it can only be found there.

Huemul: another typical animal in the Chilean geography, the Huemul is featured in the national emblems. It is found all over the South, over the 450 and 1300 meters above sea level. It also belongs to the deer family, but it is a bigger animal than the Pudu. It can reach the 1.63 meters of height and weight almost 100 kilos. The female Huemul is small and it has big ears, of about 20 cm. Only the male specimens have horns. The skin color changes with the seasons, and many of them have grey fur and clear spots of a yellowish shade, although they're always white in the groin area. The ears, eyes and nose are always grey.

Cumpeo Fox: small fox. It lives all along the country, but especially in the south. In Punta Arenas, for example, you can see them crossing roads and walking in country areas in daylight, looking for food. Their skin is yellowish and they have a very long tail, which is usually black. It can be 8 pounds heavy and about two feet long. It's a carnivorous animal, which feeds on smaller animals such as lambs, hares, rodents and lizards.

Ferret: The Chilean Ferret is different from the common ferret, and it seems to be the perfect mix between a skunk and a porcupine. It's very large; it has flat feet and glands that produce a foul smell when they turn a year old. Usually, is it black in the inferior part of its body, and the back turns grey, so from a distance it looks like it is covered in spines, like a porcupine. On its forehead, there is a line of white hair, like a ribbon. Its tail is short and has the same color as the rest of its body. It is small, and very fast. It is found in Magallanes, up to 3000 meters above sea level.

Cururo: found in Magallanes, it looks like an otter. It has small ears and it's similar to a big rodent. It lives in the water and its main prey is fish. The fur is brown or black, dark, and it has big teeth and claws. It's the Chilean otter.

Colocolo: this is another feline, found only in Chilean territory. It lives in altitude, above the 4 thousand meters. It can be recognized by its fur, which is reddish with black stripes up its legs. It has a long tail, of 35 cm, and its body is never bigger than the 70 cm. It is very hard to see one, especially because there are only a few left.

BIRDS

In Chile, there are over 300 species of birds, found all over the country depending on the weather and the food available. Only in Southern Chile you can find five exclusive species, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world and that are protected by international laws, of course. You can find big size birds, like the condor and the rhea or the emperor penguin, or smaller ones like the Caranca and the Martin Pescador. Other important birds are:

Rhea: it lives in the high plateau and in the Patagonia. It is the biggest bird in the country, reaching the 25 kilos. They travel in packs of 30 specimens, usually, to look for food, mainly seeds. The males are in charge of protecting the eggs, the incubation period lasts 40 days, and to take care of the young ones once they come out of their shell.

Martín Pescador: It can be found all over Chile, near lakes and rivers, where it can find food. It's a small bird, about 40 cm big and it occupies most of its time looking for food. You can see it, mostly, on top of trees looking down. Its head is grey, and the back is of a blueish color, while its neck is white. The tail is long and with grey and white feathers. It has a long beak.

Caranca: you can see it in the channels of the south, passed Chiloe. It lives in pairs. It looks like a goose, but it is smaller. The male Caranca is completely white and its beak is grey, while the female bird is darker, greyish or black, on the back and it has white stripes on its chest. It feeds on algae, but it isn't common to see them go into the water.

Cachaña: this parrot can be found only in Chile, meaning that it is another exclusive bird of the country. It looks like another Chilean parrot, the Choroy, but this one lives further South, setting their homes so far as to Tierra del Fuego. It has dark green feathers all over its back, and lighter ones on the chest; its tail is long and completely red. It travels in big numbers, and the groups make a lot of noise.

Cormorán Imperial: it lives in the coasts of Southern Chile, where it makes nests next to hundreds of others just like it. It's about 75 cm and it is common to see it in the piers from Puerto Montt to the South, where fishermen work. It is black on the back and white on the chest.

Pingüinos: Southern Chile, especially the Antarctica, is the home of a variety of penguins, which live in numerous colonies sharing space with other sea animals. Penguins lost their ability to fly, their wings mutated to help them swim and many people say that they do fly, only underwater, where they can swim very fast. They walk awkwardly and are very cute. In the South, you can see colonies formed by over a million penguins. The most well known penguins in Chile are the Magallanes, which has two white stripes on its body and it's about 70 cm tall; the Adelia Penguin, which is black and has white around its eyes; the Papua penguin, which is 80 cm tall and has a white triangle over its eyes; the Antarctic Penguin, the most numerous, with white head and neck; and the King Penguin, which has blue feathers over its head, black in the rest of its body and bright yellow spots on the sides of its head, where its neck begins and on the beak.

SEA ANIMALS

Whales: the biggest animals on Earth can also be found in Southern Chile. The blue whale, the biggest animal in the world, usually is seen swimming in the cold waters that surround the Shetland Islands. It can be 32 meters long and weight 150 kilos, feeding mostly on krill. It migrates to this area every summer, where you can sometimes see couples swimming together.

Orcas: it's the fiercest animal in Patagonia, very fast and deadly. All the other animals in Patagonia are part of its diet: seals, penguins, birds and dolphins too. It can be 9 meters long, and it can be recognized by its colors: black on the back and white on the belly. It has a dorsal spine which can be a meter long in the males, and only 60 cm in the females.

Sea Elephants: there are seals and walruses in the south, but a bigger animal of that species is the sea elephant. You can recognize them because they are very heavy, measure up to eight meters, and the males have a big bulge on their mouths, hence the name sea elephants. They live in colonies of a male and dozens of females, usually. They are very fierce, and feed on smaller animals, especially penguins. The males can get into fights for turf, hurting each other very badly due to the bulge on the mouths and the weight they carry.

FLORA

When it comes to flora, the South of Chile is the home of unique trees and bushes. They create the scenery of the south, filled with so many greens, it's hard to tell one tree from the other. The most typical trees are the coigue and the araucaria, which is the most important in the country, it takes them over a century to grow to be two feet high and they are so much taller now, so just imagine how old they really are.

Because many tree and bush species are in danger of disappearing forever, we recommend that you do not take branches or flowers, do not damage the environment.

Alerce: it is found in Chiloe, mostly, where the weather is perfect for its growth. The alerce is a protected species, named Natural Monument in 1976. It takes it three years to grow a single mm of diameter, and can reach the 50 meters of height. Usually, it can be found in places where other trees live, like ñirras and coigües, which also live in humid places. It can be recognized by its pyramid form, created by the irregular shape of its leaves. The oldest Alerce found has been over 3600 years old, making it the second oldest tree in the world, only topped by the California pine tree.

Araucaria: native tree of Chile and Argentina, it is only found in these two places, preferably over the 800 meters above sea level. It prefers sandy lands and can survive on volcanic soil, humid, where the snow can last longer. They have an extremely slow growing process, and a hundred years can go by before it reaches two feet of altitude. Most of the specimens in Patagonia are 50 meters high, so you can do the math and guess how long they've been around. Their trunk is straight and smooth, and its branches only appear several meters from the ground, looking kind of like a mushroom. Its leaves are very hard, with a small thorn on their tip, and they have seeds of reddish color. The Araucaria is a protected species, thus it is illegal to cut or hurt it.

Coigüe: this is an evergreen tree which has horizontal branches. This characteristic allows you to recognize it easily, and differentiate it from all the other bushes and trees that grow around it. Its leaves are small and have little teeth-like shapes on the borders. It's mostly found in Aysen and it is the most characteristic tree in Patagonia, it simply is everywhere due to climate conditions considering it prefers humid soils. It grows very fast and forms pure forests, which means you can find several of them together, although you can always see oaks and other trees in between coigues. It is easily recognized, as well, because its trunk is grey and in the upper part there are seeds similar to walnuts.

Lingue: another evergreen tree, although its leaves start to fall when autumn begins. It is a compact tree and its leaves are big, rounded and of a dark green shade. It has blue seeds, but they're very bitter and are not edible. It is part of the avocado tree family. You can see many of these in the Chiloe Island, where it grows alone mostly, not in forests. It is very demanding about the soil where it grows, and can be found next to oaks and laureles. It grows very fast, especially after cutting time. The trunk is grey, with big protuberances, and it has many, many leaves that turn red when they dry.

Notro: evergreen tree with beautiful flowers in springtime. Its leaves are very thing and long, of a dark green color. You can see them in Tierra del Fuego, where the soil is sandy, because it can grow on this type of ground and even on volcanic landings. It can be up to 15 meters tall. It does not create forests on its own, it lives in places where other species are more numerous.

Ulmo: it appears in Chiloe, mostly in the Coast hills, where it is associated with oaks, laurels and coigues. It prefers humid soil over the 700 meters above sea level. It is another evergreen species, like so many others in the area, and it can reach the 40 meters of height because it grows very fast. You can recognize it because, in spring and summer, it is covered by pretty white flowers, which are hermaphrodite and filled with nectar, and give the tree a look of snowy leaves from afar. The leaves are dark green, semi circular and about three inches long. There is also a brown seed on them, which has several smaller seeds on the inside.

Calafate: this bush is mainly found in the Carrera Lake area, in Southern Chile. It is a small bush, with a maximum of two feet of height that grows exclusively in Patagonia. It has small leaves of yellowish tones, that grow right next to small fruits, like plums but considerably smaller. Word is that whoever eats these small fruits, which look like berries, will come back to Patagonia. Be careful when getting them out, though, because there are big thorns all around it, some of which are 1.5 inches long.