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Península Valdés

Site Facts

Country, State, Province/Region:

Argentina, Province of Chubut

Relative Location

Between Nuevo Gulf and San Matias Gulf on the central Argentine coast


42 ° 30'S, 64 ° 20'W



Basis for Designation:

More than 1% of the population for Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa).


42,695 hectares (105,502 acres)


May 2012

Site Owner/Steward:

Undersecretary of Tourism and Protected Areas of the Province of Chubut

Site Partners:

National Patagonian Center (CENPAT-CONICET)

Human Population within 100 km:



Dr. Luis Bala
Centro Nacional Patagónico (CENPAT-CONICET)

Soledad Díaz Ovejero
Undersecretary of Tourism and Protected Areas


About Us

The Valdes Peninsula is located in the Province of Chubut on the central coast of Argentina and consists of numerous shallow bays with extensive intertidal mudflats, shallow lagoons, sandy beaches, and coastal dunes, plus sea cliffs and small islands. The site supports more than 1% of the population of rufa Red Knots (Calidris canutus rufa) as well as significant populations of Two-banded Plover (Charadrius falklandicus), Baird’s Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii), and the durnfordi race of American Oystercatchers (Haempatopus palliatus durnfordi). For this, the area was designated a WHSRN Site of Regional Importance--the result of a coordinated partnership by the Laboratory of Wetland-dependent Shorebirds based at the National Patagonian Center (CENPAT by its Spanish acronym) and the Undersecretary of Tourism and Protected Areas for the Province of Chubut.

The Valdes Peninsula is now the 6th WHSRN site in Argentina. It is within the Peninsula Valdes Natural Protected Area, which was named a Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999.

The majority of the site is home to privately owned rural establishments. However, being within the natural protected area, management and administration is carried out by the Province of Chubut's Department of Protected Areas Conservation, overseen by the Undersecretary of Tourism and Protected Areas. The landowner letter of support required by WHSRN was therefore signed by the Undersecretary, the partner having the maximum provincial authority for the site.

The subsistence or small-scale fishermen that make up the community in and around the site have been informed about the shorebirds in the wetlands. They work together with different research teams at CENPAT-CONICET, and some are also part of an association called the Subsistence Fishermen Community Network for Sustainable Development (RECOPADE by its Spanish acronym).

Ecology & Conservation

Ecological System

Península Valdés is divided in two areas: the San José Gulf subsite and the Nuevo Gulf subsite. The first comprises a series of connected sandy beaches over the east and south coasts (Bengoa, Punta Conos, Fracasso, Larralde, Blancas, Iriarte, Isla de los Pájaros y Riacho San José beaches) separated by rocky coasts. Nuevo Gulf consists of one sandy beach (Colombo).

The coastal marine environment is characterized by extensive intertidal mudflats with medium-to-fine sand. The area's wetlands are hydrologically dependent on the site's semi-diurnal tidal regime, which has an average high of 6.14 meters and maximum of 8.95 meters at San José Gulf; 3.87 meters and 5.76 meters at Nuevo Gulf.

The rufa Red Knot  

The Laboratory for Wetland-dependent Shorebirds (headquarted at CENPAT-CONICET in Puerto Madryn) has carried out shorebird surveys on the peninsula using scientific methodology since 1994, when it was established. Per the Laboratory's records, the maximum point counts for rufa Red Knots have varied between 8,000 individuals in 1994 and 650 in 2008. Regardless of the fluxuation in densities from year to year, the peninsula's coastal wetlands continue to sustain well over 1% of the subspecies' total population. The counts from the last few years are shown in the table below, and reflect the drastic reduction in the number of individuals spending the austral summer (borreal winter) in Tierra del Fuego since 2005.


 T. del Fuego Population  

 Pen.Valdés Population

 % of Total on Pen.Valdés


17,653 individuals

1,200 individuals

6.8 %






















Since 1994, the Laboratory has developed a variety of studies in the area that follow three basic lines of research:
 ♦  Population surveys and monitoring of shorebirds;
 ♦  Understanding the benthic invertebrate community (as a shorebird food source); and
 ♦  Development of ecological models.

Regarding bird banding, most efforts are focused on Charadrius falklandicus (Two-banded Plover) for studies about their reproduction. All research at the Lab is developed to serve as a source of information that is then shared with the environmental community in the form of lectures, courses, workshops, and conferences, as well as through printed and electronic outreach material.



Dr. Luis Bala
Principal Professional
Centro Nacional Patagónico (CENPAT-CONICET)
Boulevard Brown 2825
Puerto Madryn, Chubut
Argentina  U9120ACF
Tel: (54) 2965 451024

Soledad Díaz Ovejero
Undersecretary of Tourism and Protected Areas 
Av. 9 de Julio 280
Rawson, Chubut, Argentina 9103
Tel: (02965) 485271

Additional Resources

Baker, A.; P.M. González; T. Piersma; C.D. Minton; J.R. Wilson; H. Sitters; D. Graham; P. Collins; P. de Göeij; M.K. Peck; R. Lini; L.O. Bala; G. Pagnoni; A. Vila; E. Bremer; R. Bastida; E. Ieno; D. Blanco; I.L.S do Nascimento; S.S. Schneider, A. Silva & A.A. Ferreira Rodrigues. 1998. Northbound Migration of red knots Calidris canutus rufa in Argentina and Brasil. Reports on results obtained by the international expedition in March-April 1997. Wader Study Group Bulletin 88: 64-75.

Bala, L.O. (Ed). 2006. Humedales de la Península Valdés y aves playeras migratorias. Una síntesis de procesos biológicos y ecológicos con fines conservacionistas. Publicación del CENPAT. Puerto Madryn. 46 pp. ISBN 978-987-05-0693-5.

Bala, L.O. (Ed.). 2008. Humedales costeros y aves playeras migratorias. CENPAT. Puerto Madryn, 120 pp. ISBN 978-987-05-5598-8.

Bala, L.O., Hernández, M.A; Musmeci, R.L. 2005. Phenology of northward migration of Red Knots at Peninsula Valdés, Argentina, 1994-2005. IWSG's Annual Conference: Knockadoon Head, Co. Cork, Ireland. Wader Study Group Bulletin 118: 23.

Bala, L.O., V.L. D´Amico & P. Stoyanoff. 2002. Migrating shorebirds at Península Valdés, Argentina: Report for the year 2000. Wader Study Group Bulletin 98: 6-9.

Bala, L.O.; Hernández & V.L. D’Amico 2001. The importance of Fracasso Beach (Península Valdés, Argentina) as a Stop-site Used by Migrating Shorebirds. Wader Study Group Bulletin 95: 22.

Bala, L.O.; M.A. Hernández & V.L. D´Amico. 2001. Shorebirds present on Fracasso Beach (San José Gulf, Valdés Peninsula, Argentina): report of the 1999´s migrating season. Wader Study Group Bulletin 94: 27-30.

Bala, L.O.; V.L. D’Amico & M.A. Hernández 2001. Changes in Patterns of Wetland Utilization by the Red Knot, Calidris canutus rufa, in Península Valdés: A Need or an Approximation to the Optimum?. Wader Study Group Bulletin 95: 21.

Bortolus, A., E. Schwindt, P.J. Bouza and Y.L. Idaszkin, 2009. A characterization of Patagonian salt marshes. Wetlands, 29: 772–780

Bouza, P.J., C. Sain, A. Bortolus, I. Ríos, Y. Idaszkin y E. Cortés, 2008. Geomorfología y Características morfológicas y fisicoquímicas de suelos hidromórficos de marismas patagónicas. XXI Congreso Argentino de la Ciencia del Suelo. Resumen, p. 450, resumen expandido en CD, Potrero de los Funes, San Luis.

Cremonte, F; M.C. Digiani; L.O. Bala & G.T. Navone. 2001. Tetrameres (Tetrameres) megaphasmidiata n. sp. (Nematoda: Tetrameridae), a parasite of the two-banded plover, Charadrius falklandicus, and white-rumped sandpiper, Calidris fuscicollis, from Patagonia, Argentina. Journal of Parasitology 87(1): 148-151.

D´Amico, V.L. & L.O. Bala. 2004. Diet of Two-banded Plover in Caleta Valdes, Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. Wader Study Group Bulletin 104: 85-87.

D´Amico, V.L. & L.O. Bala. 2004. Prey selection and feeding behaviour of Two-banded Plover (Charadrius falklandicus) in Península Valdés, Patagonia, Argentina. Waterbirds 27(3): 264-269.

D´Amico, V.L. 2001. Ecología trófica de Charadrius falklandicus en playas de la Península Valdés. Tesis de Licenciatura en Ciencias Biológicas. Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia.

D’Amico V.L.; M.A. Hernández & L.O. Bala. 2003. Changes in the use of Fracasso beach, Península Valdés, Patagonia, Argentina, as a stopover site by shorebirds. Wader Study Group Bulletin. 101/102: 32.

D’Amico, V. L., M.A. Hernández & L.O. Bala. 2004. Selección de presas en relación con las estrategias de forrajeo de aves migratorias en Península Valdés, Argentina. Ornitología Neotropical 15: 357-364.

Di Giacomo, A.S. (editor) 2005. Áreas Importantes para la Conservación de las Aves en Argentina. Sitios Prioritarios para la Conservación de la Biodiversidad. Temas de naturaleza y conservación 5:1-514. Aves argentinas/Asociación Ornitológica del Plata, Buenos Aires.

García-Peña, G.E., M.A. Hernández & L.O. Bala. 2008. Ecología reproductiva del chorlo doble collar (Charadrius falklandicus) en Península Valdés, Argentina. Ornitología Neotropical 19 (Suppl.): 445-452.

Haller M, Monti A y Meister C. 2001. Hoja Geológica 4363-1, Península Valdés, Provincia del Chubut. Boletín N° 266. Secretaría de Energía y Minería, Servicio Geológico Minero Argentino, Buenos Aires.

Hernández, M. A., V.L. D’Amico & L.O. Bala. 2004. Shorebirds Surveys at Beaches of Península Valdés, Patagonia, Argentina: Report for the years 2001 and 2002. Wader Study Group Bulletin. Wader Study Group Bulletin 105: 102-103.

Hernández, M.A. & L.O. Bala. 2005. Diet of the Sanderlings (Calidris alba) at Punta Norte, Peninsula Valdés, Argentina. Wader Study Group Bulletin 108: 60-62.

Hernández, M.A. & L.O. Bala. 2007. Prey selection and foraging patterns of the White-rumped Sandpipers (Calidris fuscicollis) at Península Valdés, Patagonia Argentina. Ornitología Neotropical 18: 37-46.

Hernández, M.A. 2000. Ecología trófica de Calidris fuscicollis en playas del golfo San José. Tesis de Licenciatura en Ciencias Biológicas. Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia.

Hernández, M.A., L.O. Bala & L.R. Musmeci. 2008. Dieta de tres especies de aves playeras migratorias en Península Valdés, Patagonia Argentina. Ornitología Neotropical 19 (Suppl.): 605-611.

Hernández, M.A.; V.L. D´Amico & L.O. Bala. 2004. Presas consumidas por el playero rojizo (Calidris canutus rufa) en Bahía San Julián, Santa Cruz, Argentina. El Hornero 19(1): 7-11.

Musmeci, L.R. 2005. Evaluación de Playa Colombo (Golfo Nuevo, Chubut) como sitio de parada utilizado por aves playeras. Tesis de Licenciatura en Ciencias Biológicas. Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia.

Niles LJ, H.P. Sitters, A.D. Dey, P.W. Atkinson, A.J. Baker, K.A. Bennet, R. Carmona, K.E. Clark, N.A. Clark, C. Espoz, P.M. González, B.A. Harrington, D.E. Hernández, K.S. Kalasz, R.G. Lathrop, R.N. Matus, C.D.T. Minton, R.I.G. Morrison, M.K. Peck, W. Pitis, R.A. Robinson & I.L. Serrano. 2008. Status of the red knot (Calidris canutus rufa) in the Western Hemisphere. Studies in Avian Biology 36: 185 pp.

Pastor de Ward, C.T. & L.O. Bala. 1996. Estudio de base en la Bahía de Puerto Madryn (Golfo Nuevo, Chubut): Parámetros químicos. Natu­ralia Patagónica, Cs. Biol. 3 (1-2): 41-56.

Plan de Manejo del Sistema Península Valdés, 2000, aprobado por Ley Provincial N° 4722.

Soil Survey Staff. 1999. Soil taxonomy: A basic system of soil classification for making and interpreting soil surveys. USDA-SCS Agric. Handbook. 436. Washington, DC.

Stuardo, J. 1964. Distribución de los moluscos marinos litorales en Latinoamérica. Bol. Inst. Biol. Mar. Mar del Plata, 7: 79–91.

Wader Study Group. 2003. Waders are declining worldwide. Conclusions from the 2003 Cadiz International Wader Study Group Conference, Cadiz, Spain. Wader Study Group Bull. 101/102: 8–12.