Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Hooded Grebe - Maca Tobiano

Some people suggest that there are no cryptids or mysterious animals out there because they say that they should have been discovered a long time ago. After all, Europeans have been roaming around Patagonia and its coast since 1520. Aren't 490 years enough time to discover a strange species?

Well, as we all know, species unknown to science crop up quite often (though not as fast as those that are known and become extinct through our actions -or rather our lack of actions!).

Among these "recently discovered" species is one endemic to Patagonia, that is, found only in Patagonia, and more specifically, in certain small habitats within Patagonia.

I am talking about the Macá Tobiano or Hoded Grebe (Podiceps gallardoi), a tiny aquatic bird found only in the windswept lakes of Southern Patagonia's basaltic highlands.[1][2]

It was discovered and described barely 36 years ago, in 1974, by Mauricio Rumboll (a well known naturalist and ornithologist, son of Hilda and Bill Rumboll who, in 1976 reported sighting Nahuelito the Nahuel Huapi lake creature. at Bariloche, Patagonia - isn't it a small world?).

This bird, so recently discovered is at risk of becoming extinct. Its numbers are dropping quickly (its population has fallen by nearly a 73% over the last 21 years) and no one knows why. Birdlife International has ranked it as Endangered, [3] and also on the IUCN red list as Endangered. [4] A real tragedy!

It seems that human action may be causing this dramatic drop in its population (garbage may be increasing the population of predator gulls that attack the Macá and its young). Furthermore, the introduction of exotic fish (trout and salmon) into the lakes that the Macá uses to mate and build its floating nests seems to have had a negative impact on them. Though the exact reason is not yet understood.

I love fishing in Patagonian lakes, but, I do realize that these rainbow, brown, brook and lake trout (plus the Pacific salmon on the Pacific watershed and some sea-run brown trout on the Atlantic basin) are a serious problem (see my posts on this issue and their negative impact for other species such as the naked minnow).


[1] Imberti, S. & Casañas, H.. 2009. Hooded Grebe (Podiceps gallardoi), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:
[2] SIB. Sistema de Información de Biodiversidad Podiceps gallardoi
[3] Birdlife. Hooded Grebe.
[4] The IUCN Red list of thratened species. Podiceps gallardoi

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

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