Birding in Peru is sure to excite not only novice watchers, but the most experienced as well. Be sure to hit all the main birding routes to have a once in a lifetime vacation.
Peru is considered a megadiverse country, as along with sixteen other countries, it contains more than 70% of the planet’s biodiversity. An impressive 1,869 bird species are found in Peru, the second-highest of any country in the world. Consequently, birding in Peru plays a vital role in its tourism sector. Three distinct birding routes (Southern, Central, and Northern) have been developed for Peru’s tourism.
Geographically, Peru, and each birding route, is divided into three major zones: costa (coast), sierra (highlands), and selva (jungle). Within these geographic zones, several cities and regions serve as the base from which intrepid travelers explore the surrounding natural areas. Diverse ecosystems, endemic species, and unique lodges comprise each route and zone. Continue reading for expert tips on birding in Peru and how to add hundreds of new species to your life list!
The Best Places For Birdwatching in Peru
1. Birdwatching at Manu National Park
This conservation area in Southern Peru is one of the largest and most well-protected areas of pristine rainforest in the entire Amazon River basin. The park is home to extraordinary levels of biodiversity, including over 1,000 different recorded species of birds, a figure which represents 10% of all bird types found on Earth. Manu National Park is a true paradise for nature lovers of all types, and birdwatchers in particular will find endless opportunities here.
Bird species you can spotare listed but not limited to: Red and Green Macaws, Cocks-of-the-Rock, Crimson-mantled Woodpeckers, Inca Flycatchers, Black-billed Treehunters, Golden-headed Quetzals, Amazonian Umbrellabirds, Deep-blue Flower-piercers, and many, many more.
2. Birdwatching at Abra Malaga
The high mountain pass of Abra Malaga in Cusco is the perfect spot to observe native Andean wildlife, including many unique species of birds. Its proximity to the jungle and nearby river valleys also makes it easy to spot species from several varied climate zones. Located in the Cusco region near the living Inca village of Ollantaytambo, a birdwatching expedition here is easily combined with tours of the Sacred Valley or Machu Picchu, making Abra Malaga an ideal destination for those looking to pack a lot of destinations into their trip.
Bird species you can spot: Inca wrens, Cuzco Brush Finches, Bearded Mountaineers, White Tufted Sunbeams, Creamy Crested Spinetails, Chestnut Breasted Mountain Finches, Puna Ground-Tyrants, Marcapata Spinetails and many, many more.
3. Birdwatching at Ballestas Island & Paracas National Reserve.
The Paracas National Reserve along with the nearby Ballestas Islands are home to some of the largest colonies of migratory birds on the continent. The coastal desert landscapes of the Paracas Peninsula provide a beautiful backdrop for your birdwatching expedition. Here you’ll be able to easily spot numerous marine species in their natural habitat, while enjoying the sunny and warm climate just a few hours south of Lima.
Bird species you can spot: Chilean flamingos, Peruvian Boobies, Peruvian Pelicans, Burrowing Owls, Western Sandpipers, Inca Terns, Guanay Cormorants, American Oystercatchers, Peruvian Seaside Cinclodes, Sanderlings, and many, many more.
4. Birdwatching at Tambopata National Reserve
Tambopata National Reserve is an area of pristine rainforest in southern Peru near the Bolivian border. This conservation area is home to a number of excellent jungle lodges that can offer ideal bases for birding expeditions. Trips into Tambopata typically start in the nearby city of Puerto Maldonado, a growing jungle frontier town that is easily reached by airplane from Lima and Cusco or via a long but scenic overland route. Its convenience, affordability, and high natural diversity makes Tambopata a worthy alternative to the more well-known Manu National Park.
Bird species you can spot: Amazonian Streaked Antwrens, White-cheeked Tody Tyrants, Dusky-tailed flatbills, Brown-rumped Foliage Gleaners, Pale-eyed Blackbirds, Pheasant Cuckoos, Cinnamon-throated Woodcreepers, Piratic Flycatchers, Spot-breasted Woodpeckers, and so many more.
5. Birdwatching at Colca Valley
Colca Canyon and the adjacent Colca Valley provide many excellent places for birdwatching and spotting other Andean wildlife. The main attraction here is the Andean Condor, a Peruvian national symbol which played an important part in Inca mythology. This majestic beast can regularly be seen soaring past the steep walls of this second-deepest canyon in the world. The city of Arequipa is the main base for tours in this area. In addition to being Peru’s second-largest population center, Arequipa is also well-known as a cultural and culinary mecca, and is well worth a visit on its own.
Bird species you can spot: Andean Condors, American Kestrels, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagles, Mountain Caracaras, Andean Lapwings, Andean Swallows, and many more.
6. Birdwatching at Laguna de Huacarpay
One of the Cusco region’s most important birding sites, Huacarpay Lake comprises part of the Lucre-Huacarpay Wetlands. This cluster of five wetlands (one only seasonally), two rivers, and two swamps are designated by the Ramsar Convention as a “wetland of international importance.” They play a critical role in supporting 140 bird species, three of which are endemic. In addition to aquatic birds, you’ll also have the opportunity to observe hummingbirds within the Lucre-Huacarpay Wetlands, making for a truly remarkable experience. The Lucre-Huacarpay Wetlands are nestled beyond the pre-Inca Piquillacta ruins, which form the Southern Valley Circuit, along with the Tipon ruins and the 16th-century Andahuaylillas Baroque church.
As you can see, Peru is home to an incredible number of beautiful bird species, many of which are unique to the region and some which are rare or endangered. Whether you’re already an avid birdwatcher or a new hobbyist just starting out, Peru offers the perfect opportunity to observe avian wildlife amidst gorgeous natural settings. You can plan a tour specifically centered around birdwatching or include a couple stops on your trip to Machu Picchu or one of Peru’s other world-famous attractions.
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