The Peruvian Amazon – It's for the Birds
The Amazon is saturated with thousands of different species of plants and animals, making Peru one of the top countries for bird-watchers and nature lovers. In birds alone, Peru’s Manu Biosphere Reserve proudly boasts approximately 1,000 species, nearly 15% of all those on Earth. Now, I’ve never found math that exciting, but even I am impressed with those numbers! And the numbers continue to grow. More new species of birds have been discovered in Peru within the last 30 years than in any other country; two hundred new species have been discovered since 1972.
Our Manu Biosphere 9-day trip takes travelers into this remote reserve, while our Wild Tambopata tour visits the Tambopata-Candamo Reserve, which is home to the largest macaw salt lick in the world. Our Peru Amazon Extension includes a 3-night stay at Sandoval Lake Lodge. Along with being a great place to spot egrets, herons, storks and other aquatic birds, the Sandoval Lake is also home to endangered giant otters. Peru tours offer literally hundreds of opportunities to observe the wide variety of bird species. Whether taking a morning hike in the jungle, or a boat ride down the Madre de Dios river, here are a handful of some of the most popular birds in the area to keep an eye out for:
Macaw – These large and colorful birds have made them a fashionable feature at the neighborhood pet store, but you will gain new respect for the macaw when viewing them in flocks of 500 at an early-morning salt lick. Expect to see six different species of macaw including the green-bellied, red-bellied and blue-and-yellow.
Cock-of-the-Rock – This bright red-orange bird stands out against the green vegetation of the Amazon. The Cock-of-the-Rock is known for its distinguishing noisy mating display.
White-bellied Parrot – Frequently seen, along with macaws, at the early-morning visit to a salt lick.
Hoatzin – The hoatzin has been described as chicken-like, and prehistoric looking. The chicks are born with claws on their wings, allowing them to climb when threatened. You can easily spot a hoatzin during your Peru tours by their clumsy flight, and listening for their strange grunting call.
Toucan – With their large colorful bills, the toucan is a favorite of photographers.
Roseate Spoonbill – This bird is characterized by its pink feathers and spatula-shaped bill, which it uses to scoop and dig for crustaceans and small fish in the marshes and rivers of the Amazon.
EASY TIPS FOR THE FIRST-TIMERS
- The recipe for successful birding is a combination of experience, chance, fate and luck. But here are a few tips to improve your bird sightings and sway a bit of good birding-fortune your way.
- Invest in a field guide. Informative and user-friendly, a quality birding book will help you understand what to look for, and what you are looking at. This way you can tell people you spotted a quetzal, instead of a really cool bird.
- Find yourself a good birding group. You’ll be amazed at what an experienced birder can find. Not only will you learn some great tips of the trade, but your birding encounter is likely to be much more rewarding than if you ventured out on your own – cold turkey.
- Don’t forget the binoculars!
- Do your research. If you are familiar with nesting sites and habitats you’ll save yourself a lot of time searching the landscape. And be sure to listen – recognizing a bird’s individual call is one of the best ways to detect them in the dense jungle foliage. Remember, not every bird has a beautiful song, so listen for the unexpected. For example, a toucan has a very distinctive croaking call, which it brazenly voices in the treetops.
- Know what to expect. Season, altitude and landscape play an important role in what birds you should expect to see in specific locations and at specific times during the year. Birds residing in the high grasslands of and Andes are typically not the same ones dwelling in the Amazon Basin. Understand what birds are rare to the area, and which species can be spotted in great flocks. Knowing what to expect will also help prevent disappointment and enhance excitement when you catch a glimpse of the rare orange-cheeked parrot.
- Patience and perseverance pays off. Even if your first birding adventure is filled with more mosquitoes than macaws, appreciate your unique surroundings and environment and you’ll be sure to feel fulfilled and delighted in your experience – red-billed scythebill or no red-billed scythebill!