Cusco, 2018: With more than 1800 species – more than are found in Europe and the United States combined – Peru boasts the greatest variety of birds in the world, after Colombia. And with its well-developed ecotourism infrastructure, Peru is certainly the best birding destination in the world today. Peru has at least 120 endemic species, but with more than 50 new species recorded in the last 50 years, there are certainly many more awaiting discovery.
What makes Peru such a birding paradise is its extraordinarily varied geography: 84 of the 117 life zones known to exist on the planet are represented within its borders, and such geographical diversity translates into biological diversity, particularly in the case of birds.
There are several locations within Peru ideal for birdwatching. Among the most popular – and accessible – are Manu National Park and Tambopata National Reserve, both of which are reached from Cusco. With its remarkable altitudinal range, from high altitude grasslands to lowland tropical forest, Manu is home to almost 1,000 bird species – or almost 1 in 9 of all the species found on Earth.
Tambopata National Reserve is also a record-breaker, with more than 500 species inhabiting this tropical forest habitat. One of the most popular spectacles for visiting birders is that of the rainforest clay licks, where parrots and macaws congregate to feed on the mineral-rich clays essential to their diet. The rainforest also offers the spectacle of mixed feeding flocks of up to 70 species, each represented by a single pair and perhaps one or two young, who band together to protect themselves from predatory falcons or hawks.
The Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, with an altitudinal range from 1,725 meters to over 6,000 meters, is home not only to famous archaeological remains, but also to over 400 species of birds. Nearer to Cusco, the Malaga Pass and Lake Huacarpay also offer interesting, shorter birdwatching excursions.
In northern Peru, Tumbes National Park has been recognised as one of the country’s most important birding destinations. Its unique range of habitats, from dry equatorial forest to Pacific tropical forests, mangroves and beaches, means that there is a high incidence of highly localized species, and because many areas are relatively unexplored in birding terms, it is thought that more species have yet to be discovered.
South of Lima, the coastal desert Paracas National Reserve is anything but an arid wilderness. Famed for its fertile seas and marine fauna, it is also the destination for some 215 migratory bird species, which visit its lagoons during their long annual journey.
For more information on bird watching itineraries in Peru, contact Andean Adventures Peru directly.