Boots, Birds, and Binocs... Peru 2011

Birds of Peru

With 1,800 species, Peru is one of the richest countries in the world for birds. Over the course of 26 days, we explored the many ecosystems of Peru, from the coastal region of Paracas, through the cloud forest, and down into the Amazonia rainforest. Armed with our binocs and multiple copies of Birds of Peru, we identified over 300 species of bird! (complete list below). 

Check out Nick's slide show! --->

How to ID a Bird
7 simple steps to a successful birding trip

1. Get  your Binocs ready (Nikon Monarchs are recommended):
Every successful birding trip starts with a good pair of binocs. Unless you have super human vision, these will be essential to see deep into the jungle or high into the sky. Even if you can see a bird clearly out in the open, you need to get as good a look as possible to identify most birds. Additionally, a good pair of binocs will help you get the most out of the trip and notice the the beautiful features these birds have to offer. 

2.Take note of key markings:
Using the figures surrounding this post as a guide, familiarize yourself with bird terminology and common marking spots. When you spot a bird, start looking for key features like a throat patch or crown stripe. Take note of the overall size of the bird and look for distinguishing features such as beak shape and overall posture of the bird. 

3.Think about where you are:
There are lots of birds in Peru....lots. So, to help yourself narrow it down, look at your surroundings. What elevation are you at? What type of environment are you in? Are you near water? All these things will help you figure out what bird you're looking at when you go on to step 4. 

4.Consult Birds of Peru 
The bird book is your friend. With over 1,800 species of bird its nearly impossible to identify birds accurately without a good bird book. The Princeton Field guides Birds of Peru is an excellent resource, with lots of colorful pictures and descriptions to help you find out exactly what you're looking at.

5. Go back to step 2: 
Once you start flipping through your bird book , you will realize that you didn't really get that good of look at the bird you are trying to ID. Hopefully, that bird is still around and you can take a closer look. The more you go birding, the more familiar you'll get with how to find markings and soon you may not even need a second look!

6. Ask Miles Silman:
If all else fails, contact Dr. Silman as he is an expert on all things bird. Even if you have one or two identifying features he will  be able to point you in the right direction. If you really want to test his skills, listen carefully to the bird you are trying to identify and try and mimic the sounds for him. 

7. Good luck and have fun!
Remember birding is about getting out in nature and enjoying the beautiful sights it has to offer. Don't get discouraged if your having trouble finding and identifying birds. Like all things, it takes time to get good at. Keep going out and looking for birds and you'll soon be rewarded!


Our Favorite Birds!

A list of the top ten birds we saw
Number 10: Paradise Tanager
The quintessentially gaudy tropical bird; one of the most widespread and common tanagers in Amazonia, up to 1300m. Found in the canopy of humid forest. One of the many tanagers of San Pedro, the paradise tanager sticks out due to its unique combination of colors. Made up of green, blue, red, black , purple, and yellow, this bird has more color than a pack of skittles! An exciting bird we often saw in mixed tanager flocks, it was one of the prized birds of the trip, and I think Jay was the first to spot one!

Number 9:  Black and Chestnut Eagle
Widespread but uncommon in eastern lowlands up to 1800m. Ambushes prey from perch, but frequently soars, especially at mid-day and often to great heights. Also known as the "breasted chested eagle" (not really, but that's what Jay would have you believe), a beautiful bird but one that is very difficult to spot. Thanks to the expert eye of Dr. Silman, we saw one on a birding excursion in San Pedro sitting perched far up into the mountain side. Using the scope we were able to get a great look at look at it. 

Number 8: Inca Tern
Common resident on coast, breeding on rocky cliffs both mainland and on offshore ilands. Adult has spectacular white tufts and a red bill. One of the first birds we spotted while on the coast in Paracas. Easily identified by its white "mustache."  It was an early favorite on the trip and one of the first birds we could identify. 

Number 7:  Masked Trogon
Uncommon to fairly common in humid montane forest, 1100-3300m. My personal favorite bird, I first saw it in San Pedro perched on vine exposed and showing off its beautiful tricolored belly. Its green white and red stripes look more like a national flag than a bird, and they stick out well against a forest backdrop. An amazing sight in the wild. 

Number 6: Silver-Beaked Tanager
Widespread and common in second growth and forest edge throughout Amazonia. I first noticed the silver-beaked tanager while trying to find my 16 birds so I could eat lunch in San Pedro. Its shinny beak stands out against the males darker almost black body. When  you really get a close look at the bird, you can see its distinctive red hue which makes it all the more amazing. 

Number 5: Channel Billed Toucan
Fairly common and wdespread in lowland forest in Amazonia.  Best distinguished by song, usually given from an exposed perch in the canopy is a series of croaks: "keer keer keer..." Know for their bright colors and distinguishable bills,  its hard not to love a toucan!
These colorful birds were often seen around Cocha Cahsu, especially in fig trees, and while we were riding along the river. 

Number 4: Andean Cock of the Rock 
The Emblem of humid montane forests; often proclaimed Peru's national bird. Nest on edge of rock face, often near streams. While in San Pedro we had the pleasure of watching this bright orange bird perform its daily mating ritual. Everyday, a number of these birds come to the same place, called a lek, to vie for female attention. For about 30 minutes, these birds put on the show of a lifetime, it was quite a sight to see. 

(see Daily Blog "Lots of Lekking"  for more information)

Number 3:  Military Macaw
Locally fairly common, but largely restricted to east slope of Andes and outlying ridges, 600-1500m. Associated with cliffs on steep ridges. While in San Pedro, we did a lot of birding. One evening as we were returning to the lodge, a few of us happened across this beautiful emerging from the forest. It's radiant green color stood out against the sky and we watched as the birds flew off into the sunset. 

Number 2: Blue and White Swallow
A widespread, familiar swallow; frequently seen in cities and towns. Common on both slopes of the Andes. Adult white below, with black vent and under-tail coverts. Call a shrill yet somewhat liquid "tew." When we arrived at our hostel at Machu Picchu, our rooms weren't ready yet, so we spent sometime in the dining area birding. As we looked out over the river flowing by, we noticed a number of small swallows fluttering around. Grabbing our binocs, we took a closer look and were presently surprised by the vivid blue backs of these birds. We continued to spot them throughout the trip and they quickly became a class favorite.  

Number 1:  Torrent Duck!
 Fairly common on the east slopes of the Andes, the Torrent Duck is a characteristic bird of clear, fast-moving, boulder-strewn rivers and streams, in both open and forested regions. The female has a gray neck and  cinnamon color on the chest while the male has a black and white head and neck. Our first encounter with these wonderful birds came on the train ride to Machu Picchu, when we noticed a pair of them sitting on the edge of the river flowing next to the tracks. Later on, they would become the inspiration for some cross river swimming after our long hike to San Pedro. 


The Bird List

Over the course of the trip a running list of all of the birds we saw was recorded:

  • American Kestrel 
  • American Oyster Catcher 
  • Amethyst Throated Sunangel 
  • Andean Coot 
  • Andean Gull 
  • Andean Lapwing 
  • Anhinga 
  • Azara's Spintail 
  • Band Tail Gull 
  • Band Tailed Seed Eater 
  • Band Winged Nightjar 
  • Bar Winged Cinclodes
  • Bare Necked Fruitcrow 
  • Barrell Spangled Tanager 
  • Bat Falcon 
  • Black and Chestnut eagle
  • Black and White Hawk Eagle
  • Black Capped Donacobius
  • Black Caracara 
  • Black Crowned Night Heron
  • Black Eared Hemispingus
  • Black Faced Cotinga
  • Black Faced Dacinus
  • Black Faced Flowerpiercer 
  • Black Goggled Tanager
  • Black Necked Stilt
  • Black Nunbird 
  • Black Oyster Catcher 
  • Black Phoebe 
  • Black Skimmer 
  • Black Vulture
  • Blue and Grey Tanager
  • Blue and White Swallow 
  • Blue and Yellow Macaw
  • Blue Backed Conebill
  • Blue Capped Tanager
  • Blue Crowned motmot
  • Blue Crowned Trogon 
  • Blue Footed Boobie
  • Blue Naped Chlorophonia
  • Blue Necked Tanager 
  • Blue Tipped Ground Dove
  • Blue Winged Parrott
  • Blue-throated Piping-Guan 
  • Booted Racket tail 
  • Bright Rumped Yellowfinch
  • Bronzy Inca
  • Brown Pelican 
  • Buff Throated Foliage Gleaner
  • Buff Throated Saltator
  • Capped Conebill
  • Capped Heron 
  • Cerulean Capped Manakin 
  • Channel Billed Toucan 
  • Chestnut Bellied Seed Finch 
  • Chestnut Collared Swift
  • Chestnut Eared Aracari
  • Chestnut Macaw 
  • Chiguanco Thrush 
  • Chilean Flamingo 
  • Cinnamon Flycatcher
  • Cinnamon Teal 
  • Coastal Miner 
  • Cobalt Winged Parakeet 
  • Cock of the Rock
  • Cocoi Heron 
  • Collared Inca
  • Common Bush Tanager
  • Common Moorhead
  • Crane Hawk
  • Crested Oropendola
  • Crimson Crested Woodpecker
  • Crimson Manteled Woodpecker 
  • Crimson Mantled Foliagegleaner
  • Deep Blue Flowerpiercer
  • Dusky Capped Flycatcher
  • Dusky Green Oropendulla 
  • Fasciated Tiger Heron
  • Fawnbreasted Tanager
  • Giana Crested Owl
  • Giant Cowbird 
  • Gilded Barbet
  • Goddi's Antbird
  • Golden Bellied Woodpecker
  • Golden Collared Tanager
  • Golden Crowned Flycatcher 
  • Golden Crowned Tanager
  • Golden Olive Woodpecker
  • Golden Tanager 
  • Grass Green Tanager 
  • Gray Tinamou 
  • Great Black Hawk 
  • Great Egret 
  • Great Grebe
  • Great Saphire Wing 
  • Great Tinamou 
  • Green and White Hummingbird 
  • Green Hermit 
  • Green Honey Creeper 
  • Green Jay
  • Green Violetear 
  • Grey and Gold Warbler 
  • Grey Fronted Dove
  • Grey Gull
  • Greyhead Gull 
  • Guanay Cormorant
  • Harris' Hawk
  • Highland Motmot
  • Hoatzin 
  • Hooded Mountain Tanager 
  • Hooded Siskin 
  • Hook Billed Kite
  • Hook Tailed Kite 
  • Horned Screamer
  • Humboldt Penguin
  • Inca Tern 
  • Ivory Billed Aracari 
  • Kelp Gull
  • King Vulture
  • Line Fronted Cinastero
  • Little Blue Heron
  • Long Billed Woodcreeper 

  • Long Tailed Tyrant
  • Magpie Tanager
  • Marble Faced Bristle Tyrant 
  • Masked Crimson Tanager
  • Masked Flowerpiercer
  • Masked Trogon 
  • Mitred Parakeet
  • Montane Foliage Gleaner
  • Mottled Owl
  • Mountain Caracara 
  • Moustached Flowerpiercer
  • Muscovy Duck
  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Olive Backed Woodcreeper 
  • Orange Bellied Euphonia
  • Orange Crowned Parrott 
  • Orange Eared Tanager 
  • Orange Headed Tanager
  • Orinoco Goose 
  • Pale legged Hornero
  • Pale Winged Trumpeter 
  • Paradise Tanager
  • Peruvian Boobie 
  • Peruvian Diving Petrel 
  • Peruvian Pelican 
  • Pied Lapwing 
  • Plumbous Pigeon
  • Puna Ibis
  • Purplish Jay
  • Purus Jacamar
  • Razor Billed Curassow
  • Red and Blue Macaw
  • Red and Green Macaw
  • Red and White Ant Pitta 
  • Red Eyed Vireo 
  • Red Mellied Macaw
  • Red-legged Cormorant
  • Ringed Kingfisher 
  • Roadside Hawk 
  • Rock Pigeon 
  • Royal Flycatcher
  • Ruddy Foliage Gleaner 
  • Ruddy Ground Dove
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Rufestent Tiger Heron
  • Rufous Breasted Ant Thrush
  • Rufous Naped Brush Finch
  • Rufous Rumped Foliage Gleaner
  • Russet Crowned Warbler
  • Russett Backed Oropendola 
  • Rusty Flowerpiercer 
  • Safron Crowned Tanager 
  • Sand Colored Nighthawk 
  • Scaly Naped Parrott 
  • Scarlet Rumped Cacique
  • Scarlett Bellied Mountain Tanager
  • Scarlett Bellied Tanager 
  • Scarlett Macaw 
  • Screaming Pehaw 
  • Semipalmated plover
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper
  • Sharp Shinned Hawk 
  • Short Billed Bush Tanager
  • Short Billed Hawk 
  • Silver Backed Tanager
  • Silver Beaked Tanager
  • Slate Colored Grossbeak
  • Slate Throated Red Start 
  • Slaty Backed Nightingale Thrush
  • Slaty Capped Flycatcher 
  • Snow Egret 
  • Snowy Plover 
  • Social Flycatcher 
  • Solitary Eagle 
  • Speckled Chacalaca
  • Spectacled Owl Spot 
  • Throated Hummingbird
  • Spotted Tanager
  • Squirrel Cuckoo 
  • Streak Necked Flycatcher 
  • Striated Ant Thrush 
  • Striated Heron
  • Strong Billed Woodpecker
  • Superciliared Hemispingus
  • Surf Cinclodes
  • Swallow Tanager 
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Tawny Breasted Flycatcher
  • Thick Billed Euphonia 
  • Three Striped Warbler 
  • Torrent Duck
  • Torrent Tyrranulet 
  • Tropical Kingbird
  • Tui Parrott 
  • Turkey Vulture 
  • Umbrella Bird 
  • Under Throated Star Fronter 
  • Variable hawk
  • Versicolored Barbet
  • Violaceous Jay 
  • Violet Frowned Brilliant Hummingbird 
  • Warbling Antbird
  • Wattled Jacana
  • West Peruvian Dove 
  • Whimbrel 
  • White Browed Chat Tyrant
  • White Browed Conebill 
  • White capped Dipper
  • White Cheeked Pintails 
  • White Eyed Parakeet
  • White Throated Toucan 
  • White Winged Swallow 
  • Wing Spotted Pigeon 
  • Winged Mountain Tanager 
  • Wood Stork 
  • Wren-like Rush Bird 
  • Yellow Billed Pintail
  • Yellow Billed Tern 
  • Yellow Browed Sparrow 
  • Yellow Headed Vulture 
  • Yellow Rumped Cacique 
  • Yellow Throated Bush Tanager 
  • Yungas Manakin