The Ultimate In Birding Tours

South America Tours

NORTHERN PERU

Thursday 1st August – Tuesday 20th August 2019

Leaders: Mark Van Beirs and a local bird guide

20 Days Group Size Limit 8
Saturday 1st August – Thursday 20th August 2020

Leaders: Pete Morris and a local bird guide

20 Days Group Size Limit 8
Sunday 1st August – Friday 20th August 2021

Leaders: Eustace Barnes and a local bird guide

20 Days Group Size Limit 8

Birdquest’s Northern Peru tours are classics among a diverse series of Peru tours that we offer. Our exciting Northern Peru tour focuses on the many species found in the northern part of the country, home to numerous endemic birds and other specialities. These include White-winged Guan, the weird Long-whiskered Owlet, the stunning, recently-described Scarlet-banded Barbet, Pale-billed Antpitta and the extraordinary Marvelous Spatuletail. This is the most comprehensive Northern Peru tour available.

One of the most topographically complex countries on earth, Peru boasts an immense avifauna with a staggering total of not far short of 1800 species. While most attention has traditionally focused on southern Peru, ignoring much of the central and northern regions of this huge country, South American aficionados increasingly long to explore the lesser-known regions of this fabulous country and this is just what our Northern Peru tour is directed at.

No country has seen the discovery of so many birds new to science in the last few decades as Peru, and in the late seventies and early eighties new species were described at an average rate of two per year. Since they were usually found in isolated mountain ranges and remote areas, the full-scale expeditions that led to their discovery greatly increased our knowledge of South American birds in general, and more was learnt about many birds that, until then, were only known from a few old specimens mouldering away in distant museums. However, in spite of this extensive fieldwork, many of the country’s birds are still poorly known, and there are still several species that remain practically unknown in life.

This adventurous Peru tour focuses on the largely mountainous northern tier of the country, a fantastic treasure chest of endemic, localized and poorly known birds. With a mountainous backbone sliced up by the mighty Marañon River and its tributaries, this region is a biogeographic jigsaw puzzle that still has not given up all its secrets. Our journey will take us from the deserts and foothills along the Pacific coast inland to the eastern Cordilleras, where we will explore the forested humid flanks of the outlying slopes of the Andes and its extraordinarily diverse foothills, and from there into the breathtaking Marañon Canyon, where the headwaters of the Amazon run through an arid mountain valley for over 600 miles (1000km). After crossing this immense biogeographic break in humid Andean habitats, we then explore the arid inter-montane valleys and upland Andean habitats of the western cordilleras on our way to Cajamarca.

During our Northern Peru tour we will search for some near-mythical species. Whilst focusing on the many specialities, we will also see a large variety of more widespread birds and enjoy some scenery that is among the most spectacular in Peru and indeed in South America as a whole.

With the addition of the Amazonian foothills in the Tarapoto region, we have a good chance of seeing the stunning yet only recently-described Scarlet-banded Barbet, as well as a series of additional specialities.

Starting our exploration of this region in the bustling coastal city of Chiclayo located in the Pacific coastal lowlands and adjacent foothills where, in addition to searching for the famous White-winged Guan, we will look for Peruvian Plantcutter, Piura Chat-Tyrant, Rufous Flycatcher, Chestnut-collared and Tumbes Swallows, Sulphur-throated Finch and a number of other desert and deciduous forest specialities.

Next we head inland to Jaen in search of endemics in the Chinchipe drainage, including the spectacular Maranon Crescentchest, before we descend into the spectacular Marañon Canyon where endemics and near-endemics such as Yellow-faced Parrotlet, Peruvian Pigeon, Chestnut-backed Thornbird, Marañon Thrush, Piura Hemispingus and Grey-winged and Buff-bridled Inca-Finches, make their home.

Afterwards we will traverse rugged mountain ridges as we travel towards Cajamarca, looking for such specialities as Striated Earthcreeper, the cajamarcae form of the Rufous Antpitta, White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant, Jelski’s Chat-Tyrant, Black-crested Tit-Tyrant and Rufous-webbed Tyrant.

Near the colonial city of Cajamarca, where centuries ago Pizarro captured Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, we shall search for the endangered Grey-bellied Comet and visit a valley where the endangered Great Spinetail inhabits arid montane scrub.

Retracing our steps to Leymebamba, we will look for the rarely seen Koepcke’s Screech-Owl before climbing the infamous Abra Barro Negro (which means ‘Black Mud Pass’). Here we will look for Coppery Metaltail, the recently rediscovered Russet-mantled Softtail and a number of other high elevation specialities.

Pomacochas is located in the heart of the range of what may be the world’s most spectacular hummingbird, the amazing endemic Marvelous Spatuletail, and is also the starting point for our search for the endemic Pale-billed Antpitta.

Not far away, Owlet Lodge will be our base for exploring the diverse birdlife of the cloud forests on the jagged mountain ridges of Abra Patricia and the luxuriant foothill forests of Affluente lower down. Here we will look for such legendary birds as Long-whiskered Owlet, Royal Sunangel, Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant and Bar-winged Wood-Wren, while also sampling the rich east Andean cloudforest avifauna, including scores of colourful tanagers.

Lower down, around Moyobamba, the foothill forest of Quebrada Mishquiyacu holds the rare Ash-throated Antwren and the San Martin form of the Mishana Tyrannulet, which may represent a distinct species.

Our next port of call is Bellavista (near Tarapoto), en route to a new site in the foothills, Flor de Café, where the recently described Scarlet-banded Barbet has been found. Developing our itinerary to search for this mega-bird in a truly remote site also gives us a great opportunity to search for additional exciting species such as the rarely seen Andean Laniisoma and Grey-tailed Piha amongst others.

Retracing our steps to Tarapoto, we have a last chance for some birding in the Amazonian foothills of northern Peru before our great adventure come to an end.

Birdquest has operated Peru tours since 1982.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/guesthouses are mostly of good or medium standard. The hotel at Celendín is simple but adequate, while Owlet Lodge at Abra Patricia is surprisingly pleasant with good food and comfortable beds (but each bathroom is shared between two rooms). The ’barbet building’ is indeed basic but every effort will be made to ensure the comfort of all. Although no camping is required on our tour, staying in the barbet building is but one remove from it. Road transport is by small coach or minibus and roads are very variable in quality (sometimes poor, with several long drives on bumpy surfaces).

Walking: The walking effort during our Northern Peru tours is mostly easy, sometimes moderate, but there are two optional harder walks at Abra Patricia.

Climate: Rather variable. At low and middle elevations many days are warm or hot, dry and sunny, though on other days it can be cool and overcast. At high altitudes conditions range from cool to decidedly cold in the early morning. It may well rain at times and it will be rather humid at lower altitudes.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Northern Peru tours are worthwhile.


PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees. Our tour prices also include all tipping, including tips for local guides and drivers. Some bird tour operators do not do this, yet for participants these costs are an unavoidable part of the tour. The value of these inclusions on this Birdquest tour amounts to approximately $250.

Deposit: £670, $870, €760.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates and deposit amount)

 


2020: £6390, $7890, €7020. Chiclayo/Tarapoto.
2021: provisional £6390, $7890, €7020. Chiclayo/Tarapoto.

Single Supplement: 2020: £460, $570, €500.
Single Supplement: 2021: £460, $570, €500.

This supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

The single room supplement excludes the two nights at Flor de Café.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

NORTHERN PERU TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Northern Peru: Day 1  Our Northern Peru tour begins this morning at the coastal city of Chiclayo, a vibrant symbol of modern Peru and commercial capital of the north. (There is a good quality hotel in the terminal complex at Lima, so there is no need to leave the airport should you need an overnight stop en route to Chiclayo.)

From here we will drive to an area of Acacia-Prosopis forest that is one of the very few localities where the rare Peruvian Plantcutter is known to survive, and a habitat that is under severe threat from the increasing cultivation of the coastal river valleys. Throughout the early morning the attractive male plantcutters emit their strange songs from the treetops and we have a very good chance of seeing this now threatened species.

The area is very birdy and holds a good many specialities. Walking through the dunes, we shall be looking out for the pretty Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Necklaced Spinetail, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Tumbesian Tyrannulet (split from Mouse-coloured), Grey-and-white Tyrannulet (looking like a miniature elaenia) and both Superciliaried and Fasciated Wrens. The constant chorus of West-Peruvian Doves (split from White-winged), along with the calls of the garrulous Pacific Hornero, provide the soundscape for these deserts and both are numerous here, while overhead we may well see the localized Chestnut-collared Swallow. We may also find another very uncommon endemic, the Rufous Flycatcher, which may reveal its presence with its scratchy whistles.

Working the more open areas, we may find the widespread Burrowing Owl, or near-endemic Peruvian Thick-knee and hopefully the endemic Coastal Miner. Time permitting, we will visit an area of coastal dunes where in the marshy dune slacks we shall look for Many-coloured Rush-Tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird along with Least Bittern and Plumbeous Rail.

This will be our only opportunity to see birds restricted to the coast and we shall devote some time to looking for the now rare Peruvian Tern and whilst doing so see a variable list of migratory Nearctic shorebirds, while other likely birds include Great Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, and Grey, Kelp, Belcher’s (split from Band-tailed) and Grey-hooded (or Grey-headed) Gulls.

We will then drive to the now famous Chaparri lodge, looking for the rarely seen Sulphur-throated Finch on our way, an eruptive species very infrequently seen away from this remote corner of northern Peru. Around the lodge we should find White-winged Guans (an introduced population), lovely but noisy White-tailed Jays and maybe Red-masked Parakeets. An evening exploration of nearby woodlands may reveal the localized West Peruvian Screech-Owl and the range-restricted Scrub Nightjar.

Northern Peru: Day 2  After some early morning birding around our delightful lodgings we will drive to the Sanctuario Bosque Pomac. This extensive area of Acacia-Prosopis forest is of great importance as it holds good populations of Peruvian Plantcutter and Rufous Flycatcher. However, of even more interest to us is the fact that it is also an important site for the very rare Tumbes Swallow (a species normally hard to find throughout its small range), which can often be found flying low over the acacia forest here. We may also find Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, Lineated Woodpecker, Collared Antshrike and maybe the diminutive Ecuadorian Piculet or Snowy-throated Kingbird. We will then continue through the sanctuary to the old Pan American Highway, travelling along which we will eventually reach Olmos for a two nights stay.

Northern Peru: Day 3  Discovered in the arid northwest of Peru in 1876 and presumed extinct for a century thereafter, the endangered White-winged Guan was rediscovered in 1977 and now suffers a precarious existence in a small number of wooded valleys in the west Andean foothills. The dry deciduous forests in the rolling hills above Olmos still hold one of these populations, and today we will leave early in order to reach a remote canyon where, with the help of a local farmer, we can expect to locate this elusive cracid.

Many other birds inhabiting these woodlands are confined to semi-arid habitats in northwestern Peru and southwestern Ecuador (the so-called ‘Tumbesian endemics’), such as the garrulous Red-masked Parakeet, the smart White-edged Oriole and the attractive White-headed Brush-Finch, while the striking Scarlet-backed Woodpecker utters its loud rattle and the much larger Guayaquil Woodpecker is also possible here.

Other regional endemics and widespread birds we may find here include the elusive Pale-browed Tinamou, Short-tailed Woodstar, Ecuadorian Trogon (split from Black-tailed), Lineated Woodpecker, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Collared Antshrike, Elegant Crescentchest, Tumbes Pewee (split from Tropical), Sooty-crowned and Baird’s Flycatchers, Tropical Gnatcatcher (here the western, white-faced form) and the subtly beautiful Plumbeous-backed Thrush.

Later we will leave the canyon and retrace our tracks, stopping in arid desert scrub and taller trees flanking dried-up watercourses, where we may find Cinereous Finches hopping on the barren ground. A whistled pygmy-owl imitation may bring in perplexed Tumbes Hummingbirds or maybe the superb Tumbes Tyrant, one of the most attractive tyrannids. In these dry river channels we will also keep our eyes peeled for the cryptic Peruvian Thick-knee.

Other species we may encounter here or in desert scrub are the ubiquitous Necklaced Spinetail, the rather awkward-looking Short-tailed Field-Tyrant, the vociferous Superciliated Wren, the drab Parrot-billed Seedeater, the attractive Tumbes Sparrow and the spritely Collared Warbling-Finch. In the late afternoon we will return to our humble lodgings in Olmos, a dusty town somewhat recalling those depicted in many westerns.

Northern Peru: Day 4  This morning we will head up to the Porculla Pass and search shrubby gullies for the endemic and somewhat shy Piura Chat-Tyrant, the delightful Peruvian Sheartail, Rufous-necked and Henna-hooded Foliage-gleaners, Chapman’s Antshrike, Elegant Crescentchest, Three-banded Warbler, Black-cowled Saltator and White-winged and Bay-crowned Brush-Finches.

In the afternoon we will head east to Jaen for an overnight stay. En route we will keep an eye out for such open country birds as the endemic and somewhat demure Spot-throated Hummingbird, Scrub Blackbird, Yellow-tailed Oriole and maybe our first Maranon Gnatcatchers (split from Tropical).

Northern Peru: Day 5  This morning we plan to arrive at our first site before dawn, in the hope of finding the roberatus form of the Peruvian Screech-Owl, which possibly represents a distinct species. Other birds inhabiting the xerophytic scrub include Ecuadorian Ground-Dove, the uncommon Maranon Spinetail, Rufous-fronted Thornbird (the isolated Marañón/Huallaga Valley race, another candidate for full species status), the lovely Marañon Crescentchest, Northern Slaty-Antshrike (of the form leucogaster, possibly best regarded as a species in its own right: the Maranon Antshrike), Chinchipe Spinetail (split from Necklaced), Common Tody-Flycatcher, Blue-black Grassquit, the aptly-named Drab Seedeater, Maranon Sparrow (split from Black-capped) and the cute Red-crested Finch. The tall woodlands here also hold the endemic Buff-bellied Tanager and pretty Yellow-cheeked Becard, both of which we also hope to find. This is also a good area for Scarlet-fronted Parakeets and occasionally we have seen Military Macaws here.

We will then cross the Rio Marañon and head up the Utcubamba Valley. Upon reaching the river we will follow it southwards until the valley opens into a wide plain, covered in dense, cactus-studded desert scrub. At merely 500m above sea-level, it is hard to imagine we find ourselves in the watershed of the Amazon. The bulk of the avifauna, however, is related to that of Peru’s north-western Pacific lowlands, as indicated by the presence of the noisy Pacific Hornero (split from Pale-legged), the ‘Shumba’ Antshrike (the distinctive shumbae race of the Collared Antshrike, shortly to be split) and the perky Chestnut-throated Seedeater. Of course there are the typical Marañón Valley elements as well, and our main targets here will be Little Inca-Finch, the smallest member of this endemic genus. A little higher up the valley shrubby areas in this largely deforested valley hold Marañón Wren (split from the Speckle-breasted), as well as Yellow-bellied Elaenia and Highland Hepatic-Tanager.

Later, as we follow the rushing course of the Utcubamba river, we shall carefully scrutinize the said river for the stately Fasciated Tiger-Heron, the amazing Torrent Duck, the drab Torrent Tyrannulet and the acrobatic Black Phoebe. Roadside stops should also produce two more endemics; the Marañon Thrush and Buff-bellied Tanager, as well as White-bellied Hummingbird and Andean Emerald. If we are fortunate we will find a Koepcke’s Screech-Owl at a daytime roost. Eventually we will arrive in the charming Andean town of Leymebamba for an overnight stay.

Northern Peru: Day 6  We will set off very early this morning so that we can be above Balsas by dawn. Here we shall search the deciduous woodlands for the endemic Yellow-faced Parrotlet, whose natural population has plummeted in the last few decades because of the cage bird trade. For a few years now there has been a ban on their export and fortunately the species does seem to be recovering, though we will still need a modicum of luck to come across this captivating species.

Lower down we shall reach the first stands of Bombax forest, home to the electric Yellow-tailed Oriole, amidst the awesome backdrop of steep mountains and the legendary Marañón river far below us. In addition these woods may well produce Squirrel Cuckoo, Peruvian Pygmy-Owl, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Green Jay, Purple-throated Euphonia and Blue-grey Tanager. As we approach the valley bottom, noisy flocks of Scarlet-fronted Parakeets pass overhead, and once along the fast flowing Marañón, near the tiny settlement of Balsas, we shall stroll along the river looking for the endemic Peruvian Pigeon.

Later we will drive up the impressive switchbacks on the western slope of the canyon, enjoying some of South America’s most awesome scenery. Climbing up to Hacienda Limon, we may well find yet another Marañón endemic (and the owner of the large stick nests one sees in the flat topped acacias), the noisy Chestnut-backed Thornbird, while additional species in this area include White-tipped Dove, White-collared Swift, Tropical Kingbird, Fasciated Wren, Long-tailed Mockingbird, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Rusty Flowerpiercer and Streaked Saltator.

As we make our way upwards we work our way through more humid habitats. In these areas we may find Band-tailed Pigeon, Black-crested Warbler and Baron’s Brush-Finch (split from Yellow-breasted and quite different from that species). Eventually we shall arrive in the rural colonial town of Celendin for an overnight stay.

Northern Peru: Day 7  Another early start will take us across a series of high mountain ridges until we reach an area of high humid temperate shrubbery around dawn. We have a very good chance of encountering our main target, the rare and localised White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant, at this site. Interestingly it outnumbers the usually commoner Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant by some margin.

We will also listen for the whistles of another of our targets, the cajamarcae race of the Rufous Antpitta, soon to be elevated to full species rank. This uncommon taxon is found in many small patches of scrub along our route today and we shall make a concerted effort to find this retiring bird.

We may also see attractive Black-crested Tit-Tyrants, as they give their harsh trills from bushy slopes, and in more open areas Rufous-webbed Tyrants sallying out for the scant insect prey that ekes out a living at these high elevations. Loud rattles echoing across the valley may reveal an Andean Flicker standing guard among some rocky outcrops, and we will also listen for the distinctive song of the endemic Striated Earthcreeper, here at the northern edge of its range. Baron’s (or Southern Line-cheeked) Spinetails are quite numerous here and Jelski’s Chat-Tyrants skulk in dense undergrowth in narrow gullies, while the hummingbirds here includes species with such evocative names as Shining Sunbeam and Great Sapphirewing. Other birds typically found at this altitude include Variable Hawk, the majestic Black-chested Buzzard=Eagle, Mountain Caracara, Andean Coot, Andean Gull, Red-crested Cotinga, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Brown-bellied Swallow, Grass Wren, Great Thrush, Spectacled Whitestart (here of the chestnut-crowned form) and Plain-coloured Seedeater. With a modicum of luck we will also find the endemic Plain-tailed Warbling-Finch, which is occasionally found in scrubby gullies here, and possibly Andean Tinamou.

Eventually we will reach the bustling Andean city of Cajamarca, a beautiful colonial city nestled in a dry inter-montane valley where Pizarro ambushed and captured Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, and continue on to nearby Baños del Inca for an overnight stay.

Northern Peru: Day 8  Today we head out on the road towards Cajabamba, stopping en route in an inter-montane valley carved out by the Rio Crisneja, a tributary of the Marañón. Our main target here is the endemic and endangered Great Spinetail, a monotypic species inhabiting remnant arid scrub in mountainous areas that have been inhabited by humans for very long periods. For over two decades no birder had seen this localized species, until it was recently relocated in this and a few adjacent valleys. We have an excellent chance of finding this large furnarid that often reveals its presence by its telltale stick nests and rattling song.

Other endemics found in this area are the sombre-plumaged Spot-throated Hummingbird, the cactus-hugging Black-necked Flicker, the perky Marañon Gnatcatcher and the colourful Buff-bridled Inca-Finch. Tiny Purple-collared Woodstars buzz around a variety of flowers, whilst Black-lored Yellowthroats (split from Masked) skulk inside the shrubbery.

Among the more widespread species are Turkey Vulture, Croaking Ground-Dove, Striped Cuckoo, Groove-billed Ani, Amazilia Hummingbird, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Bananaquit, Dull-coloured Grassquit and Highland Hepatic-Tanager.

Another important site today is a narrow gulley where we go in search of the endemic Grey-bellied Comet. This little-known and endangered hummingbird is known only from a few scattered localities in this region, so we shall devote sometime to finding this spectacular and somewhat enigmatic species. Other birds here include the endemic Black Metaltail and the lovely White-winged Cinclodes, here at the northernmost limit of their range, as well as the agile endemic Rusty-crowned Tit-Spinetail. Yet another scrubby gulley holds the skulking endemic Unicoloured Tapaculo, while flowering shrubs may attract the septentrionalis race of the Tyrian Metaltail with its deep-blue tail. Later we will transfer back to Celendin, where we will spend the night.

Northern Peru: Day 9  Today we recross the spectacular Marañon Canyon, giving us the chance to look for anything we might have missed first time around. In particular we will be looking for a couple of species that are easier early in the morning on the western side of the canyon, the near-endemic Piura Hemispingus and the endemic, the secretive Grey-winged Inca-Finch. We also have another chance of finding the rare Yellow-faced Parrotlet. We will overnight at Leymebamba.

Northern Peru: Day 10  Early this morning we will climb the road above Leymebamba before dawn in search of the spectacular Swallow-tailed Nightjar and we may even hear Andean Snipe displaying. Seeing this species when it is displaying seems almost impossible and so we will probably have to content ourselves with hearing this uncommon species wheeling about overhead.

Eventually we will reach an area of elfin forest where the little-known Russet-mantled Softtail was recently rediscovered. We plan on being on the spot at the crack of dawn, optimizing the chance of finding this highly localized endemic. Among a variety of possible hummingbirds, we will look for the endemic Coppery-naped Puffleg (split from Sapphire-vented).

Other birds we may find in this often mist-enshrouded valley, primarily in a number of forest patches along the highway, include Scaly-naped Amazon, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Azara’s Spinetail, White-chinned Thistletail (of the endemic race peruviana, which may represent a distinct species), Streaked Tuftedcheek, Barred Fruiteater, White-banded Tyrannulet, Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, White-collared Jay, Mountain Wren, Mountain Cacique, Spectacled Redstart (here of the black-crowned form), Blue-backed Conebill, Moustached Flowerpiercer, Blue-and-black Tanager, Scarlet-bellied and Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanagers, and Drab Hemispingus.

Even higher up we will reach patches of elfin woodland and even open paramo along the legendary ‘Black Mud Pass’ (Abra Barro Negro, also known as Abra Chanchillo), separating the Marañon canyon from the valley formed by one of its tributaries, the rushing Utcubamba. Among the gnarled trees we will be looking especially for the endemic but uncommon Coppery Metaltail and the very distinctive insignis form of the Superciliated Hemispingus. Other birds we may find in this inhospitable habitat include Rainbow Starfrontlet, Many-striped Canastero, Pearled Treerunner and White-throated Tyrannulet, while more open areas hold Andean Lapwing.

Afterwards we will transfer to Pomacochas for an overnight stay.

Northern Peru: Day 11  This morning we will make an early start to reach a site for the elusive Pale-billed Antpitta, a rarely seen endemic and certainly one of the most spectacular in Peru. After an ascent we will reach the highly fragmented forest patches in which our quarry resides, along with the endemic Rusty-tinged and Rusty-breasted Antpittas, and Peruvian and Plain-tailed Wrens, as well as the superb Violet-throated Starfrontlet.

As we work our way back down the valley, we will be in search of what is surely the world’s most spectacular hummingbird. The stunning Marvellous Spatuletail is confined to the humid montane forests on the west slope of the eastern Andes above the Rio Utcubamba, and while females or young males are easily found, the thrilling male of this legendary hummer is sometimes more challenging, although we have had great success recently with males visiting feeders and display perches. With its extremely long tail feathers ending in round rackets and curved back around the body, this most amazing ‘nectar-burner’ has to be seen to be believed!

Other possibilities in this highly localized endemic’s habitat include Sparkling Violetear, Green-tailed Trainbearer, the rare Little Woodstar, Sierran Elaenia, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Bluish and White-sided Flowerpiercers, and Silver-backed and Blue-capped Tanagers.

In the afternoon we will head east from Pomacochas, crossing a number of forested ridges on our way to Abra Patricia for a three nights stay.

Northern Peru: Days 12-13  Our lodge at Abra Patricia is set amongst tall cloud forest and stunted elfin forest and provides the most awe-inspiring scenery of the tour, with forested ridges stretching away to the horizon. This most famous of collecting sites is home to some of Peru’s least known birds.

We will be birding at the type locality of the monotypic Long-whiskered Owlet, known from just a few specimens and sight records, and thought to be only a weak flyer. With almost nothing being known about this bird in life, we will seem to have the odds against us, yet we have had good luck at a couple of sites in recent years.

Another species largely known from mistnet-captures is the localized endemic Ochre-fronted Antpitta, which we shall also search for, but we have much better chance of finding the midnight-blue Royal Sunangel that is restricted to ridge-top forests. Three other specialities, the finely marked Cinnamon Screech-Owl, the tiny Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant and the distinctive Bar-winged Wood-Wren, are known from inaccessible outlying ranges from southern Ecuador south through northern Peru, but only here are the haunts of these birds easily accessible on a paved road. The latter species seems to be greatly outnumbered by the Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, but we shall persist in our efforts to locate this relict species. The rare Spot-winged Parrotlet also occurs in the area, and so do the newly-described Johnson’s Tody-Tyrant and the localized White-capped Tanager.

Busy flocks of multi-hued tanagers regularly make their round in these moss-draped forests and, in addition to the endemic Yellow-scarfed Tanager, these varied assemblies may contain Saffron-crowned, Flame-faced, Blue-browed, Metallic-green, Beryl-spangled, Yellow-throated, Rufous-crested and Grass-green Tanagers, Common and Grey-hooded Bush-Tanagers, the larger Hooded and Blue-winged Mountain-Tanagers, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Capped Conebill and Masked Flowerpiercer.

Hummingbirds are prominent too, and in a variety of red and orange flowers we shall hope to find Speckled Hummingbird, Bronzy Inca, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Amethyst-throated Sunangel and Long-tailed Sylph.

A pre-dawn excursion may produce the ghostly wail of an Andean Potoo or a hooting White-throated Screech-Owl (both of which we could see if we are fortunate), while at first light we will scan the mountain skies for Rufous-bellied Nighthawks.

A few trails near the pass lead us into a wonderland of moss-draped trees, dense bamboo thickets and plentiful epiphytes, the realm of the endemic Rusty-tinged and Chestnut Antpittas, but we shall be very fortunate if we manage to glimpse these regularly heard but furtive forest floor denizens.

Other species we may encounter in the Abra Patricia and Alta Nieve areas include Plain-breasted Hawk, Andean and Sickle-winged Guans, Chestnut-collared and White-tipped Swifts, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Golden-headed Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Tyrannine and Montane Woodcreepers, Uniform Antshrike, Streak-headed Antbird (split from Long-tailed), the endemic Peruvian Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Green-and-black Fruiteater, Black-capped Tyrannulet, the endemic Peruvian Tyrannulet, the endemic Inca Flycatcher, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Rufous-tailed Tyrant, Chestnut-belted Chat-Tyrant (split from Slaty-backed), Cliff and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Barred Becard, Brown-capped Vireo, Sharpe’s Wren, Andean Solitaire, Slate-throated Redstart, and Three-striped and Russet-crowned Warblers. If we are very fortunate we will even see Barred Hawk or the little-known White-chested Swift.

Northern Peru: Day 14  Today we will descend from Abra Patricia and continue to Moyobamba for a two nights stay.

Downslope from Abra Patricia, near the tiny settlement of Afluente, the road passes through beautiful lower upper tropical forests where another set of new and exciting birds will await us in excellent roadside habitat. The most noteworthy specialities are the tiny Speckle-chested Piculet and the canopy-dwelling Ash-throated Antwren. Until recently the latter was only known from the outlying mountain ridge above Jesus del Monte (further east), but in 1999 this highly localized species was also found here at Affluente.

We have excellent chances of seeing the flame-hued Andean Cock-of-the-Rock shooting across the road or indulging its taste for fruit, and of seeing the Ecuadorian Piedtail, a lek-forming hummingbird here reaching the southernmost limit of its range. The endemic Huallaga (or Black-bellied) Tanager is fairly common here and the rather modestly-adorned Yellow-throated and Ashy-throated Bush-Tanagers make their rounds in noisy family parties. Our growing tanager list may further be supplemented by an incredible set of multi-hued jewels, including Orange-eared, Paradise, Green-and-gold, Spotted, Golden, Blue-necked, Bay-headed, White-winged and Magpie Tanagers, and at middle elevations we have a very good chance of seeing the stunning Vermilion Tanager. Chestnut-breasted Wrens deliver their amazing tunes from the understorey, and the less musically endowed Black-billed Treehunter regularly snarls out its strident calls. We shall carefully scrutinize mixed parties for the beautiful Versicoloured Barbet, the noisy Yellow-breasted Antwren, the restless Grey-mantled Wren and the easily overlooked Equatorial Greytail, a warbler-like member of the Furnariidae, here at the southern edge of its range.

Other birds we may find include Roadside Hawk, Ruddy and Plumbeous Pigeons, White-eyed Parakeet, Red-billed Parrot, Black-mandibled Toucan, Little, Golden-olive and Smoky-brown Woodpeckers, Olivaceous and Olive-backed Woodcreepers, Ash-browed Spinetail, Montane and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaners, Streaked Xenops, Lined Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Blackish Antbird, ‘Northern’ White-crowned Tapaculo (though the taxonomic position of the form concerned remains to be determined), Golden-winged Manakin, Slaty-capped, Ornate, Olive-chested and Social Flycatchers, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Plumbeous-crowned and Ecuadorian Tyrannulets, Long-tailed Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Pale-eyed and Black-billed Thrushes, Olivaceous Greenlet, Tropical Parula, Blackburnian and Canada Warblers, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, Orange-bellied and Bronze-green Euphonias, Palm and White-lined Tanagers, Greyish Saltator, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Yellow-rumped Cacique, and Crested and Russet-backed Oropendolas.

Northern Peru: Day 15  Today we will explore the foothill forests at the Quebrada Mishquiyacu, a new forest reserve that offers a reasonable chance of seeing the endangered Ash-throated Antwren high up on the ridge above our lodgings. This foothill forest is also home to the San Martin form of the Mishana Tyrannulet, which likely represents a separate species from its lowland cousin, itself only recently described from the white sand forests of Iquitos.

The amazing Rufous-crested Coquette is particularly common here, and our birding should also feature a number of interesting sandy soil birds that include Chestnut-throated and Cinereous-breasted Spinetails and Red-shouldered Tanager. Other goodies include Band-bellied Owl, Spot-tailed Nightjar, the robust Buff-tailed Sicklebill and Black-and-white Tody-Flycatcher.

Either here or in nearby clearings we will likely see a variety of more widespread species that include Speckled Chachalaca, Black Caracara, White Hawk, Bat Falcon, Ruddy and Blue Ground-Doves, Grey-fronted Dove, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Neotropical Palm-Swift, Glittering-throated Emerald, Reddish Hermit, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Blue-crowned Trogon, Broad-billed Motmot, Gilded Barbet, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Lafresnaye’s Piculet, Plain-winged Antshrike, Stripe-chested Antwren, White-browed Antbird, Sooty-headed Tyrannulet, Stripe-necked and White-eyed Tody-Tyrants, Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, Fiery-capped Manakin, Yellow-green Vireo and Masked, Black-goggled, Black-faced and Yellow-crested Tanagers.

Northern Peru: Day 16  After some further birding in the reserve, we will descend through the humid subtropics, stopping at selected sites in search of species we may have missed earlier. Time permitting, we shall also explore a number of lowland sites where we may find Russet-crowned Crake, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Amazonian and Blue-crowned Trogons, Amazonian Motmot, Yellow Tyrannulet, Sulphury Flycatcher, the foothill form of the endemic Mishana Tyrannulet or maybe the diminutive White-browed Purpletuft. After passing through Tarapoto we will eventually reach Bellavista for an overnight stay, in preparation for our excursion into the Cordillera Azul.

Northern Peru: Day 17  Departing from Bellavista, we head up to the remote settlement of Flor de Café, situated at 1400m in the foothills, which may take us much of the day to reach, depending on the state of the road. We will stay here for two nights in a very basic ‘guesthouse’.

Northern Peru: Day 18  The Scarlet-banded Barbet, only discovered in 1996 and endemic to humid foothill forest in the remote , was only found at this new site very recently and has not been seen by many birders as a consequence. It seems to be fairly common at this site, although its range is tiny and the total population has been estimated at less than 1000 individuals. Consequently, it is considered Vulnerable by BirdLife International.

Based at this recently opened settlement, far removed from everyday Peruviuan life, we shall be the guests of this welcoming community in an area unused to visitors. However, this site is not only the only accessible site to look for Scarlet-banded Barbet, but also one that is very good for a variety of foothill specialities.

We shall be exploring the tracks and trails recently cut through the forests here and if we find fruiting trees we may see Jet and Blue-rumped Manakins (the form here being leucopygia and often considered a separate species: the Milky-rumped Manakin), Scaled, Fiery-throated and Scarlet-breasted Fruiteaters or even the very rare Andean Laniisoma, which has been recorded here on occasion.

Other commoner species found here include Black Hawk Eagle, Collared and Barred Forest Falcons, Rose-fronted Parakeet, Blue-headed Parrot, Blackish Nightjar, Long-tailed Hermit, Wire-crested Thorntail, White-necked Puffbird, Red-necked Woodpecker, Russet Antshrike, Ornate Antwren, Scale-backed Antbird, Rufous-breasted Antthrush, Chestnut-winged Foliage-gleaner, Ruddy Foliage-gleaner, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, the foothill form of Long-tailed Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Variegated Bristle-Tyrant, Blackish Peewee, Grey-tailed and Olivaceous Pihas, Yungas Manakin (far north of its usual range), Foothill Schiffornis, Blue-browed Tanager, Black-faced Dacnis and a variety of tanagers.

If we have luck on our side we will also see one or two of the following: Wattled Guan, Military Macaw, Subtropical Pygmy-Owl, Napo Sabrewing, Curl-crested Aracari, Chestnut-throated Spinetail, Hairy-crested Antbird, Chestnut-crowned Gnateater and Yellow-throated Spadebill. There is a phenomenal list of good birds here and one not equalled at other foothill sites.

Northern Peru: Day 19  After some early morning birding at Flor de Café, we will transfer via Bellavista to Tarapoto for an overnight stay, stopping en route to explore a number of lower areas with dry deciduous woodland and gallery forest. These sites can be very productive, with recent fieldwork revealing a somewhat unpredictable avifauna. Here we may find the spectacular, if rather rare, Pheasant Cuckoo, the very uncommon Chestnut-throated Spinetail, the distinctive local form of Northern Antshrike (often split as the Huallaga Antshrike), Stripe-chested Antwren, White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Rufous Casiornis, the oddly distributed Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Band-tailed Manakin and the recently described Varzea Thrush (a cryptic species previously considered conspecific with Hauxwell’s Thrush).

Northern Peru: Day 20  Early today we shall explore a number of sites close to Tarapoto. Assuming the key species of the deciduous woodlands have been found, we shall head to low-lying foothill forest just north of Tarapoto where there is a good chance of finding a number of specialities. We may find the local Blackish Peewee, Koepcke’s Hermit and maybe Dotted Tanager, along with Ivory-billed Aracari, Golden-collared Toucanet and Masked Tanager. Our Northern Peru tour ends around midday at Tarapoto airport.

NORTHERN PERU TOUR REPORT 2018

by Pete Morris

View Report

NORTHERN PERU TOUR REPORT 2017

by Eustace Barnes

View Report

NORTHERN PERU TOUR REPORT 2015

by Pete Morris

View Report

Other Peru birding tours by Birdquest include:

Wattled

Tours of shorter duration

AMAZONIAN PERU: IQUITOS

Royal

Tours of shorter duration

PERU’S CUSCO ANDES & MANU