BOLIVIA BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Bolivia with a Difference: Day 1 Our tour starts early this evening at our hotel in La Paz. An airport transfer will be provided.
Bolivia with a Difference: Day 2 This morning we will take a flight to the town of Trinidad, situated in the huge province of Beni, for a three nights stay. We will commence our exploration of the Trinidad area this afternoon.
Bolivia with a Difference: Days 3-4 Our main reason for visiting the wide watery plains of the Llanos de los Moxos in eastern Bolivia is the occurrence of the very rare and famous Blue-throated Macaw. Until 1992 this species was only known from museum specimens and from cage birds that occasionally turned up in the international pet trade, but nobody knew where these birds originated from. In 1992 Charles Munn, a scientist with the New York Zoological Society discovered its breeding haunts in the vast, virtually uninhabited palm savanna and gallery woodland mosaic in the centre of the department of Beni. The last census indicates there may be fewer than 100 pairs in the wild, but nobody knows. This species, which resembles the much more common and widespread Blue-and-yellow Macaw, seems to require the presence of the palm Attalea phalerata, which is locally abundant here. We should be able to get good views of this superb endemic macaw and compare it to other members of its tribe, including Blue-and-yellow, Red-and-green, Golden-collared and Chestnut-fronted Macaws.
The grasslands and seasonally flooded woodlands of this region of Bolivia are reminiscent of the more open parts of the famous Brazilian Pantanal or the Venezuelan llanos and harbour the same rich and spectacular variety of birds. The open habitat makes for easy viewing and during our stay here we should amass a splendid list. Many of the birds of the marshes, oxbow lakes, open meadows and pastures are widespread in the Neotropics, but we will, of course, be concentrating on the local specialities, and in particular the rare Orinoco Goose and the uncommon Hudson’s Black Tyrant (a migrant from central Argentina). There is even a chance for the rare Chaco (or Crowned Solitary) Eagle.
In the gallery woodlands bordering the rivers, we will go in search of four more major specialities; the localized but vocal Plain Softtail (here of the endemic nominate race), the near-endemic Fawn-breasted Wren, the endemic Unicoloured Thrush (uncommon everywhere in its limited range) and Velvet-fronted Grackle (here of the endemic form boliviensis). Another good bird is Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin.
Other birds in the gallery woodland include Black-tailed Trogon, the incredible Toco Toucan (with its bright blue eye), White-wedged Piculet, handsome Pale-crested and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Red-billed Scythebill, Mato Grosso and Band-tailed Antbirds, Euler’s Flycatcher, White-eyed Attila, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Band-tailed Manakin, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Golden-crowned Warbler, Orange-headed and Grey-headed Tanagers, Chestnut-vented Conebill and Buff-throated Saltator.
The Pantanal-like nature of the Beni floodplain is soon apparent and some areas are very rich in waterbirds and wetland-dependent species. Among those we are likely to find are the remarkable Southern Screamer, the marvellous Sunbittern, the huge Jabiru and the swamp-loving Hoatzin, as well as Black-bellied and White-faced Whistling Ducks, Brazilian Teal, Muscovy Duck, Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Cocoi, Whistling, Capped and Striated Herons, Black-crowned Night Heron, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Great, Western Cattle and Snowy Egrets, Bare-faced, Plumbeous, Buff-necked and Green Ibises, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood and Maguari Storks, Snail Kite, Limpkin, Grey-cowled Wood Rail, Wattled Jacana, Southern Lapwing, Pied Plover, Black-necked Stilt, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, and Green, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers. Western Osprey, Solitary Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs are present seasonally. More infrequent are Least Bittern, the skulking Ash-throated Crake, Purple Gallinule, Collared Plover and Black Skimmer and such migrant visitors as White-rumped, Pectoral and Spotted Sandpipers,
Among the numerous other species we are likely to see during our visit to this extraordinarily rich birding area are the stately Greater Rhea (often quietly feeding in extended family groups), Undulated Tinamou, Speckled Chachalaca (a species that produces an amazing dawn chorus), the retiring Razor-billed Curassow, Spix’s Guan, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Black, Turkey and Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures, the attractive Long-winged Harrier, Crane, Savanna, Roadside, White-tailed, Grey-lined, Black-collared and Great Black Hawks, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras, American Kestrel, Aplomado Falcon, Picazuro and Pale-vented Pigeons, White-tipped, Grey-fronted and Eared Doves, Ruddy and Picui Ground Doves, Yellow-chevroned, Peach-fronted, Dusky-headed and White-eyed Parakeets, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Smooth-billed Ani, the garrulous Guira Cuckoo, Striped, Little and Squirrel Cuckoos, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Nacunda Nighthawk, Pauraque, Little Nightjar, Blue-tailed Emerald, the marvellous Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Black-throated Mango, Gilded Sapphire, Blue-crowned Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Black-fronted Nunbird, White, Yellow-tufted, Little, Golden-green and Lineated Woodpeckers, and Campo Flicker.
Passerines include the spectacular Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Olivaceous, Buff-throated, Straight-billed and Narrow-billed Woodcreepers, the raucous Rufous Hornero, Chotoy, Yellow-chinned, Pale-breasted and Plain-crowned Spinetails, Greater Thornbird, the huge Grey-crested Cacholote, Great and Barred Antshrikes, the localized Rusty-backed Antwren, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Yellow-olive Flatbill, the diminutive Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Scarlet, Rusty-margined, Social, Boat-billed, Short-crested and Brown-crested Flycatchers, White-headed Marsh Tyrant, Black-backed Water Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, the wonderful Spectacled Tyrant, Yellow-browed and Cattle Tyrants, White, Grey and White-rumped Monjitas, Tropical Kingbird, Chivi Vireo, Grey-breasted and Brown-chested Martins, White-winged and White-rumped Swallows, Black-capped Donacobius, the enormous Thrush-like Wren, Masked Gnatcatcher, Creamy-bellied Thrush, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Purplish and Plush-crested Jays, Crested Oropendola, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Orange-backed Troupial, Variable Oriole, Giant Cowbird, White-browed, Scarlet-headed, Chopi and Unicoloured Blackbirds, Greyish Baywing, Purple-throated Euphonia, Hooded, Silver-beaked, Sayaca and Palm Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Saffron and Pampa Finches, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch, Long-tailed Reed Finch, White-bellied Seedeater (the local form is often treated as a full species: Bicoloured Seedeater), Rusty-collared Seedeater, Greyish Saltator, and Red-crested and Red-capped Cardinals. Sometimes Dark-throated and Tawny-bellied Seedeaters are present.
More uncommon species include Rufous-thighed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Buff-bellied Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Blue Ground Dove, Subtropical Doradito and Rufous-rumped Seedeater.
Common Zorro (or Crab-eating Fox), Brown Brocket Deer and many Capybaras should also be encountered.
Bolivia with a Difference: Day 5 After some final birding around Trinidad, we will take a flight to the remote town of Riberalta in northernmost Bolivia for a two nights stay. We may arrive in time for some initial exploration.
Bolivia with a Difference: Day 6 Riberalta, located on the east bank of the mighty Beni river in eastern Bolivia, sits at the junction of the cerrado and the Amazonian rainforests. The latter, which here shows strong affinities with the avifauna of the Madeira-Tapajos interfluve, will allow us to add a substantial number of Amazonian species to our list.
This morning we will head to some short-stature woodlands where we shall focus on finding the very localized Masked Antpitta (only discovered here very recently by Schoerd Mayer). This very poorly known area could also turn up some surprises, which could include the spectacular Fiery-capped Manakin and conceivably the restricted range Rusty-necked Piculet (although we are probably too far to the northwest).
We shall also visit a superb area of cerrado to the east of town where we will be on the lookout for the very poorly known Rufous-sided Pygmy Tyrant, the retiring Ocellated Crake and if we are in luck, the localized Black-masked Finch.
While exploring rainforest sites in the Riberalta area of Bolivia, we should also come across a wide range of commoner species including Cinereous and Little Tinamous (as always, easy to hear and hard to see), Common Potoo, Tui and Cobalt-winged Parakeets, Blue-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned, Turquoise-fronted and Southern Mealy Amazons, Short-tailed Swift, Neotropical Palm Swift, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Green-backed Trogon, Amazonian Motmot, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Lettered and Chestnut-eared Aracaris, White-throated Toucan, Bar-breasted Piculet, Buff-throated and Chestnut-crowned Foliage-gleaners, Wedge-billed, Pale-legged Hornero, Pygmy Antwren, Amazonian Antshrike, Grey and Black-faced Antbirds, Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet, Johannis’s Tody-Tyrant, Short-tailed Pygmy Tyrant, Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher, Grey-crowned Flatbill, Fuscous Flycatcher (the form here is distinctive), Piratic, Streaked and Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Black-tailed and Masked Tityras, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Screaming Piha, White-winged Becard, Lemon-chested Greenlet, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Moustached Wren, Black-billed and Hauxwell’s Thrushes, Thick-billed Euphonia, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Solitary Cacique and Yellow-backed, White-shouldered, Flame-crested, Blue-grey, Turquoise, Paradise and Green-and-gold Tanagers.
Uncommon birds of the area (or birds less often recorded during a short visit) include Horned Screamer, Short-tailed Nighthawk, Scaled Pigeon, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, the migrant Mississippi Kite, Slate-colored and Zone-tailed Hawks, Bat Falcon, Azure Gallinule, the migrant Upland Sandpiper, Greater Ani, Pheasant Cuckoo, Tawny-bellied Screech Owl, Band-tailed Nighthawk, the pretty Spot-tailed Nightjar, Green-and-rufous Kingfisher, Green-barred, Chestnut and Cream-colored Woodpeckers, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Amazonian Streaked Antwren, Riparian Antbird, Plain-crested, Lesser and Small-billed Elaenias, Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Varzea Schiffornis, the splendid Amazonian Umbrellabird, Black-faced Tanager, White-rumped Tanager and with luck White-banded Tanager.
Bolivia with a Difference: Day 7 After some final birding around Riberalta we will return by air to La Paz for an overnight stay.
Bolivia with a Difference: Day 8 We will drive northwards from La Paz to the town of Charazani for an overnight stay. This afternoon we will take a look at some cloudforest where our main targets will be two very restricted-range specialities; the stunning Hooded Mountain Toucan and Puno Antpitta.
Bolivia with a Difference: Day 9 Today we will depart early and drive to the small town of Atén in the Apolo valley, where we will stay for four nights.
We will make some birding stops along the way and we will have another chance to visit cloudforest habitat this morning.
Bolivia with a Difference: Days 10-12 The Apolo region of Bolivia lies in the heart of the isolated Bolivian Andean cerrado. We will begin our exploration of this dry and rather unique area located along the otherwise humid eastern flank of the Andes searching the drier forest-edge habitats. This relict area of ’cerrado’ has evolved in splendid isolation in a single rain shadow catchment and is, as a consequence, very limited in extent. In itself, this poses an immediate problem for the endemic fauna and flora found here, as the habitat has been largely cleared for farming and cattle ranching. However, as we work some remaining fragments of dry woodland and scrub we should be able to encounter the lovely Palkachupa Cotinga. Also present in the dry scrubby habitat is the rare, near-endemic Green-capped Tanager, a species that also occurs in extreme southeast Peru but which seems easier to find in this area.
We shall also explore more humid Yungas forests in the Machariapo valley on the edge of the vast Madidi National Park. This area allows us an opportunity to find the endemic Yungas Antwren and the very localized Rough-legged Tyrannulet at a site where they seem to be more regular than elsewhere. There is even a real chance of an encounter with the rarely seen Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo. As always that means not a high chance, but the chances are better here than in most places!
At Cerro Asunta Pata we have a fair chance to find the near-endemic Yungas Tyrannulet, a recently described tyrannid considered rare and very local in the foothills and adjacent lowlands. This remote area is also very good for the increasingly rare Military Macaw, the localized White-browed Hermit and a new taxon within the Fuscous Flycatcher complex.
Other interesting species recorded from this splendid area which we will certainly be on the lookout for include such mega-specialities as the near-endemic Upland Antshrike, the near-endemic Bolivian White-crowned Tapaculo, the endemic Yungas Tody-Tyrant and the near-endemic Yungas Manakin. We should also encounter the as-yet-undescribed, near-endemic ‘Inambari-Tambopata Antwren’.
In addition, we may find such special birds of wider distribution as the shy Rufous-breasted Wood Quail, Solitary and Black-and-chestnut Eagles, the localized White-throated Hawk, Striped Owl, Scissor-tailed and Rufous Nightjars, Plum-crowned Parrot, Rufous-crested Coquette, Western Striolated Puffbird, the uncommon Tyrannine Woodcreeper and Black-bellied Antwren.
We should also find some of the more uncommon or more difficult to see specialities, such as the thinly-distributed Orange-breasted Falcon, the rare Peruvian Treehunter, the endemic Bolivian Recurvebill, White-throated Antpitta, Hazel-fronted Pygmy Tyrant, the stunning Chestnut-crested Cotinga and the endemic Straw-backed Tanager.
As this is a very poorly known part of Bolivia, we will undoubtedly make some interesting discoveries! There is even a slim chance of encountering the very poorly known, highly distinctive (bright yellow!), but still undescribed endemic ‘San Pedro Tanager’!
More widespread species we may well record during our visit, or during our travels between Sorata and Atén, include Brown, Black-capped, Tataupa and Red-winged Tinamous (all more easily heard than seen), Andean Guan, the feisty Torrent Duck, Chestnut-collared, White-collared and White-tipped Swifts, Great-billed Hermit, Sparkling Violetear, Blue-tailed Emerald, Golden-tailed Sapphire, White-bellied, Many-spotted and Speckled Hummingbirds, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Band-tailed and Plumbeous Pigeons, Fasciated Tiger Heron, King Vulture, Hook-billed, Swallow-tailed and Plumbeous Kites, the superb White Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, Tropical Screech Owl, Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, White-eared Puffbird, Gilded Barbet, Channel-billed Toucan, Ocellated Piculet, Scaly-naped Amazon and Mitred Parakeet.
Among the passerines are Cabanis’s, Cinereous-breasted and Azara’s Spinetails, Rufous-fronted and Greater Thornbirds, Stripe-chested Antwren, Chestnut-backed, Variable and Great Antshrikes, Wing-barred Piprites, Forest, Grey, White-crested and Greenish Elaenias, Torrent and Mouse-colored Tyrannulets, Sepia-capped, Slaty-capped, McConnell’s, Cinnamon, Cliff, Variegated and Dusky-capped Flycatchers, White-bellied Pygmy-Tyrant, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, White-winged Black Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, White-rumped Sirystes, Rufous Casiornis, Round-tailed and Fiery-capped Manakins, Brown-capped Vireo, Blue-and-white and American Cliff Swallows, Grey-breasted Wood Wren, Andean Solitaire, Pale-breasted and White-necked Thrushes, White-capped Dipper, Yellow-bellied, Olivaceous and Hooded Siskins, White-lored Euphonia, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Rufous-collared and Saffron-billed Sparrows, Dusky-green Oropendola, Tropical Parula, Two-banded Warbler, Slate-throated Whitestart, Black-backed Grosbeak, Common Bush Tanager, Black-faced, Magpie, Hooded, Fawn-breasted, Golden, Saffron-crowned, Yellow-bellied, Spotted, Bay-headed, Blue-necked, Swallow and Guira Tanagers, Black-eared Hemispingus, Black-faced Dacnis, Purple and Green Honeycreepers, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Pampa Finch, Black-throated Saltator, Blue-black Grassquit, Double-collared Seedeater, Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch and Bananaquit. Seasonally present are Eastern and Western Wood Pewees and Olive-sided Flycatcher.
More uncommon but widespread possibilities include Rufous-sided Crake, White-throated Quail-Dove, Lanceolated Monklet, Barred Forest Falcon and Brown-winged Schiffornis.
Bolivia with a Difference: Day 13 Today we will drive back towards La Paz, stopping overnight at Charazani. We will make some birding stops along the way.
Bolivia with a Difference: Day 14 We will enjoy some final birding this morning near Charazani. After a chance to wash and change at our hotel we will head for La Paz airport, where our tour ends in the late afternoon.
(International flight connections out of La Paz are quite limited, mostly departing between the evening and the morning. If your flight is not until the following day, we can arrange hotel accommodation for you in La Paz on request.)