The Ultimate In Birding Tours

South America

PERU’S CUSCO ANDES & MANU

A veritable feast of specialities and scenery

Saturday 5th September – Sunday 20th September 2020

Leaders: Pete Morris and a local bird guide

16 Days Group Size Limit 8
Sunday 5th September – Monday 20th September 2021

Leaders: Pete Morris and a local bird guide

16 Days Group Size Limit 8

Birdquest’s Cusco Andes & Manu, Peru tours have a very special itinerary that concentrates on the many endemic, near-endemic and range-restricted birds found in the Andes of Southeast Peru, from the high mountains to the Amazonian foothills of the Manu. In particular, our tours feature endemic-rich areas in the Cusco Andes region that are not included on the standard but shorter Manu/Kosnipata Road tour itineraries. This exciting Peru tour, featuring both the Cusco Andes and the Manu, is both a real adventure and an extraordinary birding experience as we travel first through the Cusco Andes and then from the snow-capped peaks of the High Andes right down through the temperate and subtropical zones in the vast Manu Biosphere Reserve to the edge of the lowland rainforest of Amazonia!

Southeast Peru is one of richest regions of this extraordinary, bird-rich country, with dozens of endemic, near-endemic and restricted-range specialities.

A visit to the huge Manu Biosphere Reserve, which extends from the High Andes of Peru to the Amazonian lowlands, is one of the world’s great birding journeys. Situated at the periphery of the upper Amazon basin, this splendid sanctuary boasts the planet’s richest biological heritage. Spanning the entire humid east slope of the Andes and including vast tracts of adjacent Amazonian lowlands, it holds the astonishing number of over 1000 bird species, or more than ten percent of the world’s avifauna, within the boundaries of a single protected area in Peru!

One of the wildest and remotest places on earth, the Manu still holds Amerindian tribes that have never been contacted by outsiders and a multitude of forest creatures that form an intricate ecological network, the secrets of which man is only just starting to reveal. Habitats range from steamy lowland rainforests to luxuriant subtropical forests, moss-draped cloudforests and contorted elfin woodland at the treeline, each sheltering an entirely different set of birds.

For a long time the Manu wilderness was virtually inaccessible, but new lodges now enable us to sample a broad array of life zones and elevations in some comfort. Even for the well-travelled birder, the mountains of the Manu and the Andean region surrounding the famous city of Cusco offer a treasure trove of new and exciting endemic or otherwise restricted-range birds.

Our Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu tour starts at Cusco (or Cuzco), ancient capital of the proud Incas, where a visit to a fine marshland area and nearby puna scrubland and grassland will provide us with a sample of birds that have adapted to the rigours of living permanently at elevations of over 10,800ft (3000m), including the endemic Bearded Mountaineer and Rusty-fronted Canastero, and the near-endemic Black-throated Flower-piercer.

Next there will be a wonderful opportunity for a thorough exploration of the endemic-rich Cusco Andes, a truly magnificent part of Peru. Not only will we see some fantastic Andean scenery but we will have the chance to find numerous specialities that we see on no other tour, or perhaps one other in a few cases.

Based at the towns of Abancay, Ollantaytambo and Quillabamba, we will be looking for such specialities as Violet-throated Starfrontlet, White-tufted Sunbeam, Coppery-naped Puffleg, Green-and-white Hummingbird, Creamy-breasted, Apurimac and Marcapata Spinetails, White-browed Tit-Spinetail, Junin Canastero, Vilcabamba and Puna Thistletails, Unstreaked and Ashy-breasted Tit-Tyrants, Pale-footed Swallow, Inca Wren, Puna, Diademed, Vilcabamba and ‘Ampay’ Tapaculos, Moustached Flower-piercer, Rust-and-yellow and Golden-collared Tanagers, Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Parodi’s and White-browed Hemispinguses, Apurimac and Cusco Brush-Finches, and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch.

With luck we will find some of the rarer specialities, which include Taczanowski’s Tinamou, ’Hocking’s’ Parakeet, ‘Apurimac’ Screech-Owl, Royal Cinclodes and Vilcabamba Brush-Finch.

A veritable feast of southern Peruvian endemics and restricted-range species awaits us in the Cusco Andes.

A spectacular Andean road (known as the Kosnipata or Manu Road) then takes us to the cloud-forested slopes of Peru’s eastern Andes, for the most part inside the immense Manu Biosphere Reserve, where an astonishing lek of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, a parade of iridescent hummingbirds and swirls of colourful tanagers form only a fraction of the excitements. Amidst breathtaking mountain scenery, a short stay at a lodge at the upper edge of the cloudforest and then a longer stay at a lodge at middle elevation on the Manu road (lower subtropical and upper tropical elevations) will enable us to spend time sorting through an overwhelming variety of montane birds, many of which can only be found here and in adjacent northern Bolivia.

Restricted-range specialities at these altitudes in the Manu include Yungas Pygmy-Owl, Wire-crested Thorntail, Peruvian Piedtail, Buff-thighed Puffleg, Rufous-capped Thornbill, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Black-throated and Blue-banded Toucanets, Versicoloured Barbet, Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner, Bamboo Antshrike, Yellow-breasted Warbling-Antbird, Red-and-white Antpitta, Slaty Gnateater, Band-tailed Fruiteater, the recently-described Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulet, Bolivian and Red-billed Tyrannulets, Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher, Inca and Olive Tufted Flycatchers, Yungas Manakin, White-collared Jay, Fulvous Wren, Slaty Tanager, Cuzco Warbler and Grey-eared Brush Finch. Golden-plumed Parakeet, Peruvian Recurvebill, Chestnut-crested Cotinga and Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant are also found here, but rarely seen.

More widespread but good birds found in this part of Manu include Black-and-chestnut and Montane Solitary Eagles, Swallow-tailed and Lyre-tailed Nightjars, the rare Andean Potoo, the magnificent Crested Quetzal and Crimson-bellied Woodpecker.

Reaching the headwaters of the Alto Madre de Dios, at the edge of the Amazonian lowlands, our lowest altitude stay during our Andean travels will be amongst a carpet of unfolding green foothills. Here we will explore second growth habitats of various ages amid tracts of primary forest, and in particular groves of bamboo, all of which offer excellent opportunities to see a wide variety of species.

Special birds here include Blue-headed Macaw, Gould’s Jewelfront, Koepcke’s Hermit, Western Striolated Puffbird, Fine-barred Piculet, Manu, White-lined and Goeldi’s Antbirds, Fiery-capped Manakin, Johannes’s Tody-Tyrant and Yellow-crested Tanager. There is even a possibility of seeing some of the more difficult specialities such as Black-capped Tinamou, Razor-billed Curassow, Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail, White-browed Hermit, Rufous-webbed Brilliant and Scarlet-hooded Barbet.

Birdquest has operated Peru tours since 1982.

Machupicchu Option: We can easily arrange for you to visit Machupicchu either before or after the tour, spending either one or two nights at a good hotel near the ruins, and either with or without a local cultural guide to look after you, according to your personal choice. You will travel by train to the world-famous ruins. Even the journey from Cusco is interesting in itself, with the train manoeuvring its way through a series of switchbacks to descend the Andes and then travelling down the scenic Urubamba Valley.

The ‘Lost City of the Incas’ is so well known from the numerous photographs and articles that feature this extraordinary place that it seems almost unnecessary to describe its dramatic setting amongst the Andes. The city is perched on a narrow ridge high above the Urubamba River and on seeing the precipitous slopes on all sides one can easily appreciate why it remained undiscovered for so many years. Exploring this wonderful place is definitely a highlight of a journey to Peru. There will be no new birds there though (we will have seen everything that can usually be seen here during the tour itself), which is why we keep Machupicchu as an option for a private excursion. Please contact the Birdquest office.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels in Cusco and Ollantaitambo are of good standard, those in Abancay and Quillabamba are of medium standard. The guesthouse at Vilcabamba is basic, with no hot water. Elsewhere, we stay in delightfully-situated, comfortable but fairly simple lodges along the Manu road (they lack electricity, so lighting is by gas or paraffin lamps). Bathroom facilities are shared at Wayqecha Biological Station at Pillahuata. Road transport is by small coach or minibus. Roads range from reasonable to poor.

Walking: The walking effort during our Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu tour is easy for the most part, sometimes moderate.

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 Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu tour are worthwhile.


PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals, entrance fees and tips/gratuities. 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: £530, $690, €600.

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


2020: £4840, $6290, €5590. Cusco/Cusco.
2021: provisional £4840, $6290, €5590. Cusco/Cusco.

Single Supplement: 2020: £450, $590, €520.
Single Supplement: 2021: £450, $590, €520.

The single 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.

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.

CUSCO ANDES & MANU, PERU TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 1  Our tour begins this morning at Cusco (or Cuzco) airport.

(There are frequent flights between Lima and Cusco. There is a good quality hotel inside the terminal complex at Lima, where we can book a room for you, so there is no need to leave the airport should you need an overnight stop en route to Cusco.)

First we will visit an area of shallow lakes and surrounding shrubby grasslands. Our main goals are to find the Bearded Mountaineer, a spectacular endemic hummingbird restricted to just a few arid valleys, and the endemic Rusty-fronted Canastero.

Other birds we may well encounter here are White-tufted Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Western Cattle and Great Egrets, Cocoi and Little Blue Herons, Puna Ibis, Yellow-billed, Puna and Cinnamon Teals, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Duck, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Cinereous Harrier, Variable Hawk, Mountain Caracara, American Kestrel, Aplomado Falcon, Plumbeous Rail, Common Gallinule, Slate-coloured Coot, Andean Lapwing, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Andean Gull, Spot-winged Pigeon, West Peruvian and Eared Doves, Bare-faced Ground-Dove, Burrowing Owl, White-collared Swift, the impressive Giant Hummingbird (which has a flight action not unlike a bee-eater), Black-tailed and Green-tailed Trainbearers, Andean Flicker, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Wren-like Rushbird, Many-coloured Rush-Tyrant, Andean Negrito, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Chiguanco Thrush, Hooded Siskin, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Cinereous Conebill, the near-endemic Black-throated Flower-piercer, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Band-tailed Seedeater and Greenish Yellow-Finch. We may also come across Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant.

On leaving the Cusco area we will pass through the ancient landscapes of that empire, with the towering peaks of the Cordillera Vilcabamba lining our route. Once away from Cusco we begin to work our way through the arid intermontane valleys of the Apurimac, on our way to Abancay, which sits in the Apurimac canyon on the ecotone between the xeric habitats of the lower canyon and the semi-humid cloud forests of Bosque Ampay.

Stopping west of the canyon, we shall explore some excellent cloudforest with a magnificent vista of distant snow-capped peaks. We shall search for two endemics, Creamy-crested Spinetail and Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, both of which are somewhat numerous here, before we enter the more species rich humid forests nearby. Here we shall look for the endemic Apurimac Spinetail and the undescribed endemic ‘Ampay’ Tapaculo, both of which are quite common at this site. We should also see the endemic White-tufted Sunbeam, the lovely Great Sapphirewing, the endemic Coppery-naped Puffleg and Scaled Metaltail. In the late afternoon we will continue to Abancay for a two nights stay.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 2  This morning we will explore nearby sites in the spectacular Apurimac canyon. A pre-dawn start should put us in prime position to search for the recently discovered ‘Apurimac’ Screech-Owl. This taxon is closely related to Koepcke’s Screech-Owl, but most likely deserves specific status, as might the undescribed form of Glaucidium pygmy-owl found here. With luck we will see both of these taxa.

As dawn lights the canyon we are presented with the spectacle of towering cliffs and cactus-clad slopes. Our first target is the ‘White-tailed’ form of the Pale-tailed Canastero, a distinctive taxon and likely a separate species in its own right. We shall also find White-eared Puffbird, Crested Becard and, if we are lucky, ‘Hocking’s’ Parakeet; a recently described form that is intermediate between Mitred and Scarlet-fronted Parakeets.

As soon as we have found our targets we shall climb up to Bosque Ampay, a protected forest just above town. This isolated montane forest is a National Sanctuary and protects large tracts of Podocarpus, the only native conifer of Peru. Although, species diversity is not high, the level of endemism is impressive. The forests harbour good numbers of the endemic Apurimac Brush-Finch. The fields and scrubby pastures are known to hold the near-endemic Taczanowski’s Tinamou, which we should find if we are lucky. The forests here hold a number of less numerous montane species, including the remarkable Sword-billed Hummingbird, Andean Parakeet, an undescribed species of Taphrospilus hummingbird, Purple-backed Thornbill, Undulated Antpitta and White-browed Conebill.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 3  Working our way out of the Apurimac canyon, we shall explore humid forest fragments on the east side of Bosque Ampay and semi-arid intermontane habitats en route to Mollepacta and the Sacred valley where we search for any species we may have missed. In the late afternoon we continue to Ollantaytambo for a two nights stay.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 4  The Abra Malaga area of Peru is well known for its avian specialities and we shall explore both sides of the pass from which the area takes its name. The road up to the pass is an endless series of hairpin bends through dry, scrubby country and then puna grasslands and some patches of stunted, high altitude Polylepis woodland. The pass itself lies at over 4300m (14,108ft) and from there the road drops rapidly into the humid cloudforest hung with epiphytes that is so typical of the eastern slopes of the Andes.

The scenery at the pass is dramatic and on clear days the huge ice-clad peak of Veronica and its associated glacier form a magnificent backcloth to our birding. Llamas graze on the slopes, tended by Quechua Indians whose lifestyle seems little changed since Inca days, whilst overhead we may see the bird that epitomizes the high Andes – the Andean Condor.

Weather conditions permitting, we will make an optional hike up to the ridge near the pass in order to bird a patch of Polylepis woodland for the endemic White-browed Tit-Spinetail and the near-endemic Ashy-breasted Tit-Tyrant. The very rare, near-endemic Royal Cinclodes has become increasingly difficult to find at this locality, but we will try our hardest, and we will likely find Blue-mantled Thornbill, Tawny Tit-Spinetail, the endemic Junin Canastero, the restricted-range Puna Tapaculo, Giant Conebill and, with luck, D’Orbigny’s Chat-Tyrant.

As we descend the valley beneath the looming peak we may well see Andean Goose, the rare Andean Ibis, Puna Ground-Tyrant, Red-rumped Bush-Tyrant, Peruvian, Plumbeous and Ash-breasted Sierra-Finches, Plain-coloured Seedeater and lower down a good number of hummingbirds, including Shining Sunbeam and Sparkling Violetear.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 5  Crossing over the pass today, we find that not only is there a great variety of different species in the Abra Malaga area, but that the avifauna undergoes a sudden and decisive shift as one crosses from the dry side to the wet side. After leaving Ollantaytambo today we will explore the humid forests of the east flank of the Andes before we reach the Vilcabamba area for an overnight stay.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 6  Today we explore the temperate forests of the Cordillera Vilcabamba. Departing early, we shall climb up into the high part of the Vilcabamba to explore a very infrequently visited area which holds a number of endemics. We shall be searching for Vilcabamba Thistletail, Vilcabamba Tapaculo, Cusco Brush-Finch and the rare Vilcabamba Brush-Finch (we will need luck to find the latter).

In addition to these specialties, we will also see a good variety of mid-elevation species of the eastern slopes of the Andes in southern Peru. Amongst the species we may well find here are Torrent Duck, Andean Guan, Mitred Parakeet, Chestnut-collared and White-tipped Swifts, Highland Motmot, Azara’s Spinetail, Variable Antshrike, Sierran Elaenia, Sclater’s and Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulets, Smoke-coloured Pewee, Black Phoebe, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Blue-and-white Swallow, White-capped Dipper, Brown-capped Vireo, Dusky-green Oropendola, Tropical Parula, Slate-throated Redstart, Capped Conebill, Oleaginous Hemispingus, Yellow-bellied Seedeater, Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch and a colourful array of tanagers including Saffron-crowned, Blue-necked, Beryl-spangled, Blue-and-black, Silver-backed, Blue-grey and Blue-capped Tanagers, and the restricted-range Rust-and-yellow Tanager.

Hummingbirds could well include Chestnut-breasted Coronets, Speckled Hummingbird, Gould’s Inca (sometimes split from Collared), Booted Racket-tail, White-bellied Woodstar and the endemic Green-and-white Hummingbird.

Afterwards we will head for Quillabamba for a two nights stay.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 7  In the Quillabamba region our primary focus will be on some additional Peruvian endemics, namely Puna Thistletail, Marcapata Spinetail, Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant, Parodi’s and White-browed Hemispinguses, and the relatively recently described Inca Wren.

Amongst the many other species we may well see are the restricted-range Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Tyrian Metaltail, Slender-billed Miner, Cream-winged and White-winged Cinclodes, Streak-throated and Line-fronted Canasteros, Pearled Treerunner, Stripe-headed Antpitta, Trilling (or Grey) Tapaculo, the recently described and range-restricted Diademed Tapaculo, Red-crested Cotinga, White-throated Tyrannulet, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Rufous-breasted and Brown-backed Chat-Tyrants, Taczanowski’s Ground-Tyrant, the restricted-range Pale-footed Swallow, Andean Swallow, Paramo Pipit, Mountain Wren, Great Thrush, Spectacled Whitestart, Citrine Warbler, Blue-backed Conebill, the restricted-range Moustached Flowerpiercer, Masked Flower-piercer, Tit-like Dacnis, the striking Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, the restricted-range Chestnut-bellied Mountain-Tanager, the restricted-range Golden-collared Tanager, the lovely Three-striped Hemispingus, Golden-billed Saltator and Plush-capped Finch (or Plushcap).

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 8  After some more birding at Abra Malaga, we will return to Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incan Empire, for an overnight stay. Here, in this high Andean city that epitomizes Peru, the blend of Spanish and Inca elements has resulted in a unique architecture, and in the narrow streets colourful Quechua Indians sell their varied handicrafts.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 9  An early start will find us travelling through a varied Andean landscape, where pre-Incan ruins can be found, before ascending into a series of arid, brushy inter-montane valleys. Reaching a high mountain pass at around 3800m (12,468ft) at Ajcanacu, we will begin our journey into a vast intact wilderness area as we descend along the sinuous Kosnipata (or Cosnipata) road (commonly referred to as the Manu Road) that will take us to the Manu foothills. Along the extraordinary altitudinal transect that this remarkable road represents, new bird species continually appear whilst others drop out.

Initially, the steep Andean slopes are clad in stunted forest, temperate shrubbery and wet paramo, but we are already likely to have seen the birds of this habitat. A little lower down, where the magnificent cloudforests begin, we shall look out for White-throated Hawks soaring over the impressive slopes.

As we descend Peru’s sinuous Manu road further we will have our first opportunity to sample its upper elevation forests. Eventually, after passing through some splendid cloudforest, we shall reach the Pillahuata area where we will overnight at about 2800m (9200ft) at Wayqecha Biological Station. With a little luck we will see a Swallow-tailed Nightjar this evening.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 10  Here in the temperate life zone, epiphytes such as mosses, ferns and water-filled bromeliads are abundant and temperatures are much cooler than at lower levels. Here we shall seek such spectacular birds as Crimson-mantled Woodpecker and Blue-banded Toucanet, whilst the hummingbird parade may include the dazzling, restricted-range Rufous-capped Thornbill.

Sorting through mixed flocks, we hope to find Montane Woodcreeper, Streaked Tuftedcheek, White-banded Tyrannulet, Handsome and Inca Flycatchers, Barred Becard, Mountain Wren, Pale-legged Warbler, Capped Conebill, Grass-green Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Yellow-whiskered Bush-Tanager, and Black-capped, Black-eared and Superciliaried Hemispinguses.

Other specialities in this part of Peru include such restricted range species as Hooded Tinamou and Stripe-faced Wood-Quail (although both species are only likely to be heard if encountered at all), Yungas Pygmy-Owl, the vocal but hard-to-see endemic Red-and-white Antpitta, Band-tailed Fruiteater, White-collared Jay and Fulvous Wren.

Additional species we may find in this area of Peru include Band-tailed Pigeon, Speckle-faced and Scaly-naped Parrots, Azara’s Spinetail, the crisply-patterned Striped Treehunter, Barred Fruiteater, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, the near-endemic Olive Tufted Flycatcher, Pale-edged Flycatcher, Maroon-chested Chat-Tyrant, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Glossy-black Thrush, Mountain Cacique (the local form is sometimes treated as a distinct species; Bolivian Cacique) and Blue-and-yellow Tanager. Eventually we shall reach Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge in the cloudforest of the San Pedro area where we will stay for three nights.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Days 11-12  Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge is situated at an altitude of around 1500m (4900ft) on Peru’s famous Manu road and is perfectly positioned for an in-depth exploration of the upper tropical, subtropical and lower temperate life zones with their spectacular avifauna.

Hummingbird feeders placed off the porch attract thirsty Many-spotted Hummingbirds and Violet-fronted Brilliants, and within a relatively short distance there is a lek of the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. As always, this is a mind-boggling bird to see displaying. With its combination of brilliant colour and fantastic, delicately elaborated feather structure, the male cock-of-the-rock is second only to the most spectacular of the birds of paradise. The displays of these splendid birds and their unearthly strangled shrieks will be emblazoned in our memories for years to come.

Close to the lodge, the upper tropical and lower subtropical life zones intergrade, making for an extraordinarily rich avifauna. Here we shall search for the restricted-range Slaty Gnateater and the recently-described, endemic Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulet. At night we will look for the spectacular Lyre-tailed Nightjar and the handsome Rufescent Screech-Owl.

The Andean slopes of Peru are well known for their spectacular tanager assemblies, and there are few localities with richer assemblages than here. As the mist rolls in, flocks of these colourful frugivores reveal their spectrum of bright hues, usually accompanied by representatives of more modestly-clad but equally interesting families. In areas below and above the lodge we shall move slowly, listening for the call-notes of these spectacular gatherings, and amongst the many species we may find in the mixed feeding flocks are the multi-hued, restricted-range Versicoloured Barbet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Montane Foliage-gleaner, Yellow-breasted Antwren, Streak-necked, Slaty-capped and Lemon-browed Flycatchers, the restricted-range Bolivian Tyrannulet, Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Grey-mantled Wren, Andean and White-eared Solitaires, Tropical Parula, Russet-crowned and Three-striped Warblers, Slate-throated Whitestart, Golden-eyed (or Deep-blue) and Bluish Flower-piercers, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Fawn-breasted, Yellow-throated, Orange-eared, Golden-naped, Spotted, Paradise, Golden-eared (uncommon), Golden and Bay-headed Tanagers, the restricted-range Slaty Tanager, Yellow-throated and Common Bush-Tanagers, and the endemic Grey-eared (or Black-faced) Brush-Finch. There is even an undescribed tanager species known from this location, although it appears to be very uncommon.

Nearly as striking are the majestic Golden-headed and Crested Quetzals which regularly visit the moss-festooned trees to pluck away their protein and vitamin-packed fruits. Hummingbirds are a special treat in this miraculous habitat and their numbers and diversity can be truly impressive. A variety of red and orange flowers attract such jewels as Speckled Hummingbird, Booted Rackettail, Long-tailed Sylph and the restricted-range Buff-thighed Puffleg, and often the restricted-range Wire-crested Thorntail. These forest-clad mountains are also the hunting terrain of the magnificent Montane Solitary and Black-and-chestnut Eagles, and as the morning sun warms up the crisp air we shall scan the skies for these huge raptors. Both are uncommon, however, so if we see one of them we will count ourselves fortunate.

Additional birds we may encounter at these altitudes include Brown Tinamou (as so often, far more likely to be heard than seen), Broad-winged Hawk, White-throated Quail-Dove (uncommon), Plum-crowned Parrot, Scaly-naped Amazon, Chestnut-collared Swift, Green Violetear, Many-spotted and Wedge-billed Hummingbirds, Bronzy Inca, Masked Trogon, Andean Motmot, Lanceolated Monklet and Black-streaked Puffbird (both uncommon), the restricted-range Black-throated Toucanet, the restricted-range Blue-banded Toucanet, Grey-breasted Mountain-Toucan, and Crimson-bellied and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers.

Passerines include Ash-browed Spinetail, Black-billed Treehunter, Streaked Xenops, Barred Antthrush (likely to be heard rather than seen), Northern White-crowned Tapaculo, Mottle-backed Elaenia, the endemic Inca Flycatcher, Unadorned, Cinnamon, Lemon-browed and Golden-crowned Flycatchers, Scale-crested Pygmy-Tyrant, Ochre-faced Tody-flycatcher, Smoke-coloured Pewee, the restricted-range Yungas Manakin, Inca Jay, Southern Rough-winged Swallow, Grey-breasted Wood-Wren, Pale-eyed Thrush, Bronze-green and Orange-bellied Euphonias, Two-banded Warbler, the near-endemic Cuzco Warbler, Olivaceous Siskin, Crested, Dusky-green and Russet-backed Oropendolas, Black-goggled Tanager, Purple Honeycreeper, Golden-collared Honeycreeper (uncommon) and Buff-throated Saltator. The localized Golden-plumed Parakeet and Chestnut-crested Cotinga, and the restricted-range Rufous-bellied Bush-Tyrant all occur in the area, but are rarely seen.

Below our lodge are picturesque, forest-covered ridges, and deep below us the rushing Kosnipata (or Cosnipata) River tumbles through a narrow gorge where we shall scan the boulder-strewn rapids for Fasciated Tiger-Heron, Black Phoebe and White-capped Dipper.

We will spend time birding the upper tropical forests of the foothills, where stands of Guadua bamboo can be found in places, in search of such species as Military Macaw, the endemic Peruvian Piedtail, the restricted-range Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Cabanis’s Spinetail, the restricted-range Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner and the near-endemic Peruvian Recurvebill (the latter is uncommon), Red-billed Scythebill, the restricted-range Bamboo Antshrike, Chestnut-backed and Variable Antshrikes, Stripe-chested, Ornate and Dot-winged Antwrens, the restricted-range Yellow-breasted Warbling-Antbird, Black Antbird, White-backed Fire-eye, Rufous-breasted Antthrush and Scaled Antpitta (both much more likely to be heard than seen), the near-endemic Cerulean-capped Manakin (which sadly is only rarely encountered), Ornate Flycatcher, the restricted-range Red-billed Tyrannulet and the delightful endemic Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher. With a modicum of luck we will find an Amazonian Umbrellabird perched in a roadside tree.

Cleared areas may produce Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Smooth-billed Ani, the odd-looking Swallow-Tanager, Silver-beaked Tanager, Blue-black Grassquit, Black-and-white and Chestnut-bellied Seedeaters, and Lesser Seed-Finch. During good weather, raptors often soar overhead and we shall keep an eye out for White Hawk and Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle in particular.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 13  We will again work our way down through the upper tropical zone, birding as we go, but this time we will keep on going downhill. Eventually we will near the Alto Madre de Dios river and by late afternoon we will arrive at our pleasant lodge for a two nights stay.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 14  Once a working tea plantation, years of disuse have transformed the lodge into a birder’s paradise, one of the prime spots in Peru, set at about 500m (1640ft) above sea-level near the bottom of the Manu road. Around this picturesque lodge with its air of genteel past, most of the forest is in various stages of regrowth, favoured by a wide array of birds including quite a few that avoid mature forests. The proximity of higher ridges further adds to the avian diversity by contributing several foothill species.

Foremost among the many attractions here is the antbird extravaganza. Amongst the many likely species here are Fasciated, Great, Plain-winged and Bluish-slate Antshrikes, Pygmy and Grey Antwrens, Amazonian Streaked-Antwren, Grey, White-browed, Silvered, Southern Chestnut-tailed, Black-throated, Band-tailed and Spot-backed Antbirds, the restricted-range Manu, White-lined and Goeldi’s Antbirds, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Black-faced Antthrush, Amazonian and Thrush-like Antpitta (both hard to see rather than hear). With persistence we should get to see and not just hear the great majority of them. This is also a good place for the shy Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo.

Such restricted-range species as Fine-barred Piculet, Fiery-capped Manakin and Johannes’s Tody-Tyrant can often be found here as well, and sometimes even the elusive Black-capped Tinamou and the near-endemic Scarlet-hooded Barbet can be seen.

False Vervain flowers and hummingbird feeders in the lodge garden attract a multitude of dazzling hummingbirds, with possibilities including White-necked Jacobin, Violet-headed Hummingbird, the restricted-range Rufous-crested Coquette, Blue-tailed and Sapphire-spangled Emeralds, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Golden-tailed Sapphire and Amethyst Woodstar. Although the hummingbird feeders are usually dominated by the large Grey-breasted Sabrewing, patience should also reward us with the lovely but localized Gould’s Jewelfront and the endemic Koepcke’s Hermit.

A variety of birds can be observed from the lodge porch, including the huge Boat-billed Flycatcher, the noisy Pale-legged Hornero and the skulking Plain-crowned Spinetail. Male Yellow-rumped Caciques engage in vocal imitations from their nesting trees, while the bird table provides close-up views of Crimson Masked Tanagers, Red-capped Cardinals and Epaulet Orioles.

A small marsh provides shelter for secretive Blackish Rails, though we shall be fortunate if we get to see these vocal birds, while even harder to see is the small Uniform Crake, which prefers the undergrowth of dense swampy forest.

While climbing up the primary forest-clad ridge that overlooks the lodge we may encounter the terrestrial Grey-throated Leaftosser in the dark understorey and the unobtrusive Plain Antvireo, whilst lively mixed canopy flocks could hold Olivaceous and Ocellated Woodcreepers, Speckled Spinetail, Rufous-tailed Antwren, Spectacled Bristle-Tyrant and Olive Tanager.

At dusk and dawn we can try our luck with the nightbirds found in the vicinity of the lodge, which include Southern Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, Black-banded Owl, Great and Common Potoos, and Pauraque.

There is a very good selection of macaws and parrots, including Scarlet, Red-and-green, Chestnut-fronted and Red-bellied Macaws, the restricted-range Blue-headed Macaw, White-eyed, Dusky-headed and Cobalt-winged Parakeets, and Blue-headed Parrot.

Other birds we may well find in this wonderful area, many of which are widespread in Amazonia, include Great, Cinereous, Little and Undulated Tinamous (all hard to see rather than hear), Speckled Chachalaca, Spix’s Guan, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, Greater Yellow-headed and Black Vultures, Plumbeous Kite, the noisy Red-throated Caracara, Bat Falcon, Sungrebe, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Plumbeous and Ruddy Pigeons, White-tipped and Grey-fronted Doves, the strange Hoatzin, Squirrel Cuckoo, Short-tailed Swift, Black-eared Fairy, Black-tailed, Blue-crowned, Amazonian and Collared Trogons, Amazon Kingfisher, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, the restricted-range Western Striolated Puffbird (recently proposed as a distinct species), Black-fronted Nunbird, Swallow-winged Puffbird, Gilded and Lemon-throated Barbets (both are fairly uncommon here), Chestnut-eared Aracari, White-throated Toucan, and Yellow-tufted, Little and Lineated Woodpeckers.

Passerines include Chestnut-crowned Foliage-gleaner, Cinnamon-throated, Black-banded, Amazonian Barred, Tschudi’s and Buff-throated Woodcreepers, Rusty-belted Tapaculo (hard to see rather than hear), Ringed Antpipit, Yellow-crowned and White-lored Tyrannulets, Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, Rusty-fronted and Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatchers, Olive-faced Flatbill, Forest Elaenia, Long-tailed Tyrant, Ochre-bellied, Piratic, Social, Grey-capped, Sulphur-bellied, Streaked, Dusky-capped and Short-crested Flycatchers, Great Kiskadee, Tropical Kingbird, White-winged Becard, Wing-barred Piprites, the lovely Plum-throated Cotinga, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin, Fiery-capped, Band-tailed and Round-tailed Manakins, Red-eyed Vireo, Dusky-capped Greenlet, Violaceous and Purplish Jays, Black-capped Donacobius, Scaly-breasted and Moustached Wrens, Tawny-faced Gnatwren, Black-billed and Hauxwell’s Thrushes, Olivaceous Siskin, Thick-billed Euphonia, Buff-rumped Warbler, Olive Oropendola, Solitary Cacique, Giant Cowbird, Pectoral Sparrow, Bananaquit, Magpie, White-shouldered, Palm, Turquoise, Green-and-gold, Opal-crowned and Olive Tanagers, the restricted-range Yellow-crested Tanager, Blue Dacnis, Green Honeycreeper, Slate-coloured Grosbeak, and Greyish Saltator. Migrant species from the Northern Hemisphere present during the appropriate season include Swainson’s Thrush and Scarlet and Summer Tanagers.

If we are fortunate we will find a few of the more difficult species of the area, such as the restricted-range Buckley’s Forest-Falcon, Wattled Guan and Razor-billed Curassow (both more likely to be heard than seen), Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail (also much easier to hear than see), Sapphire Quail-Dove, Long-tailed Potoo, White-chinned Swift, the restricted-range White-browed Hermit, the endemic Rufous-webbed Brilliant, White-throated Woodpecker, Ash-throated Gnateater, Spectacled Bristle-Tyrant.

Mammals are likely to include Black-capped Squirrel, Peruvian Spider and Common Woolly Monkeys, and perhaps Brown Titi and Brown Agouti.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 15  After some final birding at lower altitude, we will ascend to Weyqecha Biological Station near Pillahuata for an overnight stay.

Peru’s Cusco Andes & Manu: Day 16  After a final morning in the Andes we will return to Cusco airport, where our tour ends in the afternoon.

PERU: CUSCO ANDES TO MANU TOUR REPORT 2017

by Pete Morris

View Report

Other Peru birding tours by Birdquest include: