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Birding in the Peruvian Amazon

  |   Wildlife & Flora

An Amazon river cruise with Rainforest Cruises is a chance to see birds that you cannot see anywhere else in the world. Did you know there are more than 2,000 species of bird in Amazonia? These aren't every day sights for birdwatchers, the Amazon is a bucket list location for keen birdwatchers to see some of the world's most unique creatures in their natural habitat, some of which are completely unique to their location. Whether you are a keen birdwatcher or not, the Amazon's thriving selection of beautiful feathered-friends will undoubtedly enhance your Amazon cruise experience.  

Wire-Tailed Manakin - Pipra filicauda

Wire-Tailed Manakin - Pipra filicauda

Most of the bird species in the Amazonia region can be found in Colombia, with 1,821 species, second is Peru, which has a confirmed 1,781 species and Brazil is the third, with 1,712 species. Ecuador and Bolivia fall just behind these destinations with their large numbers. However, this is constantly changing, as the number of confirmed species of bird in Peru is increasing by one every year. 


Brazil, as you might expect given its vast size, has the highest number of endemic species, with a whopping 204 species native to the country, but Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador each have their own large populations of native species too. However, Peru has set a number of records for the the highest concentrated areas of bird species.


Famously, a birding team from LSU (Dan Lane, Mike Harvey, Glenn Seeholzer) and Peru (Fernando Angulo of Corbidi) set the record for the number of bird species seen in 24 hours (354 species) on the way to Abra Patricia Moyobamba in San Martin and Amazonas. And in 1982, the record was set for the greatest number of bird species seen in a single location in 24 hours at the Cocha Cashu Biological Station in the Manu National Park, when LSU researcher Ted Parker and Princeton graduate Scott Robinson spotted 331 species. It has since been broken in Kenya with 342 species by using light aircraft. 


The Global “Big Day” competition was held in May 2015 by Cornell Lab, and Peru came out on top, with 1182 bird species seen in 24 days across the country, Brazil came second with 1124 species. These findings suggest that while Brazil is bigger and therefore naturally has a high number of bird species, Peru has a higher density of bird species


So, why are there so many birds in Peru?


As one of the three most diverse countries for birds on earth, its varied geography and wildernesses have a number of different life zones, these have armed Peru with some of the highest bio-diversity areas that are home to largest density of birds. Peru has vast tracks of rainforest that are completely unexplored, such as two-thirds of the Manu Biosphere reserve, with undiscovered tribes and birds that are gradually being uncovered. 

Great Egret - Ardea alba

Great Egret - Ardea alba

The country is so large you cannot cover all of the birding sites in one visit. About half of Peru is forest, and of this, more than 80% is classified as primary forest. Its proximity to the equator and size gives Peru a wide variety of tropical climates. The variety of climates that can be found across the county are suitable for a number of creatures, from hot and humid in the north and cool and humid in the center to mild and dry in the south, every climate is home to different types of animals.


Tropical forests are thought to be the oldest biome (a major community of plants and animals characterised by the adaptations to that particular environment) on earth. This means the animals and plants in the region have had plenty of time to diversify, while the warm, humid and predictable climates of the tropical rainforest are thought to be a very habitable environment for creatures all y ear round, particularly when compared with the harsh conditions of the Arctic, which has very few groups of people and species. 


Tropical rainforests also have a number of layers in their make up, providing plenty of homes for birds and their prey, such as insects and rodents. There is the tall canopy, perfect for birds, the mid-layers of the forest, for rodents, and ground-dwelling herbs and shrubs for insects. 


Peru is also home to the Andes Mountain Range, the longest running mountain range in the world, as well as the Andes Tropical Hotspot, and the deepest gorge in the world, Canon del Colca. This region has the greatest diversity of hummingbirds in the world, including the world's largest hummingbird, the Giant Hummingbird

Giant Hummingbird - Patagona gigas

Giant Hummingbird - Patagona gigas

Peru's Birding Routes 


1. Northern Peru Route

1,600 + species of bird, 10 endemic areas, 140 restricted-range species and 75 globally threatened species


One of the most sought after routes on the birdwatching trail, this route covers the Pacific coast, the Andes and the Amazon basin. Taking in the diverse Maranon valley, tropical lowland rainforest, flooded forest and swamps, tropical dry forest, cloud forest and elfin forest. Spot the White-winged Guan and the Marvelous Spatuletail, both endemic species. 


2. Central Peru Route

250+ species of bird, lots are endemic and threatened 


It was on this route that legendary Ted Parker made the Central Highway trail famous, covering Lake Junin and the endangered Junin Grebe, Santa Eulalia Canyon, Marcapomacocha, Ticlio, Uchog, Carpish Pass, Tingo Maria and the lowland rainforest in Pucallpa. This route also takes in Peru's capital Lima, and has a number of excellent birding opportunities with the area's excellent infrastructure. This route is up and coming for birders and amenities are improving for birdwatchers. 


3. Southern Peru Route

1,000 + species of bird, lots are endemic and threatened 


The best-known Peruvian birding route, also known as the “megadiversity route”, the southern Peru route takes in Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Abra Malaga, Manu and Tambopata. A great route for cultural experiences, as well as birdwatching, spot the Titicaca Grebe, Hummingbird feeders and Macaw-licks on this route among many more. This adventurous trail is lacking in infrastructure and is generally for the more experienced traveler, although many bird enthusiasts choose this route as their first route in Peru because of the sheer numbers of interesting species, including Peru's national bird the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Blue and Gold macaw - Ara ararauna

Blue and Gold macaw - Ara ararauna


Peru's Top 12 Must-See Birds 


1. Marvelous Spatuletail: This endangered endemic species is a white, green and bronze hummingbird that can only be found in the Rio Utcubamga region of Peru. 


2. Blue and Gold Macaw: Found across the Amazon Rainforest region, the blue and gold macaw usually live in flocks of up to 100 birds. They mostly feed on fruits, seeds, nuts, leaves and flowers and use their strong beaks to prise open nut shells.


3. Long-whiskered Owlet: One of the rarest owls in the world, there are just 1,500 Long-whiskered Owlets left in the world after severe deforestation has cut back their numbers. Spot this bird in northern Peru. 


4. Curl-Crested Aracari: A species of bird in the Toucan family, the curl-crested aracari has a long tail and curly crest. It's generally rare to spot, but can be most frequently seen in the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru. 

Curl Crested Aracari - Pteroglossus beauharnaesii

Curl Crested Aracari - Pteroglossus beauharnaesii


5. Scarlet-banded Barbet: Endemic to the Cordillera Azul National Park in Loreto, Peru, the brightly-colored bird species can be found in central Peru. 


6. Harpy Eagle: This incredibly beautiful eagle is most often found in the lowland tropical forest and is the largest raptor in the Amazon Rainforest. Found covering large territories, the Harpy Eagle eats mammals, including other birds! This eagle is an Apex predator of the Amazon, alongside jaguars and anacondas. 


7. Andean Cock-of-the-Rock: Peru's national bird, the brightly-colored males can be spotted by their crest of scarlet or orange feathers and can be found in southern Peru.


8. Golden-backed Mountain-tanager: This endangered species can be found in elfin forests, although its population is decreasing in the Abiseo National Park.


Andean cock-of-the-rock - Rupicola peruvianus

Andean cock-of-the-rock - Rupicola peruvianus

9. Junin Grebe: The Junin Grebe is a flightless bird and lives in one lake in the Andes, Lake Junin, where you can spot it diving and swimming in the water.

10. Andean Condor: One of the world's largest flying birds, it has black feathers and a distinctive white neck ruff.  The Andean Condor can be seen flying above the Colca Canyon in southern Peru, or from an even better rocky viewpoint in Cajamarca.

11. White-winged Guan: This critically endangered species can be found in north-west Peru, with an estimated 350 individual birds left in the world.

12. Pale-billed Antpitta: The Pale-billed Antpitta usually be found in dense bamboo and in the north-central Andes of Peru, and has a black forecrown.  

Hoatzin - Opisthocomos hoazin

Hoatzin - Opisthocomos hoazin


Peruvian Amazon Bird Checklist:

  • Javiru
  • Muscovy Duck
  • Anhinga
  • Capped Heron
  • Striated Heron
  • Black-crowned night Heron Snowy Egret
  • Cattle Egret
  • Green Ibis
  • Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture Black Vulture
  • Gray Headed Kite
  • Plumbeous Kite
  • Slate Colored Hawk
  • Black Collared hawk
  • Black cara cara
  • Red-throated Cara Cara Sunbittern
  • Wattled Jacana
  • Large-billed Tern
  • Black Skimmer
  • Ruddy Pigeon
  • Red-bellied Macaw 
  • Scarlet Macaw
  • Dusky-headed Parakeet 
  • Tui Parakeet 
  • Blue-winged Parrotlet 
  • Blue-headad Parrot 
  • Mealy Parrot
  • Maroon Tailed Parakeet 
  • Smooth-billed Ani 
  • Hoatzin
  • Common Potoo 
  • Common Pauraque 
  • Fork tailed Palm Swift 
  • Black Throated mango 
  • White-tailed Trogon 
  • Ringed Kingfisher 
  • Green KingfisherGreen & rufuos Kingfisher 
  • Bluish-fronted Jacamar 
  • Scarlet-crowned Barbet
  • Chesnut-eared Aracari 
  • Yellow-tufted woodpecker 
  • Chestnut woodpecker 
  • Cream-colored Woodpecker 
  • Lineated Woodpecker 
  • Red & White Spinetail 
  • Lesser Kiskadee
  • Tropical Kingbird
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Bare necked Fruitcrow 
  • Brown-chested Martin 
  • Barn Swallow 
  • Chesnut-bellied seedeater 
  • Red-capped Cardinal 
  • Plum-throated Cotinga 
  • Masked crimson Tanager 
  • Paradise Tanager 
  • Troupial 
  • Russet-backed Oropendola 
  • Yellow-rumped Cacique
  • Yellow-hooded Blackbird 



If you are keen to know more about booking a Rainforest Cruise, then contact us to find out more about taking a cruise through the Peruvian Amazon. With a number of options to choose from, including land-based tours in Peru to Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu, there are a number of ways to explore the Amazon with Rainforest Cruises

  • Woodstork
  • Neotropic Cormorant
  • Rufescent Tiger Heron
  • Boat Billed Heron
  • Agami Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Cocoi Heron
  • Horned Screamer
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Great Yellow-headed Vulture
  • Swallow-tailed Kite
  • Snail Kite
  • Great Black Hawk
  • Osprey
  • Roadside Hawk
  • Yellow-headed cara cara
  • Laughing Falcon
  • Gray-necked Woodrail
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Yellow-billed Tern
  • Plumbeous Pigeon
  • Blue and Yellow Macaw
  • Chestnut-fronted Macaw
  • White-eyed Parakeet
  • Cobalt-winged Parakeet
  • Canary-winged Parakeet
  • Short tailed Parrot
  • Orange winged Parrot
  • Festive Parrot
  • Squirrel Cuckoo
  • Greater Ani
  • Great Potoo
  • Sand Colored Nighthawk
  • Short-tailed Swift
  • Lesser swallow-tailed Swift
  • Fork-tailed Woodnymph
  • Black-tailed Trogon
  • Amazon Kingfisher
  • Pygmy Kingfisher
  • White-eared Jacamar
  • Black-fronted Ninbird
  • Lettered Aracari 
  • Cuvier’s Toucan
  • Spot-Berated woodpecker
  • Yellow-throated woodpecker
  • Crimson-crested Woodpecker
  • Long Billed Woodcreeper
  • White-headed marsh-tyrant
  • Greater Kiskadee
  • Fork-tailed Flycatcher
  • Black-tailed Tityra
  • White-winged Swallow
  • Southern rough-winged swallow
  • Black-capped Donacobious
  • Lined Seedeater
  • Grayish Saltador
  • Silver-beaked Tanager
  • Blue-gray Tanager
  • Bananaquit
  • Palm Tanager
  • Crested Oropendola
  • Oriole Blackbird
  • Velvet-fronted Grackle

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About Rainforest Cruises

Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises and tours, providing you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Panama. As South American travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.


Geri Daniel loved her vacation with Rainforest Cruises.
We had an absolutely fabulous time on the cruise. Thank you again for the trip of a lifetime.
— Geri Daniel, Austin, TX
The Johannson family encounter a sloth on their rainforest cruise.
We had a wonderful time. We were all impressed with the efficiency and organization of the trip from start to finish.
— Jeanette Johannson & Family, USA