Peru is home to 120 species of hummingbird, a third of all known species. Amongst these 14 species are only found in Peru, mostly having small ranges within the Andes. Hummingbirds are one of the most distinctive and specialised bird families that hold a special attraction for birders.
Their diminutive size, aerial mastery, bright colours and spectacular plumage ornaments make them seem from another world and the names they have been given, Woodnymphs, Sylphs, Comets, Sunbeams, Woodstars etc., reflect our attraction to this fascinating family of birds living at the extreme of what it is to be a bird. Hummingbirds are restricted to the Americas where their diversity is concentrated in the tropical Andes.
Koepcke’s Hermit, recently discovered in 1977, is restricted to low outlying mountain ranges on the outer ridges of the eastern Andes with a disjunct range extending from San Martin to Madre de Dios.
Peruvian Piedtail inhabits forest interiors in the eastern foothills from San Martin to Cusco. The area below San Pedro on Manu Road is perhaps the best spot for finding this species, though it has recently started visiting feeders below Abra Patricia making it much easier to see.
Surprisingly, the spectacular Bronze-tailed Comet is not a well-known hummingbird though but widespread in the western Andes from La Libertad to Arequipa, occupying arid scrub and woods in these montane areas.
The magnificent Grey-bellied Comet is a large, unmistakable Andean hummingbird that is currently known only from a very small area near the city of Cajamarca in north-central Peru, now mainly restricted to the canyon of the Rio Chonta where a few pairs persist. This comet is extremely territorial and is dominant over all other species of hummingbird at flowering plants.
Photo credit: Grey-bellied Comet, Rob Williams c/o PromPeru
Located in central Peru the Black-breasted Hillstar inhabits puna with shrub and cushion cacti, most often their favoured Chuquiraga plants are found. They also like grassy slopes, rocky areas with fertile soil, and gardens.
Photo credit: Black-breasted Hillstar, Rob Williams c/o PromPeru
Bearded Mountaineer is a large species with a long, forked tail. They inhabit dry montane scrub, bush-filled and lightly wooded areas, rocky outcrops, and gorges in the valleys of the southern Andes, often being found at stands of Nicotiana, an exotic tobacco tree.
Photo credit: Bearded Mountaineer, Green Tours
Three endemics are in the genus Metallura, the Metaltails. These mid-sized species all occupy similar high altitude habitats at the treeline. The Black Metaltail in the western Andes from Cajamarca to Arequipa, the Coppery Metaltail to the east of the Marañón river in northern Peru, and the Fire-throated Metaltail in eastern central Peru.
The Marvelous Spatuletail, one of the most distinctive of all hummingbirds with only 4 tail feathers, two of which have large purple “spatules” which are waved in its amazing display, is only found in a small area of the upper Utcubamba valley, where it is most easily seen at the Humebo visitor centre near the town of Pomacochas in Amazonas.
Read More: Taking the Northern Peru Birding Route
Photo credit: Marvelous Spatuletail, Manu Birding Lodge
Two are Sunbeams in the genus Aglaeactis. The White-tufted Sunbeam inhabits humid montane scrub in the central and southern Andes. The Purple-backed Sunbeam is restricted to a tiny area on the west side of the Marañón valley in La Libertad and is only known from a single accessible locality at the village of El Molino.
The Spot-throated Hummingbird favours arid habitats of the Marañón valley where it can be very common. The Green-and white Hummingbird frequents the humid montane forest in the south-east being easily found at Machu Picchu.
Several of hummingbirds are nearly endemic to Peru such as the Royal Sunangel which is best seen at Abra Patricia in Amazonas, the Peruvian Sheartail which can be found in the parks and gardens of Lima, and the Oasis Hummingbird found in the deserts of western Peru. On-going studies into hummingbird taxonomy and the acceptance of less conservative taxonomic treatments will likely result in the recognition of more endemic species for Peru such as the spectacular whitetailed albicaudata form of the Violet-throated Starfrontlet, which is already afforded species rank by some.
The endemic hummingbirds are a great attraction for keen birders but also appeal to anyone with any interest in the natural world.
Are you interested in seeing the Endemic Hummingbirds of Peru?
For more information, contact one of our Peruvian Wildlife Specialists to book directly your next Hummingbird adventure or search the name of the species to bring up a list of the local wildlife specialists who could show you a desired hummingbird species.
Peru Export and Tourism Board
Originally Published: 13th November 2018