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Home > Peru Wildlife: 11 Top Peruvian Animals

An amazing fact: Peru wildlife consists of over 14,500 species of animals! No wonder the country’s ranked as a top destination for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. But there’s even more to this welcoming destination as it invites nature lovers to also experience first hand a land of ancient empires, hidden treasures, delicious cuisine, diverse landscapes and vast natural terrains that will awe and inspire.

Wildlife Tours in Peru

Wildlife tours in Peru can take you from the exotic Amazon jungle through the coastal desert plains to the breathtaking peaks of the Andes. Peru’s wealth of places to visit offers boundless potential for wildlife watching and cultural experiences.  Contact a local wildlife expert based in Peru to see first-hand amazing Peruvian wildlife.

Boundless Peru Wildlife Adventures

On your quest to see the wildlife of Peru you will almost certainly begin your trip in the capital, Lima. This is the starting point for the Ballestas islands and Paracas National Reserve with their populations of Humboldt Penguins. From the city you can also travel by plane, car or bus to see Peru’s native animals in Manu or Tambopata National Parks, or trek the hallowed Inca Trail to Machu Picchu looking for Andean condors along the way. And a trip north of Lima takes you to Peru’s Northern Birding Trail and national parks such as Pacaya-Samiria.

A tour of the Amazon rainforest will be a chance to seek out endangered species in Peru and add hundreds of forest birds to your life-list. Almost every ecolodge in the Amazon Basin lists over 600 bird species for their property and their knowledgeable guides can lead you to the haunts of a vast array of fascinating Peru native animals.

Peru wildlife is as diverse as you would imagine, given the range of different habitats to be found in the country. So there’s a good chance to catch sight of a Jaguar if you choose the right spot, or watch the mighty Harpy Eagle on its lofty perch with the help of a local guide. You will definitely be able to enjoy the slight of hundreds of colourful macaws at a clay lick if you travel to the south.

And if you paddle your way down the Amazon River or its many tributaries in a dugout canoe, or take a river boat cruise, you can encounter Giant Otters, Pink River Dolphins and sharp-toothed Spectacled Caimen. Hiking along the slopes of the Andes will bring you close to Andean Condors and a host of high-altitude endemics and the chance to rest with a Pisco Sour cocktail in a sleepy colonial town.

Wherever you go, Peru is a country full of exciting places to explore. Its vibrant Andean culture, one of the most exciting in the Americas, and its unique ecosystems combine to offer an unforgettable trip, and the strong desire to visit the wildlife in Peru again and again.

11 Top Peruvian Animals

To further whet your appetite for Peruvian wildlife, here are some of the animals on the most-wanted list for keen wildlife watchers.

1) Jaguar

Jaguar in PeruPhoto Credit: Explorer’s Inn, Jaguar

This beautiful big cat is the country’s largest feline, topping in size the Puma, Ocelot and Jaguarondi, Peru native animals that can also be seen in the same habitat. Jaguars are the apex predators in their environment, killing their prey with a powerful bite that’s strong enough to penetrate the skull and pierce the brain. Their jaws have double the biting strength of a lion’s.

A Jaguar’s spots are known as rosettes, because they resemble open roses. They differ from a Leopard’s because their rosettes have spots inside, whereas a Leopard’s don’t.

Jaguars are found in many habitats in Peru, including grasslands, wetlands and rainforest, but they are probably easiest to spot along riverbanks when they come down for a drink. Sometimes they can also be seen lounging in trees above the water.

These are solitary animals, though, and very shy of humans, and their hearing is exceptional so they can avoid contact if they hear you coming. The males’ territories can extend to 90 square kilometres, so you need an amount of luck and patience to stay quietly in areas where local guides have pinpointed favourite haunts in order to see one of these awe-inspiring examples of Peru wildlife.

The best months to catch sight of Jaguars are May, June and July.

Where to find Jaguars in Peru

Manu National Park
Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Tambopata National Reserve
Cordillera Azul National Park
Amotape Hills National Park
Tumbes National Reserve
Rio Abiseo National Park
Cutervo National Park

Who can take you to see Jaguars in Peru

Green Tours
Kolibri Expeditions
Manu Birding Lodge

2) Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Andean Cock-of-the-RockPhoto Credit: Green Tours, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

The national bird of Peru is a spectacular red/orange with black and grey wings and tail and a fan-shaped crest that, in the males, stretches over the bill. They get their name from their preference for rocky places in ravines, caves and even under bridges where they build their mud cup nests.

They are largish birds, with bodies around 32cm in length, living in the cloud forests of the Andes eating fruit and insects. Normally they are quite shy, so they are easiest to see when they are displaying at a lek – wing flapping, bowing and head bobbing to show off to other males and attract females. This is usually done in the early morning or late afternoon.

Where to find Andean Cock-of-the-rocks in Peru

Manu National Park
Cutervo National Park
Tingo Maria National Park

Who can take you to see Andean Cock-of-the-Rocks in Peru

Green Tours
Kolibri Expeditions
Manu Birding Lodge

Further Reading

3) Pink River Dolphin

This species of dolphin lives exclusively in fresh water, which can often be very murky, hence their small eyes and poor eyesight.

Pink River Dolphins can grow to be over 3m in length and weigh up to 160k. Instead of a dorsal fin they have a ridge and their flippers move in a circle to propel them along.

Like their ocean-going cousins, these dolphins use ecolocation to find their prey of shrimps, fish, turtles and crabs. They are intelligent and curious animals that can detect the hazards posed to them by humans and take steps to avoid them.

In some places there is a chance to swim with these aquatic members of Peru’s wildlife, but they must be treated with respect, as they are endangered creatures. So they should not be touched or even approached. However, if they do not perceive you to be a danger to them they may come close of their own accord to investigate.

Where to find Pink River Dolphins

Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Regional Conservation Area

4) Spectacled Bear

Peru animalPhoto: Spectacled Bear

Famously the inspiration for the fictional Paddington Bear, this small black or brown bear is the only ursine species found in South America. It lives in a high region of scrubby, alpine grassland and tropical mountain forest called the Puno.

Although they live high up, the climate is not particularly cold in the Puno and so the bears’ fur is thinner than is found on other species. They have very sharp, curved claws and strong forelegs to help them climb trees and dig termites out of their nest hills.

Apart from these insects these Peru native animals eat mainly fruit, berries and honey, although their strong jaws will chomp through bamboo, cacti and epiphytes, the tough tropical plants that live as parasites in the clefts of trees.

Where to find Spectacled Bears

Manu National Park
Huascarán National Park
Cutervo National Park
Amotape Hills National Park
Rio Abiseo National Park

Who can take you to see Spectacled Bears in Peru

Green Tours
Manu Birding Lodge

5) Harpy Eagle

harpy eaglePhoto: Harpy Eagle

This is one of the largest bird of prey in the world, with a wingspan of up to 2m. Its legs are as thick as a man’s wrist and it has talons that are around 8cm in length, drawing comparisons in size and strength with a Brown Bear’s claws.

As with many such birds the females are larger than the males, sometimes twice the size. They take care of their chicks for two years after they hatch, teaching them to hunt for their prey of monkeys and sloths.

They are specialists at flying in dense jungle so they have short wings and long tails. To help them listen out for prey in all the chatter of forest animals they have a facial disk – a circle of feathers that they can raise to channel sound into their ears.

Although they are active during the day, Harpy Eagles tend to perch high up in the trees so quality binoculars are recommended if you want to get a good view.

Where to find Harpy Eagles

Tambopata National Reserve
Manu National Park
Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Cordillera Azul National Park
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve

Who can take you to see Harpy Eagles in Peru

Explorer’s Inn
Green Tours
Kolibri Expeditions
Manu Birding Lodge

6) Giant River Otter

Otter in peruPhoto Credit: Machu Picchu Cuscu Birding, Giant River Otters

With their size and speed in the water, Giant River Otters have few predators. Jaguars are really the only Peru native animals these 1.8m-long freshwater mammals have to fear, although a large caimen or Anaconda can pose a challenge.

They are mainly fish eaters, although they will also dine out on crabs and water snakes, consuming around 3-4km of food a day. They have excellent eyesight for effective hunting so locals call them ‘wolves of the river’.

To raise their young they dig underground dens in riverbanks on slow-moving waterways. The young are born fully covered in water-repellent fur that even extends over their noses, and their nostrils and ears close up while they are swimming.

The white marks around a Giant Otter’s throat are unique to each animal, so individuals can be recognised from their fellows.

Read more about these charismatic members of Peru’s wildlife: Facts about Giant Otters

Where to find Giant River Otters

Manu National Park

Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Tambopata National Reserve
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
Tumbes National Reserve

Who can take you to see Giant River Otters in Peru

Explorer’s Inn
Green Tours
Machu Picchu Cusco Birding

7) Humboldt Penguin

 Peru WildlifePhoto Credit: Manu Birding Lodge, Humboldt Penguins

These are medium-sized penguins that survive relatively further north than most other species thanks to the chilly Humboldt current that passes down the length of South America.

Both penguins and current were named after the 18th century Prussian naturalist and explorer, Alexander von Humboldt, who charted and described Central and South America for the European scientific community.

The cold current promotes large numbers of Peruvian Anchoveta, a small fish from the anchovy family that are the penguin’s staple diet, although they also take shrimps, krill and squid. In pursuit of these, Humboldts can travel at speeds up to 30 miles an hour, using their wings and webbed feet to propel and steer, and their torpedo shape to cut through the water.

Humboldts have a curious nesting habit – they seek out the piles of dried guano left behind by seabirds and dig out a hollow in which to lay their eggs.

Where to find Humbolt Penguins

Ballestas Islands
Paracas National Reserve

Who can take you to see Humbolt Penguins in Peru

Kolibri Expeditions

8) Andean Condor

Andean Condor flying in PeruPhoto Credit: Machu Picchu and Cusco Birding, Andean Condor

Unlike the short-winged Harpy Eagle, the Andean Condor has a wingspan of nearly 3.5m to enable it to soar on the thermal air currents rising from the Andes mountain range and Peru’s coastal and desert areas. In fact, it is considered to be the largest flying bird in the world, and it stands up to 1.2m tall.

These birds belong to the classification of New World Vultures and they do resemble their carrion-eating cousins with their bald heads and white neck ruffs. Males have a fleshy crest on the top of their heads and the skin of the head and neck in both sexes change colour with their emotional state, flushing red when the birds are angry, frightened or sexually aroused.

Although they are carrion eaters and feed on rotting carcasses, Condors are very clean animals and will seek out water to wash themselves after feeding and scrub their heads on tufts of grass. Of all the wildlife in Peru these are surely some of the most impressive of its birds.

Where to find Andean Condors

Huascarán National Park
Pampas Galeras Barbara D’Achille National Reserve

Who can take you to see Andean Condors in Peru

Green Tours
Machu Picchu Cusco Birding
Manu Birding Lodge

9) Spectacled Caiman

spectacled caimanPhoto: Spectacled Caiman

The name of this formidable reptile comes from the ridge of bone in front of its eyes that joins them to give it a look of wearing glasses. These expert hunters will eat almost anything – fish, birds, insects, frogs, lizards, turtles and small mammals that venture into their river or lake environment. Larger ones have been known to tackle a Giant River Otter.

Although it is predominantly a freshwater species, the Spectacled Caiman can tolerate salt water, so long as it’s slow moving. They are happy in any depth where there is enough water to cover their bodies.

The best time to see them is in the morning or early afternoon when they tend to bask on the riverbanks. When the sun is highest they will wallow in deeper water to stay cool.

Where to find Spectacled Caiman

Manu National Park

Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve

Who can take you to see Spectacled Caiman in Peru

Manu Birding Lodge

10) South American Tapir

Brazilian Tapir in Peru RainforestPhoto: South American Tapir

Although its general appearance and small trunk might lead you to believe that the South American Tapir is related to an elephant, or possibly a pig or a Hippo, it is actually more akin to a rhinoceros.

Tapirs are entirely vegetarian and use their sharp teeth and sensitive snouts to strip leaves, bark and thin branches. They cannot see very well but they have excellent hearing and a good sense of smell, and if they are frightened they can move at an unexpectedly remarkable speed, given their size and shape. They are also very good swimmers, which helps them escape if they are threatened by land-based Peru wildlife predators.

Tapirs supplement their diet with minerals gained from licking clay and so they can sometimes be seen at the same riverbank clay licks as the Amazon’s parrot populations.

Where to find Tapirs

Manu National Park
Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Tambopata National Reserve
Cutervo National Park
Tingo Maria National Park
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
Cordillera Azul National Park

Who can take you to see Tapirs in Peru

Green Tours
Kolibri Expeditions

11) Scarlet Macaw

Scarlet Macaw PeruPhoto Credit: Green Tours, Scarlet Macaw

The best-known visitors to a jungle clay lick are the various species of macaws and parrots. Scarlet Macaws are more colourful and have a longer tail than their Red-and-green and Blue-and-yellow counterparts, and this is most evident when they are in flight, trailing the long red streamers behind them.

Typically these macaws fly as a pair, although it is possible to see them in small family groups, especially at a clay lick. Macaws mate for life and share responsibility for feeding and cleaning their young for some time after they hatch.

Their heavy beaks are adapted to cracking open the hard shells of nuts and seeds and they have muscular tongues for winkling out the contents. They are able to eat fruits that are toxic to other animals and their ingestion of clay is thought to help them neutralise those poisons.

These are generally non-aggressive birds, although they can become more confrontational in the mating season.

Where to find Scarlet Macaws

Manu National Park
Tambopata National Reserve
Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
Cordillera Azul National Park

Who can take you to see Scarlet Macaws in Peru

Explorer’s Inn
Green Tours


Are you Interested in Seeing Peru Wildlife?

For more information, contact a local wildlife specialist in Peru to discover which wildlife tour in Peru will showcase the best Peruvian wildlife.


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