Home > Peru Wildlife: 11 Top Peruvian Animals

Peru, home to over 14,500 species of animals, invites wildlife enthusiasts to experience the land of ancient empires, hidden treasures, diverse landscapes, renowned cuisine, unbarred natural terrains and exotic amazon wildlife.

The country is ranked as a top destination for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

Boundless Wildlife Adventure

From the exotic Amazon jungle to the coastal desert plain via the breathtaking peaks of the Andes, Peru’s wealth of places to visit offers boundless potential for wildlife watching and cultural experiences.

You could visit the capital, Lima, starting point for the Ballestas islands and Paracas National Reserve with their populations of Humboldt penguins, or trek the hallowed Inca Trail to Machu Picchu looking for Andean condors along the way.

Maybe you fancy drinking pisco sours in a sleepy colonial town, swimming with pink river dolphins, watching a dazzling array of macaws gathering at a clay lick, or adding hundreds of other rainforest birds to your life-list.

A tour of Peru’s Amazon rainforest, Peru wildlife is as diverse as you would expect, with the chance to catch sight of a jaguar, watch the mighty harpy eagle on its lofty perch, or paddle your way down the Amazon River or its many tributaries in a dugout canoe spotting giant otters and sharp-toothed spectacled caimen.

Wherever you go, Peru is a country ripe for exploration with its vibrant Andean culture, one of the most exciting in the Americas, and its unique ecosystems which are home to thousands of amazing animals.

Almost every eco-lodge in the Amazon Basin lists over 600 bird species for their property and knowledgeable local guides can lead you to the haunts of a vast array of fascinating animals and help you make the most of your Amazon tour.

Visiting nature reserves such as Manu National Park, Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, or Tambopata National Reserve will also lead to the discovery of tucked-away Amazon towns that explode into colour on market day, and local fiestas being celebrated with unbridled enthusiasm.

All of this vibrancy is the perfect backdrop for your adventures with wildlife in Peru. A tour of Peru’s Amazon ecosystems is a tour of a lifetime.

11 Top Peruvian Animals

1). Jaguar

Photo Credit: InkaNatura Travel, Jaguar

This beautiful big cat is the country’s largest feline, topping in size the puma, ocelot and jaguarondi. They 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 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 including grasslands, wetlands and rainforest but they are probably easiest to spot along riverbanks when they come down for a drink, or lounging in trees above the water.

These are solitary animals, though, and very shy of humans, and their hearing is exceptional. The males’ territories can extend to 90 square kilometres, so an amount of luck and spending time patiently and quietly in areas where local knowledge can help pinpoint their favourite haunts, are required in seeing one.

The best months to catch sight of one 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 you can see jaguars in Peru with: Kolibri Expeditions, Green Tours, InkaNatura Travel, 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 with a fan-shaped crest that, in the males, stretches over its bill. They get their name from their preference for rocky places in ravines, in caves and even under bridges where they build their mud cup nests.

They are largish birds, with bodies around 32 cm in length, living in the cloud forests and eating fruit and insects. Normally quite shy, they are easiest to see when they are lekking – wing flapping, bowing and head bobbing to show off to other males and attract females – which 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 you can see Andean Cock-of-the-rocks in Peru with: Kolibri Expeditions, Green Tours, Manu Birding Lodge

Further Reading

3). Pink River Dolphin

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

Pink River Dolphins can grow to over three metres in length and weigh up to 160 kilos. 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 distinguish hazards posed to them by humans and take steps to avoid them.

In some places there is a chance to swim with them but they must be treated with respect, as endangered creatures, and not touched or approached. If they do not perceive danger they may come close to investigate.

Where to find Pink River Dolphins

Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve
Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Regional Conservation Area

4). Spectacled Bear

Photo Credit: InkaNatura Travel, Spectacled Bear

Famously the inspiration for 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 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 they 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 you can see Spectacled Bears in Peru with: Green Tours, Manu Birding Lodge, InkaNatura Travel

5). Harpy Eagle

Photo Credit: Rainforest Expeditions, Harpy Eagle

This is one of the largest bird of prey in the world, with a wingspan of up to two metres. 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 good 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 you can see Harpy Eagles in Peru with: Kolibri Expeditions, Explorer’s Inn, Green Tours, Manu Birding Lodge

6). Giant River Otter

Giant River Otters in PeruPhoto Credit: InkaNatura Travel, Giant River Otters

With their size and speed in the water, giant otters have few predators. Jaguars are really the only Peruvian 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 3-4 kilograms of food a day. They have excellent eyesight for effective hunting and local 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.

Where to find Giant River Otters

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

Who you can see Giant River Otters in Peru with: InkaNatura Travel, Explorer’s Inn, Rainforest Expeditions, Machu Picchu Cusco Birding, Green Tours

7). Humboldt Penguin

Photo Credit: Manu Birding Lodge, Humboldt Penguin

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 you can see Humbolt Penguins in Peru with: Kolibri Expeditions

8). Andean Condor

Photo Credit: Machu Picchu and Cusco Birding, Andean Condor

Unlike the short-winged harpy eagle, the condor has a wingspan of nearly three and a half metres to enable it to soar on the thermal air currents rising from the Andean mountains and Peru’s coastal and desert areas. In fact, it is considered to be the largest flying bird in the world, which 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.

Where to find Andean Condors

Huascarán National Park
Pampas Galeras Barbara D’Achille National Reserve

Who you can see Andean Condors in Peru with: Green Tours, Manu Birding Lodge, Machu Picchu Cusco Birding

9). Spectacled Caiman

Photo Credit: Rainforest Expeditions, Caiman

The name of this formidable reptile comes from the ridge of bone in front of its eye 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, so long as 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

Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Reserve
Manu National Park

Who you can see Spectacled Caiman in Peru with: Rainforest Expeditions, Manu Birding Lodge

10). South American Tapir

Photo Credit: Rainforest Expeditions, Brazilian Tapir

Although its general appearance and small trunk might lead you to believe that the 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 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 you can see Tapirs in Peru with: InkaNatura Travel, Kolibri Expeditions, Green Tours, Rainforest 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 even 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 they 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 the poisons.

They 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 you can see Scarlet Macaws in Peru with: Green Tours, InkaNatura Travel, Rainforest Expeditions, Explorer’s Inn



Are you interested in visiting Peru?

For more information, view all listings below to book your next wildlife tour directly with a local wildlife specialist in Peru.