Aguas Verdes is a Peruvian hummingbirds hotspot, a small village 76 km north of the city of Rioja, Department of San Martín in north Peru. It lies just between the Alto Mayo valley and the mountains of the Bosque de Protección Alto Mayo and the famous Abra Patricia. Wilson Dias of Green Tours tells the story of how it came to be on the birdwatching map.
This area has been known for several years as a birding hotspot in Peru because of its altitude at around 1500 meters. At this height, Lowland and Highlands birds to occur together, and when the weather is too cold in the mountains some birds of higher altitudes migrate down to the Mayo valley looking for more comfortable temperatures.
Additionally, the white-sand forests east of the town of Aguas Verdes are home to some desirable birds such as Dusky Spinetail, Zimmer’s Antbird, Scale Fruiteater, Red-shouldered Tanager, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Lined Antshrike, to mention just a few.
Want to travel to see a hummingbird hotspot in Peru?
The local specialist tour operators on Blue Sky Wildlife offer set departure or bespoke organised trips to the Aguas Verdes area of Peru as well as to other most important areas in the country for hummingbirds. Enquire direct or book through Blue Sky Wildlife for the best deals.
Peruvian hummingbirds are particularly abundant in these forests. They are not always easy to see, however, because they can be concealed in the dense understorey, foraging among Heliconias and other flowers beloved by hummers.
Quite a few years ago the use of hummingbird feeders began at Abra Patricia Owlet and Wakanqi Lodges in Aguas Verdes, with great success. As a result of the readily available food source, some rarities such as Rufous-crested Coquette and several Hermits became very easy to see.
How it came about is a story of one man’s observations and proactivity. In early 2015 a young carpenter from Aguas Verdes named Norbil Becerra was invited to Huembo (a primary site for the Marvelous Spatuletail hummingbird) to attend a training course on nature conservancy. While he was there he was impressed by the huge number of beautiful hummingbirds that were flying around the training institute’s feeders. He asked what the bottles held and how they worked.
As soon as he returned to his hometown Norbil started his hummingbird feeder project. He had always has been interested in the conservation of his local forests, but now he had found something very specific to work on – attracting hummingbirds for visitors to admire.
The first thing he did was construct feeders from plastic bottles. Then he cleared a small patch of forest on his property and installed the feeders at the edges of the cleaned area, filled with sugared water.
A few months passed and he and his family renewed the sugared water supply every morning, but nothing came to the feeders. Neighbours began to laugh at them. “Norbil,” they said, “you are wasting your precious time on those feeders, instead of working your farm and feeding your family.” But Norbil remained firm in his beliefs and he even bought a few more hectares of forested land to protect it from being cut down by farmers.
Seven months passed before the first Peruvian hummingbirds discovered the abundant source of food that was available at Norbil’s feeders. The first birds to come were a Grey-breasted Sabrewing and a Black-throated Hermit. Norbil and his son could not believe their eyes, hummingbirds were finally arriving!
Soon more jewels were coming to the feeders. Violet-fronted Brilliants took to fighting each other for supremacy at the feeders while Fork-tailed Hummingbirds tended to wait their turn a few meters away. The shy Green, Grey-chinned and Reddish Hermits wait even farther away, coming to the feeders for just a few seconds before they are chased away by the bigger species.
Norbil discovered that some type of Sicklebill was coming to feed on a few Heliconias growing near the feeders, so he cultivated more of these plants to attract the mysterious hummingbird. To date, Norbil has 17 hummingbird species coming to his feeders, including the outstanding Rufous-crested Coquette and Wire-crested Thorntail, as well as the very rare Napor Sabrewing.
Although hummingbirds are now visiting the feeders in numbers, and many visitors are enjoying the sight of them, Norbil is still fighting some lack of understanding amongst other villagers. He and his family are proud of their persistence and the fact that they can be considered as conservation pioneers in Aguas Verdes. It is to be hoped others will follow in their footsteps and acknowledge the benefits of conservation work, ensuring the preservation of the incredibly high diversity of species in the humid montane forests of northern Peru.
Green Tours has established itself as one of the leading wildlife tour operators based in Peru offering some of Peru’s best birding experiences. By booking for one of the birding trips to north Peru, direct or through Blue Sky Wildlife, you will be supporting Norbil’s hummingbird project and other similar conservation initiatives in northern Peru.
Originally Published: 10 May 2017 Updated: 13 October 2022