Given that Peru is one of the most bird-rich countries on the planet, with more than 1800 different species, some of which are found here and nowhere else in the world, you might imagine that to do the country justice you’d need to spend at least three weeks for a birding tour in Peru.
But although that would enable you to cover most of the regions of this incredibly bird-rich nation, for many people that’s simply not possible – either in terms of time or money. Others may be visiting Peru on business or holiday, and want to tack on a short birding watching tour at the end.
So here is our suggestion for a short birding tour to Peru – 7-12 days in all – which, although it won’t allow you to visit every location, and see all the target species, will nevertheless provide a real variety of locations, habitats and birds.
Days 1-2: Lima
The classic place to start is in and around Peru’s capital, Lima. Situated on the Pacific coast, which is washed by the cold waters of the Humboldt Current, this is a great location for species you won’t see anywhere else on the tour, such as Inca tern and Peruvian thick-knee, as well as a range of gulls, terns and other coastal species. A range of day-long tours, including whale watching and offshore trips, which should provide excellent views of seabirds such as the Humboldt penguin, Peruvian pelican and a host of other species.
Photo credit: Inca tern, Kolibri Expeditions
Days 3-4: Cuzco and Machu Picchu
No trip to Peru is truly complete without a visit to the 15th century Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, about 2400 metres above sea level, the site is also excellent for birds. There is an assortment of high-altitude species, including a suite of sought-after hummingbirds such as booted racket-tail, Gould’s Inca and long-tailed sylph, as well as torrent duck on the nearby rivers. Tours options are designed to track down the area’s specialities while also allowing time to enjoy the couture of this unique location. Local wildlife specialists: Green Tours, Manu Birding Lodge,
Photo credit: Machu Picchu, Green Tours
Days 5-7: Manu
With over 1000 different species of bird – that’s more than Europe and North America combined in an area the size of Switzerland, Manu has justifiably been described as the best place for birding anywhere in the world. Accessible only by boat, along the Madre de Dios and Manu Rivers, this really is a way of getting away from it all while still living in comfort in one of the area’s many lodges. Enjoy a host of rainforest species unique to this region, plus more familiar bird families such as herons and raptors, and other specialities such as Orinoco goose. Manu is also one of the best places in Peru to see mammals, and although the ultimate prize – the jaguar – is very elusive, you have a good chance of seeing tapirs, capybaras, giant river otters and a host of monkeys. A series of small-group tours are available led by expert guides, to show you the delights of this pristine location. Local wildlife specialists: Green Tours, Manu Birding Lodge
Photo credit: Sloth, Explorer’s Inn
If you have time, we suggest three optional extensions, each of which will provide new birding experiences amidst very different locations.
Days 8-12 – Optional Extension 1: Northern Peru
A short flight from Cusco or Puerto Maldonado, via Lima, takes you to the far north of Peru, and the city of Iquitos. The area is full of birds found here and nowhere else on the planet, including white-winged guan, long-whiskered owlet, scarlet-banded barbet and marvellous spatuletail. Several short tours available in the area, aiming to see the key species. Local wildlife specialists: Green Tours, Kolibri Expeditions
Read More: Taking the Northern Peru Birding Route
Photo credit: Marvellous spatuletail, Kolibri Expeditions
Days 8-12 – Optional Extension 2: The River Amazon
From Iquitos, you can also take a cruise up the mighty River Amazon, home to a whole range of species not found in the south. Contact Jungle Experiences for more details of their luxury river cruises and other trips.
Photo credit: Explorers Inn
Days 8-12 – Optional extension 3: Ecolodge Experiences
At the end of a busy tour, what better way to relax than to stay in an environmentally friendly eco-lodge. In Manu and also the Tambopata National Reserve, close to the border with Bolivia in the southeastern part of the country. While Chuncho Lodge, Manu Birding Lodge and Explorer’s Inn offer exceptional eco-lodges experiences where guests can immerse themselves in unique Peruvian nature and wildlife from their doorstep.
As always, these local wildlife specialists are based in Peru have the combination of up-to-date local knowledge and expert, English-speaking guides, making sure that you have the very best chance of catching up with the key species you want to see.
Are you interested in visiting Peru?
For more information and to book your next wildlife tour directly with a local wildlife specialist in Peru, click here.
Author: Stephen Moss
Birder, author and wildlife TV producer, who leads beginners’ birding tours for Somerset Birdwatching Holidays
Originally Published: 14th July 2018 | Article Updated: 26th January 2021