Birdwatching Tour in the Highlands of Western Bolivia
This 10-day Western Bolivia Birding Highlands Tour focuses on the Bolivian Andes where the mountain chain is at its widest, making for varied topography spanning from Lake Titicaca and its snow-covered peaks to lush rainforests, with many habitat types, and one of the largest bird lists for a tour of short length.
Spectacular birds in spectacular scenery!
Comfortably tucked in the heart of South America and known for its superb landscapes of Andean mountains, Bolivia has built a loyal fan base among birders with its intimate blend of snow-capped peaks, foothill rainforests, and Amazonian watersheds.
The Central Andes are undoubtedly one of the continent’s great birding areas.
A staggering number of different habitats ensure an abundance of bird species. To be exact, 1440 species have been recorded to date in Bolivia – almost 40% of South America’s total in just 16% of the landmass –, with new species still being discovered and new records being announced quite often. In addition, 100 or so are rare and spectacular bird species confined to a variety of limited ecosystems.
This Bolivia Birding Trip in Western Bolivia and the High Andes is very targeted in order to maximise finding the endemics and various other bird species that are difficult to find elsewhere. We have worked out an exclusive itinerary combining including easy access routes and the best possible sites in this area.
Birding Bolivia is easy, amazing and fun!
The Central Andes in Western Bolivia form an intricate cluster of key habitats (i.e. Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas) and boast many specialty birds which are sometimes heard but rarely seen elsewhere as well as a high concentration of little-known endemics and many other birds which occur only here and in adjacent neighbouring countries.
Western Bolivia offers world-class birding in an incredible range of spectacular landscapes including wildlife-rich parks with easy access to key habitats blessed with high endemism. Truly, Bolivia is a birder's paradise.
Join us on this unforgettable 10-day Bird Bolivia holiday that will take you from the high Andes, where you have a taste of Andean scenery and culture in Bolivia's capital La Paz in the company of an expert local guide.
From there you take a short flight across the Andes and then down to the Amazon basin to the unparalleled biological riches of Bolivia's Madidi National Park on the foothills of the Andes, one of the most spectacular and biodiverse places on Earth spanning nearly 19,000 square kilometres of lush rainforest – twice as large as Yellowstone National Park in the United States.
Experience some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable with a hugely diverse range of habitats ranging from huge snow-capped Andean peaks, puna grassland and high-altitude lakes, down through upper and lower Yungas cloud forest laden with moss-encrusted branches and epiphytes, all the way down to the Amazonian lowlands.
Until now, experiencing Bolivia's avian riches required a minimum of 3-4 weeks of exhilarating and exhausting travel. We've designed this shorter trip to be considerably more affordable than those marathon journeys while experiencing the highlights of Bolivia and its surprising diversity.
Birding the High-Biodiversity Wilderness Areas of the Tropical Andes in Bolivia is now amazingly easy and affordable.
Here is your opportunity to explore in the most important birding ecosystems in Bolivia and the best birds the country has to offer in just over a week.
This birding tour in Bolivia focuses on birding the Lake Titicaca, the Altiplano, and across the high Andes towards the Yungas valleys and Madidi National Park from La Paz.
Bolivia Birding Highlands Tour Highlights:
• Expect to see over 350 bird species during this birding tour in western Bolivia.
• The trip locations provide easy access to some of the highest elevations of Andean highlands habitats. Besides seeing birds, the views are fantastic.
• From La Paz in the highlands of Bolivia we’ll travel to Lake Titicaca, the Altiplano and the Yungas rainforest as well as Madidi National Park on the foothills of the Andes in western Bolivia.
• Seek out some of the rarest species in Bolivia at Lake Titicaca and the arid puna grasslands of the Altiplano, including the endemic Bolivian Berlepsch’s Canastero, Black-hooded Sunbeam, Titicaca Grebe and more.
• Visit the surreal and beautiful area of Cloud forest ecosystem in upper humid montane Yungas forest in the Bolivian Andes (2,500m - 3,500m) where you will bird in search of the endemic Black-throated Thistletail, Hooded Mountain Toucan and Yungas Pygmy Owl.
• Birding in the foothill tropical rainforest of Madidi National Park north of La Paz, where a massive, natural canopy walkway enables to see directly into the treetops foliage home to unique birds not found in other layers of the rainforest.
If you are interested in an extending stay take a look at this Birding Tour in Central Bolivia for a broader birding experience in Bolivia.
Alternative Tour Name: Birding Western Bolivia
Tour departs from La Paz, Bolivia. Bird the Mecapaca valley below La Paz for acclimatisation.
About 30 kilometers from the center of the city of La Paz (3600 metres), the altitude at Mecapaca valley ranges from 2800 to 3000 metres. Grab your binoculars and let's go on an easy day trip that will take us to this ideal destination combining great birding and acclimatisation to the high altitude.
Over 50 species can be seen near Mecapaca. Highlights include Brown-backed Mockingbird, Red-tailed Comet, and White-tipped Plantcutter as well as three endemics: Bolivian Warbling-Finch, Bolivian Earthcreeper, and Bolivian Spinetail (rare).
Overnight at local hotel in downtown La Paz.
From La Paz we will explore two more sights in the coming days: Lake Titicaca to the north and the Yungas valleys to the east across the Andes.
High altitude birding: Lake Titicaca, Altiplano and Sorata valley on the slopes of Mt Illampu in the Royal Cordillera.
Star species: Titicaca Grebe, Black-hooded Sunbeam, Berlepsch’s Canastero
First, we will visit Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, located at 3800 meters (12 468 feet) with a depth of 281 meters (9 222 feet), which is the home of the near-endemic, flightless Titicaca Grebe. We will also have a chance to see Andean Avocet, Chilean Flamingo, Puna Teal, Crested Duck, Yellow-billed Teal, and Many-colored Rush Tyrant here.
Today’s excursion will take us to Sorata to look for the endemic and localized Berlepsch’s Canastero and other high-Andes species. Here we will look for the flightless Titicaca Grebe, should we have missed it earlier, and also for Silvery Grebe, Puna Teal, Crested Duck, Yellow-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Andean Goose, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Andean Negrito, Andean Flicker, Peruvian Sierra Finch, Chilean Flamingo, Spot-winged Pigeon, and more. We then will drive back to Lake Titicaca for overnight.
Overnight: Local lodge on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
Species possible around Lake Titicaca (3,800m) and Sorata area (2,700m) [Lake Titicaca]:
Titicaca Grebe, Black-hooded Sunbeam, Berlepsch’s Canastero plus a range of waterbirds at Lake Titicaca such as Silvery Grebe, Yellow-billed & Puna Teals, Puna Ibis, Andean Lapwing, Andean Gull, Andean Avocet, White-tufted Grebe, Andean Ruddy Duck, Andean Negrito, Black Siskin and Yellow-winged Blackbird.
Specialties in Sorata area:
Huayco & Ornate Tinamous, Black-winged & Golden-spotted Ground Doves, Scribble-tailed Canastero, White-winged Black Tyrant, Golden-billed Saltator, Yellow-bellied Siskin.
Into the Cordillera and down along the Coroico road bordering Cotapata National Park for high elevation specialists and range-restricted species. Two nights at local lodge in Coroico.
From La Paz, we will explore the lush cloud forest and foothills above Coroico town. We will drive through a spectacular Andean mountain road, once called the death road due to the high rate of truck accidents, but since truck traffic is not allowed anymore these days, the road to Coroico has become a paradise for birders and mountain bikers. We will be busy for the next two days looking for species such as Rufous-bellied and Grey-breasted Seedsnipes, Scribble-tailed Canastero, and Giant Coot, which are mostly restricted to the high passes of the mountains, and also descend to the forest, where many species are possible, including mega mixed flocks of various more wide-spread tanagers, Barred and Band-tailed Fruiteaters, Versicolored Barbet, Upland Antshrike, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Hooded Mountain Toucan, Citrine Warbler, Glossy-black Thrush, Scarlet-bellied, Chestnut-bellied, and Hooded Mountain Tanagers, and many more. Overnight: Local Lodge in Coroico.
Species possible in the Andean bogs and stony slopes near La Cumbre pass (4,700m) to elfin forest and paramo bordering Cotapata National Park and then down to 1,600m elevation near Coroico [Nor Yungas]:
Scimitar-winged Piha, Diademed Tapaculo, Orange-browed Hemispingus along with an excellent variety of tanagers and flycatchers. Other birds in the mid and higher elevation side valleys include Scribble-tailed Canastero, Puna Tapaculo, Black-billed Shrike Tyrant, Puna, Ochre-naped and White-fronted Ground Tyrants, Short-tailed Finch (rare) and Black Siskin, Moustached Flowerpiercer, White-browed Conebill, Mountain Cacique and numerous hummingbirds. Rufous Antpitta, Diademed Tapaculo, Golden-collared Tanager and Black-throated Thistletail, Pale-footed Swallow, Plum-crowned Parrot, Versicolored Barbet, Golden-olive Woodpecker, Smoky-brown Woodpecker and Upland Antshrike, Torrent Duck, White-capped Dipper, Stripe-chested Antwren, tanagers and flycatchers.
Bird the hilly landscape and evergreen seasonal forest gradients around our lodge and in Cotapata National Park, lush with dense vegetation and fascinating birds.
We spend another day exploring the Coroico Road in search of Rufous-bellied and Grey-breasted Seedsnipes, should we have missed them earlier, White-winged Diuca Finch, Scribble-tailed and Puna Canasteros, Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Grass-green Tanager, Hooded Mountain Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Mountain Tanager, Diademed Tapaculo, Masked and Moustached Flowerpiercers, Barred and Band-tailed Fruiteaters, Hooded Mountain Toucan, White-collared Jay, Cabanis’s Spinetail, Versicolored Barbet, Yungas Tody-Tyrant, Upland Antshrike, and many more.
Overnight: Local Lodge in Coroico.
Early-morning birding at our lodge and transfer to Sud Yungas. Overnight in Chulumani.
An early departure will see us heading towards Apa Apa in the area known as Sud Yungas, in the heart of the Bolivian cloud forest The list of birds we will search for along the higher elevations of today’s route is impressive, with the likes of Andean Goose, Crested Duck, Giant Coot, Rufous-bellied and the rare Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, White-winged Diuca Finch, White-winged Cinclodes, Buff-breasted Earthcreeper, Puna Tapaculo and several species of ground tyrants at the highest elevations. Working our way down these staggeringly attractive high Andean slopes, we will bird some forest tracts for Black-winged Parrot, Yungas Dove, Diademed Tapaculo, the endemic Black-throated Thistletail, Hooded Mountain Toucan and Yungas Pygmy Owl. Mixed flocks are often encountered, and some of the commoner participants such as Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Light-crowned Spinetail, Moustached and Black-throated Flowerpiercers, Golden-collared Tanager, Orange-browed and Drab Hemispingus, Scaled Metaltail, Violet-throated Starfrontlet and other fine hummers are abundant. In order to keep close to these fantastic birding areas, we will stay at a fairly basic hotel in Chulumani, very near to Apa Apa.
Overnight: Local Lodge in Chulumani.
Species possible in the medium-high slope hanging cloud forest at ApaApa (1,500-2,000m elevation) [Sud Yungas]:
Rufous-capped Thornbill, Light-crowned Spinetail, Streaked Tuftedcheek, Rufous Antpitta, Streak-necked Flycatcher, Three-striped & Drab Hemispinguses, Citrine Warbler, Blue-backed Conebill, Plushcap, Hooded Tinamou, Black-and-chestnut Eagle, Plum-crowned & Black-winged Parrots, Golden-olive, Crimson-mantled & Smoky-brown Woodpeckers, Upland Antshrike, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Cock of the Rock, Scimitar-winged Piha, Scarlet-breasted Fruiteater, Yungas Pygmy-Owl (endemic), Yungas Tody-tyrant & Yungas Manakin plus Swallow-Tanager, Green-throated Tanager, Slaty Finch, Sickle-winged Guan, Olive-backed Woodcreeper, Black-streaked Puffbird, Montane Foliage-Gleaner, Bolivian Tyrannulet, White-eared Solitaire, Beryl-spangled Tanager, Stripe-faced Wood-Quail, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Crested Quetzal, Masked Trogon, Hooded Mountain-Toucan, Montane Woodcreeper, Pearled Treerunner, Rufous-bellied & Red-rumped Bush-tyrants, White-collared Jay and Mountain Cacique.
Middle montane forest of Apa Apa Ecological Reserve from Chulumani. Drive back up the Yungas road.
The subtropical elevation of Apa Apa Reserve makes it one of the finest birding sites in Bolivia, containing many highly sought after species including Scimitar-winged Piha, Hooded Tinamou, Scarlet-breasted and Band-tailed Fruiteaters, Chestnut-crested Cotinga (Photo: Steve Bird), Yungas Manakin, Slaty Gnateater, Blue-browed Tanager, White-browed Brushfinch, Barred Antthrush, Dusky-green Oropendola, Green-cheeked Parakeet, Green-capped Tanager, Blue-banded Toucanet and an impressive array of flock species are all possible at this beautiful site.
Mixed flocks can contain high concentrations of species, some of which may be welcome repeats from earlier on, or even new birds for the tour such as Black-winged Parrot, Versicolored Barbet, Straw-backed Tanager, Blue-tailed Emerald, White-bellied Woodstar, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Red-billed Parrot, Strong-billed Woodcreeper, near-endemic Upland Antshrike, Rough-legged Tyrannulet, Unadorned Flycatcher, Inca Jay, Andean Solitaire, Grey-eared Brushfinch and Slaty Tanager.
We will then reach the best upper Yungas and high-elevation birding areas en route back to La Paz.
The scenery is again of the spectacular kind. The Yungas, near Unduavi, gives us our best chance at seeing Yungas (large-tailed) Doves, while Andean Guan, Yungas Pygmy Owl, Citrine Warbler, White-banded Tyrannulet and Blue-backed Conebill, Hooded Mountain and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager should all turn up.
Further gems may consist of White-collared Jay, flocks of Southern Mountain Cacique, Scaled and Tyrian Metaltails, White-crested and Sierran Elaenias, the rare Three-striped Hemispingus, Barred Fruiteater or even Stripe-faced Wood Quail.
There is also the chance to see Hooded Mountain Toucan. This mythical creature, which has led plenty a fine birder on a merry chase through the Andes is certainly not guaranteed, but this is one of the best places to find it.
We expect to arrive in La Paz in the mid-afternoon, where a comfortable hotel and a good meal will help us a rest a little better.
Overnight: La Paz.
High-altitude shrubland on the way back to La Paz: Stripe-headed Antpitta, Puna Tapaculo, Scribble-tailed and Line-fronted Canasteros, Tufted Tit-tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-tyrant and Peruvian Sierra-finch.
Fly to Rurrenabaque and overland transfer to Madidi National Park with stops en route for new lowland species. Three nights at local Rainforest Lodge in Serranía de Madidi.
An early morning flight takes us through the snow-capped peaks of the Andes between Mt Huayna Potosi and Mt Illampu until we reach the small tropical town of Rurrenabaque in northern Bolivia. The Andean foothills around “Rurre” – as it’s known to its residents – offer some of the best wildlife viewing in the world at Madidi National Park.
Covering nearly 19,000 square kilometres, Parque Nacional Madidi is home to some of the most diverse plant and animal life in South America. In altitude it ranges from less than 300m to over 5500m above sea level, encompassing a variety of Andean and Amazonian ecosystems that range from dense tropical rainforests and seasonally flooded savannahs to pristine cloudforest and glacial mountain peaks. The park is home to an astonishing variety of wildlife: more than seven hundred species of animal have been recorded, along with some 860 species of bird, although the total may be more like one thousand – more than in the whole of North America. There are also more than five thousand species of flowering plant.
To date, Madidi is still considered to have the highest plant diversity of any park on the planet. To that extent, it also hosts one of the longest bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian lists as well, and new species are constantly being described.
The foothill tropical rainforest is a very enjoyable habitat to bird in Bolivia. During the coming days, we'll focus our birding efforts on the Serranía Sadiri front range of Madidi National Park. Due to its position and elevation, Sadiri hills trap the warm moist humid tropical forest air brought there by prevailing winds that waft across the Amazon. As a consequence, this area has a much higher level of precipitation than surrounding areas, which translates to higher bird diversity and abundance.
Our base of exploration is Sadiri Lodge, built atop the last outlying ridge of Andes. From a birding standpoint, Sadiri is perfect. It has access to dry (relative to other Amazonian microhabitats) lowland, wet Amazonian forest, and wet east-Andean foothill forest, including all the microhabitats exclusive to outlying ridges at the eastern base of the Andes. In short, Sadiri is simply breathtaking. The bird list for the lodge grounds and near trails exceeds 350 species.
Overnight: Sadiri Jungle Lodge.
Bird the foothill and lowland forests on the lower fringes of Madidi National Park.
Overnight: Sadiri Jungle Lodge.
White Hawk, Hoatzin, Subtropical and Amazonian Pygmy Owls, Great-billed Hermit, White-browed Hermit, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Violet-headed Hummingbird, Many-spotted Hummingbird, Violet-fronted Brilliant, Black- eared Fairy, Amethyst Woodstar, Black-tailed Trogon, Lemon-throated Barbet, Curl-crested Aracari, Bar-breasted Piculet, White-throated Woodpecker, several species of Macaw, Rose-fronted Parakeet, Rufous-tailed, Chestnut-winged, and Buff-throated Foliage-gleaners, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Tschudi’s, Elegant, and Inambari Woodcreepers, Brownish-headed and Hairy-crested Antbird, Yungas, Red-billed, and Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulets, Spectacled Bristle Tyrant, McConnell’s Flycatcher, White-crested Spadebill, Dusky-tailed Flatbill, Round-tailed Manakin, Sharpbill, Cinereous Mourner, Chestnut-crowned and Pink-throated Becards, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, several species of Euphonia, Cuzco Warbler, Pectoral Sparrow, White-winged Shrike-Tanager, Yellow-crested, Turquoise, Paradise, Green-and-Gold, Yellow-bellied, Spotted, Masked and Olive Tanagers, Yellow-shouldered and Rothschild’s Grosbeaks.
Slopes of Madidi National Park. Return flight to La Paz, where the tour ends. Back from Madidi National Park, we will transfer to Rurrenabaque and fly back to La Paz "El Alto" international airport in the afternoon for our international flight connection back home.
Some of the star species you may encounter on this Bolivia Birding Trip:
Long-tailed (or East Andean) Antbird
White-collared JayHooded Mountain-Toucan
Diademed TapaculoScimitar-winged Piha
White-browed Brush Finch
among many other species.
What is included?
- Local transfers and all ground transport throughout the tour
- Internal flights where applicable
- All accommodation or lodgings based on double occupancy
- Single occupancy available for an additional charge/cost
- Professional English-speaking guide(s) and support staff
- Specialist guide fees
- Entrance fees to all National Parks, Nature Reserves and/or use of Hides where applicable
- All meals
- Snacks throughout the tour
- Water throughout the tour
- All activities as specified within the tour itinerary
- Personalised checklists
- All Applicable Taxes
What is not included?
- All international or domestic airfares
- Visa Fees (if applicable)
- Travel & medical insurance (incl. personal equipment and repatriation)
- Airport departure taxes or visa fees
- Bank transfer charges
- Items of a personal nature such as alcoholic drinks
- If providing binoculars and telescopes then add within above
- Laundry & telephone Charges
- Gratuities and extras (phone calls, laundry, etc.)
- Optional tour extensions where applicable
- Any other drinks not mentioned above
- Anything else not mentioned in “What is included”
Bolivia Naturally is one of the leading local birding companies based in Bolivia offering birding with a lot of fun, lead by a team of naturalist guides and ornithologists. Bolivia Birding offers specialised birding tours and a number of other wildlife experiences including nature and bird photography adventures directly to the independent traveller while also working as a specialised ground operator for a number of international birding companies.
We stay in hotels with en suite bathrooms in cities and very simple rural lodging in the backcountry. Expect simple but comfortable ecolodges with relatively good comfort and hot showers. We also provide great local food and a nice variety of snacks and unlimited bottled drinking water throughout the trip. Most of the tour will be done in either a 7-seat or 17-seat vans depending on number of people on tour. Some sites require use of 4x4 vehicles, in which case we use Toyota Land Cruisers. In some cases Jeep Willys are used.
This tour involves ground transportation, be it in a van or smaller 4x4 vehicle. Internal flights are also included in the price of the tour. International flights to/from Bolivia are not included.
We have the lowest group size in the industry with a maximum of 8 birders per group!
Yes, all airport transfers are included.
Yes, don't hesitate to contact us.
Yes, all meals from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day are included. We also include snacks and bottled water throughout the trip.
This tour is great year-round. Rain can (and does) occur at any time in the Bolivian rainforest (rains are much heavier during the rainy season from Dec to Feb), but participants should expect some rain, regardless of the time of the trip, as the Andes foothills, generally, receive fairly high rainfall. However, this does not impact the quality of the birding.
We hope our travelers are able to walk 1 – 3 miles daily. This tour birds lightly travelled roads with support vehicles nearby.
There is wi-fi in all hotels and lodges. PLease keep in mind that wi-fi is only available in common areas in some places and that in more rural areas the connection is not always 100% reliable.
Bolivia Naturally supports the local communities we visit in many ways. First, it is our policy to always hire local guides when available and make use of the services provided by the locals (meals, transportation, feeder sites, etc). Secondly, we support various programs and work closely with partners such as Bolivian NGO Fundacion Armonia in the areas we visit to promote conservation and bird tourism and to provide outreach and training in the local communities we visit.
Yes, just let us know!
No. We suggest you purchase trip cancellation insurance and your own travel insurance or make sure your insurance covers you while travelling.
A deposit of $1,000 USD (non-refundable) per person is due to confirm the trip and full payment is due 60 days prior to the start date of the tour. You can pay by wire transfer or by Credit Card.
The tour can be rescheduled within 1 year (no additional fees)
If you cancel before final payment is due a cancellation fee of your deposit will be charged. If you cancel after final payment is due there is no refund but you can reschedule the tour within a year at no extra charge.
General Packing List: Documents and Money: • Passport • Cash and credit cards • Airline tickets or E-ticket confirmation Clothing: • Waterproof rain jacket • Sweater or medium weight jacket • Two pairs of pants, at least one lightweight, plus cool long pants and shorts • Two or three long-sleeved shirts • Two or three T-shirts • Four or five pairs of underwear • Four or five pairs of socks • 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes • 1 pair of waterproof boots • Shade hat and 1 bandanna • Pyjamas • Bathing suit Toiletries: • Toiletries and washcloth • Personal first aid kit • Prescription drugs • Sunscreen • Lip balm with sunscreen • Soap for hand washing and universal sink stopper • Insect repellent (chiggers, no-see-ums and mosquitoes) and anti-itch ointment Gear: • Binoculars • Spotting scope • Camera • Daypack - for rain gear and water on walks • Plastic bags to put wet gear in case of rain • Sunglasses and extra prescription glasses • Reusable water bottle – to refill throughout the trip • Alarm clock • Flashlight and extra batteries Optional: • Sandals • Field guides • Map • Spanish dictionary • Writing materials, paper, and pens • Laundry bag and a few clothespins
Field Guide to the Birds of Bolivia by Sebastian K Herzog, Asociacion Armonía Editors, 2016. Serious birders will definitely also want Volume 1 and Volume 2 of The Birds of South America by Robert S. Ridgely and Guy Tudor. If you have an interest in bird songs, the Bird Sounds of Bolivia CD-ROM by Sjoerd Mayer is a very useful tool.