Birdwatching Tour in the Highlands of Western Bolivia
This 10-day Bolivia birding 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.
Bolivia may be one of the less frequently visited birding destinations in South America, but it has truly great potential and magnificent birds. The country has more than 1430 bird species and there are at least 20 country endemic species. Add to that several range-restricted and 48 globally threatened birds that are very difficult to find elsewhere and you have an exceptional birding destination! Bolivia's avian biodiversity comes from its varied habitats and ecosystems.
From the Amazon rainforest to Yungas cloud forests to the high Andean mountains to Lake Titicaca, Bolivia is most arguably the most diverse landlocked country on earth. In fact, some say that if it wasn’t landlocked it would have more species than any other country.
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 more affordable than those marathon trips while experiencing the highlights of Bolivia and its surprising diversity. 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.
If you are interested in an extending stay up to 19 days take a look at this Birding Tour in the Lowlands of Central Bolivia which be part of a larger 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 Illampu mountain 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.
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 tri-lingual guide 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”