Few places on the planet offer birders the opportunity to explore as amazing an altitudinal gradient as the Manu road in southeastern Peru. In an ecologically complex mosaic of habitats ranging from about 2600 feet elevation in the foothills up to tree line at 11,150 feet, researchers have found nearly 1000 species of birds. Imagine the birding potential–there are new species waiting at every turn!
Our trip starts in the city of Cuzco, nestled at about 12,000′ feet. To reach our destination on the east slope we must first drive through a very dry and barren landscape where bird diversity is low, yet we have a chance to find interesting endemics such as Bearded Mountaineer, Rusty-fronted Canastero, Chestnut-breasted Mountain-Finch, and Creamy-crested Spinetail, to mention a few.
At the Accjanaco pass at treeline elevation, the landscape starts to change dramatically. The heart of our route will span from the high elfin forest all the way down to the forested foothills at the base of the Andes. But where to begin our description? In the higher sections, Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucans, Grass-green and Hooded tanagers, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Barred Fruiteater, Masked and Moustached flowerpiercers, and White-collared Jays are certainly highlight species. At lower elevations mixed flocks can appear at any bend in the road, adding a burst of excitement as we scan each of these gatherings. In addition to Golden-headed and Crested quetzals, there can be Masked Trogon, Black-streaked Puffbird, Lanceolated Monklet, and Versicolored Barbet to delight us. And at a lek we should see the unofficial national bird of Peru, the colorful Andean Cock-of-the-Rock.
At our lowest elevation, in the foothills, the birds we’ll find are a mix of lowlanders reaching up the slopes and species from above occurring at their lowest elevation. Military and Blue-headed macaws, Scarlet-hooded Barbet, several species of antbirds, bamboo birds and, if we are lucky, even Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo are all possible!
I can’t guarantee we will see 1000 birds, but I can assure you an exciting and thrilling trip. Come join me for the Mountains of Manu tour October 1-16, and let’s have some fun!
Enjoy looking through an illustrated and annotated triplist from our 2014 tour!