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The view from the west slope of Abra Malaga takes your breath away! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Saying that the Cusco region of Peru has “a lot to offer” is a bit of an understatement! Besides the intensely rich human history of the Inca and the ruins that still endure, this part of Peru has an impressive avian diversity highlighted by a lengthy list of species found nowhere else on the planet. Our tour to this region, graced with superb weather, some phenomenal birding, and a fun bunch of birders, made this a pleasant trip and one we hope you enjoyed.
Although our tour started in Lima, our real birding began after our early-morning flight to Cusco. Carlos and Lucretia (and some hot coca tea) met us at the airport before we headed off to Huacarpay Lake. The lake yielded a wealth of new birds like Puna and Yellow-billed teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, the sneaky Wren-like Rushbird, and the gaudy but secretive Many-colored Rush-Tyrants. We saw some specialties, too, like the Peruvian endemic Rusty-fronted Canastero, the shy Streak-fronted Thornbird, and even a couple of ground-tyrants like Spot-billed and Rufous-naped. The grounds of our hotel in Ollantaytambo yielded even more targets like the fan favorite Bearded Mountaineer, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Golden-billed Saltator, and Black-backed Grosbeak.
The next morning we boarded the train and started making our way towards Aguas Calientes along the banks of the Urubamba River. Some sightings from the train included Torrent Ducks, Torrent Tyrannulets, White-capped Dippers, and some fantastic scenery. Upon arrival, we made our way up to the awe-inducing Machu Picchu ruins, where we had an excellent guided tour by our local expert Lucretia. Although we were met by fog and clouds, these eventually burned off, yielding the ruins in all their glory. That afternoon, we explored the grounds of the lush Inkaterra Lodge where we added species such as Andean Cock-of-the-rock, a rare American Redstart, the colorful Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and a mix of tanagers such as Blue-gray, Palm, Golden-naped, Silvery, Blue-necked, Saffron-crowned, and more!
We managed an early start the following day for a bird-filled trek in the lush Sacred Valley near Aguas Calientes. It was hard to keep track of all the goodies, but highlights included a stunning Blue-banded Toucanet overhead, Andean Guan, Variable Antshrike, Barred Becard, close flocks of Mitred Parakeets, White-tipped Swifts, Andean Motmot, and even a skulking Fasciated Tiger-Heron. Closer to the waterfall, we had even more good fortune by finding the endemic Inca Flycatcher, a rare Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant, Smoke-colored Pewee, and a Short-billed Chlorospingus.
The following morning we explored a few of the trails on the grounds before settling in at the helipad as the sun came up through the valley. New birds continued to arrive, such as White-bellied Woodstar, Masked Flowerpiercer, Olivaceous Siskin, Streaked Flycatcher, and more. But before long it was time to say goodbye to Aguas Calientes, and we returned to Ollantaytambo via the train (but not without snagging new species like Great Egret and Andean Swift!).
Veronica, the snow-capped Andean peak that stands more than 18,000 feet high, was glorious on this tour and we saw her that next morning as we climbed the west slope of Abra Malaga. Being at elevation, we were immersed in a new suite of birds including the Peruvian endemics Creamy-crested Spinetail and White-tufted Sunbeam, a collection of ground-tyrants including Taczanowski’s, White-browed, and Puna, and a variety of canasteros like Line-fronted, Junín, and Streak-backed. Higher up, near the pass, we all managed to get eyes on an Andean Condor cruising high overhead, a pair of Andean Geese sitting pretty at the pass, and even a surprise Rufous-webbed Bush-Tyrant.
The following day we went up and over the pass, and focused on the humid east slope of Abra Malaga. The weather smiled on us and we found a monster flock of new species that kept us busy for a good part of the morning. A couple of key Peruvian endemics showed themselves nicely, including Parodi’s Hemispingus, Marcapata Spinetail, Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant, and even the secretive Inca Wrens. Mixed in with the flocks were Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanagers, a variety of tyrannulets like White-banded and White-throated, a couple of Streaked Tuftedcheeks, and some amazing hummingbirds like Purple-backed Thornbill, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Sapphire-vented Puffleg, Amethyst-throated Sunangel, Scaled Metaltail, and more. The west side of the mountain offered up d’Orbigny’s Chat-Tyrant and the cute Tufted Tit-Tyrant on our return home. All in all, what an amazing day of birding!
Our last day of birding on Abra Malaga was an important one. We ventured up to a Polylepis patch where we stirred up a couple of key species like the Peruvian endemic White-browed Tit-Spinetail, the attractive Tawny Tit-Spinetail, a Stripe-headed Antpitta that finally showed itself, and some bonus Blue-mantled Thornbills. Even a pair of Black-faced Ibis flew over and across the face of Veronica. Wow, what a way to close out an incredible few days of birding the area. Our travel back to Cusco had a birdy intermission at Huaypo Lake where we continued to rack up new species like Cinereous Harrier, Cattle Egret, and Lesser Yellowlegs. We also had another chance to study fantastic species like Chilean Flamingos, White-tufted Grebes, Black-faced and Puna ibis, and a fun selection of ducks such as “Andean” Ruddy Ducks, Puna and Cinnamon teal, and another duo of Andean Geese.
A major thanks goes out to Karen for doing a great job at organizing things from Austin, Carlos for his safe and expert driving, and local guide Lucretia who did an excellent job at keeping things organized and who was a wealth of information. Jesse and I want to thank you for joining us on this Field Guides tour and we sincerely hope you enjoyed your time seeing the sights and hearing the sounds of Machu Picchu and Abra Malaga.
Until we meet again, good birding!
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
ANDEAN GOOSE (Oressochen melanopterus)
TORRENT DUCK (Merganetta armata)
CINNAMON TEAL (Anas cyanoptera)
YELLOW-BILLED PINTAIL (Anas georgica)
PUNA TEAL (Anas puna)
YELLOW-BILLED TEAL (Anas flavirostris)
RUDDY DUCK (ANDEAN) (Oxyura jamaicensis ferruginea)
Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)
ANDEAN GUAN (Penelope montagnii)
WHITE-TUFTED GREBE (Rollandia rolland)
Not coming to a sewage lagoon near you! These Andean Geese prefer the high Andes and have no qualms with hanging out at 14,000', like these were doing. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
CHILEAN FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus chilensis)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
FASCIATED TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma fasciatum)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)
LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
PUNA IBIS (Plegadis ridgwayi)
BLACK-FACED IBIS (BRANICKII) (Theristicus melanopis branickii)
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
The Yellow-billed Teal was a rather conspicuous member of the bird community in wetlands like Huacarpay Lake. We found this one near Chinchero on our final day. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
ANDEAN CONDOR (Vultur gryphus)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
CINEREOUS HARRIER (Circus cinereus)
ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris)
VARIABLE HAWK (Geranoaetus polyosoma)
BLACK-CHESTED BUZZARD-EAGLE (Geranoaetus melanoleucus)
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
PLUMBEOUS RAIL (Pardirallus sanguinolentus)
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
SLATE-COLORED COOT (Fulica ardesiaca)
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
ANDEAN LAPWING (Vanellus resplendens)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes) [b]
I'm not sure there is a more quintessential species of the fast-flowing Andean streams than the Torrent Duck. Here's a gorgeous female near Aguas Calientes. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
ANDEAN GULL (Chroicocephalus serranus)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
SPOT-WINGED PIGEON (Patagioenas maculosa)
BARE-FACED GROUND-DOVE (Metriopelia ceciliae)
WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)
WHITE-THROATED QUAIL-DOVE (Zentrygon frenata)
EARED DOVE (Zenaida auriculata)
YUNGAS PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium bolivianum) [*]
Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)
LYRE-TAILED NIGHTJAR (Uropsalis lyra)
CHESTNUT-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne rutila)
This Variable Hawk put on a show kiting overhead as we birded the west slope of Abra Malaga. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
WHITE-COLLARED SWIFT (Streptoprocne zonaris)
WHITE-TIPPED SWIFT (Aeronautes montivagus)
ANDEAN SWIFT (Aeronautes andecolus)
LESSER VIOLETEAR (Colibri cyanotus)
SPARKLING VIOLETEAR (Colibri coruscans)
AMETHYST-THROATED SUNANGEL (Heliangelus amethysticollis)
SPECKLED HUMMINGBIRD (Adelomyia melanogenys)
LONG-TAILED SYLPH (Aglaiocercus kingii)
GREEN-TAILED TRAINBEARER (Lesbia nuna)
PURPLE-BACKED THORNBILL (Ramphomicron microrhynchum)
The flock of White-collared Swifts zooming around us on the east slope of Abra Malaga was rather impressive! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
BLUE-MANTLED THORNBILL (Chalcostigma stanleyi)
BEARDED MOUNTAINEER (Oreonympha nobilis) [E]
TYRIAN METALTAIL (SMARAGDINICOLLIS) (Metallura tyrianthina smaragdinicollis)
SCALED METALTAIL (Metallura aeneocauda)
SAPPHIRE-VENTED PUFFLEG (COPPERY-NAPED) (Eriocnemis luciani sapphiropygia)
WHITE-TUFTED SUNBEAM (Aglaeactis castelnaudii) [E]
COLLARED INCA (GOULD'S) (Coeligena torquata omissa)
VIOLET-THROATED STARFRONTLET (Coeligena violifer)
SWORD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Ensifera ensifera)
GREAT SAPPHIREWING (Pterophanes cyanopterus)
Not only is the Purple-backed Thornbill rare, it's also a stunner! We found ourselves face-to-face with this beauty on the east slope of Abra Malaga! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
CHESTNUT-BREASTED CORONET (Boissonneaua matthewsii)
BOOTED RACKET-TAIL (Ocreatus underwoodii)
GIANT HUMMINGBIRD (Patagona gigas)
WHITE-BELLIED WOODSTAR (Chaetocercus mulsant)
WHITE-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia chionogaster)
GREEN-AND-WHITE HUMMINGBIRD (Amazilia viridicauda) [E]
ANDEAN MOTMOT (Momotus aequatorialis)
BLUE-BANDED TOUCANET (Aulacorhynchus coeruleicinctis)
OCELLATED PICULET (Picumnus dorbignyanus)
GOLDEN-OLIVE WOODPECKER (Colaptes rubiginosus)
The Chestnut-breasted Coronet was a mainstay during our time at the Inkaterra Lodge just downhill from Machu Picchu. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
ANDEAN FLICKER (Colaptes rupicola)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
MOUNTAIN CARACARA (Phalcoboenus megalopterus)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
BARRED PARAKEET (Bolborhynchus lineola) [*]
SPECKLE-FACED PARROT (PLUM-CROWNED) (Pionus tumultuosus tumultuosus)
MITRED PARAKEET (Psittacara mitratus)
Thamnophilidae (Typical Antbirds)
VARIABLE ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus caerulescens)
STRIPE-HEADED ANTPITTA (Grallaria andicolus punensis)
RUFOUS ANTPITTA (SOUTH PERUVIAN) (Grallaria rufula occabambae)
TRILLING TAPACULO (Scytalopus parvirostris) [*]
Usually we see the Mitred Parakeets flying over super high. This time, well, we were face-to-face with a flock! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
PUNA TAPACULO (Scytalopus simonsi)
DIADEMED TAPACULO (Scytalopus schulenbergi) [*]
Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)
STREAKED XENOPS (Xenops rutilans)
STREAKED TUFTEDCHEEK (Pseudocolaptes boissonneautii)
WREN-LIKE RUSHBIRD (Phleocryptes melanops)
CREAM-WINGED CINCLODES (Cinclodes albiventris albiventris)
TAWNY TIT-SPINETAIL (Leptasthenura yanacensis)
WHITE-BROWED TIT-SPINETAIL (Leptasthenura xenothorax) [E]
STREAK-FRONTED THORNBIRD (Phacellodomus striaticeps)
The Marcapata Spinetail is not only endemic to Peru, it's quite local on the east slope of the Andes where it specializes in bamboo habitats. The east slope of Abra Malaga offered up splendid views of this specialty. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
LINE-FRONTED CANASTERO (Asthenes urubambensis)
JUNIN CANASTERO (Asthenes virgata) [E]
STREAK-BACKED CANASTERO (Asthenes wyatti)
STREAK-THROATED CANASTERO (Asthenes humilis)
PUNA THISTLETAIL (Asthenes helleri)
RUSTY-FRONTED CANASTERO (Asthenes ottonis) [E]
MARCAPATA SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca marcapatae) [E]
CREAMY-CRESTED SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca albicapilla) [E]
AZARA'S SPINETAIL (Synallaxis azarae)
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
WHITE-BANDED TYRANNULET (Mecocerculus stictopterus)
Another Peruvian endemic we enjoyed on the west slope of Abra Malaga was the Creamy-crested Spinetail. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
WHITE-THROATED TYRANNULET (Mecocerculus leucophrys)
TUFTED TIT-TYRANT (Anairetes parulus)
UNSTREAKED TIT-TYRANT (Uromyias agraphia) [E]
YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster)
SIERRAN ELAENIA (Elaenia pallatangae)
TORRENT TYRANNULET (Serpophaga cinerea)
STREAK-NECKED FLYCATCHER (Mionectes striaticollis)
INCA FLYCATCHER (Leptopogon taczanowskii) [E]
MARBLE-FACED BRISTLE-TYRANT (Phylloscartes ophthalmicus)
MOTTLE-CHEEKED TYRANNULET (Phylloscartes ventralis)
The Streak-throated Canastero has an affinity for grassy areas with scattered rocks. We found several during our exploration of Abra Malaga including this one that posed nicely. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
SCLATER'S TYRANNULET (Phyllomyias sclateri)
ASHY-HEADED TYRANNULET (Phyllomyias cinereiceps)
MANY-COLORED RUSH TYRANT (Tachuris rubrigastra)
RUFOUS-HEADED PYGMY-TYRANT (Pseudotriccus ruficeps) [*]
COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum cinereum) [N]
YELLOW-OLIVE FLYCATCHER (ANDES) (Tolmomyias sulphurescens peruvianus)
CINNAMON FLYCATCHER (Pyrrhomyias cinnamomeus)
SMOKE-COLORED PEWEE (Contopus fumigatus)
BLACK PHOEBE (WHITE-WINGED) (Sayornis nigricans latirostris)
SPOT-BILLED GROUND-TYRANT (Muscisaxicola maculirostris)
The Sclater's Tyrannulet is typically a rare and difficult species to find. However, the Inkaterra Lodge in Aguas Calientes is a good place to look. We found this agreeable individual during one of our easy outings. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
TACZANOWSKI'S GROUND-TYRANT (Muscisaxicola griseus)
PUNA GROUND-TYRANT (Muscisaxicola juninensis)
RUFOUS-NAPED GROUND-TYRANT (Muscisaxicola rufivertex)
WHITE-BROWED GROUND-TYRANT (Muscisaxicola albilora) [a]
SMOKY BUSH-TYRANT (Myiotheretes fumigatus)
RUFOUS-WEBBED BUSH-TYRANT (Polioxolmis rufipennis)
RUFOUS-BREASTED CHAT-TYRANT (Ochthoeca rufipectoralis)
BROWN-BACKED CHAT-TYRANT (Ochthoeca fumicolor)
D'ORBIGNY'S CHAT-TYRANT (Ochthoeca oenanthoides)
GOLDEN-CROWNED FLYCATCHER (Myiodynastes chrysocephalus)
What a sharp bird! The Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrants were actually quite common on the east slope of Abra Malaga during our epic birding day there. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
STREAKED FLYCATCHER (SOLITARIUS) (Myiodynastes maculatus solitarius) [a]
TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)
BARRED FRUITEATER (Pipreola arcuata)
RED-CRESTED COTINGA (Ampelion rubrocristatus)
ANDEAN COCK-OF-THE-ROCK (Rupicola peruvianus)
Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)
BARRED BECARD (Pachyramphus versicolor)
Vireonidae (Vireos, Shrike-Babblers, and Erpornis)
BROWN-CAPPED VIREO (Vireo leucophrys)
RED-EYED VIREO (MIGRATORY CHIVI) (Vireo olivaceus chivi)
BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca)
BROWN-BELLIED SWALLOW (Orochelidon murina)
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon)
MOUNTAIN WREN (Troglodytes solstitialis)
We couldn't even eat our lunch without stumbling on uncommon and exciting birds! Here's a Barred Fruiteater that had become quite vocal on the east slope of Abra Malaga. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
INCA WREN (Pheugopedius eisenmanni) [E]
GRAY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN (Henicorhina leucophrys)
WHITE-CAPPED DIPPER (Cinclus leucocephalus)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
ANDEAN SOLITAIRE (Myadestes ralloides)
GREAT THRUSH (Turdus fuscater)
CHIGUANCO THRUSH (Turdus chiguanco)
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
AMERICAN REDSTART (Setophaga ruticilla)
TROPICAL PARULA (Setophaga pitiayumi)
THREE-STRIPED WARBLER (Basileuterus tristriatus)
PALE-LEGGED WARBLER (Myiothlypis signata)
RUSSET-CROWNED WARBLER (Myiothlypis coronata)
SLATE-THROATED REDSTART (Myioborus miniatus)
As we climbed into the higher elevations of Abra Malaga, we started seeing fewer Chiguanco Thrushes and more Great Thrushes. Here's one of the latter high up near the pass. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
SPECTACLED REDSTART (Myioborus melanocephalus)
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BLACK-CAPPED HEMISPINGUS (WHITE-BROWED) (Hemispingus atropileus auricularis)
PARODI'S HEMISPINGUS (Hemispingus parodii) [E]
OLEAGINOUS HEMISPINGUS (Hemispingus frontalis)
THREE-STRIPED HEMISPINGUS (Hemispingus trifasciatus)
RUST-AND-YELLOW TANAGER (Thlypopsis ruficeps)
SCARLET-BELLIED MOUNTAIN-TANAGER (Anisognathus igniventris)
CHESTNUT-BELLIED MOUNTAIN-TANAGER (Dubusia castaneoventris)
BLUE-AND-YELLOW TANAGER (Pipraeidea bonariensis)
BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus)
You won't find the Parodi's Hemispingus in any other country on earth. This endemic is tied to the bamboo habitat on the east slope of the Andes which is where we found this particular one. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
PALM TANAGER (Thraupis palmarum)
BLUE-CAPPED TANAGER (Thraupis cyanocephala)
GOLDEN-NAPED TANAGER (Tangara ruficervix inca)
SILVERY TANAGER (Tangara viridicollis)
BLUE-NECKED TANAGER (Tangara cyanicollis)
SAFFRON-CROWNED TANAGER (Tangara xanthocephala)
BLUE DACNIS (Dacnis cayana)
CINEREOUS CONEBILL (Conirostrum cinereum)
CAPPED CONEBILL (Conirostrum albifrons)
WHITE-BROWED CONEBILL (Conirostrum ferrugineiventre)
The Golden-naped Tanager was a real stunner during our time in Aguas Calientes. Although never abundant, we saw them occasionally near the fruit feeders and again near the helipad. Such a gorgeous bird! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
TIT-LIKE DACNIS (Xenodacnis parina)
MOUSTACHED FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa mystacalis)
BLACK-THROATED FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa brunneiventris)
RUSTY FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa sittoides)
MASKED FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa cyanea)
PERUVIAN SIERRA-FINCH (Phrygilus punensis)
PLUMBEOUS SIERRA-FINCH (Phrygilus unicolor)
ASH-BREASTED SIERRA-FINCH (Phrygilus plebejus)
WHITE-WINGED DIUCA-FINCH (Diuca speculifera)
CHESTNUT-BREASTED MOUNTAIN-FINCH (Poospiza caesar) [E]
These Greenish Yellow-Finches were conspicuous garden companions at our lodge in Ollantaytambo. Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
GREENISH YELLOW-FINCH (Sicalis olivascens)
BAND-TAILED SEEDEATER (Catamenia analis)
PLAIN-COLORED SEEDEATER (Catamenia inornata)
DULL-COLORED GRASSQUIT (Tiaris obscurus)
GOLDEN-BILLED SALTATOR (Saltator aurantiirostris)
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
SHORT-BILLED CHLOROSPINGUS (Chlorospingus parvirostris)
Black-backed Grosbeaks turned out to be fairly common at our lodge in Ollantaytambo. What a huge bill! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
CHESTNUT-CAPPED BRUSHFINCH (Arremon brunneinucha)
RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis)
Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)
HEPATIC TANAGER (HIGHLAND) (Piranga flava lutea)
BLACK-BACKED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus aureoventris)
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
YELLOW-WINGED BLACKBIRD (Agelasticus thilius)
DUSKY-GREEN OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius atrovirens)
Machu Picchu. These Inca ruins were, without a doubt, a major highlight for all of us! Photo by guide Cory Gregory.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
THICK-BILLED EUPHONIA (Euphonia laniirostris)
ORANGE-BELLIED EUPHONIA (Euphonia xanthogaster)
BLUE-NAPED CHLOROPHONIA (Chlorophonia cyanea)
HOODED SISKIN (Spinus magellanicus)
OLIVACEOUS SISKIN (Spinus olivaceus)
BROWN AGOUTI (Dasyprocta variegata)
Totals for the tour: 199 bird taxa and 1 mammal taxa