According to SERNANP (Peru’s National Service for State-Protected Natural Areas), more than 1800 bird species have been recorded within Peru’s national territory, a figure only rivaled by neighboring Colombia, and more species are still being identified. To put this number into perspective, one need only recall that a total of 914 native bird species have been identified to date within the entire territory of the continental United States. And of the bird species known to inhabit Peru’s national territory, 117 are classified as globally threatened, and 139 as endemic, meaning they are only found in Peru.
Of the estimated 1861 bird species known to exist in Peru, SERNANP reports that as of 2015 a total of 648 species had been sighted within the borders of the 3,655,000 acre Tambopata National Reserve.
It is the extensive wetland, river and lake systems of Tambopata National Reserve make it the ideal habitat for such an enormous number of birds, including 40 transcontinental migratory species.
The species many visitors to the Reserve hope to see include the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), the crested eagle (Morphus guianensis), the razor-billed curassow (Mitu tuberosum), the horned curassow (Pauxi unicornis), wattled curassow (Crax globulosa) and hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin). In addition, Tambopata National Reserve is home to almost all the species of macaws found within Peruvian territory.
While forest lakes and wetlands are often the best places to spot an abundant variety of birdlife, the best place in the Amazon basin to see macaws and parrots is a clay lick. These species have learned that the toxins found in some of the seeds and fruits they consume can be neutralized by the minerals found in the clay on certain eroded banks of the forest’s meandering rivers. Two major clay licks, known in Peru as “collpas”, exist within Tambopata National Reserve: Chuncho and Colorado. Colorado is acknowledged as the largest known macaw and parrot lick in the entire Peruvian Amazon.
This extraordinary adaptation results in large mixed flocks of macaw and parrot species gathering at clay licks in order to feed on clay and neutralize the potentially harmful effects of the seeds and fruits in their diet. This makes for a unique spectacle, which at Tambopata Ecolodge we offer as part of some of our itineraries, as dozens or even hundreds of birds come together in a mass of bright colors and screeching calls.