A birdwatcher's paradise: Peru, home to more bird species than the continental United States

25 January 2016

According to SERNANP (Peru’s National Service for State-Protected Natural Areas), a total of 1840 bird species have been recorded within Peru’s national territory, a figure only rivaled by neighboring Colombia. 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.

Of the 1840 bird species known to exist in Peru, SERNANP reports that as of 2015 a total of 648 species have 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 that make it the ideal habitat for such an enormous number of birds, including 40 transcontinental migratory species.

The species 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 abundant 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 locally 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 remarkable behavior results in enormous numbers of different macaw and parrot species gathering at these mineral deposits in order to feed on the clay and neutralize the harmful effects of the seeds and fruits in their diet. This makes for a unique spectacle, often involving hundreds of birds coming together in a riot of bright colors and screeching calls.


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In Peru it is tourism that has made it possible to create national reserves and save the forests of the Amazon basin from destruction. By working to encourage travelers to visit the rainforest, we are ensuring it will be around for future generations to appreciate. Pioneering projects like Tambopata Ecolodge, which was established in 1991, provide the model that teaches local people the importance of conserving our natural heritage, by showing them that forests are worth more to us all when they are left to flourish, instead of being exploited.

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