Book Review: The Northern Peru Birding Route, La Ruta de Aves del Norte del Peru

Ruta de Aves del Norte cover Peru Steve Shunk

Where can you travel to find over 200 flycatcher species; 150 tanagers and 110 overbirds; over 100 hummingbirds; and up to 28 Antpittas? Northern Peru is one of the world’s most endemic-rich continental birding regions, and there is a bilingual guidebook that will serve independent travelers as well as those visiting the region with tour groups. The only way to begin looking for the 1,600+ species that have occurred in the region is to find a copy of La Ruta de Aves del Norte del Peru, or The Northern Peru Birding Route, by Jeremy Flanagan.

A visit to the hummingbird station at Waqanki Lodge typically provides excellent looks at the tiny Rufous-crested Coquette. Photo by Steve Shunk

A visit to the hummingbird station at Waqanki Lodge typically provides excellent looks at the tiny Rufous-crested Coquette. Photo by Steve Shunk

This world-class birding route begins at the Pacific Coast near arid Chiclayo and quickly climbs 2,140-m Abra Porculla, but not before taking you to amazing community preserves at Chaparri and Bosque de Pomac. Key endemics in these preserves include White-winged Guan, Tumbes Tyrant, Rufous Flycatcher, and Pervian Plantcutter. The backside of Abra Porculla puts your radar on high alert for Andean Condors as you descend toward the Marañon Valley. The Marañon is loaded with endemic birds, several of which carry the river’s name—Marañon Pigeon, Marañon Spinetail, Marañon Cresecentchest, and Marañon Thrush—along with the skulky Speckle-breasted Wren and the handsome Little Inca Finch, one of the 5 Incaspiza finches in this Peruvian endemic genus. From the Marañon, the route climbs to 2,300-m Abra Patricia, with a stop at Huembo Preserve to see the iconic hummingbird, the Marvelous Spatuletail. Abra Patricia itself has become legendary for its easy access to such endemic birds as the Long-whiskered Owlet (one of the world’s 3 smallest owls), Speckle-chested Piculet, and Yellow-scarfed Tanager.

White-winged Guan, Chaparri Reserve, Peru.

Look for the endemic White-winged Guan at Chaparri Reserve in Northern Peru. Photo by Steve Shunk

But the highlight of Abra Patricia for many birders is the hours spent watching hummingbirds, with Long-tailed Sylph, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, and Collared Inca all easily seen at close range. Your descent of the steep eastern slope of Abra Patricia will take you to Alto Nieva to see the Royal Sunangel and Booted Raquettail. After stopping at the tinamou feeding station at Norbil’s White-sand Reserve in Aguas Verdes, you reach the Moyobamba Valley and the fantastic hummingbird mecca at Waqanki Lodge. The list here is long, with such specialties as Rufous-crested Coquette, White-chinned Sapphire, and the abundant Golden-tailed Sapphire. Over 300 bird species can be seen around Waqanki. Eventually, the Northern Peru Birding Route drops you in Tarapoto.

Tumbes Tyrant, Chaparri Reserve, Peru.

The Peruvian endemic Tumbes Tyrant, easily found at Chaparri Reserve in Northern Peru. Photo by Steve Shunk

Detailed site descriptions include key species for each location as well as local accommodations, driving directions, and the names and contact info for local guides, who offer essential local knowledge and save you tons of time searching for your target birds. Independent travelers can use the book as a general guide to the region, but a good map and some grasp of the Spanish language will help you find the unsigned roads and hidden gems. Independent travelers should plan several weeks to take in the top birding sites, or plan multiple trips and do the route in segments. Note that several of the local preserves require advance booking. The bird checklist at the end of the book includes over 1,600 species that have occurred in Northern Peru, from the pelagic realm to the Amazon Basin.

Yellow-tufted Woodpecker; Moyobamba, Peru. Steve Shunk

The handsome Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, outside Moyobamba, Peru. Photo by Steve Shunk

HOT TIP: Don’t speak any Spanish? Don’t want to spend several weeks struggling to find the birds on your own? You might want to hire Wilson Diaz of Green Tours to plan and lead your trip. A Peruvian native, Wilson did the Spanish translation for the book, and he contributed several photos. He will make contact and set appointments with all the local guides; he knows what is being see where; he takes you to the cleanest and most typical local restaurants; he books your rooms; and he bridges the language barrier for you.

Your biggest challenge with the book will acquiring your own personal copy. You won’t find it on Amazon, and a Google search for the title will only get you to a PDF map of the route. Your best bet is to contact Wilson Diaz at the link above and ask him to find you a copy. It’s worth the extra effort, if for no other reason than to get the comprehensive checklist in the back (as of this writing, no printed checklist is available for Peru’s 1,800+ species). However you manage, just get yourself to Northern Peru with a copy of Flanagan’s guidebook in hand.


Author: Jeremy Flanagan

Copyright: 2014

Publisher: Fondo Editorial, Universidad Cientifica del Sur

Buy Now: Amazon

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