Once part of the Inca Empire, and later known as “Upper Peru” during Spanish rule, Bolivia is a truly fascinating country. In addition to being one of only two landlocked South American countries (the other one being Paraguay), Bolivia and neighboring parts of Peru contain the second largest high plateau (after Tibet), the Altiplano or Bolivian Plateau of the high Andes. On the northern end of the Altiplano lies the massive and very deep Lake Titicaca, straddling the border with Peru and lying at a staggering altitude of 12,503 feet! The avian star here is the bizarre, flightless, and sadly endangered Titicaca Grebe. Temporary populations of this sought-after species occur in smaller lakes when Titicaca floods.
Bolivia has a great diversity of other habitats, in addition to the windswept highlands – in fact, over half the country is a lowland wilderness that includes part of the Amazon Basin, the richest biome on earth for birds. Ascending the slopes of the Andes from these lowlands towards the plateau are a range of different forest types, including subtropical Yungas forests, large areas of temperate forest, and at high altitudes just below the tree line, Polylepis forest which is very rich in endemic birds.
This rich assemblage of habitats supports the high bird diversity of Bolivia, which boasts 1,429 different species. 21 are endemic to Bolivia, including Blue-throated (Critically Endangered) and Red-fronted (Endangered) Macaws, Cliff Parakeet, Rufous-faced and Masked Antpittas, Palkachupa Cotinga, and other charismatic birds.
Bolivia also hosts the famous “Death Road,” more formally named the “North Yungas Road,” which is commonly regarded as the most dangerous road in the world. If you’re willing to risk becoming a statistic (it has been said that 200-300 people die along this road annually), then this road does give easy access to an altitudinal range of over 11,000 feet in only 50 (albeit nerve-wracking) miles. Contributor: Chris Lotz/Birding Ecotours.