By Eduardo Ormaeche
Birding is amazing, no matter where you go and what kind of birds you prefer. For me, highlights are walking down a montane forest road such as the incredible Manu Road in Peru or the equally amazing Santa Marta Road in Colombia, or looking at massive mixed flocks of colorful tanagers and other treasures, or observing more subtle species that are however rare or of major ornithological value. Or watching dozens of canopy dwellers and witnessing a spectacular sunrise from a 165-foot-tall canopy tower in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, or doing a 26-day trip driving through the Andes of northern Peru, ticking a plethora of country endemics. No matter what country, I enjoy birding in South America very much. But, one of my absolutely top favorite highlights of birding is to stand or sit in front of a hummingbird feeding station watching swarms of hummers buzzing all around me while sipping a good cup of tea.
Hummingbirds are among the most beautiful, fancy and diverse birds in the world and South America has become an obligatory destination to see these exclusively New World species. Despite controversies as to whether feeding hummingbirds is bad from a conservation point of view, I believe that the frenzy of hummingbirds flying all over and around the feeders is not only one of the greatest shows on earth, but it is also an invaluable learning experience for getting to grips with hummingbird identification. It allows birders to observe the different plumages of males, females, and juveniles of the same species feeding at the same time, to recognize the similarities and differences (sometimes only slight!) between species, and last but not least to have excellent views of some of the most elusive hummingbirds that are much harder to see in the bush than on a feeder. These include impressive things like Booted Racket-tail and in fact (these days) Marvelous Spatuletail.
Booted Racket-tail (Ken Logan)
Marvelous Spatuletail (Ken Logan)
The most famous hummingbird-watching destination has arguably always been northern Ecuador due to its compact size, excellent birding infrastructure, long ecotourism industry history, and of course the sheer number of hummingbird species (and individuals) that visit some of the well-established feeding stations there. A three-week trip to Ecuador might yield the spectacular amount of 74 hummingbird species, a true record. Recently, since Colombia’s violent times are over and thousands of birders put their radars on this fantastic destination, birding has become popular among the locals of Colombia, who realize that birding is a good way to obtain benefits from ecotourism. New lodges and private reserves are widespread throughout the country, providing the most spectacular bird species, including a long list of 69 hummingbird species on a three-week trip. Costa Rica is also one of the top countries for seeing hummingbirds at feeders.
For many years, Peru was a famous destination because of Machu Picchu, the Manu Biosphere Reserve, the unbelievably bird-rich Tambopata National Park and other famed sites. But Peru offers much more than these classic destinations. Today, northern Peru has become a fantastic destination to see some of the most sought-after birds in the world, including the most spectacular of all hummingbirds, the Marvelous Spatuletail.
If you visited northern Peru over ten years ago, you might remember some good birds but also how difficult it was to track them down and how bad the roads were. But today, northern Peru allows some of the easiest (and least expensive) birding in the country, with 90% of all the roads paved. Today you can reach Chiclayo, the classic rendezvous point for northern Peru birding tours, with a direct flight from Panama City, or from Tarapoto after a one-hour domestic flight (daily) from Lima. The stretch of road between Tarapoto in the Amazon and the Pomacochas cloudforest, which is the habitat of Marvelous Spatuletail, is only 280 kilometers (174 miles) and today holds eight hummingbird feeding stations. At the best of times, these can provide between 40 and 45 other hummingbird species in three days only compared to 74 species in Ecuador but given three weeks, not three days!
Amethyst Woodstar (Charly Sax)
You can easily join our existing northern Peru tours to see these hummers, or you can book a special three-day visit to this area to enjoy a spectacular selection of hummingbirds, including the endemics Koepcke’s Hermit and Marvelous Spatuletail, and also Royal Sunangel, Blue-fronted Lancebill, Gould’s Jewelfront, Wire-crested Thorntail, Ecuadorian Piedtail, Rufous-crested Coquette, Black-throated Hermit, Rufous-vented Whitetip, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, and Little Woodstar, among many others.
Rufous-crested Coquette (Ken Logan)
We invite you to join an easy trip to relax with many brilliant hummingbird species and all the classic Birding Ecotours treats: friendly leaders, comfortable vehicles and hotels, and a few cold beers and nice ginger tea.
Black-breasted Hillstar (Niall Perrins)
Northern Peru is also one of the best places to see a large number of owl species, so we also offer an “Owls of the World” trip there – see details, including a photo gallery from previous Birding Tour Peru: Owls of Northern Peru tours.
Black-throated Mango (Janice Petko)
However, to combine hummingbirds, owls and all the many endemic birds of northern Peru, its best just to join one of our standard trips to this area – either the comprehensive one or the short one (in which we also avoid the highest altitudes, good for those who don’t tolerate these well!) – see Birding Tour Peru: Comprehensive Northern Peru and Birding Tour Peru: Northwest and Abra Patricia Mountains respectively for the long and short Northern Peru birding tours we offer annually.
Festive Coquette (Charly Sax)
All our other Peru bird tours are shown at here – these include the classic southern routes as well.
Fork-tailed Woodnymph (Alan van Norman)
Rufous-crowned Coquette (Niall Perrins)