Cloud Forests of Northern Peru Pre-trip Amazon River Cruise: Feb 02—09, 2018

Owlets, Spatuletails and Tanagers

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Departs: Lima
Tour Limit: 8
Operations Manager: Greg Lopez
Download Itinerary: PDF (3 MB)

Route Map


Tour Leaders


Andrew Whittaker

Andrew Whittaker, a senior member of the VENT staff, has led VENT tours since 1993 throughou...

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Marvelous Spatuletail

Marvelous Spatuletail— Photo: Steve Hilty

Based at an excellent lodge located in a pristine cloud forest reserve at the northern end of Peru’s Cordillera Oriental; features a spectacular array of seldom-seen birds, including numerous endemics; strong emphasis on hordes of hummingbirds and colorful tanagers (40+ of both); first night in the foothills at a pleasant new eco-lodge near the town of Moyobamba brimming with hummingbirds and orchids.

Our trip begins in the foothills with an overnight at a pleasant new lodge notable for the large number of species of hummingbirds, including Rufous-crested Coquette, that can be seen from a super hummingbird platform in the forested grounds, as well as an interesting mix of primarily foothill species. It provides a perfect stopover en route to our main destination, which is the lovely Owlet Lodge in Abra Patricia pass further to the west in magnificent Andean cloud forest.

The Owlet Lodge will be our base for exploring the fascinating avifauna of northern Peru’s cloud forests. Few tours anywhere offer such a colorful and exciting mix of highland birds as this tour, nor so many range-restricted species and endemics. The avifauna here, on the south side of the Río Marañon, differs markedly from that on the northern side, and also from that of southern Ecuador.  From the lodge there is an excellent network of well-kept forest trails (some are steep), a canopy tower nearby, and an array of hummingbird feeders where a half-dozen species or more are almost always present, including the amazing Sword-billed, dazzling Long-tailed Sylph, Emerald-bellied Puffleg, energetic White-bellied Woodstars, and Fawn-breasted Brilliant.

Johnson's Tody-Tyrant

Johnson’s Tody-Tyrant— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Scientists from LSU first explored the Abra Patricia area only in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and several species new to science were discovered in this region. Among them were the Long-whiskered Owlet, Royal Sunangel, Ochre-breasted Antpitta, Johnson’s Tody-Tyrant, Cinnamon-breasted Tody-Tyrant, and Bar-winged Wood-Wren. Short drives will allow us to explore sites where almost all of these birds were found. Most spectacular of all is the endemic Marvelous Spatuletail, a hummingbird that has been featured in numerous televised documentaries because of its fantastic appearance and displays. This almost otherworldly little hummingbird can usually be found relatively easily at a nearby reserve, which we will visit, and seeing it will be a high priority.

The cloud forests of Abra Patricia provide some of the most exciting birding and most amazing mixed species flocks to be found anywhere in the Andes. A sampling of species, almost all of which can be found in a few days here, includes Torrent Duck, Crimson-mantled and Crimson-bellied woodpeckers, Versicolored Barbet, Lanceolated Monklet, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, the wonderful Andean Cock-of-the-rock (regularly seen), Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Green-and-black Fruiteater, White-collared Jay, White-capped Tanager, Hooded and Blue-winged mountain-tanagers, Grass-green Tanager, Vermilion Tanager, Saffron-crowned Tanager, Paradise Tanager, and even the striking endemic Yellow-scarfed Tanager. For birders with patience there are also plenty of challenging antwrens, antpittas, and other hard-to-see species in these beautiful forests.

The Abra Patricia area gained fame among ornithologists when the endemic Long-whiskered Owlet was discovered here. This tiny owl has proved challenging to locate (to say the least), but has recently been found within a strenuous hour walking distance of the lodge. We should have the opportunity to search for this little owl (and have had great luck over the years), one of the world’s rarest, as well as perhaps other owls and nocturnal species such as the impressive Lyre or Swallow-tailed Nightjar, Rufous-banded Owl, and Cinnamon Screech-Owl.

Well-kept lodge with comfortable accommodations, good food, and great trails; relatively short drives for excursions away from lodge; birding mostly along paved roads with varying amounts of traffic that will include some large trucks; internet service very slow; elevations vary from 2,800 feet on first night to 7,600 feet at the Abra Patricia lodge; cool temperatures and notably damp, with some rain expected. Abra Patricia Lodge can be quite chilly (no heat as yet in rooms). From the parking lot a moderately steep 10-minute climb (ca. 30 degree angle) is required (at 7,600 m el.) to reach the lodge building.