Cajamarca and the Río Marañón endemics
By Wilson Diaz
Peru has been blessed with unique environmental and geographical conditions that allow the existence of an exceptional set of endemic bird species. According to the updated list of HBW/BirdLife International Peru has 136 endemic bird species, much of them very easy to find, and at locations with good access for tourism.
Northern Peru is a major hotspot for endemic species. With 16 Peruvian endemics, the surroundings of the Andean city of Cajamarca are just perfect for a short birding getaway. Cajamarca is easily accessed by taking one of the four daily flights from Lima, and there are several options for lodging, from small hostels to 4-stars hotels.
The main birding areas around Cajamarca to look for endemic species are:
The Río Chonta valley, located some 15 Km northeast of the city. The site is a narrow valley surrounded by semi-humid scrub and cliffs covered with bromeliads, this vegetation holds 6 Peruvian endemics, along with another 40 species that have been recorded in the area.
|View of the Río Chonta valley|
The main target here is the Grey-bellied Comet, a rare and endangered hummingbird whose distribution range is currently restricted to this small area of the Río Chonta valley. Research is being carried out looking for other places with similar habitat that might hold the species, but so far with very little success.
|Rusty-crowned Spintetail. Photo by Manuel Roncal|
El Gavilán mountain pass, found some 20-minutes’ drive southeast of the city of Cajamarca. This is the best place around Cajamarca to look for Rufous-backed Inca-Finch. Inca-Finches are a set of 5 species of the genus Incaspiza, all of them endemic to Peru, easily recognisable by its bright yellow legs and bill, and black mask.
|Unicolored Tapaculo. Photo by Manuel Roncal|
|View of lake San Nicolás|
|Great Spinetail. Photo by Manuel Roncal|
Not far from the San Marcos site is the “Loma de las Perdices” private reserve, where the White-rumped Black-Tyrant is particularly abundant. This species is a recent split from the more common and widespread White-winged Black-Tyrant, but “White-rumped” is endemic and restricted to this small area of northern Peru.
Hacienda El Limón. This site requires a longer trip from Cajamarca. The best way to do it is to move to the city of Celendín (100 Km northeast from the city of Cajamarca) for at least one night, and explore the area from there.
|View of Hacienda El Limón|
The other special bird here is the Chestnut-backed Thornbird, a restricted range furnarid that, a few years ago, was fairly common in the right habitat, but in the recent years has become quite difficult to find, mainly because of habitat loss.
|Chestnut-backed Thornbird. Photo by Manuel Roncal|
Chacanto and Balzas. Below Hacienda El Limón the road goes across a drier habitat with thorny scrub and cacti, ideal habitat for another Inca-Finch (this makes 3 out of 5 Inca-Finches for the trip!): Buff-bridled Inca-Finch. The bird can be usually seen on the ground or on top of columnar cacti while singing defending their territories.
|Yellow-faced Parrotlet. Photo by Manuel Roncal|
So, are you ready for your next birding adventure? Just send us an email to email@example.com and ask for a personalized tour.
I would like to thank to my friend Manuel Roncal for allowing me to use some of his pictures.