Introducing North Peru and its Birds (1)

North Peru is rapidly gaining recognition in the birding fraternity as a "must go" region. With habitats ranging from coastal desert to dry savanna, lowland forest and cloud forest, the diversity of bird species that occur in this region can be a bit mind-boggling. Travelling along this route, it's impossible to ignore the jaw-dropping panoramas spotted with historic and archaeological sites. In other words, you're in for a rather full all-round experience of the region and probably will quickly realise that visiting the area once just isn't enough.

If you decide to drive to the north from Lima, these are the scenes that will greet you.

Following the route more or less in a clock-wise direction, I’ll start with the areas around Trujillo and Chiclayo along the north coast of Peru where you’ll be arriving via a flight from Lima.   

Heading north-east from Trujillo a dirt road that winds through some villages, the road eventually reaches some dry scrub and rock. Some great views are to be head from here but the main reason you’re here is to look for the Elegant Crescentchest, a lovely bird when it shows itself.

Ruins of a chapel on the beach (Playa de Eten, Chiclayo)

Culture-wise there’s some incredible archaeological sites worth visiting; the one is Huaca do Sol y Luna and the other is Chan Chan. These civilisations predate the Incas and boast grand structures including pyramid-like temples. Admittedly it’s quite hard to envisage life in the desert but then again, Trujillo is built in the desert and humans will always be adapting. At Huaca Sol y Luna keep a lookout for the Coastal Miner, your 1st Peruvian endemic for the trip.

A map depicting a historical layout of the Moche civilization.

North to Chiclayo is about 3 hours by road where there’s a few birding spots to look for some special bird species. The first is a site (Rafan) off to the west of a village where you can find the Peruvian Plantcutter, another Peruvian endemic. Here you’ll also find a huge number of Black and Turkey Vultures, Mountain Caracaras, Cinereous and Saffron Finches, and Superciliated Wren. Along the road, check the swallows as there might be some Tumbes Swallows between the Blue-and-white Swallows

Inca Terns in Lima - not to be missed!

Just south of Chiclayo, turn off to Monsefu beach and head to the beach parking spot. Peruvian Tern
will be the main attraction here but along the way it’s possible to find Yellowish Pipit, Peruvian Thick-knee, Striated Heron, Common Gallinule, and Least Seedsnipe as well. There’s also a likelihood of Peruvian Pelicans, Neotropic and Guanay Cormorants, Black-necked Stilt, Belcher’s-, Kelp and Grey Gulls, and Peruvian Booby

Neotropical Cormorant

Closer to the south of Chiclayo, (if you manage to get there late afternoon or early morning) as you cross the cross the river via a large bridge, keep an eye out for the Lesser Nighthawks flying around. A few minutes is all you’ll need and there’ll be good views of them.

East of Chiclayo is the Santuario Histórico Bosque de Pómac (Pómac Forest Historical Sanctuary) where you have a good mix of history with archaeological sites and some good birding. Near the entrance (opposite side of the main road from Chiclayo) there’s a huge breeding colony of Cattle Egrets - a quick count revealed at least 100 occupied nests! Along the main in the sanctuary towards the mirador (viewpoint), there’s some good birding to be had with Rufous Flycatcher being quite obliging. 

Peruvian Pelicans

At the the mirador (also a great place, albeit possibly a bit hot, for lunch) Variable Hawk invariably makes an appearance, although Black-chested Buzzard Eagle also hangs out from time to time. Then there’s some fun to be had sorting out seedeaters with amongst others, Parrot-billed & Drab Seedeaters, and the swallows - you’ll be looking for the Tumbes Swallow between the more common Blue-and-white Swallows. The trees along and on the dunes may have Scarlet-backed Woodpecker, Streak-headed Woodcreeper, Pale-legged Hornero and Fasciated Wren

Next up, I’ll be looking at what the well-known Chapparí private reserve, and the area north of Chiclayo around Olmos can produce. 

(keep in mind this is not an account of all birds that can possibly be seen at these sites, but only what I saw and what clients have seen while at the site with me)


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