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Birding from Cuzco for a Day? (1 Viewer)

rylirk

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Hi all, I have a fairly short notice work trip to South America coming up and am going to come back via a short time in Cuzco. While I'll mainly be there for sightseeing, it would be nice to get a day or two of birding in too.

I cannot drive, so there's basically 3 options. I can bird within the city, I can hire a guide to take me somewhere for a day (although I'm somewhat limited budget-wise) or I can go somewhere via public transport. My target is Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, which I acknowledge is pretty unlikely, but South America is a whole new continent for me so anything I get will be new. I will be doing Machi Picchu, so I gather I have a slight chance of Cock-of-the-Rock there?

So if anyone has any advice for birding spots I could get to, or has any reccomendations of guides I could hire at fairly short notice (first week of March), please let me know :)
 

SlowLowFlyingTurkey

Well-known member
Day trips to Machu Picchu from Cuzco involve getting the (very pleasant) train to the small town of Aguas Calientes and then a bus up a winding hill to the site. For good birding you can catch the train and then stay a couple of days in Aguas Calientes (lots of accomodation and restaurants). You can then buy your bus ticket and Machu Picchu permit the day before and catch one of the earliest buses the next morning.

Machu Picchu itself is pretty good for birding. I found the best area was the path that leads down to a gate where the Inca Trail trekkers arrive on site at the end of their treks. I had White-throated Quail-dove, White-rumped Hawk and Inca Wren along here by checking it out first thing before it got too busy. After visiting the site you can forego the bus and walk back down to Aguas Calientes through some decent forest.

From Aguas Calientes it is worth walking along the river towards the Machu Picchu entrance (Torrent Duck and Fasciated Tiger-heron here). The road to Machu Picchu crosses the river and there is a checkpoint that won't let you cross unless you have a Machu Picchu ticket or you are visiting the museum nearby. However, from near this checkpoint you can walk along the railway line, which has very few trains but loads of birds (I saw a female Cock-of-the-rock here and I believe there is a lek nearby). Don't worry about walking along the railway - you'll see plenty of locals doing it.

Cuzco itself has lots of Inca sites nearby which can be reached easily on public transport and also have a few good birds around. I bought a slim guide (in English) to the birds of Machu Picchu somewhere in a tourist shop that covered pretty much everything you are likely to see around here.
 

SlowLowFlyingTurkey

Well-known member
A bit of Googling has reminded me that the book I bought was called 'Birds of Machu Picchu - The 86 Most Common Species'. I managed to see pretty much everything in the book just by wandering around on my own.
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
Both suggestions are good, but if you have limited time and have never been to South America, spending extra time in Aguas Calientes by not doing just a one-day trip to Machu Picchu will yield much better birding and more "exotic" species than birding higher elevation areas sites such as Huacarpay. Not to say Huacarpay isn't a good option - just that a day there might be less exciting than a day birding around Aguas Calientes and the railroad track.

If you're not familiar with it, the eBird hotspot explorer tool is a good way to get an idea of what you can see where.

https://ebird.org/hotspots

Plug in "Cuzco" for Location in the upper right, then navigate around a bit. You'll see three areas of primary interest in the general area:

- The road down the Amazon and all the lodges/hotspots along it - this is the famous "Manu Rd" though probably too far / too large a scope for your trip, though it has a roadside Cock of the Rock lek.
- The road to and over Abra Malaga - great birding, has some very special birds, but too far / too large a scope for your trip most likely.
- The route to and the area around Machu Picchu.

If you click on individual hotspots you can see # of species recorded, then you can click to get a hotspot page for the site, and if you find the "Bar Charts" option on that page, it'll give you a good seasonal representation of what gets seen there and how frequently. Here are three barcharts as examples - for the ruins, for the railroad line and the valley it runs through, and for Huacarpay:

https://ebird.org/barchart?r=L1756390&yr=all&m=
https://ebird.org/barchart?r=L1004819&yr=all&m=
https://ebird.org/barchart?r=L492963&yr=all&m=

Cheers and good luck.
 

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