Peru: Northern Andes

Some of the world’s best birds including Marvelous Spatuletail, Scarlet-banded Barbet, Long-whiskered Owlet and Pale-billed Antpitta feature on this exciting tour, as well as many other brilliant species.

Next dates

1-18 December 2023

Tour length: 18 days

Group size limit: 6


Dani López-Velasco, Daniel Aldana, and a local leader

Tour full

1-18 December 2024

Tour length: 18 days

Group size limit: 6


Diego Calderon and a local leader

Spaces available

1-18 December 2025

Tour length: 18 days

Group size limit: 6


Daniel Aldana and a local leader

Spaces available

Day 1: The tour starts this afternoon at Tarapoto airport. From there we will drive to Bellavista. Overnight at Monteverde hotel.

Day 2: We will leave early on our 4WD vehicles, heading to Flor de Café village (formerly known as “Plataforma”), located at 1400m in the foothills of the Cordillera Azul. Stops on the way might produce Hoatzin, Limpkin, Snail Kite, Grey-necked Wood Rail, White-Winged Swallow, Blackish Pewee, Western Striolated and White-Necked Puffbirds and Lemon-throated Barbet. Of course our target number one here is the amazing Scarlet-banded Barbet, and we will start searching for it on our first afternoon. Owling can yield Foothill (Napo) and Rufescent Screech Owls and Band-bellied Owl. Overnight at Flor de Café.

Day 3: Full day looking for a number of specialities, including more chances of seeing the barbet, as well as the recently discovered Cordillera Azul Antbird, together with Chestnut-tipped Toucanet, Scaled, Fiery-throated and Scarlet-breasted Fruiteaters, the newly described foothill form of Long-tailed Woodcreeper, Rose-fronted Parakeet, Foothill Schiffornis, Grey-tailed Piha, White-Fronted Tyrannulet, Yellow-throated Spadebill, Dusky Leaftosser, Yellow-cheeked Becard, Jet, Yungas and Blue-rumped (the form here is sometimes split as Milky-rumped) Manakins, Blue-browed Tanager and many others. The list of uncommon birds of this area is truly extraordinary! Overnight at Flor de Café.

Day 4: After some early morning birding at Flor de Café, we will transfer via Bellavista to Tarapoto for an overnight stay, stopping en route to explore a number of lower areas with gallery forest and dry deciduous woodland. Birds to look for include Pheasant Cuckoo, the distinctive local form of Northern Slaty Antshrike (sometimes split as Huallaga Antshrike), Southern Chestnut-tailed Antbird, White-bellied Pygmy Tyrant, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Rufous Casiornis, Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Chestnut-throated Spinetail, Ashy-headed Greenlet and Band-tailed Manakin. Overnight at Hotel Rio Cumbaza, Tarapoto.

Day 5 : The morning will be spent at a private reserve close to Tarapoto, where hummingbird feeders usually attract Koepcke’s Hermit, Gould’s Jewelfront and sometimes Black-throated Brilliant, amongst others. Birding the trails should produce Golden-headed Manakin at a lek, and, if lucky, White-plumed and Hairy-crested Antbirds attending an ant swarm. Later we will drive to Moyobamba, with a stop on the main road to look at some amazing Oilbirds at what’s surely the easiest place in the world to observe this extraordinary species. Overnight at Waqanki lodge.

Day 6: All day birding around the lodge, searching for the recently described Painted Manakin and the local form of Mishana Tyrannulet. Other species here include Varzea Thrush, Buff-throated Tody Tyrant, Olive-chested Flycatcher, Dusky and Cinereous-breasted Spinetails, Red-shouldered Tanager, Lanceolated Monklet and many more. Hummingbirds are a feature of the place and include Rufous-crested Coquette, Black-throated Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire and others. In the afternoon we will visit a couple of lowland forest where Masked Duck, Russet-crowned Crake, Buckley’s Forest Falcon if lucky, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Pearly-vented and Stripe-Necked Tody Tyrants, Rusty-backed Antwren, Point-tailed Palmcreeper, Yellow Tyrannulet, Black-faced Tanager and Wedge-tailed Grassfinch all occur. Nightbirds are well represented too and can include Stygian, Striped and Tropical Screech Owls and Spot-tailed and Rufous Nightjars. Overnight at Waqanki lodge.

Day 7: Today will be an action-packed day! Beginning with an early start in order to reach Arena Blanca reserve on time to see Cinnereous and Little Tinamous and Rufous-breasted Wood Quails at the feeders. Hummingbirds can include Blue-fronted Lancebill, Many-spotted Humingbird and Wire-crested Thorntail. The stunted forests nearby are home to the localized Northern Chestnut-tailed (or Zimmer’s) Antbird and the smart endemic Huallaga (or Black-bellied) Tanager. Afterwards we will move to another site, Afluente, where mixed flocks can hold Ecuadorian Tyrannaulet, Equatorial Greytail, Grey-mantled Wren and Bicolored Antvireo, while Andean Cock-of-the-Rock and Ecuadorian Piedtail are both present. Later on we will move to Fundo Alto Nieva, where we will make our first evening attempt at the near-mythical Long-wiskered Owlet. If the weather is good then we have a fair chance of seeing this extreme rarity. Later we will drive to Owlet Lodge in Abra Patricia, where we will spend the following 3 nights.

Days 8-9: During these two days we will be birding at Fundo Alto Nieva and around Owlet Lodge, trying for Rusty-tinged and Ochre-fronted Antpittas, which at the time of writing are being fed with mealworms. Other species we will be focusing on include Royal Sunangel, Chestnut and Rufous-breasted Antpittas, Bar-winged Wood Wren, Cinnamon-breasted Tody Flycatcher, Vermilion, White-capped and Yellow-throated Tanagers, Olivaceous Piha, Lulu’s (or Johnson’s) Tody-Tyrant, Maroon-belted Chat Tyrant, Black-throated Toucanet, Inca Flycatcher, Saffron-Crowned, Yellow-scarfed, Red-hooded and Grass-green Tanagers, White-collared Jay, Peruvian Tyrannulet, Olive Tufted Flycatcher, the endemic Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Streak-headed Antbird, Black-throated Tody-Tyrant, Rufous Spinetail, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant and many more. Our lodge has some very attractive hummingbird feeders that are visited by Green Hermit, Speckled Hummingbird, Fawn-breasted Brilliant, Bronzy and Collared Incas, Emerald-bellied Pufflegs, Long-tailed Sylphs, amazing Sword-billed Hummingbirds and White-bellied Woodstars. Another nearby set of feeders can attract the stunning Peruvian Racket-tail and some differents hummers. If needed, we will try again for Long-whiskered Owlet. Other nightbirds such as Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Rufous-banded Owl and Cinnamon Screech Owl are all present around the lodge. Nights at Owlet Lodge.

Day 10: Full morning around the lodge searching for whatever we might have missed, then transfer to Pomacochas. Night at Hotel las Brisas.

Day 11: An early start will be needed to reach a site for the elusive and spectacular Pale-billed Antpitta. As we hike up we will try for White-throated Screech Owl. After an ascent, we will reach the highly fragmented forest patches in which our target bird lives. The distinctive “Grey-browed” Plain-tailed Wren is also here, as well as the superb Violet-throated Starfrontlet. We will also have our first chance to see the endemic Russet-mantled Softtail and the endemic Unstreaked Tit-Tyrant. In the afternoon at Huembo reserve, where the incredible Marvelous Spatuletail will surely steal the show. Other species such as White-bellied Hummingbird, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Little Woodstar, Andean Emerald and Sparkling Violetear will be also present at the feeders. Time permitting, we will pay a visit to a nearby lagoon in search of Subtropical Doradito, Plumbeous Rail and Puna Snipe. Night at Hotel las Brisas.

Day 12: After some final morning birding in the Huembo area we will drive to Leymebamba, stopping at Utcubamba Valley in search of Speckle-chested Piculet, Buff-bellied Tanager, Pacific Hornero and Maranon (Speckle-breasted) Wren, and maybe Koepcke’s Screech Owl at a roosting place. Night at Hotel la Casona.

Day 13: We will set off very early to go to the lower part of the Maranon valley, where we shall look for Yellow-faced Parrotlet and Peruvian Pigeon. Then we will continue to Hacienda el Limon, where we have try to pick up some special birds such as Buff-bridled and Grey-winged Inca Finches, Chestnut-backed Thornbird and Marañon Thrush. Then we whead to Abra Barro Negro, where targets include Russet-mantled Softtail, White-chinned Thistletail, Coppery Metaltail and Blackish Tapaculo, amongst others. Night at at Hotel la Casona.

 Day 14: The forest at Atuen valley will be our first port of call, where Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Northern Mountain Cacique, Red-hooded Tanager and Peruvian Treehunter are all possible. Later we will transfer to Jaen for an overnight stay, with stops on the way to search for the Maranon form of Black-capped Sparrow, Maranon form of Speckle-chested Wren and Maranon Thrush, Maranon Crescentchest, Maranon Slaty-Antshrike, Little Inca Finch and Chinchipe Spinetail. Night at Urku hotel.

Day 15: Dawn will see us at a certain spot in the hope of finding the roberatus form of the West Peruvian Screech Owl, which possibly represents a distinct species – Maranon Screech Owl-. Once it gets light we will search for the uncommon Maranon Spinetail and Ecuadorian Ground Dove, while interesting subspecies include the isolated Maranon/Huallaga Valley race of Rufous-fronted Thornbird and the leucogaster race of Northern Slaty-Antshrike. Afterwards we will drive to Chiclayo, stopping at Abra Porcuya to look for Piura Chat Tyrant and Henna-hooded and Rufous-necked Foliage-gleaners. Night at Hotel Inti.

Day 16: Early morning transfer to Bosque de Rafan, where Pacific dry forest specialities such as Rufous Flycatcher and Peruvian Plantcutter occur. A quick stop at Santa Rosa beach should produce Peruvian Tern, Least Seedsnipe, Many-colored Rush Tyrant, Costal Miner and more. We will then move on to Chaparri lodge, where our main target will be the endangered White-winged Guan, as well as Collared Warbling Finch, Elegant Crescentchest, Sulphur-troated Finch and others. Night at Chaparri Lodge.

Day 17: Full morning birding around the lodge. Many of the birds occurring in these woodlands are restricted to semi-arid habitats in northwestern Peru and southwestern Ecuador (the so-called ‘Tumbesian endemics’) including Ecuadorian Trogon, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Grey-chinned Hermit, Tumbes Hummingbird, Chapman’s Antshrike, Pacific Elaenia, Grey-breasted Flycatcher, Tumbes Pewee, Tumbes Tyrant, Baird’s Flycatcher, Speckle-breasted Wren, Plumbeous-backed Thrush, Black-capped and Tumbes Sparrows, White-winged Brushfinch, White-edged Oriole and Grey-and-gold and Three-banded Warblers. After lunch we will head towards Tinajones lake, where we will search for Tschudi’s Nightjar in the evening. Night at El Torito Lodge.

Day 18: After some final morning birding in the Casupe area, where we will search for Ecuadorian Piculet, Ochre-bellied Dove and other Tumbesian endemics before we head to Chiclayo airport where the tour will end in the afternoon.

Tour details

Cost: $ 7,000
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 480

Accommodation: Mostly good or medium standard, although the guesthouse at Flor de Café is quite basic.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy, sometimes moderate, but there will be a couple of optional harder walks in the San Lorenzo and Abra Patricia areas, as well as at Flor de Café, where the muddy trails can be challenging.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.