The Republic of Bolivia – Endemic Macaws, Cloud Forests and Andes

The Republic of Bolivia – Endemic Macaws, Cloud Forests and Andes

birdPhotographer: Rob Tizzard

Bolivia stretches across the widest part of the Andean mountain chain and is one of the poorest, highest and most isolated of Latin American republics with the biggest indigenous Amerindian population. The country is as varied as its people and ranges from steaming Amazonian rainforest, high saline lakes and high steppe desert, rolling tropical savannah to snow covered peaks and glaciers of the High Andes. This varied topography makes for many habitat types and consequently one of the largest bird lists for a landlocked country in the world. On this trip, we look for two endemic big Macaws and much much more

Day 1:

Most International flights arrive at Viru-Viru airport in Santa Cruz early in the morning. Visit to the very birdy Botanical gardens. We'll pay particular attention to any Santa Cruz specialties we may have missed. First, we’ll visit a small lake, which is home to Least Grebe, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Wattled Jacana, Rufous-sided Crake, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Red-capped Cardinal. The light forest around the lake is often noisy with Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, Blue-winged Parrotlets, Thrush-like Wrens and Rufous Horneros. Once in the tall Chiquitano dry forest we may see many birds including Green-cheeked Parakeet, Buff-bellied Hermit, White-wedged Piculet, Bolivian Slaty Antshrike and Fawn-breasted Wren, Pale-crested Woodpecker and White-backed Fire-eye.

With luck, we may hear or see Hooded Capuchin and Pale Titi Monkey or see a family of Black-tailed Marmosets. To the east of the botanic garden lies a patch of Chacoan thorn scrub where we’ll look for Rufous-throated Sapphire, Red-billed Scythebill, White-bellied and White-crested Tyrannulets, Mato Grosso Antbird and the delightful Stripe-backed Antbird. After lunch at a typical restaurant we spend the afternoon at Lomas de Arena. Lomas de Arena was initially preserved because of a small lake between sand dunes that can give the impression of having a beach. Several types of habitats are preserved in the area: savannahs, dry forest, marshes and large water bodies. The area is also a stop over and wintering ground for many Austral and Boreal migrants.

Over 240 birds have been recorded in the park but it is believed only 70 are actual residents. The usual daily list stands at 60-80 species. The bird community is in constant flux, with many crazy single day records of hundreds of Austral migrant birds just passing through on their way to or from Argentina. Moreover, in Bolivia 's summer, Eastern Kingbirds and Barn Swallows can be the most abundant birds.

The area has many easily seen desired birds such as Comb Duck, Brazilian Duck, Burrowing Owl, White-eared Puffbird, White Woodpecker, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, and Chotoy Spinetail. The area also harbors some rarities like Toco Toucan, and Red-legged Seriema. Birds seen in this area are Red-winged Tinamou, White-bellied Nothura, Buff-necked Ibis, White-tailed Hawk, Southern Caracara, Burrowing Owl, White-eared Puffbird, White-woodpecker (Austral Migrant), Campo Flicker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Hudson's Black-Tyrant (Austral Migrant), Spectacled Tyrant, Black-backed Water-Tyrant, Yellowish Pipit, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, and the rare Black-throated Saltator.

Further on the road is the Hotal Sol & Arena. Over the vegetated small sand dunes east of the hotel (just behind the dining area) is a large area of closed dry and mixed forest that is well worth a visit. The land is private and used for cattle pasture. There is no official trail system, but there is well used cattle trail that travels over the vegetated sand dunes and into the forest, from there travelling north and south. In the closed forest area, there is Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Blue-crowned Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Toco Toucan, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Buff-breasted Woodcreeper, Great Antshrike, Steaked Flycatcher, Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher, Moustached Wren, Plush-crested Jay, Grayish Saltator, and Orange-backed Troupial. Night in Santa Cruz B: L: D

Day 2:

Today we take a local flight to the bustling town of Trinidad situated in the flooded savannahs of Beni. On arrival at the airport we'll bird the road to Loma Suarez with a picnic lunch. This area is full of birds. Concentrating on a dry riverine gallery woodland, possibilities include Mato Grosso Antbird, Plain Softail (the probably distinct Beni form), Undulated Tinamou, Straight-billed and Buff-throated Woodcreepers, White-eyed Attila, Short-tailed Pygmy-tyrant, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Golden-collared Macaw, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Rufous Casiornis, Long-winged Harrier, Velvet-fronted Grackle (the probably distinct Beni form) and Hooded Tanager. Night at our air-conditioned hotel in Trinidad. B: L: D

Day 3:

We'll drive to the savannahs near Loreto to-day concentrating on open flooded fields and scrubby pasture. We’ll travel to the area birding all the way, and the bird list here is amazingly long. Some of the goodies that we’ll search for during our visit, besides the fabulous Blue-throated Macaw, are Chaco Eagle (one of the best places we know of for this rare raptor), Orinoco Goose, Plain Softtail (the endemic nominate race fusciceps), Cinereous-breasted Spinetail, Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Hudsonʼs Black-Tyrant, Dark-throated Seedeater, and the endemic boliviensis race of Velvet-fronted Grackle.

The food and birding are great here! Others include Plumbeous, Green, Buff-necked, Plumbeous and Bare-faced Ibis, Comb Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Southern Screamer, Muscovy Duck, Scarlet-hooded and Unicolored Blackbirds, Greater Thornbird, 3 species of Monjita, Bicolored Seedeater, Toco Toucan, Great Rufous and Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, various Whistling Ducks, Little Cuckoo, Orange-winged Parrot, Azure Gallinule, Slender-billed Kite, Black-collared Hawk , Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Chotoy , Cinereous-breasted , Plain-crowned and Yellow-chinned Spinetails, Rufous Chachalote and Fawn-breasted Wren. However, our main target will remain the rare Blue-throated Macaw. Night in Trinidad. B: L: D

Day 4:

Another morning to look for the Blue-throated Macaws should we have missed them and our other main target will be the seldom seen and endemic Unicolored Thrush. Birding here is dynamite with Rheas, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Gray-lined Hawk, Hoatzin, Turquoise-fronted Parrot, Gilded and Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds, Green-barred and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers and much, much more. The grasslands and seasonally flooded woodlands are reminiscent of the more open parts of the famous Brazilian Pantanal or of the Venezuelan llanos and harbor the same rich and spectacular variety of birds.

The open habitat makes for easy viewing and during our stay here we should amass a splendid list. Many of the birds of the marshes, oxbow lakes, open meadows and pastures are widespread in the Neotropics, but we will of course be concentrating on the local specialties, and in particular the rare Orinoco Goose (here to be seen in flocks!), the rare Hudson’s Black -Tyrant (a migrant from central Argentina) and Dark-throated Seedeater. Additional species we may well see include the stately Greater Rhea, Undulated Tinamou, Anhinga, Cocoi, Whistling, Capped and Striated Herons. Gallery forest hold, as well as Black-tailed Trogon, the incredible Toco Toucan (with its bright blue eye), White-wedged Piculet, handsome Pale-crested and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Red-billed Scythebill, Mato Grosso Antbird, Euler’s Flycatcher, White-eyed Attila, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Orange-headed and Grey-headed Tanagers, Chestnut-vented Conebill and Golden-crowned Warbler. Night in Trinidad. B: L: D

Day 5:

Morning flight to Santa Cruz and immediate departure for Refugio Los Volcanes The Andean foothills and bird the dry forest and canyons. This is a good area for Parrots and we may see any of the following - Mitered and Green-cheeked Parakeet, Scaly-naped and Red-billed Parrot. This is also an area where we have seen Military Macaw in the past. Other possibilities here include Plush-crested Jay, the rare Large-tailed Dove, Blue-crowned Trogon, Ocellated Piculet, Black-capped Antwren and Guira Tanager, White-backed Fire-eye. In the afternoon, we'll arrive at the comfortable Refugio Los Volcanes and bird access road - Glittring-bellied Emerald, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Tatauapa Tinamou, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Two-banded Warbler. We shall hope to have the afternoon to bird the Los Volcanes area. Night Los Volcanes. B: L: D

Day 6:

Refugio Los Volcanes is in a most spectacular geographical setting surrounded by many forest clad sugarloaf peaks and cascading waterfalls. Possibilities we will be looking for include Bolivian Tapaculo, Yungas Manakin, Slender-tailed Woodstar, Buff-bellied Hermit, Blue-browed Tanager, Southern Scrub Flycatcher, Bicolored Hawk, Military Macaw, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Slaty Gnateater and more. The endemic Bolivian Recurvebill is here too. Night Refugio Los Volcanes. B: L: D

Day 7:

Morning birding around Refugio Los Volcanes and in the afternoon on to Samaipata for the night. We may make a stop at Los Volcanes Lake B: L: D

Day 8:

Leaving Samaipata we’ll be at dawn at a locality for Alder Parrot. The rest of the morning may produce Spot-backed Puffbird, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Red-crested Finch, Black-capped Warbling-Finch, Sooty fronted and Stripe-crowned Spinetails, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Giant Antshrike, Dot-fronted Woodpecker, White-barred Piculet, we’ll move on a little-known birding road to Vallegrande stopping and birding at suitable habitat along the way. Birds we may encounter include Spot-breasted Thornbird and Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet. We have seen the rare Crowned Eagle along this stretch. In the late afternoon, we’ll arrive in Vallegrande where revolutionary Ernesto (Che) Guevara was executed after being captured and wounded in nearby La Higuera. Night in Vallegrande. B: L: D

Day 9:

Morning to explore the Loma Larga area out of Vallegrande. We’ll be looking for special birds such as Red-faced Guan, Golden-winged Cacique, Alder Parrot, Buff-banded Tyrannulet, Short-tailed Anthrush, Variable and Rufous-capped Antshrikes and the local unbarred race of Black-banded Woodcreeper and more. We’ll move on to Saipina in the afternoon with a stop in the arid scrub along the way. Night at in Comarapa. B: L: D

Day 10:

Morning around the cultivated fields between Tambo and Saipina. Dawn will see us waiting for the dawn flyover of the rare and endemic Red-fronted Macaw. Regular birds to be seen include: the endemic Bolivian Earthcreeper, White-bellied Hummingbird, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, White-fronted Woodpecker, Chaco Suiriri Flycatcher, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Cream-backed Woodpecker, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Rufous-capped Antshrike, White-bellied Tyrannulet, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Bay-winged Cowbird, Ringed Warbling-Finch, Gray-crested Finch, Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch, and Saffron-billed Sparrow. In the afternoon, we’ll head to Saipina and some agricultural areas along the Rio Misque - here Red-fronted Macaws (endemic), Blue-crowned Parakeets and Turquoise-fronted Amazons raid the crops. We should see Black and Rufous Warbling-finch here as well. We’ll make a special effort for the endemic Cliff Parakeet. Night in Comarapa. B: L: D

Day 11:

Early start for the humid temperate forest at Siberia. We'll spend all day with a picnic lunch exploring side roads and trails. This will be our first introduction to cloud forest birding with lot's more to come further north. Birds we are likely to see here include the - Giant Antshrike - largest of all Antbirds, Andean Guan, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Red-crested Cotinga, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, White-browed Conebill, Pale-footed Swallow, Pale-legged Warbler, Crested Quetzal and Blue-winged and Chestnut-bellied Mountain-tanagers. We'll look for Great Pampa-Finch and Red-tailed Comet on the way back to Comarapa. We may want to spend the afternoon in some dry semi deciduous habitat looking for Bolivian (endemic) and Rufous-sided Warbling-finches, Speckle-breasted Thornbird and Olive-crowned Crescentchest. Night in Comarapa. B: L: D

Day 12:

Very early start with a picnic breakfast. To-day we head for the pleasant city of Cochabamba. We'll stop for some early morning birding at Siberia looking for species we may have missed. Continuing on we pass some remnant scrub Polylepis woodland - here possibilities include Giant Conebill, Gray-hooded Parakeet, Rock Earthcreeper, Andean Swift, Gray-bellied Flowerpiercer (endemic), Rufous-bellied Saltator, Wedge-tailed Hillstar (endemic), Rufous-sided and Rufous-browed Warbling-finches. We’ll stop on the high grasslands for Puna Canastero and a variety of Miners. Continuing on we'll spend the afternoon birding a cultivated stream area where we hope to see Citron-headed Yellow-finch (endemic), Red-tailed Comet, Giant Hummingbird, Golden-breasted Flicker, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Black-hooded Sierra-finch, Fulvous-headed Brush-finch, Rusty-vented Canastero. Finally, we descend into the fertile Cochabamba valley. Night at our hotel in Cochabamba. B: L: D

Day 13:

Early start for the temperate forest of the Yungas (cloud forest) of Chapare. We'll start at treeline and hope to see some of the following: Undulated Antpitta, Andean Tapaculo, Great Sapphirewing, Cochabamba Thistletail (endemic), Black-eared and Black-crowned Parrot, Hooded-mountain Toucan, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Light-crowned Spinetail and Crowned Chat-tyrant. We’ll spend the afternoon in the lower cloud forest looking specifically

Day 14:As a complete contrast to the previous day we'll visit a dry Andean valley above Quillacolla where stands of mature Polylepis woodland still exist. This should be an exciting days birding. Endemics are the order of the day here and we will pay special attention to Cochabamba Mountain-finch (endemic), Wedge-tailed Hillstar (endemic), Bolivian Blackbird (endemic) and Bolivian Warbling-finch (endemic), Rufous-bellied Saltator, other possibilities include: Black-winged Ground-dove, Andean Hillstar, White-winged Black-tyrant, Tufted Tit-tyrant, Tawny-Tit-tyrant, Andean Swallow, Cinereous and Giant Conebills. We'll head up to the high Puna grasslands for the local Short-tailed Finch, Streak-throated Canastero, White-winged Diuca-finch, Brown-baked Mockingbird and a variety of Ground-tyrants and Sierra-finches. We'll return to Cochabamba for the night. Hotel in Cochabamba. B: L: D

Day 15:

We'll drive to the high windswept town of Oruro. We'll take all day birding the route. Our first stop will be for Bolivian Blackbird in the arid canyons west of Cochabamba should we have missed it up until now. Brown-backed Mockingbird is here too. The rest of the day's journey is through high Puna grasslands and we'll bird particular areas for high altitude species such as Puna Hawk, Andean Flicker, Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch Cordilleran Canastero, Puna Canastero, Slender-billed and Common Miners, Mountain Parakeet and Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail. We may be lucky and see an Ornate Tinamou and Golden-spotted Ground-Dove.

In the afternoon, we'll bird in the vicinity of Lake Uru-Uru. Much depends on the water level of the lake but we may see large numbers of three species of Flamingo - Puna, Andean and Chilean. Other specialties include Andean Avocet, Puna Plover, Puna Ibis, White-tufted Grebe, and a variety of high Andean Waterfowl. Reed beds should hold Many-colored Rush-tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird. Night in Oruro. B: L: D

Day 16:

Very early start and a long drive to-day on the road to Iquisivi. Our breakfast stop will be in a bushy canyon where we'll look for the endemic Black-hooded Sunbeam. Puna Tapaculo and D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant is here too as well as the endemic Iquico Canstero which is common. Moving on we'll drive beyond Inquisivi and look for the endemic and recently described Bolivian Spinetail. Continuing on, we have a long drive to the town of Chullumani and the comfortable Hotel San Bartolome. B: L: D

Day 17:

Dawn will see us in a very pretty patch of Cloud Forest close to the Apa Apa private reserve. Our target bird will be the little-known Scimitar-winged Piha, which we have seen with great success at this locality. Birding is good with Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Crested Quetzal, Hazel-fronted Pygmy-tyrant, White-eared Solitaire and Three-striped Warbler and a host of other cloud forest birds. We'll spend the morning here with a picnic lunch. In the afternoon, we'll head for Coroico and the Rio Selva Resort Hotel. B: L: D

Day 18:

We'll bird the road above Chairo to-day in the Cotapata National Park. This mid-elevation forest holds birds such as Cock of the Rock, Upland Antshrike, Bolivian Tyrannulet, Swallow-Tanager, Yungas Manakin, Yungas-Tody-tyrant (near endemic), Blue-banded Toucanet, Black-streaked Puffbird, Andean Solitaire and Streamcreeper. We plan on returning early this afternoon to enjoy the resort and some birding in the grounds. Another night at the comfortable Rio Selva Resort. B: L: D

Day 19:

Early start for Chuspipata. This track is spectacular and good for birds. We'll concentrate on the upper temperate forest in the morning. exploring trails and side roads we expect to see some of the following species : Golden-collared Tanager, Citrine Warbler, Three-striped Hemispingus, Ochraceous-breasted Flycatcher, Black-throated Thistletail (endemic), Yungas Manakin, Black-hooded Sunbeam, Moustached Flowerpiercer, Three-striped and Supercilliaried Hemispingus Plush-cap, Orange-browed Hemispingus, Hooded and Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanagers Rufous-faced Antpitta, Sword-billed Hummingbird and a wide variety of Mountain-tanagers. In the afternoon, we'll bird the higher elevations of the Coroico road. We'll bird the upper temperate forest and La Cumbre area on the way back to La Paz and should see some high-altitude species such as Short-tailed Finch, Andean Tapaculo and Scribble-tailed Canastero as well as a variety for sierra finches. In the late afternoon, we’ll skirt La Paz and stay at our Hotel on the shores of Lake Titicaca. B: L: D

Day 20:

Early start for the Sorata area. We'll take a picnic breakfast and with the towering snow peak of Illampu at our backs, scan a small Andean lake for Giant Coot, Andean Coot, a variety of waterfowl and Puna Ibis. As we approach the dry Sorata valley we will begin to see the large stick nests of the Berlepsche's Canastero an endemic restricted to this valley only, one of our target birds to-day. We'll also search the gardens of a small village for the spectacular Black-hooded Sunbeam (endemic). Other possibilities include Peruvian Sierra -finch, Green-tailed Trainbearer, Puna Hawk, Black-throated Flowerpiercer. Returning to the shores of Lake Titicaca for lunch we'll make the near endemic flightless Short-winged Grebe our priority and look for Plumbeous Rail, Wren-like Rushbird and Many-colored Rush-tyrant in the reed beds. We plan to arrive in La Paz early this afternoon for shopping or relaxing. Night hotel in La Paz. B: L: D

Day 21:

To El Alto airport and connect with international flights B



Customer Testimonials

Joe Crighton – Wildbird Tours - Canada

Had to pass along our heartfelt thanks to you and your organization. Things went perfectly. Lynda and I were so impressed with all your people. Especially Mary and Marco. Mary guided us through your operation. She was friendly, gracious and professional. We were impressed and look forward to seeing her again.

Debby Reynolds - UK

First we all want to thank you and all the backup team for fantastic service and great birding adventure. We certainly think Manu Expeditions does a very good job. We can unreservedly recommend the Cusco and Manu components to any UK birders. A foremost star of the show was Silverio, who certainly counts as one of the best bird tour guides any of us has been with over many decades of worldwide trips.

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First we all want to thank you and all the backup team for fantastic service and great birding adventure. We certainly think Manu Expeditions does a very good job. We can unreservedly recommend the Cusco and Manu components to any UK birders. A foremost star of the show was Silverio, who certainly counts as one of the best bird tour guides any of us has been with over many decades of worldwide trips.

Had to pass along our heartfelt thanks to you and your organization. Things went perfectly. Lynda and I were so impressed with all your people. Especially Mary and Marco. Mary guided us through your operation. She was friendly, gracious and professional. We were impressed and look forward to seeing her again.

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