Birds of Machu Picchu Species Accounts Part1

Birds of Machu Picchu Species Accounts Part 1


Tinamous are a strictly neo-tropical family. They are plump, slender-necked, small-headed birds with short wings and tails. They are terrestrial and furtive and hide by crouching and sitting still, only flushing in an explosive manner when almost stepped on. In the highlands, such as at Machu Picchu, they prefer to fly downhill as they are weak fliers. Tinamous eat seeds, roots, insects and leaves. Females are larger and more aggressive. Most highland species are polygamous with two or more females laying eggs in the same scrape. Some species are polyandrous. Eggs are unicolored with a porcelain-like gloss.

1.- Machu Picchu Bird: Hooded Tinamou – Nothocercus nigrocapillus

33 cm. Rich chestnut brown, with dense fine black vermiculations producing a very dark effect. Top of the head blackish, chin and throat white. Conspicuous black and buff spots on the wing forming bars. Breast buffy-brown with black vermiculations. Inhabits humid montane and sub- montane forest undergrowth, bamboo stands and dark places. Terrestrial, very timid and hard to see. Forages on the ground in search of seeds. Usually found alone or in pairs and often only reveals its presence by its far-carrying single-note calls. At elevations of 2000 – 3000 meters. Uncommon at Machu Picchu.

2.- Machu Picchu Bird: Brown Tinamou – Crypturellus obsoletus

27-28 cm. Crown and nape sooty black, rest of plumage deep rufous chestnut above, somewhat paler on the rump. Sides of head and neck brownish gray, throat contrastingly grayer. Rest of the underparts rich chestnut, barred black on the flanks and under-tail coverts. Inhabits rather open humid montane and sub-montane forest, forest edge, alder graves and mature secondary growth. Usually encountered walking quietly and feeding on the ground underneath tall forest, often along trails and the edge of narrow tracks. Feeds on seeds and fallen fruits. The song is a loud manic, rolling series of notes ‘trehyrr-ree-ree-reee-ree-‘ etc, accelerating consistently. The call is a loud ’tree-dreee’, given every 12-15 seconds. At elevations of up to 3000 meters. Can be heard and seen on the slopes of Wayna Picchu near Machu Picchu ruins.

3.- Machu Picchu Bird: Taczanowski’s Tinamou – Nothoprocta taczanowskii

36 cm. Peruvian endemic. Long curved bill and yellow legs. Looks very dark gray-brown with pale streaks and spots. Top and sides of head brown, throat white. Lower throat and upper breast gray, spotted with white, spots bordered below by black. Sides grayish buff barred with blackish. Abdomen pale buff. Above dark, streaked pale. Inhabits rocky and grassy slopes with some shrubbery, or scattered Polylepis. Also partly-cleared or cultivated parts of montane shrub forest and the edges of fields. Terrestrial and runs rapidly along borders, field edges and clearings. Difficult to flush. Found at elevations of 2800 to 3800 meters. Rare.

4.- Machu Picchu Bird: Kalinowski’s Tinamou – Nothoprocta kalinowskii

34 cm. Peruvian endemic. Hypothetical. Upper-parts grayish brown barred black, secondaries and tertials barred rufous-brown. Wing coverts densely barred with a deeper gray. Lower breast and abdomen gray, dotted and marbled with buff. Known only from two specimens, one cióse to Cusco city. Nothing is known about its habitat preferences, voice or behavior. Possibly inhabits shrubby slopes with small fields. Very similar to, and may well replace Ornate Tinamou – Nothoprocta ornata, geographically and at lower elevational levels. Has been recorded at 3000 meters.

5.- Machu Picchu Bird: Andean Tinamou – Nothoprocta pentlandii

25-30 cm. The fulvescens race is present at Machu Picchu. Slender curved bill and orange to yellow legs. Head with dark spots on the crown and behind the eye. Upper-parts with several broad tawny stripes mixed with black bars and vermiculations plus whitish streaks. Under-parts fulvous, grayer on lower breast and belly and with some brown banding. Inhabits a variety of drier

Habitats including thickets and ravines in semi-arid areas, bushy slopes with scattered trees and hillsides with scrub – Lupinus spp., montane scrub admixed with cactus and agricultural fields. walks looking for food under the cover of dense bushes and crouches when danger approaches, on flushing at the last minute. Calls include a liquid ’yoo-tuu’ and when flushed a series of melodic notes – ‘pucyuu-pyucuu-pucc-pucc’. At altitudes of between 1500 – 4000 meters. Can be seen Near the start of the Inca Trail at Llactapata.


Grabes are foot-propelled diving birds recognized by their pointed bills and downy, almost tail- less rear. The feet are placed towards the back end, not suitable for walking but excellent for swimming. Each toe has a separate swimming lobe. Grebes are mainly aquatic, only leaving the water to fly to other water-bodies or to ascend to their nests which are soggy floating structures amongst water plants. Andean Grebes lay two eggs and the young can dive almost immediately on hatching. The diet consists of small fish, crustaceans and insects which are gleaned from water weeds.

1.- Machupicchu Bird: White-tufted Grebe – Rollandia rolland

24-30 cm. Breeding adult: Head, neck and back black with a green sheen except for a large triangular patch of white, black streaked plumes on the sides of the head. Sides tawny, rest of under-parts a rich chestnut. Towards the end of the breeding season the black areas become brown and under-parts clearer. Non-breeders have the throat and belly almost white and neck dull rufous. Inhabits marshes, ponds and shallow lakes and seems to prefer a mosaic of clear channels and pools admixed with aquatic vegetation. Rarely flies (when ¡t does it shows large white patches in the wings). Shows high sterned profile with fluffy plumage. Territorial or loosely social. Often seen chasing one another, pattering across open water. Feeds on the surface but also dives for food. Prefers fish but will take aquatic insects. In the Southern Andes at elevations of 3400 – 4500 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu due to the lack of open water but has been seen on small lakes near the Salcantay massif.

2.- Machupicchu Bird: Silvery Grebe – Podiceps occipitalis

27 cm. Note the small bill. Mostly silvery gray with a white fore-neck and red eyes. Large black area on the nape, continuous with a dark stripe down the hind-neck. Throat white and ear plumes gray-brown with a bronze tinge. In flight shows gray inner primaries and secondaries. Inhabits open lakes with or without vegetation. Not skulking and usually highly visible ¡n pairs, groups or dispersed flocks. Often sunbathes with fluffy plumage. Has an elaborate mating display which involves parallel races ¡n upright attitudes with their bodies almost out of the water. Feeds mostly on insects by diving or picking them off the surface of the water. Sometimes gives subdued whistled calls. At 3000 to 5000 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu due to the lack of open water but has been seen on small lakes near the Salcantay massif.


A worldwide family with only one representative at Machu Picchu. Mostly oceanic, Cormorants are diving birds recognized by a long, strong neck, long hooked bill, and a stiff tail which is used as a hydroplane underwater. Unlike other diving aquatic birds, the plumage becomes water- soaked, thus they spend a lot of time conspicuously perched with wings spread in order to dry their feathers. Cormorants have difficulty taking off and patter across the surface before becoming airborne. They nest in colonies.

1.- Machupicchu Bird: Neotropic Cormorant – Phalacrocorax ollvaceus

70 cm. Long narrow hooked bill. Adult: Mostly oily black with dull yellow gular patch and facial skin, outlined by a white band. immatures are dusky-brown above and pale brown below, becoming whitish on the breast of younger birds. Inhabits lakes and rivers. Juveniles in particular wander widely. Usually alone or in pairs along forested rivers such as the Urubamba River at Machu Picchu. When swimming, sits low ¡n the water and sometimes submerges so that only the neck and bill are visible. Dives for fish. When not swimming sits on dead snags or other prominent spots with its wings and tall spread to dry. As a straggler occurs as high as 4200 meters.


A worldwide family with little morphological variation between species. All have rather short tails and short legs with webbed feet for swimming and broad bills for sieving. Plumage is dense with a smooth surface. Most species show an iridescent patch or speculum on the secondaries. Ducks are awkward on the ground. They are flightless for about a month after breeding, when the wing and tail feathers are molted simultaneously. Ducks may be divided into two main groups – diving ducks’ and ‘dabbling ducks’, which are surface feeders. Males are generally brightly-colored while females are drab. Some males attain a female-like plumage when molting (eclipse). Nests are simple scrapes lined with the females own down. The female incubates alone.

1.- Machupicchu Bird: Andean Duck – Oxyura ferruginea

45 cm. Considered by some to be only a subspecies of Ruddy Duck – Oxyura jamaicensis as the subspecies andina of the Colombian Andes may be a population of hybrid origin. A stocky duck with a large shovel shaped bill. Male: Bill cobalt blue. Head and upper hind-neck black with (occasionally) white feathers on the cheeks. Neck and body chestnut with blackish rump and tall. Female: Gray bill. Mostly dark brown with some mottling. Lighter area below the eye and on the chin. Found on fairly deep clear lakes with water-weed. Usually in loose flocks away from other ducks, often sleeping in the center of lakes with the head buried in the wing. Unusually it holds tail at a cocked angle above the water. Dives for underwater vegetation for up to 30 seconds at a time. Mostly above 3000 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu due to the lack of open water, but has been seen on small lakes near the Salcantay massif.

2.- Machupicchu Bird: Andean Goose – Chloephaga melanoptera

70-90 cm. Male largest. Both sexes mainly white with rosy-colored bill and feet. Mantle and scapulars with elongated sooty-brown spots. Primaries and tail black, posterior scapulars and secondary coverts purplish black, tertials shining deep green. Found in open terrain with short grass, on bogs ¡n wet valleys and around lakes and ponds. Usually encountered in loose flocks or pairs and large dense flocks when molting. Feeds by walking slowly along with its head down, cropping succulent semi-aquatic plants. Has an elaborate strutting display in the breeding season. Flies well and frequently covers long distances between feeding areas, sometimes making a soft ‘quip-quip’ call. Mostly found above 4000 meters and can be seen near the Salcantay massif.

3.- Machupicchu Bird: Torrent Duck – Merganetta armata

40 cm. Red bill and long stiff tall. Male: Head and neck white with black lines. Body streaked white, gray brown and black. Back and tall grayish streaked. Flanks and under-tail stained chestnut. Female: Cap and hind-neck gray, back and tail gray with brown and white streaks. Entire under- parts from bill to under-tail chestnut. Inhabits clear boulder-strewn streams and rivers with rushing torrents interspersed with calm stretches, often in canyons and gorges. Usually found in pairs, sometimes in family groups. Pairs defend their stretches of river energetically. Usually seen sitting upright on rocks and boulders among rushing rapids. Swims up the most rapid white water but mostly feeds ¡n eddies, diving underwater or dabbling at the water’s edge. Escapes danger by swimming downstream low ¡n the water. Rarely flies. Mostly above 1000 meters to 4000 meters in elevation. A characteristic bird of the Urubamba River, can be easily seen from the train to Machu Picchu where the rallway Une runs parallel to the river.

4.- Machupicchu Bird: Seckled Teal – Anas flavirostris

40 cm A compact short –necked duck saxes resemble each other. Bill yellow with a black ridge Dark-hooded effect caused by dark, dense stippling to the head and upper neck. Upper-parts blackish scaled brown, breast light gray with darker freckles, rest of under-parts and tail pale, pearl gray. Speculum black and green. Inhabits all kinds of watery habitats from rivers and streams to ponds and boggy Andean valleys. In pairs or small groups often with Puna Teal or Yellow-billed Pintail. Often feeds out of the water on river and pond banks. Has a swift and erratic flight. Mostly at 2500 to 4500 meters. Can be seen on the small lake just before Sayacmarca along the Inca Trail and along stretches of the Urubamba River.

5.- Machupicchu Bird: Crested Duck – Anas specularioides

60 cm. A large long-bodied duck. Bill bluish. Mostly gray brown with a dark tail. Head and neck dull grayish buff with a dark cap and blackish around the yellow eyes. Shows hanging crest. Body light gray-brown with some tawny speckling on the breast and pale buff-white edges to flank feathers giving a scaled effect. Primaries black. Speculum purplish-green. Inhabits high altitude lakes, lagoons, tarns and ponds but shows a preference for lakes with barren shores. Usually round in pairs or small family groups at high elevations of around 4000 meters. Uncommon at Machu Picchu but can be seen on high lakes within the Sanctuary.

6.- Machupicchu Bird: Yellow-billed Pintail – Anas geórgica

54-57 cm. A slim duck with a slender bill, thin neck, and sharply pointed tail. Sexes resemble each other. Yellow bill with a black ridge. Mostly light buffy brown with a white throat. Head with fine brown stippling, body spotted with fuscous. At a distance it looks uniformly buffy with a light- coloured head. Inhabits wetlands, especially lakes with shallows with submerged or floating water- weeds, in pairs or flocks, often with other waterfowl. Walks well and often seen on lake shores feeding. Feeds in the water, usually by upending itself, but will make shallow dives. Mostly found above 3500 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu due to the lack of open water but has been seen on small lakes near the Salcantay massif.

7.- Machupicchu Bird: Puna Teal – Anas puna

47 cm. Longish straight blue bill. Black-capped to the level of the eyes with white cheeks and throat. Neck and breast light buff with blackish dots. Back dusky-brown with pale buff feather margins. Sides densely barred black and white (male) or more buffy (female). Rear of body pale gray and faintly mottled. Found on open lakes with submerged or floating vegetation and with islands or floating reed-beds which it uses for nesting. Usually encountered in dispersed flocks. feeds off floating vegetation, sometimes upending. Found above 3500 meters. Rare at Machu p¡cchu due to the lack of lakes but has been seen on small lakes near the Salcantay massif.

8.- Machupicchu Bird: Cinnamon Teal – Anas cyanoptera

40-45 cm. Long, somewhat spatulate gray bill. Male: chestnut, back feathers black with rusty edges. Uniform chestnut below, sometimes with some black spots. Female and eclipse male: Buffy with a cinnamon tinge, obscurely mottled and spotted darker. Both sexes show a large pale blue forewing area and white and green speculum. Found in lakes, ponds and marshes with some reeds and floating aquatic vegetation. Social and gregarious but usually not found in large groups, often with other ducks. Rare at Machu Picchu due to the lack of open water but has been seen on small lakes near the Salcantay massif.


Birds of Machu Picchu Classification

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