Birds of Machu Picchu Species Accounts Part3

Birds of Machu Picchu Species Accounts Part 3



Vultures are large scavenging birds with naked heads. Their short weak bills are designed for eating decayed meat. Their chicken-like feet do not permit them to carry prey. They are usually silent and feed on carcasses and garbage. They soar with great proficiency and find most of their food by keen eyesight. They nest in inaccessible rocky terrain and the young take a long time to develop.

1.- Bird Machu Picchu: Turkey Vulture – Cathartes aura.

75 cm, wingspan 180 cm. bare neck and head reddish. Tail rather long. Mostly brownish-black. Wings two-toned from below with dark under-wing linings and pale-gray flight feathers. Immature browner with bare brown head and neck. In flight, tilts from side to side whilst gliding on wings held well above the horizontal. Mostly a lowland species inhabiting open country and larger river margins. Usually solitary often perched on poles and bare trees. Soars often with wings in a V and is an elegant flyer. Sometimes dives or glides with crooked wings. Can find prey by smell unlike other Vulture species. Recorded as a vagrant at elevations of up to 4000 meters but mostly below 2500. A wanderer to Machu Picchu and uncommon.

2.- Bird Machu Pïcchu: Andean Condor – Vultur gryphus.

120 cm, wingspan 300 cm. Huge – weighs 11 kilos. In flight recognized by long rectangular ‘fingered’ wings and short tail. Adult: Black with a silvery-white panel on the upper wing. Naked skin of head dusky flesh colored and the male has a large median wattle and comb. The neck has a prominent and conspicuous collar of white down. Immature: All dusky brown with short brown down on the head, gradually showing paler panel on the upper wing as age advances. Inhabits desolate areas with high, steep mountains and cliffs. Encountered singly, in pairs and sometimes-larger groups near corrion. Often soars for hours above hillsides on horizontal or very slightly upraised wings. ‘Fingers’ often strongly up-curved. When gliding sometimes crooks wings. Perches on rocks high up on mountainsides. At all elevations and can be seen throughout the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, most notably along the Inca Trail between Llactapata and Warmiwañusca Pass but also on occasion from Machu Picchu ruins themselves.


The falcons are a diverse group of birds of prey with a cosmopolitan distribution. They differ from hawks and eagles in that, amongst other things, they have a ‘tooth’ or notch on the upper mandible. The caracaras are strictly New World and have long wings and tails and are omnivorous and opportunistic, occupying the role of true crows in South America. True Falcons are streamlined, pointed-winged predators capable of fast flight and tremendous speed. They have well-developed flight displays.

1.- Birds Machu Picchu: Mountain Caracara – Phalcoboenus megalopterus.

52 cm. Adult: Shiny black with a white belly and wing linings. Shows white base and tips to the primaries. White rump. Broad white tail tip. Bare face orange. Bill orange with gray tip. Juvenile: Completely dark to light brown with pale buff rump. Broad white buff zone, conspicuous ¡n flight, across the base of the primaries. Found ¡n open puna grassland and high mountains. Feeds on the ground on open plains, grazed areas and small fields. Often in pairs or small groups walking on the ground, especially in plowed fields, looking for insects. In flight, wing-beats are shallow and stiff. Sometimes many birds congregate in large flocks. Nests on rock ledges. Found at elevations of between 3500 and 5000 meters. A fairly common bird at various locations along the Inca Trail.

2– Birds Machu Picchu: Lined Forest-Falcon – Micrastur gilvicollis.

30-36 cm. Adult: Cere, lores and bare ocular area reddish-orange, legs yellow and iris white. Above slate gray, white below finely barred with black, flanks more finely barred and belly and under-tail coverts white. Tall blackish with two narrow white bars and tail tip. Immature: dark brown above, buffy white below with widely-spaced narrow black bars and whitish nuchal collar. Tall as ¡n the adult, rump speckled white. Found in lowland Amazonian terra firme forest and humid pre-montane forest. Hard to see and secretive unless calling. Keeps concealed in lower growth and sub-canopy of dense forest. Dashes from concealment after birds with great agility, relying on stealth and swift attack. The call is a two note haunting call. Mostly below 1500 meters but has been recorded at 2000 meters at Machu Picchu.

3.- Birds Machu Picchu: Barred Forest-Falcon – Micrastur ruficollis.

33-38 cm. Very similar to the precedlng species. Cere, lores and orbital skin yellow-orange. Legs yellow, iris yellow to brown. Dark slate-gray above, entirely white below, very narrowly and evenly barred black. Tail black with three narrow white bars and white tip. Immature: Same as for the preceding species and they are indistinguishable in the field. Found in humid lowland Amazonian and pre- montane forests and well-developed secondary woodland. Habits as for the preceding species – hard to see and secretive unless calling. Keeps concealed ¡n lower growth and sub-canopy of dense forest. Dashes from concealment after birds with great agility, relying on stealth and swift attack. The often-heard call is series of barking notes ‘cow – cow -cow….’ repeated at dawn and dusk mostly, and reminiscent of a small dog barking in the distance. Can be seen along the Urubamba River downstream from Aguas Calientes.

4.- Birds Machu Picchu: American Kestrel – Falco sparverius.

25 cm, wingspan 55 cm. The cinnamominus sub-species is present at Machu Picchu. A small well-known falcon. Male: Mantle rufous with heavy black barring and two black spots on a buff nape. Blue-gray crown with brick-red spot centrally. Tail rufous with broad black terminal bar. Wings blue-gray. Below pale buff with some black dots. Female: Upper-parts rufous densely- barred fuscous, under-parts lighter with brown streaking. Tail thinly barred black and rufous with a broad black terminal bar. Found in a variety of habitats – forest edge and dry xerophytic areas, open country with scattered trees or rocky outcrops. Often ¡n villages. Avoids densely forested areas. Usually encountered alone or in pairs. Fast flight with stiff wing-beats, alternating with gliding and soaring. Hovers frequently, and then stoops on mostly Insect prey. Often seen perched conspicuously on wires, posts or rocks. The call is a high thin ‘klee-klee-klee’. Common within the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.

5.- Birds Machu Picchu: Aplomado Falcon – Falco femoralis.

36-45 cm, wingspan 110 cm. Long-talled and streamlined. Tail projects beyond wingtips at rest. Above dark-gray and long white super cilium continuing around the neck as a buff nuchal collar. Dark line through the eye and distinct dark moustache. Cheeks, throat and upper breast buff, lower breast and sides form black ‘vest’ with fine pale barring. Belly and vent tawny. Tail blackish with narrow white bars. Inhabits open high country but also semi-arid inter-montane valleys and Eucalyptus graves. Usually encountered in pairs but also alone. Often hunts in pairs, one bird flushing prey and the other cutting off the escape route. Files very fast and with agile turns. Perches on rocks, posts and other exposed perches. Calls include a high-pitched ‘cree-cree-cree’ also ’ree-ree-ree’. Fairly common.

6.- Birds Machu Picchu: Peregrine Falcon – Falco peregrinus.

38-50 cm. wingspan 95-117 cm. Female significantly bigger than the male. Two races can occur At Machu Picchu. Between October and April the tundrius arctic migrants, and the resident Cassini -ace throughout the year. A powerful falcon with a shorter tail than that of the Aplomado Falcon, not extending beyond the wingtips when at rest. In all plumages with a dark hood covering almost the entire head (except chin and throat, in cassini) or well below the eye with a black moustachial contrasting with white throat and cheeks (tundrius). Above slaty black with some blue-gray checkering. Below buffy-white with dark barring on the lower pairs (tundrius males may have clear white breast and belly, females have drop-shaped marks on these parts). Cassini shows a strong buffy breast. Feet, cere and eye-ring yellow. In flight wings pointed, under-wing densely barred and spotted. Found in open rocky terrain in the Machu Picchu area. Alone or in pairs. Flies with shallow wing-beats when hunting and reaching very fast velocity when stooping on prey with wings folded. Takes most of its prey in the air. Perches conspicuously in trees or on rocks. Cali a high- oitched ’yeek-yeek-yeek’. At all elevations. Has been seen repeatedly at Machu Picchu ruins.

7.- Birds Machu Picchu: Orange-breasted Falcon – Falco deiroleucus.

33-38 cm. A largish falcon with long pointed wings. Eye-ring, cere and legs yellow. Above black, feathers bordered slate gray. Sides of head black, throat buffy white. Breast, belly, thighs and under-tail coverts chestnut. Lower breast black, barred and spotted rufous buff. Tail black with 3 narrow white bars. Found in forested country unlike the two preceding species, often where there are clearings or along rivers. Single birds or pairs spend a lot of time perched on dead branches. Flies fast and rapidly when hunting other birds, which they take on the wing. At elevations of up to 2400 meters. A pre-montane falcon rare at Machu Picchu but has been seen along the Urubamba River below Aguas Calientes.


Cracids are found exclusively in the New World. They have large, strong feet and legs and chicken- like bills. Wings are short and rounded. They live in pairs or small groups and feed on buds, fruits and flowers. They are prized for food and are extensively hunted. Guans give a characteristic wing – whirring display at dawn in the breeding season. The nests are simple twig and leaf platforms in a bush or tree and they lay three creamy-colored eggs. The young are precocious and can climb along branches after 4-5 days.

1.- Bird Machu Picchu: Andean Guan – Penelope montagnii.

60 cm. A large turkey-like bird, with an erectile crest. Bare area around the eye blue-gray. Small orange dewlap. Mostly dark bronzy-olive but with silvery feather edgings on the front half of the bird. Rump and belly chestnut, tail blackish. Legs salmon red. Inhabits humid montane and pre- montane forest where there is a profusion of bromeliads. Small groups move silently through the canopy and sub-canopy of the forest in search of fruits etc. The song is a repeated ‘chaah- choah- cha-cah-choam cha-cha cha’ etc, not often heard but given at dawn and dusk. In aerial display gives a whistle followed by muffled wing drumming. From 1800 to 3500 meters. Can be seen in forested areas throughout the Sanctuary.

2.- Bird Machu Picchu: Sickle-winged Guan – Chamaepetes goudotii.

65cm. A more slender bird than the preceding species, with longer legs. Does not show a crest or dewlap but the facial skin is light cobalt blue. Mostly pale bronzy-olive in color, duller fuscous on the head and neck. Under-parts chestnut. Legs reddish-orange. Found in humid pre-montane forest where there are tail trees and precipitous hill slopes. Usually in pairs or small groups in the forest canopy, feeding in fruiting trees at dawn and dusk. Wary and elusive. Makes some clucking noises and a loud ’kee-uck’ when alarmed. The specialized, narrow, sickle-shaped outer primaries make a rattle during the short display flight. At elevations of 1000 – 2500 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu but has been seen along the upper part of the road just below the Machu Picchu ruins.


In the Americas, the Toothed Quail sub-family are present. Small compact birds with short very stout bills, rounded wings and short tails. They are terrestrial and live under cover of vegetation. They are mostly detected by far-carrying whistled songs. When approached they run away or freeze motionless. The nest is a domed construction. The young are precocious and can flutter away within a week of hatching.

1.- Bird Machu Picchu: Rufous-breasted Wood-Quail – Odontophorus speciosus.

28 cm. Stocky and thick-billed. Male: Above brown, speckled black. Eyebrow mixed black and white, throat and sides of neck and back black. Breast and under-parts mostly chestnut. Female: Like male but under-parts dark gray with a narrow chestnut band across the breast. Inhabits dense humid montane and pre-montane forest. Found ¡n pairs or small family groups on the forest floor ¡n dense undergrowth. When alarmed they run quickly away or freeze. Sometimes they cross trails and openings in single file. The song is a complex series of liquid, far carrying notes given by several birds in the group. Found at elevations of between 1600 and 2600 meters. Can be heard and rarely seen at Machu Picchu ruins.

2.- Bird Machu Picchu: Stripe-faced Wood-Quail – Odontophorus balllvlani.

26 cm. Stocky and thick-billed. Mostly chestnut brown with slight vermiculation’s. Under-parts fulvous with diamond-shaped white spots. Head with two long rusty stripes behind the eye and along the cheek, separating crested rufous crown, black ear coverts and fuscous throat. Inhabits humid montane and pre-montane forest with epiphytes, bamboo and tree ferns. Found in pairs or small family groups on the forest floor ¡n dense undergrowth. When alarmed they run quickly away or freeze. Sometimes cross trails and openings in single file. The song is a complex series of liquid notes often repeated wheddley -dee wheedley – dee. Found at elevations of between 2000 – 3000 meters. Uncommon and may be overlooked.


Most of the ‘typical’ Rail family are little-known, secretive residents of marshes, swamps and tall wet grasslands. Some are also crepuscular and they are in general rarely detected except by call. With compressed bodies, they are well-suited to slipping through vegetation. The diet is varied but mostly invertebrates. Gallinules and Coots are more aquatic and more easily seen. They are excellent swimmers and prefer a diet of aquatic vegetation. Nests are well-concealed cups of reeds and sedges.

1.- Birds Machu Picchu: Ocellated Crake – Micropygia schomburgkii.

14 cm. A very small rail. Included here as a vagrant on the basis of one being trapped near Wiñay Wayna ruins in 1996. Mostly yellowish-buff. Eyes and legs coral red. Crown and neck dusky brown finely spotted white, rest of upper-parts pale brown, heavily-spotted with large white spots rimmed with black. Super cilium, sides of head and under-parts cinnamon buff, center of throat whitish. Inhabits open savannas and grassy plains and recorded at Machu Picchu on a scrubby, bushy hill slope. Terrestrial. Cali is a long series of ’pr-pr-pr…’ notes.

2.- Birds Machu Picchu: Plumbeous Rail – Rallus sanguinolentus.

35 cm. A long-billed dark rail. Adult: Bluish slate, back and wings browner. Bill grass-green with a blue base, lower mandible red basally. Feet dark red. Immature similar but more dusky brown and bill colors not as bright. Found In reed beds and grassy marshes, sometimes quite small ones. Also along overgrown drainage ditches in cultivated areas. Usually alone or in pairs at the edge of reed beds but often conspicuously out in the open feeding with characteristically cocked tall. Less skulking than most rails. The song is often heard at dawn and dusk but also throughout the day – a squealing series of notes ‘ruueeet. ruueeet-ruuueeet’ etc. at elevations of up to 4000 meters.

3.- Birds Machu Picchu: Common Moorhen – Gallínula chloropus.

36-38 cm. The large highland race garmani is present at Machu Picchu. Adult: Mostly slate-colored with blacker head and neck. Shows a broken white line along the flanks. Under-tall coverts white forming two broad white stripes. Bill red tipped yellow, shield red. Legs olive-yellow with red ring above the heel. Immature: Dark gray, paler below, becoming whitish on the throat and belly. Bill dusky flesh-colored. Inhabits ponds, marshes and lakes with plenty of marsh vegetation and submerged or floating weeds. Also on muddy lake shores. Encountered alone, in pairs or large loosely associated groups. Feeds on open water pecking at the surface. Hides in dense cover when disturbed. Walks and swims with a jerky motion, flicking tail. Makes a variety of clucking and chattering calls and louder trumpet-like calls when disturbed. Uncommon at Machu Picchu due to the lack of open water.

4.- Birds Machu Picchu: Andean Coot – Fúlica ardesiaca.

43 cm. Stockier than Common Moorhen. Slate-gray, darkest on the head and neck. Two white lines on the under-tail. Soft pair color very variable. Frontal shield from deep maroon (commonest in the Machu Picchu area) to orange yellow or white. Bill from pale yellow to green with bluish tip. Feet from gray to green. Immature is dark gray, paler below with a mainly white face. Found on lakes and marshes, generally on larger bodies of water than the preceding species. Mostly found where there is some reed and marsh vegetation but also on barren lakes. Gregarious and often found in very large flocks in suitable habitat, foraging in shallow water with dense submergent or floating vegetation. Cali is a low ’rrrrd or ‘lurp’. Uncommon at Machu Picchu due to the lack of open water.


Many of this family breed in the Northern Hemisphere but winter in South America. Most sandpipers are slim with longish necks and bills. They probe soft ground for invertebrates and molluscs. Usually found in winter plumage in South America in flocks. Only snipes breed in the Andes and are notable for their aerial display, where the modified flight feathers are used for ‘drumming’.

1.- Bird Machupicchu: Puna Snipe – Gallinago andina.

23 cm (including 5-6 cm bill). Intricately speckled and vermiculated buff and black. Crown black with buff median stripe and super cilium. Face buffy with dusky streaks suggesting an eye-line and malar-stripe. Mantle, primaries and primary coverts blackish, contrasting with finely barred white wing-linings. Foreparts buff with fuscous streaks changing to bars on the flanks. Belly white. Tail rufous with white sides barred with black. All flight feathers have white tips. Legs yellow, short, and do not trail behind the tail in flight. Inhabits boggy parts of puna grassland, marshes, wet meadows and muddy ditches. When flushed rises steeply and flies fast and quickly drops into cover. When flushed makes a ’skeetch’call. Call delivered whilst on the ground is a ‘dyak..dyak…dyak.. or dyuc..dyuc…dyuc’. Displays in wide circles with shallow dives whilst ‘drumming’. At 3000 to 4500 meters. Can be seen near Pampacahuana within the Sanctuary.

2.- Bird Machupicchu: Andean Snipe – Gallinago jamesoni.

30 cm (including long 8-9 cm bill). A heavy-bodied snipe. Above densely variegated, fuscous with buff and cinnamon feather edges. Broad dark zone along the crown has a diffuse buff mid-line. Face and fore-neck warm buff, stippled and streaked with fuscous. Breast and under-parts pale grayish buff with dense dusky brown barring. In flight shows broad blunt wings with barred under- sides. No rufous or white in the tail. Found in boggy grassland at tree line with islands of bushes and trees and a general mosaic of bogs, bamboo, elfin forest and grassland. Crepuscular and nocturnal. Stays hidden in the vegetation by day and when flushed quickly hides in cover, often making a ‘tzic’ call. Displays just after dark or just before sunrise. The display consists of flying slowly in wide circles with shallow wing-beats uttering a loud ‘witchew-witchew-witchew-witchew’ for long periods, interspersed with 2-3 second ‘drumming’ dives (sounds like a distant jet plane). Also calls from the ground – ‘djic-djic-dyic ‘for long periods. Quite common at tree line along the Inca Trail, for example near Sayacmarca ruins.

3.- Bird Machupicchu: Imperial Snipe – Gallinago imperialis.

30 cm (including 9 cm bill. A hefty dark rufescent snipe boldly barred with black throughout accepting the crown which ¡s black with a rufous median stripe. Face and neck streaked and abdomen barred black and white. In flight note very broad rounded wings and very short tail. Found on mountain ridges at tree line with wet elfin forest, sphagnum bogs and bamboo fringed glades. Crepuscular and nocturnal. Rode’s in wide circles at dawn and dusk and well into the night giving a 10-second series of rough staccato notes that rapidly ¡increase then decrease in volume. Then makes a short dive making a clearly audible rush of air. Displays from July to September at least. Less common than the preceding species.

4.- Bird Machupicchu: Greater Yellowlegs -Tringa melanoleuca.

30-36 cm. Migrant from North America present mostly from August to March. Yellow legs. Almost identical to the following species in plumage but larger and plumper with a heavier bill which is longer and slightly upturned (longer than the length of the head). Found along rivers, lakes and marshes. Where it can be seen feeding actively in flocks or alone sometimes associated with other shorebirds. Wades in shallow water and sometimes swims. The call is a distinct 3-4 note ‘few-few-few’. Can be encountered at all elevations up to 4000 meters.

5.- Bird Machupicchu: Lesser yellowlegs – Tringa flavipes.

25-28 cm. Migrant from North America present mostly from August to March. Slender and straight black bill and long yellow legs. Above grayish-brown, speckled and barred with white. Below white, lightly-streaked and spotted dusky on the neck and sides of the breast. In flight shows dark wings and whitish rump and tail. Found along rivers and margins of lakes and marshes. Wades actively and sometimes associates with other shorebirds. Less confiding than Greater Yellowlegs. The call is a 1 or 2 note ‘tew-tew’ – somewhat less forceful than the Greater Yellowlegs. At all elevations up to 4000 meters.

6.- Bird Machupicchu: Solitary Sandpiper – Tringa solitaria.

19 cm. Migrant from North America present mostly from August to March. Slender black bill and long dusky-green legs. Obvious white eye-ring. Above dark olive, finely streaked and spotted white. Below white lightly streaked dusky on the upper breast. Center of tail blackish, outer feathers white barred black. In flight note lack of wing stripe. Dark rump and barred sides to the tail. Inhabits all kinds of freshwater situations, especially where there are overhanging trees. Usually, as the name suggests, alone, but scattered groups of 3-4 may be found ¡n favorable areas during migration. Never in flocks as such. Nods its head continually as it wades in shallow water. Flight is erratic and fast. Cali ¡s a high-pitched ‘peef’or ‘peet-weet-weet’. At all elevations up to 4000 meters but mostly below 2600 meters

7.- Bird Machupicchu: Spotted Sandpiper – Tringa macularia.

18-20 cm. Migrant from North America present mostly from August to March, but some birds stay all year around. Soft parts variable but usually bill dull yellow with a black tip and legs dull yellowin non-breeding plumage: olive brown above, white below with a whitish super cilium and dusky smudge on the sides of the breast. Breeding plumage: similar but obscurely barred blackish above and thickly spotted black below with large round spots. In flight note, white wing-stripe and distinctive way of flying with stiff shallow wing-beats interspersed with short glides and wings bowed downwards. On the ground teeters persistently as though not well balanced. Found along rivers streams and ponds. Usually encountered alone inconspicuously feeding amongst rocks and debris at the waters edge. Call is a high-pitched ‘peet’ or ‘peet-weet-weet’. Mostly at elevations of up to 3300 meters but can be seen higher.

8.- Bird Machupicchu: Baird’s Sandpiper – Calidris baírdií.

18 cm. Migrant from North America present mostly from August to March. Bill short and slightly de-curved. Legs blackish. Buffy brown above, feathers pale-edged giving a scaled appearance, especially in immature plumage. Breast light buffy-brown, finely and obscurely streaked dark brown. Rest of under-parts white. In flight shows narrow inconspicuous white wing stripe and white on the sides of the rump. At rest the long wings extend slightly beyond the tail, unlike others of the genus. Found by lakes and marshes on the puna, dry lake shores and wet meadows as well as boggy valley bottoms. Usually in small flocks feeding mostly on land by pecking rather than probing. Cali is low and raspy – ‘kreet’ or ’kreer’. Mostly found above 3500 meters.

9.- Bird Machupicchu: Pectoral Sandpiper – Calidris melanotos.

20-23 cm. Migrant from North America present mostly from August to March. A largish long-necked Calidris. Legs greenish-yellow. Bill length equal to head. Above brown, heavily streaked black. Head, neck and breast buffy, streaked brown, in Sharp contrast to white lower under-parts (pectoral band). In flight little or no wing stripe noticeable, rump whitish on sides with a dark center. Encountered in open parts of marshes and wet meadows. Also on open grassland. Usually not in flocks but sometimes-in loose aggregations. Rather snipe-like zig-zag flight when flushed. Makes a low-pitched ’chreek’, ’trrik’ and ‘cir-eep’. Mostly at 3500 – 4500 meters. Uncommon.


Phalaropes are dainty sandpiper-like birds with pelagic habits outside the breeding season. They swim easily. Males are brighter than females and sex roles are reversed with the males incubating and caring for the young.

1.- Birds Machupicchu: Wilson’s Phalarope – Phalaropus tricolor.

23 cm. Migrant from North America present mostly from August to March and the least pelagic of the three phalarope species. Note black needle-like bill and greenish-yellow legs. Non-breeding plumage: pearl gray above, pure white below, with a blurry gray smudge through the eye. Breeding plumage; female; gray above with reddish chestnut stripe across the shoulders and another across the back continuing up the sides of the neck and becoming blackish behind the eye. Below whitish. Male similar but duller and browner. In flight has solid gray wings with no contrasting stripe, but with a white rump and tail. Found on shallow parts of lakes and ponds. Floats buoyantly on the water and is very gregarious. Stirs up small insect prey by spinning and picks insects off the surface. Can occur at all altitudes but is more common on high altitude lakes above 3300 meters.


A somewhat peculiar family that very closely resembles the sand grouse of the Old World. Like sand grouse they have chicken-like bills, a plump shape, short legs and vermiculated plumage. In flight they zig-zag like snipe and can be confused with sandpipers, to which they are probably most closely related. They feed off vegetation and buds rather than seeds. In the breeding season, they occur in pairs or small family groups but at other times, they flock. The nest is a scrape on the ground and 4 eggs are laid and incubated by the female. Birds feign injury when a nest is approached.

1.- Birds Machu Picchu: Rufous-bellied Seedsnlpe – Attagis gayi.

29 cm. intricately mottled rufous brown. Above the feathers are black with concentric dusky lines on each feather. Head densely speckled, neck and breast same as the upper-parts, rest of under- parts pinkish cinnamon. In flight shows no real contrast or pattern. Inhabits rocky slopes, scree and bleak alpine terrain but feeds on nearby cushion bogs and valley bottoms. In pairs and small to large groups (up to 80 in winter). Usually tame and confiding and walks with an upright stance. Flies fast in a zig-zag when flushed, for long distances. Call given in flight is a melodic ‘gly-gly-gly… or cul..cul..cul’. At high elevations of between 4000 and 5000 meters, often right at snowline. Within the Sanctuary can be seen around the Salcantay massif.

2.- Birds Machu Picchu: Gray-breasted Seedsnipe – Thinocorus orbignyianus.

23 cm. Male: Forehead gray. Hind-crown and back variegated black, brown and pale buff. Sides of head, neck and the whole breast gray. Throat white enclosed by a black gorget. Belly white separated from the gray breast by a black bar. Female: Like male but no gray on the head and sides of the neck and the breast buff with dark brown streaking. Inhabits puna grassland with bunchgrass but also rocky and stony places with cushion plants and herbaceous vegetation. In the breeding season disperses in pairs and family groups. Has a dawn display flight and also sings from a hummock or rock, a musical ‘pukleeoo..Pukleeoo…pukleeoo’ etc. Found at elevations of between 3500 and 5000 meters and within the Sanctuary can be seen near the Salcantay massif.

BIRD FAMILIES:   STILTS – Recurvirostridae.

A worldwide family related to plovers. They have small heads, long necks, long thin bills and very long legs. They nest in loose colonies on mud or tussocks in shallow water. The young develop quickly and find their own food and run and swim at an early age.

1.- Birds Machu Picchu: White-backed Stilt – Himantopus melanurus.

37 cm. Very lanky with a needle-thin straight bill and extremely long, slender pink legs that trail behind tall for 15cm In flight. Pied cap to well below eye, and hind-neck black. Forehead and spot above eye white. Mantle black in male, partly dusky-brown ¡n the female, sometimes with a white patch. Wings black above and below, tail gray, rest of plumage white. Inhabits lakes, ponds and open marshlands. Gregarious. Strides gracefully, lifting feet high in shallow water, sometimes swimming. Feeds by pecking and snatching in soft mud. Sometimes sits on the ground. Very vocal giving a series of high-pitched ’yip’ notes and variations of this. Mostly between 2500 and 4200 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu.


Plovers are small to medium-sized almost ‘neck-less’ shorebirds. Plumage can be boldly patterned but some have reduced patterns and a winter plumage. Less sociable than other shorebirds and often found alone or in pairs. Most species live in small flocks outside the breeding season. The nest is a shallow scrape and the birds lay four eggs or less. The young can fend for themselves from an early age and are extremely well camouflaged.

1.- Birds Machu Picchu: Puna Plover – Charadrius alticola.

17 cm. A compact ‘neck less’ plover. Above light gray-brown with some rufous on the crown and nape, especially ¡n the male. Face white, demarcated by a black bar across the upper forehead and through the eye to the side of the neck. The chest has a faint gray bar and another indicated on the sides of upper breast. Legs black. Non-breeding birds lose part of the black pattern. Legs black. In flight shows half a wing stripe on the Inner primaries and white sides to the tail. Usually encountered on wide expanses of firm mud or dried-out lakebeds and heavily-grazed shorelines. Can be seen alone or in small loose flocks. Runs very fast or flies low over the terrain when threatened. Calls include ‘tseet’ and ‘prit’. Mostly at 3300 – 4500 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu.

2.- Birds Machu Picchu: Andean Lapwing – Vanellus resplendens.

33 cm. A large, well-known plover and a conspicuous element of high Andean bird communities. Head, neck and breast ash gray, contrasting with white lower under-parts. Crown yellowish white, contrasting with dusky lores. Upper-parts bronzy-green, lesser wing-coverts dark metallic purple contrasting with a white wing-bar. Has reddish-pink bill and legs. In flight note broad rounded wings and distal half of tail black, large wing patch and basal half of tail white. Found on open parts of marshes, rushy, wet pasture and boggy ground, sometimes along lake shores and on short grassy plains. Very noisy – individuals and pairs mob intruders. Wing beats are rapid and shallow. On alighting stands for some time with wings raised. Feeds mostly in pairs walking and picking from the ground surface. Very vocal especially when disturbed. – ‘cree-cree-creee’ or a gull-like ‘ka-leek…ka-leek.. ka-leek’etc. Fairly common at higher elevations between 3000 to 4500 meters.


Gulls are familiar lake and shore birds with a worldwide distribution. Only one species occurs in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary. Feet are webbed. Gulls often soar at great altitudes and also float on water. They are scavengers, taking insects and floating items. They nest in colonies on islands or marshy places. They mob intruders near their nests. The 2-3 eggs and downy young are cryptically colored. The young are fed by both parents.

1.- Birds Machupicchu: Andean Gull – Larus serranus.

46 cm. Adult: White, sometimes tinged pink in the breeding season, with a pearl gray mantle and upper-wing. In the breeding season has a black hood, outside the breeding season only a dusky ear spot and crescent near the eye. Bill and legs dark red. In flight shows a large white patch on the otherwise black primaries (‘mirror’). Juvenile: Differs from winter adult by some light brown mottling on the mantle and wings. Found on high Andean plains, lakes and bogs where they nest. Outside the breeding season they also feed along rivers and on open grassland and agricultural fields. Quite social but not in large flocks. Feeds on insects over grassland. Nests in dispersed colonies in open parts of reed marshes or on islands in old coot nests or builds a floating nest amongst floating weeds. At altitudes of between 2000 and 4500 meters. Can be seen along the Urubamba River and at the higher elevations within the Sanctuary. Common.


Birds of Machu Picchu Classification


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