Host to the second largest number of species of any bird family (behind Tyrant Flycatchers), the Hummingbird Family is riddled with incredible diversity. Hummingbirds have a rich evolutionary history, whereby co-ordinated changes in bill and flower shapes fostered the formation of more new species of hummingbirds and plants. Thanks to this, a large number of hummingbird species are capable of co-existing in the same region and habitat. There are currently 106 genera comprising 355 described species. Hummingbird common names are equally diverse, encompassing a plethora of metaphoric, geographic and morphological descriptions such as Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Topaz, Lancebill, Sabrewing, Jacobin, Awlbill, Carib, Coquette, Coronet, Brilliant, Plumeleteer, Mountaingem, Hillstar, Inca, Starfrontlet, Sunangel, Puffleg, Comet, Helmetcrest, Mountaineer, Metaltail, Sylph, Visorbearer and Woodstar amongst many others.
Peru boasts more than a third of the world’s Hummingbirds, packed into a land of stunning contrasts – from snow-capped Andean peaks to tropical Amazonian rainforests. Peru is not only host to numerous species of hummingbird, but well over 100 endemics and the second highest country species count (1845). Our tour covering Northern Peru travels west from the humid east Andean foothills, through the Utcubamba and Maranon Valleys, down the dry west Andean slopes, Tumbesian dry forest and Pacific Coast littoral. Aside from the fantastically varied scenery, fascinating cultural sites and interesting cuisine, the land offers up a litany of endemic and rare birds that are sure to get even the most casual birder excited. Marvellous Spatuletail (surely the world’s most attractive species?), Pale-billed Antpitta, Royal Sunangel, Peruvian Plantcutter, White-winged Guan (long believed extinct – but recently rediscovered with an estimated population of fewer than 300 surviving in the wild), and Long-whiskered Owlet are just a handful of the premier species we search for.
Not to be outdone, Southern Peru is home to the country’s highest peak and arguably the most famous tourist site in the world, Machu Picchu! Host to stunning Andean scenery to rival that of the Swiss Alps, the Apurimac River (source of the mighty Amazon) and the Manu Biosphere Reserve, containing the greatest diversity of life on Earth. We traverse the Pacific littoral, Cordillera Blanca, high Andes and the Manu Road in search of specialities such as White-cheeked Cotinga, Giant Conebill, Black Metaltail, Bearded Mountaineer, Giant Hummingbird, Andean Hillstar, Inca Tern, Amazonian Umbrellabird and Andean Cock-of-the-rock amongst many others.
While contrasts between the northern and southern parts of Peru are evident, there is one very attractive Hummingbird that is shared by both regions: the Rufous-crested Coquette. How can something so small (7.5cm/3in), be so intricately adorned? From stately to regal, most superlatives instantly feel inadequate when taking in views of this spectacular species. While not an endemic, the Rufous-crested Coquette has a geographically fragmented range and is best seen at only a handful of sites. Which is perfectly okay; after all, rewards tend to be a bit richer when a little effort is involved – and views of this species are certainly worth a whole lot!
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