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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Peru: The Magnificent Manu Road and Lowland Rainforest

Monday 8 September to Sunday 28 September 2025
with Fabrice Schmitt as leader

The rainforests of southeastern Peru have long been known to be among the most biodiverse areas in the world. Starting in the mountainous regions of Cusco and Puno, several rivers drain off the Andes into the Madre de Dios—Mother of God—before joining waters flowing northeast out of Bolivia and eventually making their way down to the Amazon River.

On their way to the Amazon, these rivers pass through Manu National Park, without question one of the most exciting birding destinations in the world, and the Los Amigos Conservation Concession, a huge area of protected forest that abuts an even larger area of wild, if at present unprotected, land.

During this incredible three-week tour, starting in Cuzco at 11,000 feet and ending in Puerto Maldonado at 900 feet, we’ll visit protected habitats ranging from orchid-laden cloud forest at the upper elevations to the rich middle elevations where Andean Cocks-of-the-rock perform their mating displays right along the road, down to the uppermost reaches of the navigable Amazon River system with its tropical exuberance. For the first half of the tour, we’ll travel by bus and stay at three lodges at progressively lower elevations which descend the Kosñipata Valley from Acjanaco Pass down to Pillcopata. Once in the lowlands, we will travel by motorized canoe and visit two more lodges, both on the Madre de Dios itself. In the Amazonian lowlands we’ll cover an amazing variety of habitats, from open riverbanks to closed oxbow lakes and from seasonally flooded forest to tall upland forest well above the rivers. We’ll also sample the area’s high concentration of bamboo-dominated forest, which has a whole host of its specialists. Topping off the list will be visits to a dirt bank used by hundreds of parrots and macaws each morning as well as a canopy platform to see the world from a unique angle. Besides birds, we’ll have a chance to look for several exciting mammals, such as Giant Otter, while also taking time to observe the myriad reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, and other invertebrates, enriching the entire natural history experience.

Pre-tour extension around Lima

The surroundings of Lima offer some wonderful and easy birding, and this two-day pre-tour will not only give you to see many wonderful and specialized species but also some buffer time between your international flight and the start of the main tour.

Day 1: The trip begins at 6 p.m. in the lobby of our Lima International Airport area hotel. Night in Lima.

Day 2: We’ll drive south of Lima to visit some coastal wetlands and agricultural fields full of stunning birds. The diversity of waterbirds and sheer abundance is amazing, and species we should encounter include White-cheeked Pintail, Great Grebe, Little Blue Heron, Puna Ibis, Slate-colored (Andean) Coot, Plumbeous Rail, the stunning Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, and the cryptic Wren-like Rushbird. With luck, we may even find the secretive Least Bittern.

After lunch, we’ll take a short boat trip to look for various Humboldt seabirds such as Red-legged Cormorant, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, the vulnerable Humboldt Penguin, and the endemic Surf Cinclodes. On our way back to Lima we will stop at some agricultural fields where we’ll have a great chance of finding exciting species like Amazilia Hummingbird, Rufescent Flycatcher, Peruvian Elaenia (a forthcoming split of White-crested Elaenia), Long-tailed Mockingbird, Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet, and the local dark morph of Vermilion Flycatcher. Night in Lima.

Day 3: We’ll leave early for the Lomas de Lachay National Reserve. Located in the extremely arid Atacama/Sechura Desert, one of the driest places in the world, the reserve features a unique mist-fed ecosystem. During the humid season (June to November) the dense clouds make moist contact with the peculiar geography of this area, and the resultant humidity gives life to more than 150 species of plants and 80 species of birds.

We’ll be there during the middle of the wet season, which will be extremely interesting from a botanical perspective, and is the best season for bird activity! We’ll have good opportunities to find some of the exceptional birds of this remarkable area, including Burrowing Owl, Coastal Miners, Andean Tinamou, Peruvian Thick-knee, and Least Seedsnipe. We may even find some rare ones such as Thick-billed Miner or Raimondi’s Yellow-Finch. After a lunch in the reserve, we’ll head back to Lima for some rest and to prepare for the start of the main tour. Night in Lima.

Main tour

Day 1: The trip begins at 6 p.m. in the lobby of our Lima International Airport area hotel. Night in Lima.

Day 2: We’ll fly early this morning to Cusco and board our bus for a day of birding. We’ll stop at a lake or two where we’ll likely see Andean Gull, Puna Ibis, White-tufted Grebe, and several kinds of ducks. Some of the birds inhabiting the rushes by the lakeshores could include Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird, and Plumbeous Rail, while nearby drier hillsides host the local Rusty-fronted Canastero and Bearded Mountaineer. Night in Cusco.

Day 3: We’ll depart by bus for the trip to the eastern slope of the Andes. We’ll make several stops as we climb over a couple of interior ridges and traverse some drier intermontane valleys before arriving at the last Andean pass, Acjanaco. Some birds we’ll likely see along the way include Mountain Caracara, Andean Flicker, Slender-billed Miner, and Mourning, Peruvian, and Ash-breasted Sierra Finches. Diversity increases as the habitats become moister and denser, with the endemic Creamy-crested Spinetail and very local Chestnut-breasted Mountain Finch possible. Near the pass, we’ll look for flocks in the patches of the humid treeline forest in hopes of encountering Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, Golden-collared Tanager, White-browed Conebill, and Black-throated and Moustached Flowerpiercers. We’ll look particularly for Line-fronted and Scribble-tailed Canasteros, local species found only at high elevation or above treeline. As we descend the eastern slope of the Andes to our accommodations at 9400 feet, the forest becomes more continuous. The vast array of birds here includes White-collared Jay and Mountain Cacique, and we’ll hope to see mixed flocks of tanagers, flycatchers, and furnariids. In the evening we’ll go to a favorite spot where we’ve had good luck finding Swallow-tailed Nightjar. Night at Wayqecha Birding Lodge.

Day 4: At breakfast, we’ll be greeted by a dawn chorus of Great Thrushes, Glossy-black Thrushes, and Black-faced Brushfinches. We’ll have a full day in these uppermost elevations of the Kosñipata cloud forests, birding from the road that borders Manu National Park as well as on trails that enter the Amazon Conservation Association’s private reserve and research station. We’ll principally be birding along the road, almost certainly hearing Red-and-white Antpitta and Trilling Tapaculo, and with more than a bit of luck, we’ll even see one or both. The lodge now has feeders, and possible hummingbirds here are the creatively named Shining Sunbeam and Amethyst-throated Sunangel, and other high-elevation specialties could include Gray-breasted Mountain-Toucan, Marcapata Spinetail, and Barred Fruiteater. We may return to Acjanaco Pass a few kilometers back up the road for any high-elevation birds we might have missed the day before, such as Puna Thistletail, Undulated Antpitta, Great Sapphirewing, or Grass Wren, the last an Andean resident recently split from North American Sedge Wren. Night at Wayqecha Birding Lodge.

Day 5: We’ll spend the bulk of this day making stops along the road, starting in the high-elevation cloud forests below our lodge at 9400 feet down to our next lodge at 4600 feet. Lower down, as we walk along this little-traveled road, we’ll keep an eye out for Masked Trogon, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Slaty-backed Chat-Tyrant, Inca Flycatcher, Blue-banded Toucanet, and a wide variety of other hummingbirds, flycatchers, and tanagers. The list of possible birds is all but overwhelming, and perhaps equally exciting are the myriad butterflies that come to seeps, puddles, and flowers. Lush, cloud-forest vegetation with flowers such as wild nasturtiums, fuchsias, Pitcairnia, and Bomarea (all attractive to hummingbirds) as well as fabulous vistas of undisturbed forest will make our day’s journey down the Manu Road memorable. Night in San Pedro.

Day 6-7: We’ll spend two full days exploring the middle-elevation forests, concentrating on the habitats found from 6500 feet down to 4500 feet, home to many narrow-range specialties and an exceptionally comfortable climate. Birding these forests can be like visiting a bird buffet, with fancy quetzals and cotingas and mixed flocks of dazzling tanagers. Among the many possibilities are Crested and Golden-headed Quetzals, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Stripe-chested Antwren, Slaty Gnateater, Yungas Manakin, Andean and White-eared Solitaires, Deep-blue Flowerpiercer, and Golden, Paradise, Blue-necked, Golden-eared, and Orange-eared Tanagers. We sometimes get lucky with a troop of Geoffroy’s Woolly Monkeys in the roadside trees, and if it’s sunny, butterflies such as eighty-eights, jewels, and clearwings will continue to delight. We’ll visit a nearby Andean Cock-of-the-rock lek to watch up to ten or more males engaged in their strange mating dance at surprisingly close range. Hummingbirds at the lodge’s feeders and porterweed hedges should include Violet-fronted Brilliant, Many-spotted Hummingbird, and Booted Racket-tail, while Geoffroy’s Daggerbill, Wire-crested Thorntail, and White-bellied Woodstar are also possible at the flowers. We’ll also do some night birding here; we could find Rufescent Screech-Owl and Band-bellied Owl, but the real treat will be the Lyre-tailed Nightjar show: watching a male Lyre-tailed swoop across the sky at dusk is truly awesome. Night in San Pedro.

Day 8: After a pre-dawn breakfast we’ll spend the morning birding the lower foothill forests where more mixed flocks are our target. We’ll pay special attention to the stretch between 4500 and 2500 feet, which has relatively untouched forest, a rarity in the Andes as the climate is ideal for raising cash crops such as tea, coffee, and coca. In the past, we’ve seen many species restricted to this upper tropical zone, including Peruvian Piedtail, Versicolored Barbet, Ornate Stipplethroat, Cinnamon-faced Tyrannulet, Ornate Flycatcher, Black-backed Tody-Flycatcher, and Chestnut-breasted Wren. On one stretch of the road we’ll search for the Inti Tanager, first documented on WINGS tours in 2000 and 2003 and described finally in 2021. We’ll arrive at our next lodge with plenty of time to settle in before some late afternoon birding close to our rooms. Night at Villa Carmen.

Days 9–10: We’ll spend two full days at Villa Carmen. This birding lodge and biological research station owned by the Amazonian Conservation Association is in the transitional zone where the last low foothills of the Andes begin to flatten out into the Amazon Basin proper; while many of the species are Amazonian in affinity, some that are limited to the outer foothills are found only here. The possibilities are almost endless and include Uniform Crake, Hoatzin, Blue-headed and Chestnut-fronted Macaws, Yellow-billed Nunbird, Scarlet-hooded Barbet, Golden-bellied Warbler, Bamboo Antshrike, Black-throated Antbird, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Ringed Antpipit, Johannes’s Tody-Tyrant, Hauxwell’s Thrush, and Band-tailed, Round-tailed, and Fiery-capped Manakins—in a word, tons of birds. We’ll make a short drive one day to visit a hummingbird feeding station where we may find Rufous-crested Coquette, Koepcke’s Hermit, and many other species. We’ll have the chance to go night birding here as well, and we should hear and possibly see Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, Black-banded Owl, and Common Potoo. Nights at Villa Carmen.

Day 11: After replacing our bus by a motorized canoe, much of today will be devoted to travel as we’ll motor down the Madre de Dios River to our next lodge, Tambo Blanquillo. The boat ride itself is delightful, and we’ll stop for any number of birds that can be seen along the rivers, such as Sand-colored Nighthawk, roosting Great Potoo, Orinoco Goose, Capped Heron, and various other herons and parrots. Night at Tambo Blanquillo Lodge.

Days 12-13: During our two full days at Tambo Blanquillo, we’ll have several activities such as a boat ride on an oxbow lake, a visit to a parrot clay lick, and a visit to the canopy platform. An early morning visit to the clay lick should yield numbers of Yellow-crowned, Orange-cheeked, and Blue-headed Parrots, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, and most mornings groups of Red-and-green Macaws come down, though every day is different and unpredictable. Late morning will see us on the canopy platform where one has a totally novel view of the tropical rainforest. Here we’ll have a better chance to see species such as Gilded Barbet, Amazonian Pygmy-Owl, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, White-necked Puffbird, and Paradise, Turquoise, and Green-and-gold Tanagers. Finally in the afternoon, we’ll take a two-hour boat ride on the lake, where we’ll look for Hoatzin, Sungrebe, Horned Screamer, American Pygmy and Green-and-rufous Kingfishers, and Pale-eyed Blackbird. With luck, we may see the rare Agami Heron and possibly spot a rail or two while looking for the local family of Giant Otters. Night at Tambo Blanquillo.

Day 14: After some early birding at Tambo Blanquillo Lodge, we will have a five-hour journey to our home for the next few days, Los Amigos Research Station. We’ll try to fit in some birding in the late afternoon as we familiarize ourselves with the grounds, perhaps seeing the Undulated Tinamous that, quite incredibly, forage in the open lawn. Night at Los Amigos

Days 15–19: Los Amigos Research Station and Birding Lodge, owned by the nonprofit Amazon Conservation Association (which also owns Wayqecha and Villa Carmen Biological Stations, visited on the previous tour), is situated where the Los Amigos and Madre de Dios Rivers converge. The biological station is part of a watershed that includes millions of acres of protected wilderness in southeastern Peru. The landscape is a mosaic of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including palm swamps, bamboo thickets, oxbow lakes, and various types of flooded and unflooded forests. Large stands of Guadua bamboo coupled with the extensive várzea (a wet forest inundated during the peak of the rainy season), terra firme (a forest occurring on higher ground that never gets flooded), and mature transitional floodplain forest ensure a huge variety of birdlife at Los Amigos. A casual day of birding on foot could easily yield 200 species. Two recent big days here tallied 345 and 347 species on foot, making this possibly the single birdiest location on the planet.

Some of the more interesting and unusual species possible in the bamboo are Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Manu Antbird, Peruvian Recurvebill, and Long-crested Pygmy-Tyrant. Throughout the forest various species of foliage-gleaners and antbirds join in mixed flocks. Some of the scarcer species here include Bartlett’s Tinamou, Razor-billed Curassow, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Pavonine Quetzal, Purus Jacamar, Cream-colored Woodpecker, Banded Antbird, Royal Flycatcher, and Musician Wren, to name but a few, and we’ll certainly look for the especially rare and local Rufous-fronted Antthrush and Black-faced Cotinga. 

Butterflies abound here, and since the dragonflies of this region have been studied more thoroughly than almost anywhere else in the Amazon, we might be able to put names to some of the more colorful ones we see. Thirteen species of primates are known from the reserve, and we’ll surely see a good selection of some of them, and possibly even rarer mammals such as Jaguar, Giant Anteater, and Short-eared Dog. 

Night birding may produce potoos, Mottled and Black-banded Owls, and Ocellated Poorwill, as well as a good chance for fascinating nocturnal invertebrates, tree frogs, and Amazonian Tree Boa, the only snake with a bright eyeshine. Nights at Los Amigos. 

Day 20: After some early morning birding around our lodge, we’ll travel back to Puerto Maldonado via a combination of boats and wheeled vehicles, taking up much of the day, including stops for any birds and mammals. Night in Puerto Maldonado.

Day 21: We’ll have a few hours in the morning for some roadside birding near Puerto Maldonado, where we’ll certainly see a few new species. Rusty-margined Flycatcher occurs at the edge of its range here, and several species have spread into Peru from Bolivia in this area including Grassland Sparrow. On one recent tour we discovered the second country record of White-bellied Seedeater, and on another, a Tiny Hawk was a wonderful surprise. You never know what you’ll see. We’ll have an afternoon flight back to Lima, and after a farewell dinner at the airport area hotel, the tour will conclude at the Lima International Airport.

 

 

Created: 27 October 2023

Prices

  • 2025 Price Not Yet Available

Notes

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Questions? Tour Manager: Greg Greene. Call 1-866-547-9868 (US or Canada) or (01) 520-320-9868 or click here to email.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

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