Bird of Machu Picchu Species Accounts Part 4

Bird of Machu Picchu Species Accounts Part 4


A worldwide family ranging from small sparrow-sized to very large birds. They are both terrestrial and arboreal and occupy almost all habitats. They fly fast. The head is small and bill weak. They are generally of subdued hues, sometimes with a metallic gloss on the head, neck and back. Nests are frail stick platforms in trees or bushes. The young are fed by regurgitation. Their cooing calls differ in rhythm and are useful for identification.

1.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Spot-winged Pigeon – Columba maculosa.

32 cm. A large broad-winged pigeon. Head, neck and under-parts all blue-gray, tinged purplish. Mantle and wing-coverts gray-brown with white feather edges. On the wing and particularly conspicuous in flight, is a broad white band slanting backwards from the wing bend, contrasting with black carpal area. Tail dark gray with blacker distal area. Found at Machu Picchu in semi- arid habitats such as open woodland and scrub, agricultural areas and small settlements with Eucalyptus trees. Does not like humid forest. Usually encountered in breeding pairs or small groups. Feeds on the ground and flies with shallow wing-beats. Circles with slow wing-beats during display flight. Primary song delivered from a tree top is a few low soft ’coos’ followed by a louder ’cooouh-cuh-coooh’, first note low-pitched. At elevations of 2000 – 4000 meters. Can be seen around Llactapata ruins at the start of the Inca Trail.

2.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Feral Pigeon – Columba livia.

32 cm. Feral version of the Old World Rock Dove. Many colors were developed over centuries of near-domestication. Those resembling their wild ancestors have the head and neck darker than the back, black bars on the inner wing and a white rump with a black band at the end of the tail. There are many other varieties and colors, from pure white to rufous or blackish. Lives around towns and settlements. Feeds during the day in fields and open areas. Social.

3.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Band-tailed Pigeon – Columba fasciata.

35 cm. A large heavy pigeon with head, neck and under-parts dark grayish vinaceous. White nuchal collar separates vinaceous head and dark metallic green hind-neck. Mantle and wing-coverts dark bronze-brown, grading into light blue-gray on the back and rump. Tall slaty with light distal zone producing banded tail effect. Eyes, bill and feet yellow. Inhabits humid montane and pre-montane forest and ravines with forest. Very social, usually in small to large flocks, sometimes in pairs. Always in the canopy feeding on berries, leaves and blossoms. Large groups fly swiftly across the tree tops sometimes very high. When flushed, wing claps. The song is a weak owl- like ’hoo-hooo-hoo Mostly found at elevations of 2000 – 3000 meters. Can be seen at various points along the Inca Trail.

4.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Plumbeous Pigeon – Columba plumbea.

33 cm. dull dark brown above. Crown, hind-neck and upper-back glossed purplish. Below grayish brown, wing linings gray. Bill black, eyes and feet red. Inhabits humid sub-montane forest, forest borders and mature secondary growth. Usually encountered alone or in pairs but will flock at fruiting trees. Mostly keeps hidden in the canopy where it can be difficult to detect. The song is a distinctive ‘hoo-coo-cu-cuuuuu’. Also a loud purring common to the genus. A lowland species that ranges into the pre-montane zone mostly at altitudes below 2000 meters and only likely to be recorded In the Sanctuary at the lowest elevations. Rare.

5.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Eared Dove – Zenaida auriculata.

23-28 cm. Upper-parts olive-brown, shading to blue gray on the crown and into gray on the wings and tail. Black streak behind the eye and near the ear and black spots on the tertials. Under-pads cinnamon-vinaceous, more blue-gray on the sides and with a buff belly grading into a white vent. In flight shows a graduated shortish tail with broad white tips contrasting with black median bar. Inhabits semi-arid open land and agricultural areas where there are some graves of trees and bushes, hedgerows etc. Gregarious and roosts and nests communally in trees. Feeds on the ground. Flight very fast and more or less direct. Song is a low descending ‘oo-whoo’ sometimes repeated several times. Mostly found at 2500 – 4000 meters and easily seen around the village of Wayllabamba along the Inca Trail.

6.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Maroon-chested Ground Dove – Claravis mondetoura.

22 cm. Male: Mainly dark gray with a whitish fore-face and throat. Chest to upper abdomen deep purplish chestnut. Three bars of purplish black spots across the wing covers. Female: Olive-brown upper-pads, excepting cinnamon brown forehead and rump. Wing bars as in male. Under-pads light buff with a grayish breast and whitish throat and belly. Found in the wet under-story and along the edge of humid montane and sub-montane forest where there is a predominance of seeding bamboo (Chusquea spp.) to which this species is strongly tied. Found alone or in pairs and difficult to see, keeping ¡n dense undergrowth. Nomadic and unpredictable following the flowering cycle of extensive bamboo patches. Calls from deep cover – a deep ‘wroop—wroop—wroop…’ repeated for long periods. Found at elevations of between 1300 and 3000 meters. Not uncommon in bamboo patches near the Machu Picchu ruins complex.

7.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Bare-faced Ground-Dove – Metriopelia ceciliae.

17 cm. A small compact dove. Naked orange orbital area framed by a black line. Earthy brown with a ruddy-cinnamon hue. Shows a rosy tinge on the breast, especially in the male. Prominent pale buff tips to all back feathers and wing covers. Belly and vent cinnamon buff. Tail feathers black with broad white outer corners. Inhabits and semi-arid regions, open rocky and sandy areas with some herbaceous plants or cactus. Also lightly-wooded slopes and around human habitation where there is no plant cover. Usually encountered in small groups feeding on the ground. When flushed the wings produce a dry rattle and the birds usually take refuge on a cliff face or rock pile. Even when displaying (which involves bobbing of head downwards with neck stretched) silent. Nests on the ground, in cliff faces and also holes in buildings. At elevations of 2500 – 4500 meters. Can be seen at the star of the Inca Trail near Llactapata ruins.

8.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Black-winged Ground-Dove – Metriopelia melanoptera.

21-23 cm. Above uniform gray-brown. Wing coverts gray, grading to white patch near the wrist. Under-parts cinnamon pink (male) or earthy brown (female). Bare orange patch in front of pale blue eye. In flight shows dark wings, with sooty gray linings and white wrist spot. Vent and longish square tail black. Found in arid and semi-arid regions. May feed far from trees but gathers in Polylepis spp. and Eucalyptus spp. in the late afternoon. Also on hillsides with scrub and cactus, agricultural terraces and fields. Usually in small flocks and feeds on the ground. Will perch in trees and bushes. The seldom-heard call is a rolling ‘freee-oo/’delivered from a bush or rock. At elevations of between 2000 and 4300 meters. Can be seen in the Cusichaca valley within the Sanctuary.

9.- Bird of Machu Picchu: White-tipped Dove – Leptotila verreauxi.

29 cm. The decolor sub-species is present at Machu Picchu. Above grayish brown, with head pale pinkish gray. Under-parts pale pinkish gray fading to whitish on the throat, abdomen and under- tail coverts. Outer tail feathers blackish and slightly graduated, all but the central pair with broad white tips. Loral line and orbital skin red. In flight shows strong chestnut-rufous under-wing. Found in more open, lighter woodland, advanced secondary growth and open bushy woodland with taller trees. Avoids arid areas. Usually encountered alone or in pairs feeding on seeds and berries on the ground, walking with a mechanical gait. Quite shy. When disturbed, walks away or flushes onto a low perch with audible whirring of wings, where it bobs its head and walks up the branch into deeper cover. The song is a drawn out Wboo-woooo’, like the sound made by blowing across the top of a bottle. At elevations of mostly below 2500 meters. Can be seen near the town of Aguas Calientes and in the grounds of the El Pueblo Hotel.

10.- Bird of Machu Picchu: White-throated Quail-Dove – Geotrygon frenata.

34 cm. A very large Quail-Dove. The nominate frenata race is present at Machu Picchu. Eyes orange. Dark gray-brown above. Forehead and sides of head dull buff bordered below by long black moustachial stripe. Crown slate gray. Upper back glossed purple. Throat and fore-neck white, breast brownish gray, more sandy brown lower with a white abdomen. Inhabits humid montane and pre-montane forest undergrowth and well-developed secondary growth. Usually encountered alone, sometimes in pairs. Mostly terrestrial, feeding on the ground on seeds and berries. When disturbed flushes to a low perch or walks away calmly. Shy. The far carrying song is very low-pitched ‘whooooo’ delivered at regular well-spaced intervals from a bush or small tree. At elevations of between 1500 and 3000 meters.


A cosmopolitan family that vaguely resemble swallows but have sickle-shaped wings adapted for high-speed sailing. They are mostly shades of brown and black and have small bills but very large gapes. They are the most aerial of all birds, feeding on insects, mating and even sleeping in the air. Some species roost on vertical cliffs or in tree-trunks. The toes oppose each other pair wise to provide powerful grip and in some species, stiffened tails give additional support when the bird is perched. Swifts are very social and are found in small to very large groups. They can enter torpor to save energy. Nesting is usually semi-colonial with tiny nests glued with saliva to vertical rock faces. They lay 4-6 eggs and have a long nesting cycle.

1.- Bird of MachuPicchu: Chestnut-collared Swift – Cypseloides rutilus.

15 cm. Mostly dark sooty brown and partially black. Male shows rufous-chestnut throat, cheeks, fore-chest and broad collar around the neck. Female has little or almost no rufous. Longer tailed and narrower winged than Chaetura swifts and tail square or slightly notched. Has a steadier, less erratic flight. Found in mountainous humid pre-montane forest, flying over more open terrain and grassy ridges. Usually encountered in single species flocks but will join flocks of Chaetura swifts, flying high or down valleys. Roosts in tree trunks. The call is a high-pitched ’chittering’ and ‘buzzing’. Found at elevations of up to 3000 meters but mostly below 2300. Uncommon at Machu Picchu.

2.- Bird of Machupicchu: White-collared Swift – Streptoprocne zonaris.

20 cm. Unmistakable large black swift with a broad white ring around the neck. Shows an obvious forked tail. Found in almost all habitats except puna, in mountainous country from humid forested to dry inter-montane valleys. A highly social species found in flocks of hundreds or more. They feed on insects at all heights depending on the weather conditions, and cover large areas during daily foraging. Soars with wings bowed but flight profile depends on the bird’s attitude. They roost and nest in caves, mostly behind waterfalls. Very vocal: Calls include nasal twitters ‘chee-chee- chee’, ’whiss – whiss’or ’cheet ..cheet’- often many birds together, sounding like a distant parakeet flock. Can be found at all elevations and can be seen virtually anywhere within the Sanctuary.

3.- Bird of Machupicchu: Gray-rumped Swift – Chaetura cinereiventris.

11 cm. A small swift. Glossy black above with sharply contrasting pale gray rump and upper-tail coverts. Below dark gray, throat paler, under-tail coverts blacker. The tail is of medium length and the round head protrudes prominently producing the typical ‘cigar with wings’ shape. Flight is rapid and fluttering on stiff down-tilted wings. A species which inhabits forested slopes in pre-montane forest and also cleared areas on slopes. Highly gregarious and found in flocks of 20-30 or so, often with other sympatric swift species. Calls are high-pitched insect-like chittering – ’che-che- che-cheee’. Recorded from Amazonian lowlands up to 2000 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu and only likely in the lowest forested parts of the Sanctuary.

4.- Bird of Machupicchu: Chimney Swift – Chaetura pelagica.

13 cm. A North American migrant present in Peru from November to April. Above dark sooty olive, slightly lighter on the rump, below grayish-brown with a distinctly paler throat. In flight shows a thick ‘cigar-shaped’ body with a short squared-off tail and projecting spines at close range. Note short tailed appearance and fluttering flight, with rapid wing-strokes and much soaring. Mostly found in open terrain and very often in towns and villages. Highly gregarious. At altitudes of up to 3300 meters. Mostly winters on the Peruvian coast but has been recorded as a vagrant at Machu Picchu and Cusco. Rare.

5.- Bird of Machupicchu: White-tipped Swift – Aeronautes montivagus.

13 cm. Dark sooty brown, becoming black on the wing linings and back. Throat white, becoming marbled dirty white and dusky on the breast and along thin mottled stripe of the central belly, with a white area around feet contrasting with a black vent. Tertials and tail-feathers with white tips. In flight similar to Cypseloides swifts with sickle-shaped wings and ‘cigar-shaped’ body but with slightly forked or notched tail. Found in humid to semi-humid areas, usually over forested hills and gorges, bushy slopes and ridges. Gregarious, usually found in small groups flying at medium heights. Quite vocal – a long buzzing, clicking trill or high-pitched squeaking. At altitudes of 1000 to 2600 meters. Quite common at Machu Picchu ruins and around the Wayna Picchu peak.

6.- Bird of Machupicchu: Andean Swift – Aeronautes andecolus.

14 cm. The Peruvians race is present at Machu Picchu. Uniform light gray-brown, below lighter. Vent white. White collar on the nape and white band across the rump. In flight is longer-winged and tailed than the preceding species, the tail looking narrow and slightly forked. Found in semi- arid mountainous country over bushy slopes and also around towns. Gregarious and often fly high along precipitous cliff faces in flocks and small groups. The call is a shrill ‘zeezeezeeezeer’ often given by more than one individual. Mostly found at between 2500 and 3500 meters in altitude. Can be seen at the start of the Inca Trail near Llactapata ruins.


Parrots inhabit warmer climates of both hemispheres. They are easily recognized by their noisy social habits and heavy, hooked beaks. They range in size from sparrow-sized Parrotlets to the large Macaws. They are most common in the Amazonian lowlands but many species range into the Andes. Sexes are alike and mating is for life, with pair bonding maintained by mutual preening and play behavior. Most are arboreal and they feed on fruits, seeds, nuts, flowers and blossoms, often raiding crops in the Andes where some species are considered pests. They are mostly sedentary, moving locally between feeding sites. Parrots usually nest in tree holes or holes in cliffs and lay between 2-5 white eggs. The female incubates but both parents feed the young.

1.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Scarlet-fronted Parakeet – Aratinga wagleri.

32 cm. The minor race is probably present at Machu Picchu but confirmation is required. Aratinga’s recorded in the drier areas near Llactapata are possibly this species. Dull green with a scarlet forehead reaching the eye and lores but not on cheeks as in Mitred Parakeet. A few other red feathers elsewhere on the neck and particularly around the legs. Wing-linings green but with some red or orange feathers occurring near the bend of the wing. Underside of flight and tail feathers gold. White ocular area. Inhabits light forest and semi-arid to arid areas, often raiding crops. Also cactus-ciad slopes, orchards and agricultural areas. Very social, sometimes hundreds gather as they fly from feeding areas to roosts. When in trees, they feed high in the canopy. They nest in rock faces. Calls include a variety of loud screeching chatters including a strident ‘chee-ey’. Mostly between 2000 and 3000 meters in the Machu Picchu area.

2.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Mitred Parakeet – Aratinga mitrata.

38 cm. Mostly light green, lightest below, with a bluish sheen above and with forehead and fore- crown red to pink, with contrasting green crown. Under-sides of flight and tail feathers old gold in color. White orbital skin around the eye. Found mostly in humid montane and pre-montane forest with plenty of vertical rock faces for nesting. Very vocal and gregarious. Found in large noisy flocks feeding in tree canopies, often in flowering Erythrina spp. trees. Calis inelude a deep harsh ‘cfterree’and a snarling ’whee-eee- rhee’. Very similar to the preceding species and the limits of distribution and habitat in these two forms are not fully understood. Mostly at 1800 – 2500 meters in elevation. Common in the Urubamba gorge near Aguas Calientes and Puente Ruinas railway station.

3.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Golden-plumed Parakeet – Leptosittaca branickii.

34 cm. Green, a little paler on under-parts. Lower fore-head (diadem) orange-brown. Lores, line below eye and elongated feathers above the ear coverts yellow. Abdomen yellow suffused with orange. Underside of flight feathers dull yellow. Tail green above with dull red on the inner webs, below dull red. Inhabits humid montane and sub-montane forest. Social and usually encountered in noisy groups of 6-15 feeding in the canopy but also in small bushes on mountain slopes. The harsh call is rather Macaw-like – ‘rhaaa-aa’. At elevations of between 2000 and 3500 meters, mostly around 3000 meters.

4.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Barred Parakeet – Bolborhynchus lineóla.

17 cm, with a 5-6 cm pointed tail. Bill horn-colored. Emerald green on the forehead and crown, to dark olivaceous on the upper-parts, sides of breast and flanks. Below yellowish-green. Flight and tail feathers bluish-green. Black terminal edges to most feathers forming barring over most of the body. These edges form 2 bars across the wings and drop-shaped spots on the tail coverts. Tail tipped black. Inhabits humid montane and pre-montane forest, forest edge and clearings. Seems to particularly like flowering bamboo (Chusquea spp.). Inconspicuous and mostly noted as flocks of 5-20 flying directly over the treetops, sometimes very high. Feeds sluggishly on bamboo, Cecropia catkins, buds, seeds and flowers in the mid to under-story and difficult to detect when perched. Very erratic in habits and semi-nomadic depending on the flowering cycle of the bamboo. At elevations of between 1500 and 3000 meters. Can be seen in flowering bamboo near the Machu Picchu ruin complex.

5.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Andean Parakeet – Bolborhynchus orbygnesius.

16 cm, with 6 cm pointed tail. Tail broad at the base. Bill pale greenish yellow – looks pale. Mostlydark green, slightly yellower below. Forehead and lores tinged with yellow on males. Outer webs of primaries blue-green. Mostly found in semi-arid situations, bushy slopes and ravines, dry cloud forest etc. Usually encountered in groups of 5-30, feeding ¡n bushes, brambles and small trees or on the ground for seeds, berries and fruits. Raids corn crops. Flight is swift and direct. Cali notes include a chattering ‘rueet -rueet-rueeet’ also a twittering ’dydydee-dee-dee’. Mostly found at 3000 – 4000 meters but seasonally lower. Can be seen in the bushy scrub between Paucarcancha and Pampacahuana.

6.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Blue-headed Parrot – Plonus menstruus.

25 cm. Dusky bill and bare white ocular area. Head, neck and breast blue mixed red on fore-neck. Ear coverts black. Otherwise green with red under-tail coverts and red base to the underside of the tail. Inhabits humid lowland and pre-montane forest, clearings ¡n forest and river edge. Can be found singly and ¡n small and large flocks. They mostly feed ¡n the treetops and perch consplcuously. The distinct call ¡s a high-pltched ’krit-krit’ wlth a somewhat scratchy tone. Mostly a lowland species recorded below 1500 for the most part, but has been recorded as a straggler at Machu Plcchu.

7.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Speckle-faced Parrot – Pionus tumultuosus.

29 cm. Bill olive-yellow. Dark eyes contrast with white orbital skin. Crown and forehead vinaceous pink with a faint scaled pattern. Sides of head and throat purplish with white feather bases showing through giving a speckled effect. Neck reddish purple and breast drab purple. Rest of body green. Vent red. Tail green with violet-blue and some red basally. Inhabits humid montane and sub-montane forest where it is principally found in treetops feeding quietly or in pairs or small flocks flying across valleys. Will raid maize crops. Flies with deep wing-beats typical of the genus. At altitudes of 1800 – 3300 meters. Can be seen in the lower reaches of the Aobamba valley.

8.- Bird of Machu Picchu: Scaly-naped Parrot – Amazona mercenaria.

34 cm. Bill horn-colored and orbital skin white. A large stocky parrot with broad, blunt wings. Green with a yellower face and under-parts. Crown, nape, upper mantle and breast barred with blue- gray feather margins. Wings purplish-blue with a red wing speculum. Tail shows yellowish-green coverts and tip and a broad, purplish, incomplete sub-terminal band. Found in humid montane and sub-montane forest with tail trees, mostly along well-forested ridges. Singles, pairs, small and large groups can be encountered. Often ¡n large flocks when moving from one feeding area to another. Usually seen flying high with characteristically stiff, shallow and fluttering wing-beats whilst calling constantly. Feeds in tree tops and ¡s very shy when perched. The call is a loud harsh ‘/cree- rrhee’ or ’khoeee-khooeouu’. At elevations of between 1800 and 3500 meters. Can be seen in the upper Aobamba valley.


A cosmopolitan familyofwhich members are similar in appearance (the Hoatzin being an exception), but they differ in behavior dramatically. They are slim-bodied, long-tailed birds that have secretive habits in many cases. They are mostly tropical and move actively like passerines, hopping from branch to branch. Cuckoos are known for their habit of laying their eggs in other birds nests but that habit does not apply to any of the species at Machu Picchu.

1.- Bird Machupicchu: Dark-billed Cuckoo – Coccyzus melacoryphus.

25 cm. Bill black. Bare eye-ring grayish. Grayish brown above, crown and nape grayish. Black mask through the eye and ear-coverts. Under-parts buff. Throat and neck has a lateral, diffuse
light-gray band. Tail long and graduated, bronzy above and blackish below with large spot-like white tips. Found in a variety of habitats, including forest edge, gardens, dry bushy slopes, secondary growth and quite dry xerophytic areas. Usually alone but sometimes ¡n pairs in thick leafy vegetation usually quite low. Sits quietly looking for caterpillars and other insects. Hops and flies through thickly interlacing vegetation with surprising ease. The seldom-heard song is a descending series of ’coo’s’. Mostly found below 2400 meters but can range as high as 3400 meters. Uncommon at Machu Picchu.

2.- Bird Machupicchu: Squirrel Cuckoo – Piaya cayana.

43 cm. A large and lanky cuckoo. Bill greenish yellow. Orbital ring and eyes reddish. Above chestnut, throat and upper breast buff fading to gray on the lower breast and becoming black on the abdomen and under-tail coverts. Very long graduated tall ¡s chestnut with large round white spotted tips below. Found in dry to wet forest, forest borders, and tall secondary growth and semi- open areas with trees. Encountered alone or in pairs in thick vegetation and vine tangles where they run and glide with squirrel-like movements or strong hops. Often seen gliding across clearings or from tree to tree. The most frequently heard call is an explosive ‘chic’ or ‘skiik-whaah’. Mostly a lowland species but ascends to 2500 meters. Can be seen along the Urubamba River near Puente Ruinas railway station.

3.- Bird Machupicchu: Smooth-billed Ani – Crotophaga ani.

33 cm. Bill smooth and narrow with the keel highly-arched, curving down to the forehead. Plumage dull black. Tail long and loose. Found ¡n bushy pastures, clearings and open areas in humid forest, corn crops and riverine thickets. Colonizes deforested areas rapidly, especially as montane forest is cleared. Very gregarious and usually found in small, loose groups. They perch conspicuously and are easy to observe, perching on small trees, bushes, fence posts or the ground. The flight is weak and they seldom fly far – usually a few flaps and then a sailing glide. The often given call is a rising ‘oouuuu-eenk’, often made in flight. Mostly a lowland species but has colonized higher as a result of deforestation and occurs up to 2800 meters. Uncommon at Machu Picchu and best looked for in the lower areas near the Mandor and Aobamba valleys.


Only one species occurs in the Americas. They differ from typical owls by the heart-shaped facial disk and long legs. They hunt rodents and are faithful to nest sites.

1.- Bird Machu Picchu: Barn Owl – Tyto Alba.

38 cm. Tawny above mottled with dark gray and dotted black and white. White to deep-buff heart shaped face with a narrow dusky rim. Under-parts white to deep buff, spotted dusky. In flight looks unmarked and almost totally white. Found around human habitation, agricultural areas and lightly wooded and open terrain. Nests in rock crevices, caves and hollow trees. Most active at dusk and at night gliding buoyantly and silently over open country in search of small rodents. Perches on dead stumps and fence posts. Rocks head and body violently from side to side when alarmed. has a variety of hissing and screeching calls but does not hoot. Can be found at all elevations.


Owls are easily recognized by their compact shape, wide heads with broad facial disks and soft cryptic plumage enabling silent flight. They have incredible eyesight and binocular vision. The eyes are fixed and to compensate for this they swivel their heads 270 degrees. They have well developed hearing and the facial disks help concentrate sound. Owls hunt mostly by night but they can see well during the day and some species will hunt in the daytime. Their prey, located by sight and sound, is usually small mammals, birds, insects and sometimes frogs. Prey is swallowed whole and the fur and bones are regurgitated in the form of pellets. Owls mostly nest in holes in trees, rock crevices and the old stick nests of other birds. They lay white eggs. Due to their nocturnal habits they are seldom seen and little-known.

1.- Bird Machu Picchu: Tropical Screech Owl – Otus choliba.

23 cm. A small owl with ear-tufts. Iris yellow. Grayish to cinnamon brown above with narrow dusky streaks and buffy mottling. Large spotted white line on the wing coverts and scapulars. Flight feathers barred cinnamon brown and dusky. Eyebrows and facial disk buffy white with a black rim. Under-parts whitish to cinnamon with a few narrow black streaks crosshatched with dusky lines. Can be found in dry and humid forest habitats, usually lighter woodlands and gardens and tall secondary growth. Strictly nocturnal and mostly feeds on large insects and often attracted by insects congregating at electric lights. Occasionally takes small rodents. Mostly forages at lower levels taking prey from a low branch or on the ground. Calls mostly after dusk and pre-dawn – a short, whistled trill ’ououououououou- ook-ook’. At elevations of up to 2800 meters but mostly lower. Best looked and listened for along the Urubamba River near Aguas Calientes.

2.- Bird Machu Picchu: White-throated Screech-Owl – Otus albogularis.

25 cm. A very dark owl with almost no ear tufts and a contrasting white throat. Iris yellow-orange. Upper-parts, head and breast dark brown finely speckled buff and white. Obscure black rim to the facial disk. Conspicuous narrow white throat. Belly and lower under-parts tawny-buff, sparsely streaked dark brown. Inhabits humid montane and pre-montane forest, mostly open forest with a broken canopy, forest edge and glades, often where there is bamboo. Strictly nocturnal, mostly feeding on large insects in the canopy. Nests in tree holes or old nests of other birds. The song is a series of 5-6 fluid hoots – ‘bu.bu.bu.bu.bubu’. At elevations of between 2000 and 3000 meters. Can be seen and heard near Wiñay Wayna ruins along the Inca Trail.

3.- Bird Machu Picchu: Magellanic Horned Owl – Bubo magellanicus.

48-56 cm. Until recently considered a subspecies of Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) but shown to differ in vocalizations, morphology and DNA. A very big owl with yellow eyes and conspicuous ear-tufts. Above dark brown mottled buff and gray. Facial disk buffy-white rimmed black. Throat white, rest of under-parts closely barred dark brown and whitish. Chest with a few broad blackish streaks. Found in open or wooded terrain, sometimes near human habitation and lonely rocky hillsides. Mostly crepuscular when hunting but will also hunt during the day for mainly small mammals. Drops on prey from elevated perch, leveling off just above the ground. Nests in caves. Gives two deep, low-pitched hoots followed by a purring sound ’hu-Oohh-urrrr’. Also screams loudly. In Peru at elevations mostly above 3000 meters. Can be seen in the evenings near Llactapata ruins at the start of the Inca Trail.

4.- Bird Machu Picchu: Rufous-banded Owl – Strix albitarsus.

35 cm. A compact owl without ear-tufts and a rounded head. Eyes brown. Head and upper-parts blackish brown, thickly barred and spotted buffy rufous. Eyebrows and loral area buffy-white. Throat white. Chest dark brown, barred and spotted tawny and white with white ocellations on the lower breast and belly. Thighs rufous, flight and tail feathers barred blackish and buff. Found in humid montane and pre-montane forest. Strictly nocturnal and most active (vocalizing) just after dark and pre-dawn. Feeds on small mammals and large insects, mostly in the canopy. The song is a fast series of hoots ‘hu hu-hu-hoo-aaa’ with a pause after the first note. At elevations of 1800 – 3000 meters. Can be seen along the Inca Trail at the Wiñay Wayna ruins.

5.- Bird Machu Picchu: Yungas Pygmy-Owl – Glaucidium bolivianum.

16 cm. A tiny owl with a rounded head and indications of ear tufts. Iris yellow. Ill-defined mask. Has two main color phases. Dark brown with white marks or dark chestnut with buff marks. Also a gray phase. Crown densely spotted with white. Short eye-brow, moustache and throat patch white. Nape shows a conspicuous black and white ‘face-like’ pattern. Back and wings with large scattered white spots. Tail black with 5-6 buff bars. Under-parts whitish with short, heavy, flank streaks. Sides of chest heavily barred. Found in humid montane and pre-montane forest with a predominance of alders (Alnus jorullensis) and thick moss and epiphytes. Nocturnal and diurnal, particularly in cloudy weather. Feeds on insects and small birds, usually hunting at mid to high levels in the canopy. Nests in holes in trees, often old woodpecker holes. The song is a slow series of well-spaced, whistled notes. At elevations of between 1500 and 3000 meters. Fairly common within the Sanctuary.

6.- Bird Machu Picchu: Peruvian Pygmy-Owl – Glaucidium peruanum.

16 cm. Probably more than one species involved. Tiny. Yellow eyes. Gray morph: dark gray-brown to slaty brown above. Rufous morph: warm rufous brown above. Crown with large round vinaceous buff spots and a conspicuous ’face-like’ pattern on the hind-neck, with large black patch bordered below by a continuous buff band. Wing coverts and scapulars spotted buff. Below mostly whitish with heavily spotted sides to the breast and coarse streaking on the rest of the under-parts. Found in semi-arid woodland, riparian thickets and hedgerows near agricultural land as well as gardens.Nests in holes in trees and feeds on large insects mostly. The song is a long series of well-spaced notes with a falling pitch ‘boop…boop…boop’ etc. At elevations of up to 3400 meters.

7.- Bird Machu Picchu: Burrowing Owl – Athene cunicularia.

24 cm. The juninensis race is present at Machu Picchu. Iris yellow. A rather flat-headed owl with a short tail and long feathered legs. Upper-parts with various shades of grayish to fulvous brown with large round pale spots. Broad white eye-brows. Small gray and white facial disks. Tail and wings barred. Under-parts buffy white with broad brown barring. Throat and under-tail coverts white. Found in a variety of open habitats, mostly treeless plains and agricultural fields in our area. Mostly diurnal. Nests in burrows. Mainly terrestrial but perches on rocks, walls and posts. Feeds on small mammals, large insects, beetles and lizards. Bobs up and down when nervous. Found mostly at 3300 – 4000 meters.

BIRD FAMILIES: OILBIRDS – Steatornithidae.

A single species related to Nightjars. They have a strong hooked bill they are the only nocturnal fruit eating birds in the world. They roost and breed in colonies in caves.

1.- Bird Machu Picchu: Oilbird – Steatornis caripensis.

48 cm. Like a nightjar but much larger with a strong hawk-like bill. Uniform rufescent brown, darker above, with some fine dusky bars. Below pinkish brown. Head, wing coverts, outer flight and tail feathers with scattered white dots, the larger ones encircled in black. Tail tawny, long and stiff with thin black bars. Eye shine red. Roosts during the day and also breeds in caves in humid pre- montane forest. Forages over forest at night. Feeds entirely on fruits, mostly palm fruits, by hovering and plucking from the trees at night. Swallows fruits whole and regurgitates seeds. Flies up to 150 kilometers when foraging. Mainly at altitudes below 3000 meters. Has been recorded a few times at Machu Picchu (vagrant or wandering juvenile?). Breeding caves could exist at Machu Picchu but have to be discovered if indeed there are any.


A cosmopolitan family better known by their songs than by sight. Rarely seen by day unless flushed from cover and they are almost totally nocturnal. Nighthawks have long, pointed wings and fly high at dusk and dawn. Nightjars mostly occur closer to the ground and have shorter rounded wings and long tails. They have cryptic plumage and camouflage themselves by sitting motionless amongst leaf litter. They lay two eggs on the ground and the young are fed for a long time before fledging. ,

1.- Birds Machu Picchu: Rufous-bellied Nighthawk – Lurocalis rufiventris.

25 cm. At rest wings project well beyond shortish squaretail. Mostly fuscous black with a white bar across the throat. Upper-parts with gray and chestnut vermiculations and gray scapulars with dark vermiculations. Shows some white spots on the feather shafts. Breast blackish contrasting with almost unmarked tawny belly. Found in humid montane and pre-montane forest, forest edge and secondary growth. Hawks erratically with raised wings for insects above the canopy, alone or in small groups at dawn and dusk. The call is an evenly-spaced series of ’kwaa1 notes or mellow hoots falling in pitch. At elevations of between 1500 and 2500 meters.

2.- Birds Machu Picchu: Band-winged Nightjar- Caprimulgus longirostris.

24 cm. Above blackish, densely-spotted and mottled black, chestnut, buff and pale gray with a rufous collar. Broad whitish buff throat bar separates mottled face and breast, lower under-parts being buffy with dense fuscous barring and cinnamon spotting. Wings dark with conspicuous buff (female) or white (male) bar across the outer primaries. Tall long, gray and fuscous with buff bars. Male shows broad white terminal spots to outer three tail feathers. Found ¡n rather dry situations, open woodland and scrubby slopes, puna grassland and graves of Polylepis. Nocturnal. Feeds by making short sallies from a low perch for flying insects. Sings shortly after dusk – a high-pitched ‘chee-wit’ repeated at intervals, also a thin buzzy ’zuueeert’ rislng towards the end. At elevations of between 2400 – 4200 meters. Can be seen in the Cusichaca Valley within the Sanctuary.

3.- Birds Machu Picchu: Swallow-tailed Nightjar – Uropsalis segmentata.

22 cm (not including male’s streamers). A very dark nightjar with black wings and long forked tail. Adult male shows scissor-like lateral streamers twice the body length. Dark sooty brown with rich rufous bars and freckles throughout. Throat with light semi-collar and breast black with scattered warm brown spots. Belly and vent tawny with some barring. Dark tail feathers with narrow light bars. Streamers uniform fuscous, pale tipped with white outer web. Found in humid montane and elfin forest where there are clearings, forest edge, bushy slopes and at tree-line. At dusk and pre- dawn hunts over grassy slopes and along forest edge for flying insects, also sallies from low perches for mostly moths. Song is a long drawn out ’purrrrr sweeeeeeeerrrrrr’ delivered from a low perch or on the ground. Found at elevations of between 2500 and 3600 meters. Can be seen at dusk near Sayacmarca ruins along the Inca Trail.

4.- Birds Machu Picchu: Lyre-tailed Nightjar – Uropsalis Lyra.

25-28 cm (not including male’s streamers). Similar to the preceding species but shows gray, not rufous freckles on the crown and tertials, conspicuous rufous nape-collar and buffier mottling. A slightly larger bird with longer streamers – almost three times the body length in the male, curved into a lyre-shape. Shows white edge to inner webs of tail. Inhabits humid montane and pre-montane forest, and generally replaces the preceding species at lower elevations. In clearings and glades, almost always near cliff faces or rocky ravines. Feeds on the wing or sallies from a low perch for flying insects. Nests on ledges on cliff faces, road cuts etc., often close to the ground. Has a communal display. Song is a wood-quail-like ’tree-couee…tree-couee…tre-coueee ‘repeated 4-5 times. Found between 2600 and 3000 meters. Can be seen at dusk near the hot springs at Aguas Calientes.


Birds of Machu Picchu Classification


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