Birds Peru is one of the richest countries in the world for birds, with 1,800 species. This is a guide to the field identification of all birds recorded in Peru and in offshore waters within 200 nautical miles of the Peruvian coast (amazon rainforest bird peru).

Birds A field guide can take many forms. We have endeavored to “stick to the basics” and include only information directly relevant to identification. Our intention was to produce a guide that was complete and accurate, yet sufficiently small and portable to be carried close at hand during long days afield. Consequently we have had to jettison, often with great reluctance, much additional information on the distribution and natural history of each species. Additional material on the birds of Peru that did not fit within the covers of this field guide will be incorporated into future publications (amazon rainforest bird).

Bird Peru – This book includes all species reported from Peru through May 2004, based on specimens in natural history museums, literature records, and unpublished sight records, tape recordings, and photographs. We exclude a few species, often attributed in the literature to Peru, for which we have been unable to confirm a valid record for the country (amazon rainforest bird).

Bird Peru – We have been relatively generous in including species reported from Peru only from sight records, including some species on the basis of records that have not been published previously. We encourage anyone who observes a species not previously known from Peru, or known from Peru only on the basis of sight records, to document such records as thoroughly as possible with specimens (with Peruvian governmental author ization), or with photographs, tape recordings, and field sketches and notes, and to publish these records and the  supporting evidence (amazon rainforest bird).

Birds Peru – The classification and nomenclature of birds is under constant review. This affects how many species to recognize for Peru (in other words, whether to “split” or to “lump” geographic varieties into more or fewer species, respectively), the families to which various genera belong, and the sequence of families. We largely follow the classification and nomenclature of the South American Classification Committee (SACC) of the American Ornithologists’ Union  – amazon rainforest bird(


For each species, we present color figures, species accounts, and with few exceptions a distribution map. We include brief introductions to many (but not all) families, and to some genera or species groups. We use these short accounts to introduce species-rich families, or to summarize information that is similar across a group of related species. It often may be helpful to peruse this material, when present, as an aid to field identification (amazon rainforest bird peru).

Species Accounts – Amazon Birds of Peru:

Each species account begins with English and scientific names of the species. A name is enclosed in brackets ([ ]) if the species is known in Peru only from sight records, tape recordings, or photographs, but not from a specimen from Peru Bird.

BIRD LENGTH: The length of each species is given in centimeters and in inches. These measurements, representing the length from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail, are taken from museum specimens and therefore are only an approximation of the size of a live bird. Nonetheless, they provide a useful index to the size of each species and are useful especially for comparing species that are similar in appearance but differ in size. Note that the length will be influenced both by bill length and by tail length; two species can be of similar length but differ in mass (for example, if much of the length measurement of one species is taken up by lightweight feathers from a particularly long tail). For some species we provide additional measurements, such as wingspan (ws) estimates of species more frequently observed in flight (seabirds, raptors) or bill length in hummingbirds (amazon rainforest bird peru).

BIRDS OF PERU GEOGRAPHIC VARIATION An asterisk (*) identifies polytypic species, that is, species with recognized geographic variation (two or more subspecies, across the entire distribution of the species). We do not discuss geographic variation in any detail in this guide, except for instances when subspecies are sufficiently different in appearance or in voice that they might be recognizable in the field (amazon rainforest bird peru).

BIRD SPECIES ACCOUNT The bulk of each species account is taken up with notes on the relative abundance, habitat, elevational range, and behavior of each species, and with a description of its voice. Unless noted (amazon rainforest bird peru).

otherwise, all of our comments refer specifically to that species in Peru (amazon rainforest bird peru). Due to the constraints of the plate-facing format, the text often is terse. We employ a small number of abbreviations:

  • ca. for “approximately”
  • cf. for “compare to”
  • sec for “seconds”
  • ws for “wingspan”

We also abbreviate the names of months. For some species, especially those with distinctive plumages, we say little or nothing about the bird’s appearance. In other cases, we comment on particular features (“field marks”) that may be important for identification. We may call attention to similar species, with notes on how these differ or a suggestion to read the account of that species. We usually do not repeat distinguishing characters; these will be discussed under one species or the other, but not under both (amazon rainforest bird peru).

A familiarity with standard ornithological terminology for the parts of a bird is helpful in understanding the species accounts. Please consult the diagrams in figure 5 and accompanying glossary of bird topography (amazon rainforest bird peru).

RAINFOREST BIRD – RELATIVE ABUNDANCE: Relative abundance is a subjective assessment and can vary geographically, but we have tried to present an “average” assessment. Our assessments are based on our experiences with average encounter rates of free-flying birds, within the species-appropriate habitat, elevation, and range. Relative abundances of some species may differ, for a variety of factors, based on other methods of sampling (such as with mist-net capture rates). We use the following terms in ranking relative abundance:

  • Bird Common: Encountered daily, or almost daily, in moderate numbers (amazon rainforest watch bird).
  • Bird Fairly common: Encountered daily or nearly daily in small numbers (amazon rainforest watch bird).
  • Bird Uncommon: Easily can be missed at a site, even during several days of observation, but should be encountered during longer stays of a week or more (amazon rainforest watch bird).
  • Bird Rare: Residents that are present in such low numbers, or, in the case of migrants, present at such irregular intervals, that they can be missed even in a stay of multiple weeks (amazon rainforest watch bird).
  • Bird Vagrant: Nonresident; has been recorded once or on only a few occasions beyond the “normal” range; might be expected to occur again, but not with regularity (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Statements such as “poorly known” or “rare and local” should be interpreted as referring specifically to the status in Peru. The species may be better known, or more common, elsewhere in its distribution (amazon rainforest watch bird).

WATCHING BIRDS – HABITATS: Habitat often is an important clue in bird identification. Most species are restricted to a particular habitat or a suite of similar habitats and are not expected to be encountered in other situations. We use relatively few specialized terms to describe habitats; these are described in the section Habitats of Peru (amazon rainforest watch bird).

WATCHING BIRDS – BEHAVIOR Our notes on behavior are focused on field identification. We pay particular attention to the foraging level in the habitat (ground, understory, midstory, canopy), since such behavior often is “fixed” within a species (although some species may forage at one level but sing or nest at another). We may comment on foraging behavior, especially where differences in such behavior may help to distinguish between species of similar appearance (amazon rainforest watch bird).

WATCHING BIRDS – ELEVATIONAL DISTRIBUTION Our notes on the elevational distribution of each species reflect both museum specimens and sight observations within Peru. Elevational distributions may vary locally, depending upon a variety of factors, and so occasional deviations may be encountered from the elevational data that we present (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Generally, however, the elevational distribution of a species is an important aspect of its biology; learn to pay attention to elevation when in the field (amazon rainforest watch bird).

WATCHING BIRDS – VOICE Many more birds are heard than are seen. Additionally, there are many instances of birds with similar appearance that are identified more easily by differences in their vocalizations. The way to learn bird vocalizations is through hearing them in the field, or through study of the increasing library of tropical bird song collections (on cassette tapes, compact disks, or DVDs). Our descriptions of the vocalizations of Peruvian birds are “the next best thing.”  (amazon rainforest watch bird)

The vocal descriptions presented here, almost all of which were prepared by Lane, are intended to cover the most frequently heard vocalizations produced by each species. Voices are described using qualitative modifiers and, when possible, phonetic descriptions (based on contemporary American English usage). In the phonetic descriptions, stressed syllables are written in capital letters (e.g., “CHEW”) (amazon rainforest watch bird). Notes that are very stressed or abruptly given are followed by an exclamation point (“!”). Sounds that resemble a question in human speech are followed by a question mark (“?”). The relative length of pauses between notes or phrases is indicated as follows: notes that are produced with almost no discernable pause are run together (e.g., “tututu”); a very short pause is marked by an apostrophe (e.g., “tu’tu’tu”); short pauses are denoted with a hyphen (e.g., “tu-tu-tu”); moderate pauses are indicated with a space (e.g., “tu tu tu “); and the longest pauses are denoted by “…” The same punctuation (“…”) also is used at the end of a phonetic description if the voice continues in a similar manner for an extended period (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Usually we describe the song first, followed by the call; but we reverse this order in some cases, when calls are heard much more frequently or are more characteristic of the species. We use the terms “song” and “call” frequently, although there are many species for which it is difficult to label a particular vocalization as one or the other (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Generally, we classify vocalizations that are produced in territorial defense, mate attraction, and pair bond maintenance as “songs.” In some cases, the “song” of a bird is not vocal at all, but rather is produced mechanically:  guans rattle wing quills during short predawn flights, for example, and woodpeckers drum on resonant substrates (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Some species also combine mechanical sounds with vocal sounds in elaborate displays (especially among the cotingas and manakins, as well as other groups). “Calls,” on the other hand, are a class of vocalizations containing sounds with many different functions, such as to maintain contact among members of a pair, family, or flock; to warn others of danger; to mob predators; and sometimes in territorial defense. Most species have a wide repertoire of calls, many of which are seldom used (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Some species typically sing in duets. Duets are of two types, antiphonal and asynchronous. An antiphonal duet is one in which the members of the pair produce their respective vocalization in a very orderly manner, many times one answering the other with perfect timing. Often the duetted song sounds like only one individual is singing (particularly with wood-quail and Thryothorus wrens). In contrast, in an asynchronous duet (such as are given by wood-rails, many furnariids, and a few other species) the members of a pair sing in a haphazard fashion, with their vocalizations overlapping in a manner seemingly without order (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Voices frequently vary, due to such factors as geographic variation, dialects, individual variation (differences between individuals present at any given site), repertoires (variation between the songs of any particular individual), age- or sex-related differences in song, and the emotional state of the individual bird. Generally, calls are less stereotyped than are songs; and the vocalizations of nonpasserines and of suboscines are more stereotyped than are those of oscines. We often describe discernable geographic variation, although much remains to be learned about variation in the vocalizations of the birds of Peru (amazon rainforest watch bird).

The majority of our vocal descriptions are taken directly from field recordings; only very rarely do we rely on a literature source for a vocal description. We have preferred to use recordings made in or near Peru; we provide brief locality data for recordings that were made outside of Peru and if these voices differ from those of Peruvian populations of that species. The majority of these descriptions are based on recordings by the authors, supplemented by published sound recordings (see Vocal References). Unpublished vocalizations from other recordists are credited in Vocal Credits (amazon rainforest watch bird).

BIRD REGIONAL DISTRIBUTION Each species account ends with a note as to whether that species is entirely restricted to Peru (“ENDEMIC”) or is known from any of the countries that border Peru (Co, Colombia; E, Ecuador; Br, Brazil; Bo, Bolivia; and Ch, Chile) (amazon rainforest watch bird).

DisBirds of Perutribution Maps – Amazon Birds of Peru:

We map the distribution of the majority of the species reported from Peru. Species whose distributions are not mapped include those reported only from far off the coast, vagrants known from only a few records, and some extremely local species. For widespread species we show all of Peru, including the 24 political departments (fig. 1) and the major rivers (see also fig. 2). Some species are restricted to only a small portion of Peru; when possible we use larger-scale regional maps to show these distributions in greater detail (amazon rainforest watch bird).

We use shading to connect areas within which we expect a species will be found, even if there are some apparent gaps in the distribution. The maps are color coded to reflect the seasonal status of each species in Peru (fig. 3) (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Birds of PeruBecause some species may contain populations that are both resident and migratory, this can lead to some complicated distribution maps. Although migration is an important part of the life history of many of Peru’s birds, migration in Peru has not been well studied. Questions remain about the seasonality of some species (amazon rainforest watch bird). In some cases the seasonal pattern of occurrence for a species was unclear, and there is the possibility that some of our assessments may be shown to be incorrect, as Peru’s avifauna becomes better known (amazon rainforest watch bird).

The vast majority of birds in Peru are permanent residents, in part of or all
of Peru. In such cases a species remains throughout the year in the same areas where it breeds (although there may be very local movements in the
nonbreeding season). Areas where a species is resident are shown in light blue (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Birds of PeruA handful of species are breeding residents. They breed in Peru but then depart, either leaving Peru completely (Gray-capped Cuckoo, Snowythroated Kingbird) or vacating the breeding area and migrating to another part of Peru (White-crested Elaenia in part, Slaty Thrush, Black-and-white Tanager). The areas where these species are breeding-season residents are shown in dark blue. The movements away from the breeding grounds represent intratropical migrations, which are discussed below (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Austral migrants are species that breed in temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere from December to February and migrate north during the austral winter. Most such species spend the entire austral winter in Peru, roughly March–October. Arrival and departure periods vary among species and are poorly documented for most species (especially among landbirds) (amazon rainforest watch bird).

A  small number of species (such as Slaty Elaenia) migrate through Peru en route to wintering areas farther north and so are present only for a few weeks each year (amazon rainforest watch bird). There also are species that are known to occur in Peru as austral migrants, but we do not yet know whether they remain through the nonbreeding season or occur only during migration. Species that occur in Peru strictly as austral migrants are mapped in red. We also show in red areas of Peru that are occupied by an austral migrant population, although the same species may be resident elsewhere in the country (e.g., Swainson’s Flycatcher, Bran-colored Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee) (amazon rainforest watch bird).

In a few cases, such as Tropical Kingbird and Southern Rough-winged Swallow, a resident population is augmented by migrants from farther south. If these migrants are similar (or identical) to the resident population,  then migrants can be impossible to recognize as such in the field (except during those rare occasions when a flock is seen clearly in the act of migrating). Therefore, since migrants usually cannot be distinguished from residents, we do not indicate on the map where these austral migrants occur (amazon rainforest watch bird).

We also count as austral migrants some seabirds that breed in southern South America or near Australia and New Zealand. Many of the austral breeding seabirds may occur in Peru year round, in part because many of the individuals that occur in Peru are nonbreeding immatures; however, numbers may noticeably increase during the austral winter (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Overlap of residents and austral migrants becomes more interesting in cases in which the resident and migrant populations belong to different subspecies and can be identified as such in the field. An example of this is Whitewinged Becard in southeastern Peru, where resident males are black and males of a migrant subspecies are largely gray, facilitating recognition in the field. Areas of overlap between identifiably different resident and austral migrant populations are mapped in pink (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Boreal or northern migrants are species that breed in North America and migrate to Peru during the nonbreeding season. Most boreal migrants are present September–April, although some may arrive earlier or depart later. The majority of species spend the entire northern winter in Peru, but a few (e.g., Swainson’s Hawk) may occur primarily as passage migrants that winter farther south. Boreal migrants are mapped in ochre. Very rarely (Red-eyed Vireo) there is seasonal overlap between resident and boreal migrant populations that can be distinguished in the field; this overlap is mapped in green (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Finally, there is an unusual situation in one species (Red-eyed Vireo) where much of Peru is occupied by two different migratory populations: boreal migrants from North America and austral migrants from southern South America. So, although the species may be present year round, it does not breed in most of this region. This unusual seasonal pattern is mapped in orange (amazon rainforest watch bird).

Certain species engage in intratropical migrations. These may be movements east/west across the Andes (e.g., the modesta subspecies of White-crested Elaenia), elevational movements (e.g., Black-and-white Seedeater), migrations from one region of the tropics into another (e.g., the movements into Peru, from northeastern South America, of Lesson’s Seedeater), or postbreeding dispersal by seabirds southward (e.g., Waved Albatross, Galapagos Petrel) or northward (e.g., Peruvian Booby, South American Tern) from breeding areas at tropical latitudes (amazon rainforest watch bird).

We map most of these nonbreeding distributions with red (the same color as is used for austral migrants) because the basic timing of these movements resembles that of the austral migrants. The few seabirds (including some coastal gulls and terns) that visit Peru from breeding areas to the north are mapped as northern migrants (with ochre). These birds are typically in Peru mostly during the period September to April (amazon rainforest watch bird).


We endeavored to illustrate all plumages that can be identified in the field, including examples of recognizable geographic variation, seasonal plumages, sexual dimorphism, and various subadult plumages. Inevitably we fell just short of our goal, but nonetheless the vast majority of the plumages shown by birds in Peru are represented (amazon rainforest watch bird)

Typically all figures on a given plate are to the same scale, although the scale may vary from one plate to the next (amazon rainforest watch bird).

In some cases we employ supplemental figures, at smaller scales, to illustrate additional features (such as the appearance of the bird in flight) (amazon rainforest watch bird).