Birds of Machu Picchu Species Accounts Part 2
BIRD FAMILIES: HERONS – Ardeidae:
A well-known family, characterized by long necks, long legs and straight pointed bills. They are found near water for the most part, where they stand patiently or wade in the shallows. Many herons roost and nest communally and most stalk fish, amphibians and large aquatic insects. Nests are coarse platforms of sticks or reeds. Both sexes build the nest, incubate and feed the
1.- Machupicchu Birds: Snowy Egret – Egretta thula
56-66 cm. A medium-sized entirely white heron with black bill and legs. The feet and lores are bright yellow. Breeding birds show white lacey plumes on the head, neck and back. Inhabits freshwater marshes, ponds and rivers. Feeds actively in shallow water, walking and high-stepping in search of fish, insects and amphibians. Usually encountered in small, loose groups but also found alone. Found mostly at lower elevations but regularly up to 2600 meters and even higher on puna grasslands at 4000 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu.
2.- Machupicchu Birds: Great Egret – Ardea alba
110 cm. This is a large, slender, long-necked, completely white heron of cosmopolitan distribution. Has a yellow bill and totally black legs. Shows no plumes on the head but has long, conspicuous scapular plumes in the breeding season. Found along rivers and near freshwater ponds and lakes. Solitary or widely-spaced individuals stand motionless in shallow water for long periods, waiting for frogs or fish. Rests with other egrets in mixed species groups. Recorded as a non-breeder at elevations of up to 4000 meters. Vagrant at Machu Picchu with only a handful of recorded sightings.
3.- Machupicchu Birds: White-necked Heron – Ardea cocoi
110 cm. A very large, lanky and slender-necked heron. Bill dull yellow, blackish at the base. Legs dusky and greenish, blacker in the non-breeding season. Light-blue back. Black cap down to eye level. Neck white, with black streaks in front and coarse plumes towards the chest. Belly black, thighs white. White wrist patch in flight. Encountered along rivers, fresh-water lakes and marshes. Usually solitary and wary. Stands and waits or wades in shallow water looking for fish and amphibians. Flight slow and labored. Recorded to 2250 meters and one record as a vagrant from Machu Picchu along the Urubamba River.
4.- Machupicchu Birds: Cattle Egret – Bubulcus ibis
50 cm. A small, chunky, white heron with a rather thick neck. Bill yellow and legs greenish. Breeding birds have a buff tinge – sometimes quite strong – to the crown, back and breast. Also reddish- tinged bill and legs in the breeding season. Inhabits a variety of habitats and is very adaptable. Found in agricultural areas, especially where there are cattle, as well as humid habitats. Usually in groups, often feeding near livestock looking for large insects. Often hunched when at rest but extends neck when feeding. Tame. At altitudes of up to 4500 meters. Rare at Machu Picchu.
5.- Machupicchu Birds: Striated Heron – Butorides striatus
40 cm. Smallish heron. Adult with blackish green bushy crown. Wing coverts blackish green and edged with yellow, mantle a dark, grayish-green. Cheeks, neck and under-parts gray with rufous streaks on the mid-throat. Bill black and lores yellow. Legs greenish to reddish in the breeding season. Juvenile browner with buffer, coarser streaks. Found in all freshwater habitats but particularly where there is ample marsh and reed vegetation. Alone or in pairs. Stands on a perch just above the water or waters edge to hunt and very rarely wades. When alarmed it flicks its tail and raises its bushy crest. Regularly recorded at up to 4000 meters though mostly a lowland species. Rare at Machu Picchu due to the lack of suitable habitat.
6.- Machupicchu Birds: Black-crowned Night-Heron – Nycticorax nycticorax
62 cm. Chunky with a short neck and heavy black bill and greenish-yellow legs. Adult: Crown and back glossy black, long occipital white plumes. Wings and tail gray. Forehead, sides of head, and under-parts whitish. Eyes red. Immature: brown above, streaked and spotted all over, below dull white streaked with brown. Bill and legs dull green-gray. Inhabits marshy freshwater habitats with reeds, as well as overgrown drainage ditches and ponds. Usually found alone, sometimes in pairs. Crepuscular or partly nocturnal but also encountered during the day in the Andes. Stands with a hunched posture at the edge of reed beds or in ditches waiting for prey. Seems to be a frog specialist. When flushed it flies long distances with measured wing-beats. Uncommon at Machu Picchu but can be encountered in a variety of localities, mostly at higher elevations up to -500 meters.
7.- Machupicchu Birds: Fasciated Tiger-Heron – Tigrisoma fasciatum
65 cm. A banded heron of fast flowing rivers. Short, heavy dusky bill. Adult: Crown black and sides Of head slate gray. Neck and upper-parts a slaty-black with finely-vermiculated pale buff. Medial white line down fore-neck, lower under-parts rufous, flanks slaty. Juvenile: Broadly barred-black and tawny, except for some white below and black and white barrlng on the flanks and tail. Found on gravel bars and boulders along fast flowing sub-montane rivers and streams in humid areas. Usually found alone, occasionally in pairs, perched on rocks and boulders at the edge and in the middle of fast streams and rivers. Nervous and flushes easily. Often found in the shadows of overhanging vegetation. Uncommon at Machu Picchu but can be seen along the Urubamba River between Aguas Calientes and the Aobamba valley.
BIRD FAMILIES: STORKS – Ciconiidae
Storks are large wading birds with a worldwide distribution in warmer areas. They are long-legged birds resembling herons but are much less dependent on water. They have heavier bills and, unlike herons, they fly with their necks fully extended. They soar to great heights and migrate long distances. They feed on invertebrates and small vertebrates, and build large stick nests in trees.
1.- Machupicchu Birds: Jabirú – Jabirú myeteria
122-140 cm. A gigantic stork with a very large and grotesque black bill. Legs black. Entirely white with bare head and swollen bare black neck. Basal third of the neck is red. A bird of the marshy savannas and Amazonian rivers east of the Andes, but may well migrate across the Andes based on the evidence of stray records. Alone or in quite large scattered groups. They stalk prey in grassy and marshy areas, sometimes at the edge of ponds whilst migrating. Has been recorded flying high and near lakes in the Cusco area on several occasions and there is one record of a bird sitting on the Inca walls of Machu Picchu itself.
BIRD FAMILIES: IBIS – Threskiornithidae
A well-known group of birds found worldwide. They mostly live on grassy and marshy plains and have long, slender de-curved or spatulate bills. They are characterized by bare facial skin and they fly with outstretched necks, unlike herons. They use their long bills to probe for crustaceans and other small prey. Large stick nests are built in colonies and both sexes incubate and feed the young.
1.- Machu Picchu Birds: Puna Ibis – Plegadis ridgwayi
60 cm. Long curved dark-red bill. Legs black. Plumage a dark purplísh-brown, looking black from a distance. The back is always deep purple with a green sheen. When breeding the plumage of the head and neck is a rich chestnut. Juveniles show some white streaking. Found in marshy areas and reed beds near lakes and rushy wet meadows and pasture, mostly where the ground is damp but sometimes on hill slopes a long way from water. Mostly in flocks, sometimes quite large, walking in loose association, with a hunch-backed appearance. Flies in tight groups or wavy lines often low over the ground. Found at elevations of between 3500 and 4800 meters.
2.- Machu Picchu Birds: Andean Ibis – Theristicus branickii
75 cm. Bill black, legs red. A thick-set ibis with broad wings and a short tail. Crown chestnut. Rest of the head and neck, as well as the breast down to the central belly is pale buff. Lower belly, under-tail and thighs black. Thin, gray breast-band. Upper-parts light gray with some mottling. Orbital area and moustachial stripe black. Inhabits open marshland and grassy plains, as well as puna grassland with bunchgrass. Can be found alone, in pairs, or in small family groups. Walks whilst feeding and probes into tussocks. Flies low over terrain and wanders long distances throughout the day to feeding sites. Quite noisy, especially when flying – makes a clanking metallic ‘quank – quank’. Uncommon at Machu Picchu but may be looked for at Pampacahuana near the Salcantay massif.
BIRD FAMILIES: HAWKS AND EAGLES – Accipitridae
A worldwide family of diurnal predatory birds characterized by strong, hooked bills and gripping feet with long curved claws. Flight and tail feathers are often barred but Identification between species can be tricky. Hawks take live prey ranging from insects to fairly large mammals. Kites and harriers are more maneuverable and have specialized feeding habits. Hawks live at low densities and hold Iarge territories. Females are larger than the males and in most species the sexes have different roles – males hunting near the nest site to feed small young, while the female hunts over a larger area for bigger prey. Most build bulky stick nests and lay a small clutch of eggs. The young are covered in white or gray down and are fed for a long time in the nest and for some time after fledging.
1.- Machu Picchu Birds: Hook-billed Kite – Chondrohierax uncinatus
Length 40 cm, wingspan 80 cm. Variable. Rather long tail and broad, lanky wings becoming noticeably narrower at the base. Heavy, hooked bill and green facial skin. Yellow legs. Gray phase: all gray with finely barred under-parts, remiges boldly barred. Brown phase: Dark gray hood and rufous collar. Dark brown barred above, and rufous and white below. Tail in all phases has one broad and two narrow whitish bars, while during the rare black phase it shows only one band. In flight it looks like a small long-tailed Buteo, with more rectangular wings narrowing near the body. Found in the lower canopy at the forest edge and along forested rivers. It mostly perches alone inside the tree canopy, occasionally soaring high. In active flight, it flaps and glides alternately. The call in flight is a drawn out whistle, although it also screams. A foothill species reaching 2000 meters at Machu Picchu. Rare.
2.- Machu Picchu Birds: Swallow-tailed Kite – Elanoides forficatus
Length 60 cm, wingspan 130 cm. One of the prettiest and most unmistakable birds of prey. Long pointed wings. Head, neck and entire under-parts white. Back, wings and long deeply-forked tail black. Upper back and shoulders glossed and greenish. Found in all humid forested regions, mostly in humid sub-montane forest. Wanders widely and is mostly aerial. Usually found in pairs and groups of up to 30 plus, gliding gracefully above mountain ridges. On rare occasions, it may be seen perched on exposed high branches. It feeds on the wing, catching Iarge insects and small vertebrates from the tree canopy or in the air. Its call is an infrequent ’klee-klee’. Mostly found in the foothills but wanders to 2600 meters in elevation and sometimes to 4500 as a vagrant. Uncommon at Machu Picchu.
3.- Machu Picchu Birds: Cinereous Harrier – Circus cinereus
Length 45-50 cm, wingspan 120 cm. Note the small head and long, narrow wings with four ‘fingers’ held above the horizontal. Male: Ash-gray, slightly darker on the mantle. Breast, gray barred and white, rest of under-parts whitish barred rufous. Wings, gray with black tips and trailing edge to the secondaries. Tail gray barred and black. Female: Warm to grayish brown with profuse buff spots and bars. Breast, dark. Buff and dark brown bars on the flight and tail feathers. Note the white rump in both sexes. Found in rushy fields, marshes and reed-beds and cultivated fields of wheat and barley. Flies low over grassy hill-slopes and open fields. Glides and soars with raised wings. Nests on the ground in rushes or grass and roosts communally on hillsides. At elevations of 2500 – 4500 meters.
4.- Machu Picchu Birds: Semicollared Hawk – Accipiter collaris
30-36 cm. Brownish black above, with a broken white collar on the hind-neck. Sides of head are a mottled black and white. Throat white, rest of under-parts a barred brown black. Tail, a dusky brown with four or five gray bars. Immature: Above, a rufous brown with black spots. Nuchal collar rufous. Tail rufous with darker bars. Inhabits humid sub-montane forest between 800 and 2000 meters. Rare.
5.- Machu Picchu Birds: Plain-breasted Hawk – Accipiter ventralis
length 26-35 cm, wingspan 55 cm (male) or 65 cm (female). A small hawk with a square tail. adult: above a slate-coloured blue. Tail, black with four gray bands. Thighs, rufous. Under-parts and wing linings very variable from white to rust-coloured, sometimes gray, with some spotting and barring. Throat white, with fine dark streaks. Inhabits humid forest borders, forest edge, wood- lost and second growth. Perches in a semi-concealed position in foliage then dashes through sense cover in pursuit of small birds. Occasionally glides and soars on horizontal wings. The calls a rapid ‘kee-kee-kee’. Found at elevations of between 1000 and 3500 meters but most commonly seen below 3000.
6.- Machu Picchu Birds: Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle – Geranoaetus melanoleucus
Length 65-80 cm, wingspan 175-200 cm. A large chunky eagle-sized hawk. Female much bigger ran male. Adult: Flight profile triangular due to its very broad based wings and a wedge-shaped. Above, dark slate gray with pale gray shoulders. A blackish chest contrasting with pale under- parts. Juvenile: Longer-tailed, but still with broad wings and uniformly brown in colour above and tawny below with some mottling. Black primaries. Found in semi-arid and open country, inter- montane valleys and rocky open slopes. Sometimes, but rarely, spotted in more humid terrain. Alone or in pairs perched on rocks or bare branches in isolated trees. More often seen soaring effortlessly over ridges on horizontal to slightly upturned wings. Hovers on occasion. Eats snakes, small rodents and sometimes other birds. Cali is a drawn-out ‘keeeuuu’. Found at elevations of up to 3800 meters in valleys. Common along the Inca Trail between Llactapata and Wayllabamba.
7.- Machu Picchu Birds: Solitary Eagle – Flarpyhaliaetus solitarius
66-70 cm. Large with very long broad wings and very short tail. Cere, lores and legs yellow. Its entire body is a dark slate gray, looking black at a distance, with one median white tail band and a narrow white tip. Under-wings are dark. Immature: heavily streaked with buff and brown, with some black patches on the thighs and chest. Tail, gray-brown, paler at the base with some spotting. Broad pale buff supercilium. Inhabits humid, forested foothills in pre-montane region. Usually alone or in pairs, soaring heavily on horizontal wings over forested hills or in long glides down steep, forested mountain valleys. Perches on high exposed branches. Takes snakes and small rodents. The call is a piercing ’peep-peeep-peeep… and ’yeep-yeep-yeep’. Found at elevations below 2200 meters and rare at Machu Picchu. Best looked for in the Mandor and Aobamba valleys.
8.- Machu Picchu Birds: Roadside Hawk – Buteo magnirostris
33-40 cm. A common hawk of the lowlands, and at the edge of its elevation range at Machu Picchu. A small yellow-eyed Buteo. Adult: Upper parts, throat and chest a gray-brown color. Breast and lower under-parts thickly-barred in cinnamon and white. Tail, dusky with four or five gray bars. In flight it shows a distinct rufous-cinnamon patch at the base of the primaries. Immature: Brown above, buffy white below. Throat and breast streaked. Some tawny barring on the under-parts. A slow- moving hawk. Mostly seen perched on a twig or exposed snag. Flies weakly and seldom very far with rapid flapping and alternate glides. Soars infrequently with much flapping. Mostly feeds on snakes and other reptiles, and sometimes insects. The frequently given call is a descending ‘sweeeeeeeeeeee’. Mostly a lowland species but ascends to 3000 meters in Peru. Can be seen along the Urubamba River near Aguas Calientes.
9.- Machu Picchu Birds: Broad-winged Hawk – Buteo platypterus
Length 34-45 cm, wingspan 80-100 cm. A North American migrant, present from October to March. A small, robust hawk. Adult: Above gray brown, head with white streaks and forehead. Dark moustachial. Throat, white with some streaking. Breast mostly chestnut and spotted white. Lower and with a distinctly dark trailing edge. Immature: below, white with dark streaks, flight feathers barred, five or six bars on the tail. Flight profile with very broad rounded wings and long tail. Inhabits forested mountain slopes, second growth and partially cleared areas. On migration it forms large ‘kettles’ in thermals. It soars and glides in thermals with horizontal or slightly-arched wings. Hunts by waiting on a low perch at the forest edge. Rarely seen at Machu Picchu.
10.- Machu Picchu Birds: White-rumped Hawk – Buteo leucorrhous
37 cm, wingspan 85 cm. Adult: A short-winged black Buteo. Mostly black with a white rump and under-tail coverts. Tail black with a single grayish-brown band from above and 2-3 white bands from below. Flight feathers blackish from below, wing linings whitish. Immature: Mostly brown mottled rufous above, creamy buff below, upper and under tail coverts white, tail barred rufous. Inhabits dense humid pre-montane forest. Singles or pairs circle low over forest or perch on low branches in the sub-canopy. The call is a short whistled scream. At elevations of between 1500 – 2500 meters. Can be seen in the Mandor valley near Machu Picchu.
11.- Machu Picchu Birds: White-throated Hawk – Buteo albigula
38-48 cm, wingspan 95 cm. A short, compact, short-tailed and broad winged buteo. Adult: Blackish brown above and on sides of head to below eyes giving a hooded effect. Sides of neck and breast chestnut brown. Rest of the under-parts white with a necklace of brown streaks across the upper breast. Rest of the under-parts streaked, especially on the flanks. Tail dark brown above and gray below with many indistinct dark bars. Immature: Similar to the adult but with large dark brown spots on the breast and flanks. Found in forest adjoining open areas and clearings, elfin forest and scattered patches of semi-humid forest in ravines. Circles low over forested areas or glides across hillsides and valleys close to the tree-tops. Perches on exposed branches in the canopy. Call is a descending drawn out ‘kee-aaa’. At elevations of between 2200 and 3500 meters. Can be seen below Phuyupatamarca ruins along the Inca Trail.
12.- Machu Picchu Birds: Red-backed Hawk – Buteo polyosoma
50-53 cm, wingspan 120 cm. Typical buteo shape. Very variable but all adults have a white tail with a black sub-terminal band. There are two color phases, dark and light and a confusing series of variations as a result of a complex moulting process from juvenile to immature through to adult. Young birds are very variable but usually dark brown above, buff below, streaked on the throat and breast and barred on the lower under-parts with brown. Found on open hill-slopes with some brush and bracken as well as partly cultivated slopes. Avoids dense forest. Often hovers with heavy, floppy wing-beats or hanging hover in the wind. Soars with flat wings and flies with shallow, stiff wing-beats. Hunts small rodents and insects. Cali ‘kyeeah-kyeeah’. At elevations of 2000 – 3200 meters. Can be seen near the Machu Picchu ruins.
13.- Machu Picchu Birds: Puna Hawk – Buteo poecilochrous
50-70 cm, wingspan 125-150 cm. A stocky and large-winged version of the Red-backed Hawk. Notoriousiy variable and color phases match those of the Red-backed Hawk, but the molt sequence is somewhat different. A larger stockier bird but it can easily be confused with the preceding species. Flight profile with large and more rounded wings, which are broad-based (making the tail appear short), a more eagle-like profile than Red-backed Hawk (but relationships between the two are still unclear). The Puna Hawk inhabits mountainous countryside and grasslands, sometimes with some Polylepis. Usually higher than the preceding species. Soars high above mountain ridges and valleys, alone or in pairs. The wings are slightly raised above the horizontal when gliding. Flies with shallow wing-strokes. Often hunts hanging in the wind whilst hovering with slow or no wing-flaps. The call is a long drawn out ‘peeeahhh’. At elevations of 2800 – 5000 meters. Can be seen near Warmiwañusca Pass along the Inca Trail.
14.- Machu Picchu Birds: Black and Chestnut Eagle – Oroaetus isidori
60-80 cm, wingspan 175 cm. Very big, the female being the largest by far. The crest is often raised and the tarsi are feathered. Adult: Entire head, neck and upper-parts black. Under-parts chestnut with fine black streaks. Thighs black. The tail is rounded and mottled light gray with a broad black terminal bar. In flight appears all dark with distinct light gray patches at the base of the primaries. Immature shows pale gray head and darker crest. Gray above and white below with streaking. Tail with 3 narrow dark bars and broad terminal bar. Inhabits humid montane forest, especially in large valleys. Seen soaring and gliding across valleys on horizontal wings, sometimes perched on an exposed perch in the canopy. Cali – ‘chee-chee-chee’. Feeds on arboreal mammals and large birds. Rare at Machu Picchu and may be locally extinct here. Has been seen in the Mandor valley.