Birding Tours .Hrons and Spoonbill

Herons and egrets are long-necked, long-legged birds with long, daggerlike bills; fly with neck retracted and
long tarsi protruding beyond tail. Most forage by wading slowly in water, capturing animal prey with sudden
lunges of neck and bill. Some species nest in colonies that may contain several species of herons and ibis. In many species soft parts become more intensely colored for a short period in breeding season, at which time some also acquire long plumes on neck or lower back. The spoonbill is superficially similar but is related to ibis; note its peculiar bill shape.


Birding Tours .Hrons and Spoonbill:

COCOI HERON Ardea cocoi 104–127 cm (41–50 in) Fairly common and widespread in Amazonia. Locally present but rare on coast; very rare vagrant to1 Andes. Found in marshes, lakes, and other wetlands. Largest heron in Peru. Readily recognized by large size, gray color, and black cap. Colors of bare facial skin duller when not breeding. Neck of adult strikingly white; neck of juvenile typically much dingier, and in some (second year?), center of crown also may be gray (not black).
VOICE Calls, often given in flight, include various hoarse croaks, sometimes given in a descending series: “REH raaahh ruhhhhhh.” Co, E, Br, Bo, Ch
BARE-THROATED TIGER-HERON Tigrisoma mexicanum 71–81 cm (28–32 in) Rare resident of mangroves in Tumbes, where is the only expected tiger-heron. Adult readily 2 recognized by gray sides to head, black crown, and bare skin of upper throat. Juvenile also has completely bare throat (although note that throat feathering can be sparse on other tiger-herons). Co, E
FASCIATED TIGER-HERON Tigrisoma fasciatum * 61–66 cm (24–26 in) Uncommon along fast-flowing, rocky streams and rivers in forest along east slope of Andes,3 350–2000 m; also rare (and local?) on west side of Andes in northwest. Typically found at higher elevations than Rufescent Tiger-Heron, but the two may overlap at base of Andes. Adult unmistakable. Compare juvenile to very similar juvenile Rufescent Tiger-Heron. Co, E, Br, Bo
RUFESCENT TIGER-HERON Tigrisoma lineatum * 66–76 cm (26–30 in) Uncommon but widespread in Amazonia, locally up to 900 m, along forested streams and at margins 4 of oxbow lakes; stays within cover. Solitary. Stands motionless for long periods at water’s edge. Rufous neck of adult distinctive. Juvenile banded, not streaked as is Black-crowned Night-Heron. Juvenile extremely similar to juvenile Fasciated Tiger-Heron (not safely separable?), but bill is longer and heavier (bill shape differences less apparent in youngest juveniles, however); also has more heavily barred flanks and darker, more heavily barred underwing coverts (difficult to see in the field). VOICE Calls a muffled mooing and quiet barks and honks upon flushing. Co, E, Br, Bo
AGAMI HERON Agamia agami 63.5–71 cm (25–28 in) Scarce and inconspicuous, but widely distributed in Amazonia. Solitary heron that remains within 5 cover of canopy, along streams and edges of oxbow lakes and in swamps. Stands still or slowly wades through water, often up to its belly. Ornate plumage of adult unmistakable. Juvenile duller, but similarly distinctive; note the particularly long, thin bill. Co, E, Br, Bo
PINNATED BITTERN Botaurus pinnatus * 63.5–76 cm (25–30 in) Very rare vagrant; a single sight record from grassy margin of a forested oxbow lake in Madre de Dios. Usually remains concealed within wet grasses, with neck retracted. Very similar to immature tigerherons, but those species are more regularly barred on upperparts and wing coverts and have black tails narrowly barred white. Immature night-herons are heavily streaked below. VOICE Probably largely silent in Peru. Song is a series of pumping notes ending with a deep booming: “p’clk, p’clk, p’clk-BMM.” Co, E, Br, Bo 6
ROSEATE SPOONBILL Platalea ajaja 71–79 cm (28–31 in) Rare. Local in Amazonia, where seen along rivers; also in small numbers in far northwest, where found in mangroves and adjacent mudflats. Very rare vagrant farther south along coast. Forages in small flocks by wading in water with tip of bill submerged, swinging head from side to side. Pink plumage recalls flamingos, but spoonbill is much smaller with long flat bill and shorter neck, and lacks black in wings. Immature much paler, with feathered head and yellowish bill. Flies with neck outstretched (as do ibis). Co, E, Br, Bo, Ch


Compare the juvenile night-herons with juvenile tiger-herons (preceding plate), and the white species on this plate with other largely white egrets (following plate). Limpkin is not a heron but superficially is similar. Note that Limpkin flies with neck outstretched (not retracted). 1
CATTLE EGRET Bubulcus ibis * 47–52 cm (181⁄2–201⁄2 in) Common. Perhaps most abundant on coast, where found in pastures and recently plowed fields. Often follows cattle or other livestock, in search of flushed insects. Less common, but widespread, throughout Amazonia, locally in clearings to 2000 m; primarily near livestock but also on grassy sandbars and other open habitats. Fairly common but local in altiplano, at 3000–4400 m. Readily recognized by habitat, small size, stocky build, and combination of yellow bill and yellow or grayish tarsi. VOICE Usually quiet. Calls include raspy barks and throaty gulping sounds. Co, E, Br, Bo, Ch
GREAT EGRET Ardea alba * 91.5–99 cm (36–39 in) Uncommon to fairly common on coast and in Amazonia; very local in Andes. Most numerous in 2 marshes, irrigated agricultural land, river edges, mudflats, and mangroves along coast; in Amazonia prefers lake margins and marshes and is much scarcer along rivers. Usually outnumbered by Snowy and Cattle egrets, but sometimes seen in large aggregations. Large, long-necked white heron with yellow bill and black tarsi and toes. Breeding birds have long white plumes on lower back, and lores become brighter green. VOICE Calls, often given in flight, a series of hoarse groaning notes. Co, E, Br, Bo, Ch
LIMPKIN Aramus guarauna * 66–71 cm (26–28 in)
Rare but widespread in central and southern lowlands; scarce or absent from north. Large wading 3 bird of grassy margins of oxbow lakes and other wetlands; feeds primarily on large aquatic snails. Flies with characteristic stiff upward jerk of wings. Resembles an ibis but note thicker, straight bill; cf. also juvenile night-heron. VOICE Call loud guttural screams and yaps that carry for long distances, also lower growled chatters. Co, E, Br, Bo
BOAT-BILLED HERON Cochlearius cochlearius * 48–53.5 cm (19–21 in) Widespread in Amazonia, but local and rare. Highly nocturnal; roosts inside cover by day, feeds by 4 night at edges of oxbow lakes, rivers, and streams. Similar to adult Black-crowned Night-Heron, but note very broad, flat (“boat”-shaped) bill, largely gray upperparts, brownish belly, and black flanks; also, black underwing coverts. Juvenile brown above and buff below. Forages by wading in shallow water or standing at water’s edge, then plunging head and neck out to capture prey; but also uses broad bill as a “scoop.”
VOICE Call a series of muffled hooting barks: “poo poo pah poo.” Co, E, Br, Bo
CAPPED HERON Pilherodius pileatus 53.5–58.5 cm (21–23 in)
Fairly common and widespread in Amazonia, along forested rivers and lakes. Solitary, or in pairs or 5
trios. Flies stiffly, with wings strongly bowed and scarcely raised above horizontal. A beautiful heron,
readily recognized by striking blue face and base to bill and the black cap; also note light buff wash on foreparts. VOICE Usually quiet. Calls are muffled hoots. Co, E, Br, Bo
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON Nyctanassa violacea * 56–61 cm (22–24 in) Fairly common in mangroves of northwest; very rare vagrant south to Arequipa, and has bred in Lima.6 Similar in behavior to Black-crowned Night-Heron. Adult unmistakable. Juvenile distinguished from juvenile Black-crowned by all-black bill (mandible of Black-crowned is mostly yellow) and longer tarsi that project farther beyond tail in flight. Also grayer (less brown) with smaller white spots and streaks. VOICE Call, often given in flight, higher pitched and less emphatic than call of Blackcrowned. Co, E, Br
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON Nycticorax nycticorax * 56–61cm (22–24 in) Uncommon to fairly common on coast and in Andes (3100–4700 m). Also widespread, but rare, in 7 Amazonia, up to 750 m. Found in marshes, at lake edges, and along relatively open rivers. Less nocturnal than Boat-billed Heron, but typically rests during day and begins feeding in evening. Squat, relatively short-legged. Adult readily identified by black crown and back, contrasting with gray wings; underparts may be white or smoky gray. Juvenile largely brown, heavily streaked. Successive plumages (not illustrated) more similar to adult, but browner above, and (in second year) retain some streaking on underparts. VOICE Call, often given in flight, a sharp “pok!” Co, E, Br, Bo, Ch


Compare the Egretta herons on this plate with other white egrets (plate 24). Striated Heron is the most widespread and commonly seen small heron; Zigzag Heron and Least Bittern are much less common, and Stripe-backed Bittern is only a vagrant to Peru.
SNOWY EGRET Egretta thula * 53.5–63.5 cm (21–25 in) Widely distributed. Most common along coast, in marshes and irrigated fields, along rivers and 1 mudflats, and (less commonly) on beaches and tidal pools. Less common but widespread in Amazonia. Locally fairly common at Andean lakes and marshes. Medium-sized, uniformly white, with black bill and legs and yellow feet. Juvenile (not illustrated) similar to basic-plumaged adult, but rear of tarsi may be greenish, not black.
VOICE Calls, often given in flight, a series of rasping barks and complaining sounds. Co, E, Br, Bo, Ch
LITTLE BLUE HERON Egretta caerulea 56–66 cm (22–26 in) Uncommon but widespread resident (increasing in abundance?) along coast, in marshes, mangroves, 2 and rice fields. Rare in Amazonia (boreal migrant?). In all ages note relatively thick, bicolored bill. Adult is stockier than Tricolored Heron and is uniformly dark (including belly). Juvenile all white, with bicolored bill, grayish green tarsi and toes, and dusky tips to primaries; cf. Snowy Egret. Secondyear immature has large irregular patches of blue-gray scattered throughout white plumage. VOICE Calls, often given in flight, a series of rasping barks and complaining sounds. Co, E, Br, Bo, Ch
TRICOLORED HERON Egretta tricolor * 58.5–68.5 cm (23–27 in) Resident on coast. Fairly common in northwest; local and uncommon (but increasing?) breeder 3 south to Arequipa, but may wander farther south. Usually alone, in shallow water in or near marsh vegetation. Medium-sized, long-necked heron. Note white throat and belly, and relatively long, slender bill; cf. adult Little Blue Heron. VOICE Calls, often given in flight, include a series of rasping barks and complaining sounds. Co, E, Br
STRIATED HERON Butorides striata * 38–43 cm (15–17 in) Uncommon to fairly common in lowlands of coast and Amazonia (where occurs locally to 800 m); 4 found in marshes and along margins of lakes and rivers. Typically waits motionless at water’s edge. Note small size, dark color, and brightly colored tarsi. Adult has plain neck, which is pale gray but often washed with reddish brown, and sometimes appearing largely that color. Juvenile is more streaked, especially on neck and wing coverts. VOICE Call, often given in flight, is a sharp “scalp!” sometimes followed by a chattered series. Rarely heard song a gulping sound, usually uttered from deep within vegetation. Co, E, Br, Bo, Ch
STRIPE-BACKED BITTERN Ixobrychus involucris 32–34 cm (121⁄2–131⁄2 in) Apparently a rare austral migrant to southeastern Peru, where known only from a few sight records at grassy margins of oxbow lakes (a habitat shared with Least Bittern). Similar to female Least, but neck buffier, upperparts pale buff or ochraceous with conspicuous black streaking on back and scapulars, remiges tipped rufous, and has a narrower black coronal stripe. Co, E, Br, Bo, Ch
LEAST BITTERN Ixobrychus exilis * 28–30.5 cm (11–12 in) Locally fairly common in coastal marshes. Less common (or overlooked?) and presumed to be 5 resident along rivers in northern Amazonia, in marshes of tall grasses (such as on large river islands); less commonly at edges of oxbow lakes. Also scarce resident or rare austral migrant to southeastern Amazonia. Usually remains hidden low in thick vegetation, where can move agilely and quickly through dense growth. Most easily seen and heard at dawn or dusk, in low flight or perching high in reeds, grasses, or sedges. Note small size, tawny color of neck and wing coverts, and contrasting dark crown, back, and remiges.
VOICE Song (Amazonia) a single muffled coo, rising in pitch: “G’woOO.” Calls a series of coughing notes. Also a sharp “scap!” in flight, similar to calls of Striated Heron. Co, E, Br, Bo
ZIGZAG HERON Zebrilus undulatus 30.5–33 cm (12–13 in) Poorly known and rare. Solitary, quiet heron, easily overlooked, of shaded forest pools, swamps, and 6 streams. Forages from low branches, logs, or emergent tree roots close to water; often remains motionless for long periods, then lunges at aquatic prey, greatly extending neck. Distinctive small size, closely barred plumage, and overall dark appearance. Juvenile is more brightly colored, especially on sides of face. VOICE Song, given at dawn and dusk, is a hollow, descending coo: “COOool.” Co, E, Br, Bo




Screamers are large, heavy-bodied, peculiar birds of marshes and rivers. They are related to ducks and geese. Ibis are similar to herons and egrets but have strongly curved bills; also fly with neck outstretched. Forage with probe-and-grab motions.
[SOUTHERN SCREAMER Chauna torquata ] 83–95 cm (321⁄2–37⁄2 in) Vagrant (only during austral winter?); a few sight records of singles, on sandbars in Madre de Dios. 1 Paler in color than Horned Screamer, with distinctive banded pattern on neck, and red facial skin and tarsi. VOICE Probably largely silent in Peru. Song, usually given as a duet, is a loud series of high yelping honks. Not confusable with Horned Screamer. Voice carries for long distances. Br, Bo
HORNED SCREAMER Anhima cornuta 84–91.5 cm (33–36 in) Widespread and fairly common in Amazonia. An enormous, ungainly bird of rivers and marshes; 1usually seen as singles or pairs on river banks and sandbars, or perched in low bushes or trees at margins of oxbow lakes or marshes. Seems to have difficulty taking flight, but once airborne flight is sure and steady; may even soar. Grazes on aquatic vegetation. At close range note long white “horn” (modified feather) on forehead, and “spurs” at bend of wing. VOICE Unmistakable song, usually a duet, is a loud, reedy, honking series of multisyllabic notes, some rising, others falling. Carries for long distances. Co, E, Br, Bo
WHITE IBIS Eudocimus albus 56–61 cm (22–24 in) Fairly common in mangroves of northwest; feeds on mudflats and in shallow water. Gregarious, 2 often in loose flocks. In all plumages note reddish bill, facial skin, and tarsi. White adult (with narrow black primary tips) distinctive (but beware of rare albinistic individuals of other species). Juvenile largely brown with white belly and rump; plumage becomes progressively whiter with age. VOICE Usually quiet. Calls gruff honks. Co, E
PUNA IBIS Plegadis ridgwayi 60–61 cm (23⁄2–24 in) Common in Andes, 3200–4500 m, locally down to 2200 m. Local breeder on coast, and also may 31 be expanding range to north. Very rare vagrant to southern Amazonia. Found in marshes, lake edges, and wet fields; often in flocks. Only widespread dark ibis of open wetlands. Alternate adult has reddish bill and relatively glossy plumage. Colors of bill and plumage duller in juvenile and adult in basic plumage, and head and neck may be narrowly streaked with buff. VOICE A reedy, coughing series: “kvek kvek kvek,” usually given in flight. Bo, Ch
[ WHITE-FACED IBIS Plegadis chihi ]57 cm (22⁄2in)One unconfirmed sight record from coast (Arequipa). Adult in alternate plumage has red facial skin,1 narrowly rimmed with white feathers; distinctive. Basic adult (not illustrated) very similar to basic Puna, but bill never red, and overall is slightly smaller, with relatively longer tarsi; in flight, lower portion of tarsi extend beyond tail (only toes extend past tail in Puna). Also, belly brown (black in Puna), and usually overall greener (less purplish) gloss to plumage; face reddish but duller than when breeding. Juvenile similar to juvenile Puna, but belly sooty (not as black as in Puna). [In north, Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus; not illustrated, no record for Peru) also is potential vagrant; reports of either species require careful documentation.] Br, Bo, Ch
BLACK-FACED IBIS Theristicus melanopis * 74–75 cm (29 in) Striking ibis of dry upland habitats. Ranges in small flocks. Andean branickii is widespread but 4 uncommon at 3700–4600 m, locally down to 3000 m; open grasslands, often near rocky outcrops, where roosts and nests. Coastal melanopis formerly was widespread but now is almost extirpated; most recent records are from northwest, where found in agricultural fields. Differs from branickii by often showing a black throat wattle (lacking in branickii); paler (sometimes almost white) wing coverts, more extensive black on belly, and generally darker buff lower breast and belly. VOICE A tinny honking, either as single notes or in a series. E, Bo, Ch
GREEN IBIS Mesembrinibis cayennensis 56–58.5 cm (22–23 in) Widespread but uncommon in Amazonia, in forested wetlands: lake margins, rivers, and swamps. 5 Forages singly or in pairs (not in flocks) and primarily is active at night. Frequently perches in trees. Only Amazonian ibis. Also is shorter-legged than other dark ibis. VOICE Barks that, when alarmed, accelerate and become eerie hollow hooting. Co, E, Br, Bo



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