Birding Tour Bolivia: The Andes and Chaco Lowlands 2017
Duration: 19 days
Bolivia may be one of the less frequently visited birding destinations in South America, but it has truly great potential and magnificent birds. The country holds 1432 bird species, the sixth country with the largest number of birds after Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Indonesia, and Ecuador. There are 20 endemic species, but Bolivia also holds several range-restricted and 48 globally threatened birds that are very difficult to find somewhere else. The reason for this avian biodiversity probably is the large number of different ecosystems found in this country. From Amazon rainforest through cloudforest (Yungas) mountains, tropical savannas, cerrado, flooded savannas, Chiquitania forest, and Chaco to high Andean mountains and Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, Bolivia is most likely the most diverse landlocked country on earth.
The revised itinerary of our Bolivia birding tour gives you the opportunity to explore in 19 days the most important birding ecosystems in search of the best birds the country has to offer.
Our trip start in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a lowland city surrounded by native woodlands of Acacia-like trees and other xerophytic vegetation (the Chiquitania region) and vast grassland plains and savannas reminiscent of the Brazilian cerrado, allowing us to see most of the bird species endemic to and typical of this ecosystem, such as Toco Toucan, White-wedged Piculet, Chotoy Spinetail, Chopi Blackbird, White Woodpecker, White-bellied Nothura, Red-winged Tinamou, Red-legged Seriema, Green-cheeked Parakeet, the near-endemic Bolivian Slaty Antshrike, and others.
We will then fly to the town of Trinidad north of Santa Cruz, located in the province of Beni, which is surrounded by grasslands and wetlands similar to the Brazilian Pantanal. We will look for the endemic and critically endangered Blue-throated Macaw, one of the most representative birds of Bolivia and one of the most endangered species of parrots in the world, with only 110-130 individuals. Other species include the endemic subspecies of Plain Softtail and Grey-crested Cacholote, Velvet-fronted Grackle, Mato Grosso Antbird, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Chestnut-fronted, Blue-and-yellow, and Red-and-green Macaws, as well as large numbers of Jabiru, Woodstork, Wattled Jacana, Limpkin, and Plumbeous and Bare-faced Ibises on the area’s lagoons.
After flying back to Santa Cruz we will drive south towards the border with Paraguay to explore the Chaco, a vast and impenetrable deciduous thornbush-like ecosystem that covers large parts of Paraguay and Northern Argentina and reaches into southern Bolivia. The Chaco holds several very special bird species, like the most-wanted Black-legged Seriema, Chaco Earthcreeper, Little Thornbird, Many-colored Chaco Finch, Crested Hornero, and others. Black-legged Seriema is more reliably seen here than in any other country that contains Chaco.
Transferring back to Santa Cruz, we start our drive towards the inter-Andean valleys, on the way passing through the lush tropical forest of the Bermejo canyon, where we should find species such as Bolivian White-crowned Tapaculo, Grey-throated Leaftosser, Military Macaw, Rufescent Screech Owl, Two-banded Warbler, Dusky-green Oropendola, and more.
We will explore all the dry valleys between Samaipata and Saipina in search of several Bolivian endemics and hope to find Bolivian Earthcreeper, Bolivian Blackbird, Cliff Parakeet, and the endangered Red-fronted Macaw. Other species include Dusky-legged Guan, Giant Antshrike, Grey-crested Finch, and Chaco and White-eared Puffbirds, among others.
Even though many people think Bolivia conjures up mainly the idea of high Altiplano, the country actually holds a lot of lowland ground, including Amazon, Chaco, and the savannas of Beni. But once we reach the town of Cochabamba, we seriously start our climb into the high Andes and the Altiplano.
Leaving the dry valleys behind, we will drive through the cloudforest of the Siberia area, where we will look for the endemic Black-hooded Sunbeam and Black-throated Thistletail, but also for other species such as Grey-hooded Parakeet, Olive-crowned Crescentchest, Trilling Tapaculo, Light-crowned Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner, and Fulvous-headed Brush Finch.
The city of Cochabamba, in the center of the country at 2550 meters (8366 feet) above sea level, will be our base for the next few days to explore the slopes of the snow-capped Cerro Tunari, where several endemics occur, such as Cochabamba Mountain Finch and Bolivian Warbling Finch. We will have a chance to see the gorgeous Red-tailed Comet, Andean Condor, and several Polylepis specialists including Tawny Tit-Spinetail, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, and Giant Conebill. The beautiful mountain scenery is a picture in itself with images of Andean Gull, Andean Goose, and Andean Lapwing.
The cloudforest and upper tropical foothills hold several range-restricted species that are otherwise found only in the extreme southeast of Peru and are hard to get there, such as Hooded Mountain Toucan, Orange-browed Hemispingus, and Yungas Tody-Tyrant. We will also look for the endemic Yellow-rumped Antwren, White-eared Solitaire, Straw-backed Tanager, Blue-banded Toucanet, Crested Quetzal, and more
In order to save time we will fly to the city of La Paz and skip the long whole-day drive from Cochabamba, with only few species to see. From La Paz we will explore two more sights.
First we will visit Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, located at 3800 meters (12 468 feet) with a depth of 281 meters (9 222 feet), which is the home of the near-endemic, flightless Titicaca Grebe. We will also have a chance to see Andean Avocet, Chilean Flamingo, Puna Teal, Crested Duck, Yellow-billed Teal, and Many-colored Rush Tyrant here.
Finally we will explore the lush cloudforest and foothills above Coroico town. We will drive through a spectacular Andean mountain road, once called the death road due to the high rate of truck accidents, but since truck traffic is not allowed anymore these days, the road to Coroico has become a paradise for birders and mountain bikers. We will be busy for two days looking for species such as Rufous-bellied and Grey-breasted Seedsnipes, Scribble-tailed Canastero, and Giant Coot, which are mostly restricted to the high passes of the mountains, and also descend to the forest, where many species are possible, including mega mixed flocks of various more wide-spread tanagers, Barred and Band-tailed Fruiteaters, Versicolored Barbet, Upland Antshrike, Crimson-mantled Woodpecker, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Hooded Mountain Toucan, Citrine Warbler, Glossy-black Thrush, Scarlet-bellied, Chestnut-bellied, and Hooded Mountain Tanagers, and many more.
We then will return to El Alto (the La Paz international airport) to connect with our international flights home or fly for a short extension to the southwestern part of Bolivia in the province of Tarija to spend two days in the tropical mountain forest near the Argentinean border in search of Rufous-throated Dipper and Red-faced Guan.
Our Bolivia birding adventure gives you the opportunity to explore this fabulous country, which offers 20 endemic birds, two endemic macaws among a large list of over 20 species of Psittacids for parrot lovers, the two South American dippers, both seriemas, over 40 avian families, and a sizeable number of range-restricted species.See full tour detail