Bolivia – Endemic Macaws, the Chaco and Cloud Forests

The Republic of Bolivia – Endemic Macaws, Forests and Mountains

birdPhotographer: Rob Tizzard

Bolivia stretches across the widest part of the Andean mountain chain and is one of the poorest, highest and most isolated of Latin American republics with the biggest indigenous Amerindian population. The country is as varied as its people and ranges from steaming Amazonian rainforest, high saline lakes and high steppe desert, rolling tropical savannah to snow covered peaks and glaciers as well as the Chaco near the Paraguayan border. This varied topography makes for many habitat types and consequently one of the largest bird lists for a landlocked country in the world. On this trip we look for two endemic big Macaws and much much more

Day 1:

Most International flights arrive at Viru-Viru airport in Santa Cruz early in the morning so we'll connect with a local flight to the bustling town of Trinidad situated in the flooded savannahs of Beni. On arrival at the airport we'll bird the road to Loma Suarez with a picnic lunch. This area is full of birds. Concentrating on a dry riverine gallery woodland, possibilities include Mato Grosso Antbird, Plain Softail (the probably distinct Beni form), Undulated Tinamou, Straight-billed and Buff-throated Woodcreepers, White-eyed Attila, Short-tailed Pygmy-tyrant, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Golden-collared Macaw, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Golden-tailed Sapphire, Rufous Casiornis, Long-winged Harrier, Velvet-fronted Grackle (the probably distinct Beni form) and Hooded Tanager. Night at our air-conditioned hotel in Trinidad. B: L: D

Day 2:

We'll drive to the savannahs near Loreto to-day concentrating on open flooded fields and scrubby pasture. We’ll travel to the area birding all the way, and the bird list here is amazingly long. Some of the goodies that we’ll search for during our visit, besides the fabulous Blue-throated Macaw, are Chaco Eagle (one of the best places we know of for this rare raptor), Orinoco Goose, Plain Softtail (the endemic nominate race fusciceps), Cinereous-breasted Spinetail, Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Hudsonʼs Black-Tyrant, Dark-throated Seedeater, and the endemic boliviensis race of Velvet-fronted Grackle. The food and birding are great here! Others include Plumbeous, Green, Buff-necked, Plumbeous and Bare-faced Ibis, Comb Duck, Roseate Spoonbill, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Southern Screamer, Muscovy Duck, Scarlet-hooded and Unicolored Blackbirds, Greater Thornbird, 3 species of Monjita, Bicolored Seedeater, Toco Toucan, Great Rufous and Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, various Whistling Ducks, Little Cuckoo, Orange-winged Parrot, Azure Gallinule, Slender-billed Kite, Black-collared Hawk , Rusty-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Chotoy , Cinereous-breasted , Plain-crowned and Yellow-chinned Spinetails, Rufous Chachalote and Fawn-breasted Wren. However, our main target will remain the rare Blue-throated Macaw. Night in Trinidad. B: L: D

Day 3:

Another morning to look for the Blue-throated Macaws should we have missed them and our other main target will be the seldom seen and endemic Unicolored Thrush. Birding here is dynamite with Rheas, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Gray-lined Hawk, Hoatzin, Turquoise-fronted Parrot, Gilded and Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds, Green-barred and Spot-breasted Woodpeckers and much, much more. The grasslands and seasonally flooded woodlands are reminiscent of the more open parts of the famous Brazilian Pantanal or of the Venezuelan llanos and harbor the same rich and spectacular variety of birds. The open habitat makes for easy viewing and during our stay here we should amass a splendid list. Many of the birds of the marshes, oxbow lakes, open meadows and pastures are widespread in the Neotropics, but we will of course be concentrating on the local specialties, and in particular the rare Orinoco Goose (here to be seen in flocks!), the rare Hudson’s Black -Tyrant (a migrant from central Argentina) and Dark-throated Seedeater. Additional species we may well see include the stately Greater Rhea, Undulated Tinamou, Anhinga, Cocoi, Whistling, Capped and Striated Herons. Gallery forest hold, as well as Black-tailed Trogon, the incredible Toco Toucan (with its bright blue eye), White-wedged Piculet, handsome Pale-crested and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Red-billed Scythebill, Mato Grosso Antbird, Euler’s Flycatcher, White-eyed Attila, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Orange-headed and Grey-headed Tanagers, Chestnut-vented Conebill and Golden-crowned Warbler. Night in Trinidad. B: L: D

Day 4:

Today we leave early and drive the 550 km to Santa Cruz on a paved road with stops for the myriad of species we can see along the way. Night in Santa Cruz. B: L: D

Day 5:

Visit to the very birdy Botanical gardens. We'll pay particular attention to any Santa Cruz specialties we may have missed. First, we’ll visit a small lake, which is home to Least Grebe, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Wattled Jacana, Rufous-sided Crake, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Yellow-chinned Spinetail and Red-capped Cardinal. The light forest around the lake is often noisy with Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, Blue-winged Parrotlets, Thrush-like Wrens and Rufous Horneros. Once in the tall Chiquitano dry forest we may see many birds including Green-cheeked Parakeet, Buff-bellied Hermit, White-wedged Piculet, Bolivian Slaty Antshrike and Fawn-breasted Wren, Pale-crested Woodpecker and White-backed Fire-eye.

With luck we may hear or see Hooded Capuchin and Pale Titi Monkey or see a family of Black-tailed Marmosets. To the east of the botanic garden lies a patch of Chacoan thorn scrub where we’ll look for Rufous-throated Sapphire, Red-billed Scythebill, White-bellied and White-crested Tyrannulets, Mato Grosso Antbird and the delightful Stripe-backed Antbird. After lunch at a typical restaurant we spend the afternoon at Lomas de Arena. Lomas de Arena was initially preserved because of a small lake between sand dunes that can give the impression of having a beach. Several types of habitats are preserved in the area: savannahs, dry forest, marshes and large water bodies. The area is also a stop over and wintering ground for many Austral and Boreal migrants. Over 240 birds have been recorded in the park but it is believed only 70 are actual residents. The usual daily list stands at 60-80 species. The bird community is in constant flux, with many crazy single day records of hundreds of Austral migrant birds just passing through on their way to or from Argentina. Moreover, in Bolivia 's summer, Eastern Kingbirds and Barn Swallows can be the most abundant birds.

The area has many easily seen desired birds such as Comb Duck, Brazilian Duck, Burrowing Owl, White-eared Puffbird, White Woodpecker, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, and Chotoy Spinetail. The area also harbors some rarities like Toco Toucan, and Red-legged Seriema. Birds seen in this area are Red-winged Tinamou, White-bellied Nothura, Buff-necked Ibis, White-tailed Hawk, Southern Caracara, Burrowing Owl, White-eared Puffbird, White-woodpecker (Austral Migrant), Campo Flicker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Hudson's Black-Tyrant (Austral Migrant), Spectacled Tyrant, Black-backed Water-Tyrant, Yellowish Pipit, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, and the rare Black-throated Saltator. Further on the road is the Hotal Sol & Arena. Over the vegetated small sand dunes east of the hotel (just behind the dining area) is a large area of closed dry and mixed forest that is well worth a visit. The land is private and used for cattle pasture. There is no official trail system, but there is well used cattle trail that travels over the vegetated sand dunes and into the forest, from there travelling north and south. In the closed forest area, there is Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Blue-crowned Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Toco Toucan, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Buff-breasted Woodcreeper, Great Antshrike, Steaked Flycatcher, Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher, Moustached Wren, Plush-crested Jay, Grayish Saltator, and Orange-backed Troupial. Night in Santa Cruz B:L:D

Day 6:

We’ll set out early for Camiri to day. As we leave Santa Cruz the habitat changes as we enter vegetation more reminiscent of the Paraguayan Chaco. We’ll make frequent stops in suitable habitat with a picnic lunch. We’ll be on the lookout for Whistling Heron, White-faced Ibis, White-tailed Kite , Chaco Chachalaca , Golden-collared Macaw , Scaly-headed Parrot, Blue-fronted Parrot, Guira Cuckoo, Spot-backed Puffbird, White-barred Piculet , Pale-crested Woodpecker, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Bolivian Slaty-Antshrike, Stripe-backed Antbird ,Black-bellied Antwren , White-bellied Tyrannulet , Chaco Suiriri Flycatcher, Greater Wagtail-Tyrant, Cinereous Tyrant, Hudson's Black-Tyrant, Rufous Casiornis, Plush-crested Jay, Fawn-breasted Wren, White-banded Mockingbird, Two-banded Warbler, Orange-headed Tanager, Guira Tanager Red-crested Finch , Black-capped Warbling-Finch, Red-crested Cardinal, White-browed Blackbird and more. Night in Camiri. B: L: D

Day 7:

A Full day east of Boyuibe close to the Paraguay border. This is our day to get some very special Chaco birds and we’ll be looking for Ringed Teal, Rufous-thighed Hawk, Bicolored Hawk, Crane Hawk, Chaco Chachalaca, Red-legged Seriema, Black-legged Seriema (only to be seen here) Monk Parakeet, Ash-colored Cuckoo, White Woodpecker, White-fronted Woodpecker, Checkered Woodpecker, Golden-green Woodpecker, Chaco Earthcreeper, Crested Hornero, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, Short-billed Canastero, Little Thornbird, Lark-like Brushrunner, Brown Cacholote, Variable Antshrike, White-crested Tyrannulet, White-bellied Tyrannulet, Suiriri Flycatcher, Plain Tyrannulet, Black-crowned Monjita, White Monjita , Lesser Shrike-Tyrant, Spectacled Tyrant, Purple-throated Euphonia, Many-colored Chaco-Finch. We’ll return to our hotel in Camiri. B: L: D

Day 8:

Morning again on the Chaco east of Boyuibe to pick up species we may have missed. We will make a stop as a wetland where in the past we have picked up species like Coscoroba Swan, Lake Duck, Black-headed Duck, Ringed Teal, Comb Duck, Rosybill and more. As the day heats up we’ll have an early lunch and retrace our steps to Santa Cruz, making a selected stop in the late afternoon. Night in Santa Cruz. B: L: D

Day 9:

To-day we’ll head for the Andean foothills and bird the dry forest and canyons. This is a good area for Parrots and we may see any of the following - Mitred and Green-cheeked Parakeet, Scaly-naped and Red-billed Parrot. This is also an area where we have seen Military Macaw in the past. Other possibilities here include Plush-crested Jay, the rare Large-tailed Dove, Blue-crowned Trogon, Ocellated Piculet, Black-capped Antwren and Guira Tanager, White-backed Fire-eye. In the afternoon, we'll arrive at the comfortable Refugio Los Volcanes and bird access road - Glittring-bellied Emerald, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Tatauapa Tinamou, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Black-banded Woodcreeper, Two-banded Warbler. We shall hope to havethe afternoon to bird the Los Volcanes area. Night Los Volcanes. B: L: D

Day 10:

Refugio Los Volcanes is in a most spectacular geographical setting surrounded by many forest clad sugarloaf peaks and cascading waterfalls. Possibilities we will be looking for include Bolivian Tapaculo, Yungas Manakin, Slender-tailed Woodstar, Buff-bellied Hermit, Blue-browed Tanager, Southern Scrub Flycatcher, Bicolored Hawk, Military Macaw, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Streak-throated Bush-Tyrant, Slaty Gnateater and more. The endemic Bolivian Recurvebill is here too. Night Refugio Los Volcanes. B: L: D

Day 11:

Morning birding around Refugio Los Volcanes and in the afternoon on to Samaipata for the night. We may make a stop at Lod Volcanes Lake B: L: D

Day 12:

Leaving Samaipata we’ll be at dawn at a locality for Alder Parrot. The rest of the morning may produce Spot-backed Puffbird, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Red-crested Finch, Black-capped Warbling-Finch, Sooty fronted and Stripe-crowned Spinetails, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Giant Antshrike, Dot-fronted Woodpecker, White-barred Piculet, we’ll move on a little-known birding road to Vallegrande stopping and birding at suitable habitat along the way. Birds we may encounter include Spot-breasted Thornbird and Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet. We have seen the rare Crowned Eagle along this stretch. In the late afternoon, we’ll arrive in Vallegrande where revolutionary Ernesto (Che) Guevara was executed after being captured and wounded in nearby La Higuera. Night in Vallegrande. B: L: D

Day 13:

Morning to explore the Loma Larga area out of Vallegrande. We’ll be looking for special birds such as Red-faced Guan, Golden-winged Cacique, Alder Parrot, Buff-banded Tyrannulet, Short-tailed Anthrush, Variable and Rufous-capped Antshrikes and the local unbarred race of Black-banded Woodcreeper and more. We’ll move on to Saipina in the afternoon with a stop in the arid scrub along the way. Night at in Comarapa. B: L: D

Day 14:Morning around the cultivated fields between Tambo and Saipina. Dawn will see us waiting for the dawn flyover of the rare and endemic Red-fronted Macaw. Regular birds to be seen include: the endemic Bolivian Earthcreeper, White-bellied Hummingbird, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, White-fronted Woodpecker, Chaco Suiriri Flycatcher, Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Cream-backed Woodpecker, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Rufous-capped Antshrike, White-bellied Tyrannulet, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Bay-winged Cowbird, Ringed Warbling-Finch, Gray-crested Finch, Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch, and Saffron-billed Sparrow. In the afternoon, we’ll head to Saipina and some agricultural areas along the Rio Misque - here Red-fronted Macaws (endemic), Blue-crowned Parakeets and Turquoise-fronted Amazons raid the crops. We should see Black and Rufous Warbling-finch here as well. We’ll make a special effort for the endemic Cliff Parakeet. Night in Comarapa. B: L: D

Day 15:

Early start for the humid temperate forest at Siberia. We'll spend all day with a picnic lunch exploring side roads and trails. This will be our first introduction to cloud forest birding with lot's more to come further north. Birds we are likely to see here include the - Giant Antshrike - largest of all Antbirds, Andean Guan, Violet-throated Starfrontlet, Red-crested Cotinga, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, White-browed Conebill, Pale-footed Swallow, Pale-legged Warbler, Crested Quetzal and Blue-winged and Chestnut-bellied Mountain-tanagers. We'll look for Great Pampa-Finch and Red-tailed Comet on the way back to Comarapa. We may want to spend the afternoon in some dry semi deciduous habitat looking for Bolivian (endemic) and Rufous-sided Warbling-finches, Speckle-breasted Thornbird and Olive-crowned Crescentchest. Night in Comarapa. B: L: D

Day 16:

Very early start with a picnic breakfast. To-day we head for the pleasant city of Cochabamba. We'll stop for some early morning birding at Siberia looking for species we may have missed. Continuing on we pass some remnant scrub Polylepiswoodland - here possibilities include Giant Conebill, Gray-hooded Parakeet, Rock Earthcreeper, Andean Swift, Gray-bellied Flowerpiercer (endemic), Rufous-bellied Saltator, Wedge-tailed Hillstar (endemic), Rufous-sided and Rufous-browed Warbling-finches. We’ll stop on the high grasslands for Puna Canastero and a variety of Miners. Continuing on we'll spend the afternoon birding a cultivated stream area where we hope to see Citron-headed Yellow-finch (endemic), Red-tailed Comet, Giant Hummingbird, Golden-breasted Flicker, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Black-hooded Sierra-finch, Fulvous-headed Brush-finch, Rusty-vented Canastero. Finally, we descend into the fertile Cochabamba valley. Night at our hotel in Cochabamba. B: L: D

Day 17:

Early start for the temperate forest of the Yungas (cloud forest) of Chapare. We'll start at treeline and hope to see some of the following: Undulated Antpitta, Andean Tapaculo, Great Sapphirewing, Cochabamba Thistletail (endemic), Black-eared and Black-crowned Parrot, Hooded-mountain Toucan, Chestnut-crested Cotinga, Light-crowned Spinetail and Crowned Chat-tyrant. We’ll spend the afternoon in the lower cloud forest looking specifically for Straw-backed Tanager and bird our way to our hotel in Vila Tunari. Night in Villa Tunari. B: L: D

Day 18:

We’ll retrace our steps to Cochabamba to day looking for species we may have missed. B: L: D

Day 19:

As a complete contrast to the previous day we'll visit a dry Andean valley above Quillacolla where stands of mature Polylepis woodland still exist. This should be an exciting days birding. Endemics are the order of the day here and we will pay special attention to Cochabamba Mountain-finch (endemic), Wedge-tailed Hillstar (endemic), Bolivian Blackbird (endemic) and Bolivian Warbling-finch (endemic), Rufous-bellied Saltator, other possibilities include: Black-winged Ground-dove, Andean Hillstar, White-winged Black-tyrant, Tufted Tit-tyrant, Tawny-Tit-tyrant, Andean Swallow, Cinereous and Giant Conebills. We'll head up to the high Puna grasslands for the local Short-tailed Finch, Streak-throated Canastero, White-winged Diuca-finch, Brown-baked Mockingbird and a variety of Ground-tyrants and Sierra-finches. We'll return to Cochabamba for the night. Hotel in Cochabamba. B: L: D

Day 20:

Morning flight to La Paz or Santa Cruz and connecting international flights our join the Bolivian Highlands extension. B



Customer Testimonials

Joe Crighton – Wildbird Tours - Canada

Had to pass along our heartfelt thanks to you and your organization. Things went perfectly. Lynda and I were so impressed with all your people. Especially Mary and Marco. Mary guided us through your operation. She was friendly, gracious and professional. We were impressed and look forward to seeing her again.

Debby Reynolds - UK

First we all want to thank you and all the backup team for fantastic service and great birding adventure. We certainly think Manu Expeditions does a very good job. We can unreservedly recommend the Cusco and Manu components to any UK birders. A foremost star of the show was Silverio, who certainly counts as one of the best bird tour guides any of us has been with over many decades of worldwide trips.

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First we all want to thank you and all the backup team for fantastic service and great birding adventure. We certainly think Manu Expeditions does a very good job. We can unreservedly recommend the Cusco and Manu components to any UK birders. A foremost star of the show was Silverio, who certainly counts as one of the best bird tour guides any of us has been with over many decades of worldwide trips.

Had to pass along our heartfelt thanks to you and your organization. Things went perfectly. Lynda and I were so impressed with all your people. Especially Mary and Marco. Mary guided us through your operation. She was friendly, gracious and professional. We were impressed and look forward to seeing her again.

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