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Bolivia Birding

Additional sites, including a bird list for Tunquini

By Jon Hornbuckle

With links to Sjoerd Mayer's Bolivian Birding Localities

Most birders do a standard circuit of Santa Cruz to La Paz, covering the old road and the new (Chapare) road to Cochabamba, and the Coroico road from La Paz, plus Trinidad for Blue-throated Macaw and Lake Titicaca (possibly with Sorata). There are many other sites of course, most of which have not been adequately written up, although this will be rectified by Lawrence Rubey and Bennett Hennessey in Birdfinding in Bolivia. These are the best sites I know something of:

Riberalta – see reports by Barry Wright (1998) and myself (1997) - could also visit Cobija in Pando


Apa-Apa forest (See below)

Tunquini (See below)

Amboró NP

Carrasco NP

Noel Kempff Mercado NP – see my 1996 Bolivia report

Madidi NP

Beni Biological Station

Laguna Colorada – see Cotinga 1

The 4 national parks are all excellent birding localities but difficult to access – best done with a guide. The original old road to Cochabamba, beyond the Oilbird caves near Villa Tunari, used to be an accessible way into the periphery of Carrasco but it is now blocked to traffic, although could be done on foot. Security could be a problem though, as this is a major coca-growing area.

I am in the slow process of writing up Beni Biological Station for Cotinga but thought it worthwhile to cover the other three sites here.

Apa-Apa Forest

[Abridged and amended from the forthcoming Birdfinding in Bolivia.] Located just north of the town of Chulumani, this is one of the best sites in Bolivia for middle-montane Yungas species, and indeed the only site where Scimitar-winged Piha has been recently seen. Birding is best done from either the road that runs from San Cristobal, through the forest, to the village of San Isidro on the other side of the serrania or from Hacienda Portugal winding up into the forest. Fortunately, the San Isidro road sees little traffic (one or two vehicles per day), while the Hacienda road eventually becomes a narrow track suitable only for pedestrians. From 2,150 meters, both roads climb to intersect the summit at about 2,450m. The other side of the summit is significantly drier and descends into the village of San Isidro.

Logistics: Chulumani, a pleasant village in the Yungas, is on the South Yungas Road, less than four hours from La Paz. The easiest way to visit Apa-Apa is to contact Ramiro or Tilde Portugal (who own the forest) in Chulumani at 0811-6106. Tilde Portugal speaks English. The Portugal Hacienda is nestled in a valley below Apa-Apa and offers hiking trails into the forest. Accommodation is available at the Portugal Hacienda (limited number of rooms plus camping). A variety of hotels is also available in Chulumani - accessible by daily bus service from La Paz - see Lonely Planet. A good option is to back-track 13.2 miles to Puente Villa; turn right, cross the narrow bridge over the Unduavi River and follow the very narrow dirt track a kilometer or so to the lovely Hotel Tamampaya. The grounds offer decent birding, e.g., Band-tailed Fruiteater, and a double room is less than $30. Reservations - essential for holiday weekends - can be made at their office in La Paz: The "Centro de Moda" shopping center on Calle 21 in Calacoto, tel. 796099.

If driving, take the Coroico road from La Paz. 22 miles after La Cumbre there is a fork: Coroico is straight on but take the right turn for Chulumani, the South Yungas road. After 43.2 miles on the South Yungas road the village of San Cristóbal (1900m) is reached. At the plaza, instead of bearing right and continuing to Chulumani, bear left around the plaza, and make a sharp right turn at the street corner dominated by the pink church. Following the street uphill (on clay that turns very slippery when wet), the road forks in three directions after 100 meters or so. Take the central fork, keeping the houses on your immediate right, cross a soccer field and after 3.6 miles from the plaza the forest begins. A wider part of the road can be found at 4.3 miles where it is possible to park or even camp. The summit is reached at 5.4 miles. If planning to go straight there by the Chulumani bus from La Paz, ask to be dropped off at San Cristóbal.


[Maps & Photos]

This is where Bolivian Spinetail was first discovered by Sjoerd Mayer in 1993 – see Cotinga 11, p 71-73. There is at least one bus a day from the main terminal in La Paz, leaving at 08.00 and arriving early afternoon. It comes back through the town late evening, and stops for an hour or more on the cold altiplano outside La Paz so it gets back to the terminal at perhaps 07.00. There are a couple of non-obvious guest-houses in Inquisivi and simple restaurants.

A road winds down the hillside from the town to the river well below and a path goes straight down, crossing the road several times. A long water-pipe is apparent about two-thirds of the way down, with dry forest nearby (at 2300m), holding a good population of the Spinetail. Other species around here include Rusty-vented Canastero, Striped Woodpecker, White-vented Violetear, Olive-crowned Crescentchest, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant and Ringed Warbling-Finch. Flocks of Green-cheeked Parakeet are of a newly described form with yellow in the wing, and Sjoerd recorded an unknown species here, possibly a tapaculo or Grallicaricula antpitta. Robin Brace and I saw the parakeets but no tapaculos or antpitta, in July 1998.

Above the town, a trail passes through the hillside low scrub, where Olive-crowned Crescentchest is easier to see than below the town in my experience, to the fields and grassland at over 3000m. This is a good area for tyrant-flycatchers and hummingbirds, including the spectacular Red-tailed Comet, while in the small patches of woodland are high Andean birds such as Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager and the endemic Grey-bellied Flowerpiercer. The distinctive song of the highland Red-winged Tinamou can be heard here in January, and possibly even from below the town – this species has recently been split as Huayco Tinamou R. maculicollis. Unfortunately, it was silent in July and we never saw it, although according to Sjoerd, it is very shy as he only saw it a couple of times in many weeks of birding in suitable habitat, after flushing it from almost underfoot high on mountain ridges further south in Chuquisaca.



This is an excellent area of relatively low Yungas forest (c.1600m) visited by Robin Brace and myself in 1999. It is just off the Coroico Road, above Yolosa. There is a biological research station here, with cooking facilities, which was under construction while we were there and is doubtless complete now. We arranged to stay there through Luis Pacheco [] who was responsible for the scientific work at the reserve, but lived at Coroico. We hired a vehicle via Luis and turned sharp left off the Coroico road before Yolosa, following the sign to Rio Selva Resort. We passed Rio Selva 11 km from the turn and soon reached the small village of Chairo. There are occasional trucks, which give lifts to locals, to Chairo. However, the situation is likely to change when the new main road is completed (in 2001?) as it goes very close to Chairo, so I imagine buses will stop at or near Chairo then. Cross the river on the footbridge at Chairo; Tunquini is some 5 km along a flat, barely-drivable track to the left. There is, or was, a vehicle on this track. After some time, a driver and key was located in Chairo and with the assistance of the battery from our vehicle, we were able to use it to take us to the research station.

The only trail through the forest is the continuation of the Chairo track, but this is good for birding, in both directions. Birds we saw included Hooded Tinamou, Sickle-winged Guan, White-throated Quail-Dove, Great-billed Hermit, Black-streaked Puffbird, Short-tailed Antthrush, Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Southern White-crowned Tapaculo, Yungas Manakin, Golden-browed Chat-Tyrant and Yungas Tody-Tyrant. We also saw what we were pretty sure was Ashy Antwren - this would be a new site, the well-known ones being Amboró and Carrasco, but it is not so surprising as it also occurs at Madidi. A list of birds we saw, prepared by Robin Brace, follows.

Species recorded by RCB & JH at Tunquini, 31 August 1999 - 3 September 1999

TINAMIDAE (Tinamous): 1 species

Nothocercus nigrocapillus HOODED TINAMOU

CATHARTIDAE (New World Vultures): 1 species

Cathartes aura TURKEY VULTURE

ACCIPITRIDAE (Kites, Hawks, Eagles): 2 species

Buteo magnirostris ROADSIDE HAWK

Buteo brachyurus SHORT-TAILED HAWK

CRACIDAE (Chachalacas, Guans, Curassows): 2 species

Penelope montagnii ANDEAN GUAN

Chamaepetes goudotii SICKLE-WINGED GUAN

COLUMBIDAE (Pigeons, Doves): 4 species

Columba fasciata BAND-TAILED PIGEON

Columba plumbea PLUMBEOUS PIGEON



COCCYZIDAE (New World Cuckoos): 1 species


APODIDAE (Swifts): 1 species

Streptoprocne rutila CHESTNUT-COLLARED SWIFT

TROCHILIDAE (Hummingbirds): 6 species

Phaethornis malaris (superciliosus) GREAT-BILLED (LONG-TAILED) HERMIT

Colibri delphinae BROWN VIOLET-EAR

Colibri coruscans SPARKLING VIOLET-EAR

Adelomyia melanogenys SPECKLED HUMMINGBIRD

Heliodoxa leadbeateri VIOLET-FRONTED BRILLIANT

Ocreatus underwoodii BOOTED RACKET-TAIL


MOMOTIDAE (Motmots): 1 species


BUCCONIDAE (Puffbirds): 1 species

Malacoptila fulvogularis BLACK-STREAKED PUFFBIRD

CAPITONIDAE (American Barbets): 1 species


RAMPHASTIDAE (Toucans): 1 species

Aulacorhynchus prasinus EMERALD TOUCANET

PICIDAE (Woodpeckers): 1 species

Campephilus rubricollis RED-NECKED WOODPECKER

FURNARIIDAE (Ovenbirds): 2 species

Premnoplex brunnescens SPOTTED BARBTAIL

Anabacerthia striaticollis MONTANE FOLIAGE-GLEANER

THAMNOPHILIDAE (Antbirds): 3 species

Thamnophilus sp. ANTSHRIKE sp. calling

[Myrmotherula grisea ASHY ANTWREN]

Pyriglena leuconota WHITE-BACKED FIRE-EYE

FORMICARIIDAE (Anthrushes, Antpittas): 2 species

Formicarius analis BLACK-FACED ANTTHRUSH

Chamaeza campanisona SHORT-TAILED ANTTHRUSH

RHINOCRYPTIDAE (Tapaculos): 1 species

Scytalopus bolivianus (femoralis) SOUTHERN WHITE-CROWNED TAPACULO

COTINGIDAE (Cotingas): 1 species

Rupicola peruviana ANDEAN COCK-OF-THE-ROCK

PIPRIDAE (Manakins): 1 species

Chiroxiphia boliviana YUNGAS MANAKIN

TYRANNIDAE (Tyrant Flycatchers): 9 species

Mionectes striaticollis STREAK-NECKED FLYCATCHER

Hemitriccus spodiops YUNGAS TODY-TYRANT

Zimmerius bolivianus BOLIVIAN TYRANNULET

Mecocerculus leucophrys WHITE-THROATED TYRANNULET

Mecocerculus hellmayri BUFF-BANDED TYRANNULET

Phylloscartes ophthalmicus MARBLE-FACED BRISTLE-TYRANT

Pyrrhomyias cinnamomea CINNAMON FLYCATCHER

Silvicultrix pulchella GOLDEN-BROWED CHAT-TYRANT

Myiarchus cephalotes PALE-EDGED FLYCATCHER

CORVIDAE (Jays): 2 species

Cyanocorax cyanomelas PURPLISH JAY

Cyanocorax yncas GREEN JAY

VIREONIDAE (Vireos): 1 species

Vireo leucophrys BROWN-CAPPED VIREO

TURDINAE (Thrushes): 4 species

Myadestes ralloides ANDEAN SOLITAIRE



Turdus albicollis WHITE-NECKED THRUSH

TROGLODYTIDAE (Wrens): 2 species

Troglodytes aedon HOUSE WREN

Henicorhina leucophrys GREY-BREASTED WOOD-WREN

FRINGILLIDAE (Siskins): 1 species

Carduelis olivacea OLIVACEOUS SISKIN

PARULIDAE (New World Warblers): 4 species


Basileuterus bivittatus TWO-BANDED WARBLER

Basileuterus cornonatus RUSSET-CROWNED WARBLER

Basileuterus tristriatus THREE-STRIPED WARBLER

EMBERIZIDAE (Tanagers, Buntings, Sparrows and allies): 19 species

Atlapetes rufinucha RUFOUS-NAPED BRUSH-FINCH


Coereba flaveola BANANAQUIT

Chlorospingus ophthalmicus COMMON BUSH-TANAGER


Hemispingus melanotis BLACK-EARED HEMISPINGUS

Thlypopsis ruficeps RUST-AND-YELLOW TANAGER

Thraupis cyanocephala BLUE-CAPPED TANAGER

Anisognathus somptuosus BLUE-WINGED MOUNTAIN-TANAGER

Pipraeidea melanonota FAWN-BREASTED TANAGER

Euphonia xanthogaster ORANGE-BELLIED EUPHONIA

Tangara arthus GOLDEN TANAGER

Tangara xanthocephala SAFFRON-CROWNED TANAGER

Tangara punctata SPOTTED TANAGER

Tangara ruficervix GOLDEN-NAPED TANAGER

Dacnis cayana BLUE DACNIS

Cyanerpes caeruleus PURPLE HONEYCREEPER



ICTERIDAE (Troupials and allies): 2 species

Psarocolius decumanus CRESTED OROPENDOLA

Psarocolius atrovirens DUSKY-GREEN OROPENDOLA

Additional species seen at the village on the way in and out were Grey-cheeked Parakeet, Collared Inca, Black Phoebe, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Blue-and-white Swallow and Palm Tanager.

Copyright © 1992-2012 John Wall