Full-Day Birding from Cusco Birds, Archeology & Andean Landscapes
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Day of Birding at Huacarpay Lake & Sacred Valley
Birding at Huacarpay Lake & Sacred Valley is a must-see.
Undoubtedly one of the best-located sites for birding near Cusco city. With spectacular views, and most importantly, a range of birds only seen in certain regions of the world. It is the perfect spot to spend a few hours or the entire day, to see species of high-elevation aquatic birds. Up to 60 residents are situated here or use the lake as a vital resting ground.
First of all, the drive only takes around 40 minutes from Cusco.
Part of the Pikillaqta Archeological Park, this High-Andean wetland is situated at an altitude of 9908 Feet. This wetland area there comprises, four permanent and one temporary lagoon, two swamps, and two rivers. As a result, this provides considerable food and refuge to various threatened species such as; Peregrine and Aplomado Falcon and the 2 endemics; Bearded Mountaineer, and Rusty fronted Canastero.
Tucked in between the Mountain ranges, is an especially great spot for birds to come together. This area in which the environment and nature work as one is humbling. The lake is the perfect location to explore.
Birds at Huacarpay Lagoon, near Cusco
The Huacarpay Lagoon is part of a protected natural area. These beautiful wetlands are also home to many plants which allow nature to thrive. And in turn, come the birds. The wild Tobacco and eucalyptus shrubs growing around the lake are the most effective in attracting hummingbirds in this area. Such as; the Giant Hummingbird, Sparkling Violetear, and Green-tailed Trainbearer.
In addition, this vegetation and eucalyptus forest has created a habitable environment for owls and also birds such as; the Streaked Fronted Thornbird, and Yellow-Billed Tit-Tyrant.
High reeds surround the Lake’s edges which makes it an easy spot to see the birds that dwell here; Yellow Winged Black-bird, Wren-like Rushbird, and the colorful Many colored Rushtyrant.
Furthermore, there is a collection of interesting species here, including most of the aquatic birds; Slate-colored Coots, Common Gallinule, Puna Teals, Yellow Billed Pintail, Cinnamon Teal, Puna Teal, and seasonally Chilean flamingos, and more.
This makes it highly possible to see around 50 species by day. See the complete Huacarpay Lake bird list via E-Bird
With species being threatened more and more each day, this is definitely a place to visit and see some rare and exquisite birds in their natural habitat. Keep your eyes peeled, and your binoculars out.
While we are talking birds. In the vicinity of the Lake, there are also Archeological sites and ruins, located on a small plateau with a huge mountain behind to the east of the lagoon. The ruins of Urpicancha were built by the Wari culture, its name could be translated as the “House of the doves”, is structures reveal the Wari’s techniques.
How to get to Huacarpay Lake from Cusco?
By booking a tour to Huacarpay Lake, the service includes transfers to and from your hotel, along the Sacred Valley route, and finally to the Lake. The tour with an expert local guide is without a doubt the best option providing insight knowledge, and advice. It is the most effective way to get to and from the lake, from one site to another. And most importantly to get up close and personal with the birds, with the best view spots.
- Full Day
Huacarpay Lake - Sacred Valley - Ensifera Camp
We will visit the lake early morning, located some twenty-five kilometers south of Cusco, which is situated above 10,500 feet. One of the lakes resembles an extensive saltpan interrupted here and there by beds of reeds, another a shallow crater.
Both are lined with marsh vegetation, which is highly rich in nutrients, attracting birds for miles around. The lakes are surrounded by xeric ravines (quebradas in Peruvian Spanish) and rocky hills covered with shrubs, various cacti, tree tobacco, and small trees. The area deserves at least several hours of attentive birding and is definitely a popular place to start our tour since the viewing conditions are easy.
You'll want your scopes for this area, though your guide will have a scope along too. The marshy shores and waters of the lakes support Andean water birds and waders, including; White-tufted Grebe, Puna Ibis, Puna Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, and Andean Duck, Plumbeous Rail, and Andean Lapwing. In addition, there are usually a few boreal shorebird non-breeders or migrants (quite a few later in the season).
The extensive rush beds shelter Cinereous Harriers, Yellow-winged Blackbirds, Wren-like Rushbirds, and the beautiful Many-colored Rush- Tyrant. The scrubby slopes are home to a number of land birds, including; Bare-faced Ground-Dove, Giant Hummingbird (at nine inches, the largest-bodied of the hummers). Streak-fronted Thornbird, large flocks of Greenish Yellow-Finches (usually). Ash-breasted Sierra-Finches, Band-tailed Seedeaters, and the endemic Rusty-fronted Canastero. Another Peruvian endemic, the spectacular Bearded Mountaineer, feeds on the tubular yellow flowers of the wild Tree Tobacco that grows in the outwash plains near the lakes.
Hanging above the slopes on occasion are Black Chested Buzzard-Eagles, and below them hurtle Aplomado Falcons in pursuit of some unsuspecting dove.
After birding around the lake we will drive along the Sacred Valley road passing by interesting Andean landscapes and Incan Ruins. Following the Urubamba River and passing by the Pisac, Calca, and Urubamba towns in the heart of the Sacred Valley provides exceptional views of the Inca Terraces. later we drive off the road and uphills for 10 minutes to reach Ensifera Camp garden to have lunch and observe the Sword Billed hummingbird, White Tufted Sunbeam, Chestnut-breasted mountain finch, and other interesting birds and return to Cusco before 5:00 Pm and transfer to your hotel.
More about this tour
Travel less than an hour from Cusco to get close to high-elevation aquatic birds. A RAMSAR site that offers great opportunities for bird observation and photography. Enjoy those beautiful wetlands views of pre-Inca ruins, a variety of birds, and even migrants can be seen during activities. The Huacarpay Lagoon is a wetland that is one of the birder's favorite sites around Cusco, where you can find many more details. Welcome to the wonderful world of Cusco and Machupicchu which is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in the world and also a great location for watching birds in the south of Peru.
Find the Bird List of Huacarpay lagoon via Ebird HERE
You can also download the tour schedule below
Please find more information about this tour in the printable version:
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