Golden Naped Tanager
Golden Naped Tanager

Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel nestled high in the Andes mountains of Peru, is not only a popular tourist destination for its historical and architectural significance, but also for its rich biodiversity. Among the many sights to see in the area, birding and bird photography are particularly popular activities for visitors.

The subtropical cloud forest surrounding Machu Picchu is home to a wide variety of bird species, making it a prime destination for bird watching and bird photography enthusiasts. The diverse range of habitats in the area, from the high Andean grasslands to the lowland Amazon rainforest, support a wide array of bird species, including both highland and lowland endemics.

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One of the most sought-after birds by bird photographers visiting Machu Picchu is the Andean Cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus). This brightly colored bird, with its distinctive orange plumage and striking crest, is the national bird of Peru and can be found in the cloud forest surrounding Machu Picchu. The male birds can be seen performing their elaborate courtship dance in leks, or display areas, which are a popular spot for bird photography.

Avian Diversity of Machu Picchu
Photo: Alfredo Cornejo

Another popular target for bird photography in Machu Picchu is the Masked Trogon (Trogon personatus). This large, colourful bird can be found in the cloud forest and is known for its distinctive black, white and green plumage. Its slow and deliberate movements make it a great subject for bird photography, and it is often found perching on branches, providing a perfect opportunity for a photograph.

Other bird species that can be found in the area include the Inca Wren (Pheugopedius eisenmanni), known for its distinctive brown plumage and long tail; the Andean Motmot (Golden-headed Quetzal), a brightly colored bird with a long, iridescent tail; and the Black-streaked Puffbird (Malacoptila fulvogularis), known for its unique black and white plumage and large, puff-like crest.

When planning a bird photography trip to Machu Picchu, it is important to consider the time of year. The best time to visit for bird photography is during the dry season, which runs from April to October. During this time, the birds are more active and easier to spot, and the forest is less lush, providing better visibility.

dusky green oropendola birds
Photo: Alfredo Cornejo

However, it is important to note that Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected area, so it is important to follow the rules and regulations when visiting. This includes staying on designated trails and not disturbing the wildlife. It’s also important to bring all the necessary equipment, such as a good camera, tripod, and a telephoto lens.

One of the best ways to enhance your bird photography experience at Machu Picchu is by hiring a local guide who is knowledgeable about the area’s birdlife and can take you to the best spots for bird photography. They can also provide valuable information about the behavior and habits of different bird species, which can greatly improve your chances of getting great shots.

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In conclusion, Machu Picchu offers a unique opportunity for bird photography enthusiasts to capture the beauty and diversity of the avian species that call the area home. With a wide variety of habitats and a diverse range of bird species, the subtropical cloud forest surrounding Machu Picchu is a prime destination for bird watching and bird photography. However, it is important to plan your trip carefully and to follow the rules and regulations in place to protect this ancient site and its wildlife.

Colourful Birding invites you to discover beautiful bird gardens that can be visited and that create a space of protection for many animal species. Do not hesitate to contact us if you require further information about our bird photography travels.