The fauna of Machu Picchu: most representative birds

Machu Picchu encompasses more than the archaeological site that crowned it as a Wonder of the World. That is why it is possible to find a protected natural area that houses a large amount of animal life and flora. In this article, we will learn about some of the most representative species in which the presence of birds stands out due to their great variety of colors. In addition, we will learn interesting facts such as their main characteristics, where to find them, and also the sizes and parts of their main foods. Let’s learn more about the birds of Machu Picchu.

The emblematic bird of Machu Picchu and Peru: the cock of the rocks

Due to the location of Machu Picchu, it is possible to find a great variety of birds, reaching a number registered so far of 420 species. Among all these numbers, birds that have plumage with bright colors and many varieties stand out. These birds can mostly be seen in wetlands in some sectors that are very close to archaeological sites. Although in some cases it is difficult to see the birds, it is recommended to visit along hiking trails or those known as the Inca Trail. In this way, it will be easier to observe the endemic birds that belong to the natural sanctuary of Machu Picchu. Among these birds, the following ones will stand out:

The cock of the rock

It is one of the most beautiful birds in the world. For this reason, all the cocks of the rocks have been recognized as “National Bird of Peru” for more than 60 years. Although it does not have an imposing size, reaching only 30 or 35 centimeters, its main attraction is its bright or intense colors. Its reddish plumage, which contrasts perfectly with the intense red or orange color, covers its entire head and even a large part of its chest and neck. In the body of the cock-of-the-rock, the tail feathers are covered in black plumage, whereas in the part of the wings, you can find a blurring of black that is tinged with gray.

For their part, the females of this species do not have the characteristic colors in their plumage like the males. producing sexual dimorphism. The females have dull brown plumage. However, both have strong legs that are accompanied by small claws. During the mating season, the males perform small dances with cackling and some sounds similar to squawking, the small crests they have will have a main function. This bird prefers to feed on fruits that still hang from the trees. That is why they are considered effective disseminators of the seeds of fruit trees. At present, there are only approximately 3,000 specimens in the wild, which is why protection campaigns and more similar ones are being initiated.

Giant hummingbird

Aves de Machu Picchu
From left to right (giant hummingbird, torrent duck, collared inca hummingbird, andean momot).

It is one of the largest hummingbirds or hummingbirds. It reaches 25 centimeters taking into account its tail and beak. Unlike the smaller species, it has pale plumage and its flight pattern is slower, very similar to the flight of butterflies. This bird can be found on the way to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail, especially near the Cantuta or Kantu flowers. On the other hand, it presents a slight differentiation between the female and the male, producing inconspicuous sexual dimorphism. This can be understood in that the male has white tones near the end of the tail or rump. While the female has a gray tone.

Like all hummingbirds or hummingbirds, they feed on the nectar of flowers, using their long beaks to reach deep into the plants and extract all the pollen with their tongues. Being a larger bird, it can also feed on some insects. The giant hummingbird can be found even in Cusco itself, the Sacred Valley, and the South Valley. They play an important role in pollinating the flowers from which they usually extract nectar, which is their main food.

Collared Inca Hummingbird

It is a species of hummingbird with characteristics that only place it in areas with a climate very similar to that of Machu Picchu. In addition, the Inca-collared hummingbird is relatively small, barely reaching 15 centimeters. It has a dark color that contrasts with the white of its neck and rump. The color that most characterize it is the dark green that practically surrounds its entire body, except in the parts indicated above. Unlike the other hummingbirds, these birds seem to seek more humid and wooded land or territories. So it is possible to find it arriving in Aguas Calientes or during the tours in search of the thermal baths and also on the way to the Mándor waterfalls.

The ecological Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is considered to be a true jewel of nature. Within this natural reserve, it is possible to find and maintain the life of many species of animals and plants that were in danger of extinction. Among them, hummingbirds stand out, which mostly only feed on nectar. The nectar of the flowers can be found in the different variations of plants that inhabit this place.

In the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, you can also find the smallest hummingbird in the world and the hummingbird with the longest tail, but there are no clear records of these, for this reason, we will not publish them in this blog. The smallest hummingbird in the world is the “ Zunzuncito Hummingbird ”, while the one with the longest tail is the “spoon hummingbird”. During the reign of the Incas and the expansion of the Tawantinsuyo, hummingbirds were known as “the birds of the Sun”, so they had divine connotations.

Torrent duck

They are called that way because these birds are capable of nesting on the banks of rivers. They normally live in pairs and in small colonies. The torrent ducks are grouped in colonies to guarantee the protection of the birds that have just been born. They can be found in the Vilcanota River that flows near the Machu Picchu sanctuary and is called the Urubamba River there. On the banks of this river, more in the direction of the Inca Trail, these birds usually arrive for nesting time. Ducks are dimorphic, as are cock of the rocks.

The male has a white head with two stripes that have contact with the eye areas that reach the neck area. While the females have smaller bodies, although the main difference can be seen in the gray crown and the dark plumage that it presents between its head and neck.

The torrent duck reaches an average size of 45 centimeters. Unlike other ducks, this bird is capable of adapting its beak to search for food in rocky areas. They also possess a more slender body in contrast. The males have spurs that they use when defending the nest or other fights with other ducks. Unfortunately, the incubation period is one and a half months. Once the young or chicks hatch, it will be necessary for the smaller ducks to learn to fly and find their food.

Andean momot

Also known as “barranquero” and even “Soledad” or “loneliness”, it is one of the most impressive birds that can be found on the way to Machu Picchu. Since they can be found even on the way to the thermal baths of Aguas Calientes. It has green plumage that expands throughout its bulky and slender body at the same time. The slenderness of this bird can be appreciated by the presence of its long tail which has a cyan-blue color. This tail has a racket shape.

As for the rest of its characteristics, it has black plumage that can be found in the eye area and part of the nape. Some of these birds have this black plumage right on the chest. It also has a strong black beak and legs. The Andean momot can be found with a greater presence in all the South American Andes, especially on the eastern slope, exactly where you can find high jungle.

A peculiarity of its behavior is that it is a stealthy bird. It is one of the birds that sings only during mating opportunities or during some fights. Normally it maintains fast flights, managing to plan better in the air thanks to its long tail that at the same time has beautiful details. The use of this has not been rigorously studied, it is believed that it moves the tail as if it were a pendulum for mating. While others suggest that you perform these actions before hunting or when you are on alert.

Masked trogon

Aves de Machu Picchu
From left to right (masked trogon, tanagers, Andean guan, black eagle).

The masked trogon is a bird with a long tail, but with a small body, in total, it reaches a length of 27 centimeters. It has a weight of 56 grams, which makes it quite light for its length. Trogons are characterized by the sexual dimorphism they present. The male trogon appears among the trees of the ecological sanctuary of Machu Picchu and has a deep red color on the chest. This plumage is accompanied by white tones around the neck, while the head and the entire back have a steel green color. All this greenish mantle has a beautiful contrast with the black of its black and white tail, at the tips.

The nickname “masked” is because it has black plumage as a mask. However, the eye zone has a red color. In the case of female masked trogons, they have duller plumage. A brown plumage covers a large part of its body, expanding from the head to part of the tail that also ends with white tones. The chest part tends to dull from pink to red. The female’s beak is yellow while the mask and wing plumage is black. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs for 18 days.

The trogon in Machu Picchu usually feeds on some small insects and also some fruits. The nests are built between the holes that some woodpeckers leave on the trunks or on the trunks that are decomposing and allow them to nest inside. Like the vast majority of birds in tropical areas, it is usually stealthy and perches on the branches for long periods. The sightings of this bird increased during the journey on the Inca Trail.

Andean guan

It is one of the birds that seeing them can be complicated. Andean guans usually inhabit spaces that are located in the depths of all the dense vegetation that can be found in the Machu Picchu Ecological Sanctuary. However, it was seen on several occasions by those who dare to take a tour of the Inca Trail. This bird belongs to the galliform family and does not present sexual dimorphism, so the male and female are the same. The variation only occurs in its size. The Andean guan has a size that reaches 60 cm in length, counting its long tail, and a weight of 460 grams.

They have a colony behavior, that is, they live among several individuals that always tend to exceed at least 3 members. Andean guans usually feed on wild fruits and berries, but also on insects. According to some studies, army ants are their main prey. They tend to stand on top of the large trees found in high-altitude jungles.

Andean guans have dark brown plumage that covers them from the head to the wings, back, and tail. Part of the neck, head, and neck have a gray color that gradually turns brown so that the contrast with the brown plumage is not very evident. During these last áreas, you can also find the presence of white color as a kind of dots, which are also called gray hair. Finally, the beak is black while its legs have a strong red color.


Tanagers can be found throughout the eastern fringe of Peru. Also in a large part of the mountain range that forms the high jungle throughout South America. This is one of the smallest birds that can be found in Machu Picchu, but at the same time, it has stronger colors that can beautify any tree. The species of these birds that are found inside the Machu Picchu Sanctuary is the “Paradise Tanager”.

The paradise tanagers are unique in that they do not display any noticeable differences between males and females. They measure 14 centimeters in length and weigh a mere 19 grams. Both genders have small heads and lemon-green feathers, along with a black cloak that covers their back, tail, and wings. Additionally, they exhibit a deep blue tint around their neck and some parts of their wings. This blue-collar gradually fades into a sky-blue shade, resembling the sky itself.

This small bird usually feeds on fruits and insects. In this way, he also collaborates in dispersing the seeds of the trees, one of the foods he likes the most is the fruit of the tropical palm. Their way of living is in colonies that form groups of 10 individuals. The nests they build are cup-shaped using small branches and even in some cases spider webs and parts of fungi, they usually nest between 2 or 4 eggs.

Black and chestnut eagle

It is one of the most impressive birds that can be found inside the Machu Picchu Sanctuary. The black and brown eagle belongs to the birds of prey, which is why it goes hunting, so it can be found on the treetops always on the lookout. For this reason, it is difficult to find it on the way to Machu Picchu, but its presence is evident within the natural reserve area where an attempt is being made to rescue its population. The population of this bird was affected by the indiscriminate housing in other regions and countries.

The black and chestnut eagle is also called the puma eagle and the Andean eagle. This is because it is one of the few eagles that can be found within the territory of the cloudy or semitropical forests that form in the Andes throughout South America. Having, a presence even in some sectors of Argentina. Its imposing presence is because it is more than 70 centimeters long and also has a robust body ideal for the hunts it carries out.

Its name is also due to the presence of black plumage that covers a large part of its head, neck, and entire mantle of its wings, back, and tail. However, the tail feathers are faded in color from gray to white and tipped with black. While the chest has a dark brown color with small black colorations. One of the most important differences with the rest of the eagles is that it has a small ponytail on its head, like all the eagles that inhabit the high altitude jungles.

This eagle usually feeds on smaller mammals and birds, which can be found in Machu Picchu such as coatis, Andean guans, some monkeys, and other small animals. It is one of the few eagles of prey found in high-altitude rainforests, sharing territory only with harpy eagles and solitary eagles, three of which are in charge of maintaining population control of the species from which they depart feeds.


By Imachupicchu – Last updated, August 16, 2023

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