From the high Andes to the Amazon jungle, Latin America is a birdwatchers’ paradise. Among the huge range of birds in Latin America are a few that have become emblematic of the continent. The Condors, hummingbird, Quetzal and macaw are birds to look out for on your Latin America vacation.
The Andean condor is the big daddy of the bird kingdom is an important symbol in the Andes. Watching the huge condors soar overhead is an unforgettable moment in any vacation in the Andes. At 10 feet (3 meters), condors have the largest wingspan of any land based bird. Their wingspan combined with a hefty weight of 33 pounds (15 kilos) makes getting off the ground a tough task for condors. To compensate, condors live in mountainous areas where they can cruise along on the thermals and wind currents. Although condors do live along the coast and desert areas, they prefer the open spaces of the Andes.
Colca Canyon in Peru is arguabley the deepest canyon in the world, a beautiful landscape and also the location of ‘the Cross of the Condors’, At this scenic spot above Colca Canyon, you are guaranteed to spot condors who gather here daily. The magnificent Torres del Paine National Park in the far south of Chile, is also a good spot for seeing Condors.
From the largest bird to the smallest. Hummingbirds are tiny birds measuring just 3-5 inches (7.5-13cm). The smallest bird in the world is the Bee Hummingbird at 5cm long. Hummingbirds characteristically hover around flowers and use their long bills to drink the nectar. In order to hover, hummingbirds flap their wings in incredible 12-90 times per second. Hummingbirds are found throughout Central and South America, from lowlands to heights of 5,200m in the Andean highlands.
Ecuador is species rich with 130 types of hummingbirds. Good places to spot Hummingbirds include cloud forest around Zaruma in the south east of the country. The best and most developed area for seeing Hummingbirds though is Mindo. A range of reserves in the Mindo area are dedicated to protecting and observing Hummingbirds.
The Quetzal was sacred to Mesoamerican people, and is still revered today in Guatemala where the Quetzal is the unit of currency. Quetzals are brilliantly coloured and are generally regarded as the most beautiful bird in the world. In the mating season between March and June, the male can grow an amazing train measuring up to 3 feet (1 meter) long.
Parts of Costa Rica and Panama are considered the best places to spot quetzals. Panamas national parks of Volcan Baru and La Amistad are ideal places to travel to spot quetzals. The aptly named Quetzal Trail through Volcan Baru National Park near Boquete offers excellent opportunities to spot the Resplendant Quetzal.
Many of the 17 species of macaw, are very rare or endangered. These incredibly beautiful and colourful birds are perfectly suited to the bright greens and colourful fruit of the Amazon rain forest. Macaws are social birds and congregate in flocks of 10-30 individuals. When together, they make a terrific noise as they chat to each other and mark their territory. Macaws are romantic birds who mate with the same partner for life and even share food and groom each other. On the eastern sides of the Andes, macaws congregate at river banks to lick the clay soil. At these clay licks, visitors can see the fabulous spectacle of hundreds of macaws all congregating together early in the morning.
An excellent place to see macaws in the wild is a clay lick in the Tambopata Reserve near Cusco, Peru; home of the Tambopata Macaw Project.
South and Central America are wonderful places to spot wildlife from the Amazon to the could forests of Panama and of course the Galapagos islands; making a Latin American vacation perfect for families of all ages.