Global Big Day in Northern Peru

The Global Big Day is one special day every year, dedicated to birdwatching and a census of bird species in every country. Teams register in advance, and it’s a real competition.

I have already written about it in these columns, Peru is a fascinating country about nature. It is home to an incredible number of bird species, some 1,800 of the 10,000 listed worldwide. The main competitors are here in South America, and particularly Colombia and Brazil. Costa Rica, however, well known for its nature and beautiful landscapes is far behind, but still in the Top 10.

Peru won the competition the first 2 years, in 2015 and 2016, with more than 1,100 species listed only this day.

Global Big Day 2016 – Birdwatching

In 2016, Chachapoyas hosted the 10th National Ornithological Congress from May 16 to 21. The idea was to reconnect with the victory at the event to announce it. Maxime, my son, and I joined the Chachapoyas team to participate at the event in 2016 and 2017.

Here we write about how this competition is organized.

Appointment is given for the day BEFORE the event at 6 am. We have to go to Tarapoto, in the neighboring region of ​​San Martin. Tomorrow we’ll start counting from there and on the way back to Chachapoyas.

An ornithologist will supervise us during these two days. Today, he’ll introduce us to the birdwatching activity, the behavior to respect or even more not to have, the use of binoculars or about the moment when we can take pictures.


Our first stop is planned in Huembo, private reserve about which I wrote recently in our blog. We are there around 7:40 am.

As a training, nothing less than the sighting of hummingbirds, especially the very famous and endemic “spotted-tailed hummingbird” or “colibri a cola de espatula”. Everyone takes his equipment and let’s go forth.

Maxime has been officially charged with noting the species that we are going to see today for training and tomorrow for the big day of the competition.

Here in Huembo Reserve, you can watch 12 different species of hummingbird, our famous one, but also the Inca bronzy or others … the 45 minutes that we stayed there, we could observe almost every species listed.

At the end of this first birding training, we take a good coffee provided by one of the participants, then continue.


Next stop is Pomacochas and its huge lake. This is also a place known for its bird species. We meet new species there, among others herons.

Because of worksites on the way and on the main road, we will have to stop several times.

But stops are an excuse for more and more observation : plants, butterflies…

Our road takes us even further. We stop at the tourist lookout from where we start to go down to the valley of Alto Mayo, San Martin region. Exceptional, we can observe the majestic flight of a solitary eagle, not so common.


We have lunch at Moyobamba, in a restaurant on the main square.

We stop several times in the afternoon, using our binoculars, sometimes in places close to the road, under a bridge …

All along this preliminary day, we see a lot of birds. We are very excited for tomorrow when we’ll have to list the species we see.

One of these many stops is in the rice fields before Tarapoto. Every where, white egrets.

We’re visiting an area close to Tarapoto Airport. There we are almost eaten by a Rottweiller left free in the street in front of his house. Ornithology in an urban environment can be a dangerous job! Here again we can see several nice and colorful species.

We spend the night in a simple hotel in downtown Tarapoto after a very nice evening with our fellow travelers.

The Big Day for Ornithology World

Wake up at 4:15 am this Saturday, May 14, D-day of the observation.

We pick up our mini-bus and leave for Yurimaguas. We’re traveling about half an hour outside Tarapoto before arriving at the Aconabikh reserve.

The rain slows us down in our observations

Today, the weather is not on our side Indeed, 10 minutes after we arrived, it’s starting to rain. We take shelter in a house. We are very kindly prepared a coffee and a breakfast. Jerryl and his family are very friendly.

After this break, the rain calms down a bit. We lost a lot of time. We’re heading for the Hummingbird Observatory.

It is a 5 floors wooden structure. From there we can observe a dozen different species.

But the rain does not stop us

After the rain, life resumes in the forest. New varieties of birds appear. Birdwatching is exciting!

We will return to Aconabikh, a beautiful place with very friendly people. Thank you for this welcome.

We now take the direction back to Tarapoto. Near this tunnel it seems that there are great opportunities.

Since last night, we have been accompanied by another ornithologist, Eduardo, who arrived from Lima by plane to Tarapoto. He regularly accompanies tours about ornithology.

Without them, we could never identify so many species, that’s for sure.

We take the road each time a little further.  Look at those Hoazin there! They look like vultures but with a blue head and a crest. Oh look, rare swallows with white wings there. The list goes on little by little.

We arrive at lunch time at Moyobamba. We still have a lot of road before arriving to Chachapoyas. But we have already seen some 80 different bird species! Not bad anyway despite this weather.

An afternoon of very active birdwatching

We still make some halts. Our last one is in the village of Aguas verdes. There we meet the private reserve of Arena blanca.

Birdwatching Global Big Day

If until then we have managed to stay dry, the rain gets us when we’re walking 15 minutes to the reserve.

The night’s falling down and as it is not expected that we would observe the owls, it is time to stop and count our list of this long day. We saw some 93 different species in one day and apparently (according to the experts, huh?) listened to a dozen others.

We will not be able to include in our list the famous “spatule tail hummingbird”. If we had see it yesterday, we could not observe it today, for lack of time.

Yesterday does not count and honesty of birdwatching prevents us from including it. Like the famous lonely Eagle met yesterday too. Too bad, but this is how it goes.

Ornithologists are exhausted by this day of observation. Or are the nights in Tarapoto too short?

After having dinner, a very good chicken soup at Las Tablitas restaurant in Pomacochas, we arrive at Chachapoyas at 10 pm. It was a long day !

Waiting for the final result of the “competition”

The accounts have already started. Sunday morning, May 15, as always Colombia, Brazil and Peru fired themselves. By midday, it seems that Peru has passed in the lead, although not all lists have been counted.

Anyway, Peru is confirmed as an exceptional nature-destination for its beauty and diversity. Ornithology is only one of the themes encountered. Hoping that private initiatives with the constitution of “private conservation areas” as we visited today, can continue and even multiply.

Call for volunteers from all countries

Peru and in our case Northern Peru has a lot of ACP or Private Conservation areas. Private people try to preserve natural areas, its forest and animals.

They need help, volunteers, scientists or people who can help local owners to preserve these exceptional places of bio-diversities. Maybe you ?

Some communities, some villages are ready to welcome people in home stays where you will be able to share your knowledge. You can help protect this exceptional environment that you meet in the North of Peru.

Post Scriptum: the final results

In 2016, for the second and consecutive year, Peru won this world meeting of ornithology.

Peru had even improved the record of last year with 1,220 species recorded on this single day. Brazil comes in second with 1,120 species, Colombia in 3rd position with 987.

But the last 2 years, in 2017 and 2018, hierarchy has changed. We participated again with Maxime. But Colombia won the 2 following editions, before Peru and Ecuador.

This year, Colombia registerd some 1.400 species in a day, and Peru some 1.300. But with much more teams officially registered. Amazing!

Latin America is again represented as a Nature destination.

The Global big day became a really big and international events. More and more teams register every year. That’s incredible how important this activity, birdwatching, got bigger. In your country as well, I’m sure you can participate. Watch Global Big day on internet. This event occurs every year in May.

Birdwatching is another of the many activities that can be done in northern Peru.

You would like to know more about it ?


Sign up to receive your free guide together with

precious information about your travel destination!

Zero Spam, your email is safe.