Sorry for sending this non-aussie posting, but I think the title could be of
general interest. It is not an everyday event. I won´t bother sending any
trip reports from Peru to this list. This would be of lesser interest to
In the beginning of last year I solicited on various lists participants for
an expedition with partly birding and partly scientific content to the
interior of Peru. Only one person came here on such short notice - Pierre
van der Wielen from Holland. Many of you have already heard about the great
finding we did, but I´d like to more publically announce this. We saw for
the first time in 100 years Kalinowski´s Tinamou -which is known from only
two specimens 900 km apart. The sight record is not 100% solid, but very
probable due to circumstantial evidence, which I detail below.
On April 26, 2000 we were driving at 4250 close to Cerro Perdiz (which
incidently means Tinamou Mountain) in extreme North Ancash just a couple a
kilometers from the departemental border of La Libertad. As I was behind the
wheel I saw a tinamou head sticking up among the bunch grass and here we
were only 41 km from Hacienda Tulpo where Kalinowsli´s Tinamou was collected
in May 1900. I backed up and we studied this head for half a minute. It had
a raised crest and peppared face, the throat was white and there was no
supercillum. These characters fit both on Ornate and Kalinowski´s Tinamou,
but rule out Andean and Curvebilled, as well as Puna Tinamou which is way
out of range, extremely large and with a very distinct head pattern.
The head disappeared and we rushed up the bunchgrass covered slope (severely
panting at the altitude of 4250 meters =14,000 feet) but we could not
immediately find it. As we walked back to the car quite disappointed some
30 minutes later, Pierre, Gregorio Ferro (Goyo) and Tarsila Gomez flushed
the tinamou. Pierre had studied up on the field marks and saw rufous
markings on the secondaries clearly as it dropped on the other side of the
road. The rufous ruled out Ornate tinamou, but Curve-billed has a similar
wing pattern. The head pattern did not seem to fit as mentioned for
Curvebilled. Furthermore, our bird was clearly larger than Andean Tinamou
which we had seen earlier. Curvebilled Tinamou, about the same size as
Andean Tinamou, occurs only to 3700m and in in more scrubby habitat not in
this puna landscape (stepplike highland grassland).
We continued to walk in the area where it appearantly came down, but we did
not manage to see it again in spite of an hours search. We felt quite
certain that is was Kalinowski´s Tinamou we had seen, but it was very
frustrating that we did not get any prolonged views of the whole bird.
But Goyo stumbled upon something interesting. Feathers!!!! There was a
number of feathers on the ground. Small feathers with mostly with black
blotches and some with vermiculation of black, buff and tawny-rufous.
Appearantly, a bird had been hunted here by maybe a Puna Hawk and either
lost a large number of back feathers or lost his whole body and just some
feathers remained. We tried to think of other things than tinamous for these
cryptic feathers, but over and over again we came back to the conclusion
that they must be Tinamou feathers. It seemed likely that these feathers
indeed where from the same species we had just seen. However form these
cryptic feathers we could not tell for certain that they really were of
Kalinowski´s Tinamou. We collected the feathers and decided that they
eventually should be sent to American Museum of Natural History where the
1900 Hacienda Tulpo specimen is kept.
Due to US regulations (as well as CITES rules) it was not that easy to send
feathers in envolope across the Ecuator. Lots of Red-tape. Eventually, being
limited in time, taped the feathers on a piece of paper and scanned them and
sent Paul Sweet - senior curator at AMNH.
Later Paul Sweet confirmed that the feathers match those of Kalinowski´s
Tinamou, but Ornate Tinamou could not be ruled out. However, basing on field
observations it does seem likely that both the sighting and the feathers
comes from Kalinowski´s Tinamou.
I went back to the area in August together with Phil Richardson. But though
spending most of the morning here we could not find the bird.
How can such a large bird go undetected for 100 years?
1. First of all very little is known about its habitat requirements since
the record from Hac Tulpo was described as being at 3000 m (which is true
for the Hacienda - but the bird could have been taken from the slopes above)
where the habitat basically is scrub. The type specimen from Cusco (not
exactly relocated) from 1894 was taken at 4575m and was believed to be
erroneous by later interpretors. However, this latter altitude would
correspond to habitat very similar to what we found, i.e steppe-like
2. The collecting localities had not been revisited by ornithologists during
the entire period as far as I know. It was a killing 18 hour drive from
Yungay in Cordillera Blanca to get there on a terrible road. It is a very
isolated area to day with very little traffic, but in roadless years not too
far back it must have been remoter than Europe.
3. All tinamous are heavily hunted in the Andes and many are extremely shy.
It is likely that Kalinowski´s Tinamou has been locally extirpated due to
this huntying pressure and where there is habitat left and it remains it
would have evolved to be very shy and press hard and not flush after
thousands of years of hunting.
4. It is likely only to find it in areas with vast Puna grassland where
Ornate Tinamou does not excist (which seems to be its ecological equivelent
and very closely related) and where the human population is not big.
However, the highlands of Peru are heavily used for grazing animals and has
a quite numerous human population. Everyone you meet in the highlands will
carry a sling-shot and they could sure hit a Tinamou if they should see one.
Vast areas with grassland like this one is rare to find.
I had made a trip through the area of Hacienda El Tulpo in December 1999
hoping we could find the Tinamou just by driving through. Close to El Tulpo
we saw a tinamou rushing over a road. This was clearly an Andean Tinamou by
size and wing pattern when we flushed it later. We asked around in the area
and people told us that there where two tinamous known - one smaller around
there (c 3000m) and a larger one from the highlands. I suspected the
highland one could be Kalinowski´s Tinamou and we therefor took a higher
route to reach Huamachuco this time. It was a lucky strike to get a hit this
All in all this shows how relatively inexpensive and simple it is to do much
needed surveys in Peru. And how much information can be obtained just by
visiting old collecting sites for rare species. It also shows the lack of
interest from larger funding bodies to implement strategies for the
conservation for specific identified bird conservation priorities. BirdLife
International has classed Kalinowski´s Tinamou to one of the most threatened
in Peru in the critically threatened category together with Royal Cinclodes,
White-winged Guan and Junin Flightless Grebe. But Kalinowski´s Tinamou has
not recieved any atention until this mini expedition.
My guess is that it is a truly rare bird, but that the vast and seemingly
sparsely populated areas close to where we now found it could hold an
important population. There is quite a lot of mining in the area not too far
away and this is worrying as there would be direct impact of some areas in
form of polution and an increase of people if mining should increase
Kolibri Expedions is doing a trekk 4 day trekk in April and there may be an
expedition prior to that should there be interest. Contact me for more
I am working on a more extensive trip report from the expedition in
April-May 2000 which I will give news about when ready.
Birdwatching in South America
Rubens 205 dpto 401
tele/fax +51 (0)1 476 50 16 celular 936 49 11
Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)