Our Beautiful World

The Andes, Fauna and Nature  

Part 7. Tiahuanaco, Bolivia

Bolivian Andes.

Animals, birds and flowers on this page:

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius Titicaca Water Frog, Telmatobius culeus
Cactus, Opuntia subulata
Vermilion Flycatcher,
Pyrocephalus rubinus
Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas  
Black Siskin, Carduelis atrata  
Buff-winged Cinclodes, Cinclodes fuscus    
Titicaca Flightless Grebe,
Rollandia microptera
Black Skimmer, Rynchops niger    
Mountain Caracara,
Phalcoboenus megalopterus

From a rearranged translation of Vladimir Dinets original pages to norwegian, with supplements.

Klikk på flagg for norsk versjon

Pages for Latin America


The Bolivian Altiplano is a cold, dry, inhospitable high-altitude desert,
but it is home to a wonderful variety of flora and fauna, and to some of the world's most ancient and colorful cultures.

Roadside market, Bolivian Atiplano.

The entire plateau, from northwestern Argentina to central Peru,
is like an archaeological museum, with countless ruins, ancient roads, irrigation systems, and burial sites.
Some date back to the Inca Empire, others are much older

Bolivian Altiplano near La Paz in July..

Modern fields overlaying ancient irrigation systems

Tiahuanaco is just an hour and a half from La Paz, and makes a good starting point for a day trip to Lake Titicaca.
Like most of the Altiplano, it has some interesting wildlife -
watch for wild Guinea pigs and other rodents living under stone slabs.

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius

American kestrel, Falco sparverius, Tiahuanaco.

Cactus Opuntia subulata, Tiahuanaco.

The American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, sometimes colloquially known as the Sparrow Hawk, is a small falcon, and the only kestrel found in
the Americas. It found in a wide variety of habitats.

At 19–21 centimeters long. It exhibits sexual dimorphism in size and
plumage, although both sexes have a rufous back with noticeable
barring. Juveniles are similar in plumage to adults.

The American Kestrel hunts by hovering in the air with rapid wing beats
or perching and scanning the ground for prey. Its diet typically consists
of grasshoppers, lizards, mice, and other small birds. It nests in cavities
in trees, cliffs, buildings, and other structures. The female lays three to
seven eggs, which both sexes help to incubate.

Its breeding range extends from central and western Alaska across
northern Canada to Nova Scotia, and south throughout North America,
into central Mexico and the Caribbean. It is a local breeder in Central
America and is widely distributed throughout South America. Most
birds breeding in Canada and the northern United States migrate south
in the winter. It is an occasional vagrant to western Europe.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Kestrel

Opuntia subulata is native to high elevations in Ecuador and Peru and forms an tree-like, branching specimen with time.
This is a cristate form, producing very wide undulant fans topped with combs of long emerald green succulent leaves with white
areoles, and few (but fierce) white spines. The cells at the tip of the branch where growth occurs begin to multiply at a much faster
rate and the normal growing tip "goes crazy", creating fantastic whorls and fans with pronounced sculpture effects.

The crested branches slowly form delightful, snaky ,ridged or crowded hemispherical clusters. The plant often grows a fast
growing cylindrical stem to reveal its origins.

Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinus

Vermilion Flycatcher,

Pyrocephalus rubinus



Lesser Guinea pig, Cavia nana, Tiahuanaco.
Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas, Tiahuanaco.

The Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinus, is a small passerine bird in the Tyrannidae, or tyrant flycatcher family.
Most flycatchers are rather drab, but the Vermilion Flycatcher is a striking exception. It is a favourite with birders, but is not
generally kept in aviculture, as the males tend to lose their bright red colouration when in captivity.

Vermilion Flycatchers generally prefer somewhat open areas, and are found in trees or shrubs in savannah, scrub, agricultural
areas, riparian woodlands, and desert as well, but usually near water. Their range includes almost all of Mexico; it extends north
into the southwestern United States, and south to scattered portions of Central America, parts of northwestern and central South
America, and on southwards to central Argentina. They are also found in the Galapagos Islands.

Female Pyrocephalus rubinus cocachacrae and a male Pyrocephalus rubinus
© www.arthurgrosset.com/

The form inhabiting the Galapagos, Pyrocephalus rubinus nanus, is sometimes split as Pyrocephalus nanus, Darwin's Flycatcher
or the Galapagos Flycatcher.

The species grows to about seven inches in length, and is strongly dimorphic; males are bright red, with dark brown plumage.
Females have a peach-coloured belly with a dark grey upperside, and are similar to Say's Phoebe.

The flycatchers feed mostly on insects such as flies, grasshoppers and beetles. These are usually taken in mid-air, after a short
sally flight from a perch.

ARKive video - Vermilion flycatcher - overview
Vermilion Flycatcher, Pyrocephalus rubinus - Overview
BBC Natural History Unit

They lay 2-3 whitish eggs in a nest made of twigs, stems and roots, and lined with hair. The eggs are incubated for around two
weeks by the female and the young are ready to leave the nest after 15 days of hatching.

Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas

                           foto: B.K.Schmidt                                               foto: Jeremy Barker
These two pictures comes from :

The Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas, is the largest member of the hummingbird family, weighing 18-24 g and measuring
approximately 21.5 cm in length. This is approximately the length same length as a European Starling or a Northern Cardinal,
though the Giant Hummingbird is considerably lighter due to its more slender build and fairly long bill. It is the only member of
the genus Patagona.

In Bolivia, the Giant Hummingbird is known in Quechua as "burro q'enti". The Spanish word "burro" refers to its dull, relatively
unattractive plumage compared to other locally occurring hummingbirds (e.g. Red-tailed Comet).

Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas
© www.arthurgrosset.com/

The Giant Hummingbird is found in rather arid open woodland and scrub between 2,000 and 4,300 meters above sea level
in the Andes of South America, from far south-western Colombia to central Chile and Argentina.

The range of Patagona gigas is rather large, and its global extent of occurrence is estimated at 1,200,000 km2.
Its global population is believed to be not less than 10,000 adults.

Giant Hummingbird, Patagona gigas

Lake Titicaca itself is one of the best birdwatching sites of the Altiplano,
plus one of the world's best freshwater diving sites.
Look for giant deepwater frogs, Telmatobius culeus, up to 50 cm long.

Titicaca Water Frog, Telmatobius culeus

Titicaca Water Frog, Telmatobius culeus, is a very large and critically endangered species of frog in the Leptodactylidae
family. It is entirely aquatic and only found in Lake Titicaca and rivers that flow into this lake in South America. While the lungs
are greatly reduced, this frog has excessive amounts of skin, used to help the frog breathe in the high altitude in which it lives.

In the early 1970s, an expedition led by Jacques Cousteau reported frogs up to 50 centimetres in outstretched length, with
individuals commonly weighing 1 kilogram, making these the largest exclusively aquatic frogs in the world (the African goliath
frog is larger, but sometimes it can be seen on land). The snout-vent length is 7.5–13.8 centimetres.

ARKive video - Lake Titicaca frog - overview
Lake Titicaca frog, Telmatobius culeus - Overview
BBC Natural History Unit

Once common, the Titicaca Water Frog has declined drastically and is now facing extinction due to over-collecting for human
consumption, pollution, and predation of tadpoles by introduced trout. It may also be threatened by the disease chytridiomycosis. Several other species in the genus Telmatobius are facing similar risks.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telmatobius_culeus

Black Siskin, Carduelis atrata

The Black Siskin, Carduelis atrata, is a species of finch in the Fringillidae family. It is found in Argentina, Bolivia,
Chile, and Peru. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical high-altitude shrubland and subtropical or tropical high-
altitude grassland
Black Siskin , Carduelis atrata, Tiahuanaco.

Buff-winged Cinclodes, Cinclodes fuscus

Buff-winged Cinclodes, Cinclodes fuscus
© www.arthurgrosset.com/

The Buff-winged Cinclodes, Cinclodes fuscus, is a species of bird in the Furnariidae family. It is found in Bolivia, Brazil,
Paraguay, and Uruguay, to southern Chile and Argentina where it is found down to sea level. During the austral winter the
southern populations migrate northwards to northern Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil.

Buff-winged cinclodes, Cinclodes fuscus

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical high-altitude shrubland, temperate grassland, and subtropical or tropical
high-altitude grassland
Buff-winged Cinclodes, Cinclodes fuscus, Tiahuanaco.


Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.


Morning fog over Lake Titicaca.

The only endemic bird here is Titicaca flightless grebe, Rollandia microptera,
but it's easy to see 30-40 other species in one day, including Andean gulls ,
which turn pinkish during the breeding season, ducks, coots, rails, and a lot of smaller birds.
If you are not interested in birds, the views alone are worth the trip.

Titicaca Flightless Grebe, Rollandia microptera


Andean coot, Fulica ardesiaca,
Lake Titicaca

Titicaca Flightless Grebe
Rollandia microptera

No source given, there was virus on that page


Andean gull , Larus serranus,
Lake Titicaca

The Titicaca Flightless Grebe, Rollandia microptera, or The Titicaca Grebe, is a grebe found on the altiplano of
Peru and Bolivia. As its name implies, its main population occurs on Lake Titicaca. Lake Uru Uru and Poopó, the Rio
Desaguadero, and small lakes that connect to Lake Titicaca in wet years, serve as "spillovers" territory. In the past, the
population was larger and several of these lakes – such as Lakes Umayo and Arapa – apparently had and may still have
permanent large colonies. Its local name is zampullín de Titicaca.

This is a mid-sized grebe, varying from 28-45 cm in overall length. It weighs up to 600 g. Its coloration is unmistakable. The only grebe species it somewhat resembles is the unrelated Red-necked Grebe which is not found in South America. The only congener, the White-tufted Grebe, does not look very similar. The color pattern of the Titicaca Grebe is altogether similar to that of the Red-necked Grebe, but it has a darker belly, and a white (not light grey) throat patch that runs down the neck nearly to the breast. Due to the short wings, the rufous flanks can usually be seen. The ornamental plumes on the head are a vestigial version of those of the White-tufted Grebe, but dark. Iris and the lower bill are yellow. Juveniles and non-breeding adults are duller, lack the ornamental plumes, and in the case of the former have rufous stripes on the sides of the head and more white on the neck, so that the rufous breast does not show in swimming birds.

Titicaca Flightless Grebe, Rollandia microptera

It is entirely flightless, but will use wing-assisted running over considerable distances. It is an excellent diver, reaching a burst speed of 3.5 km/h (2 knots).

The Titicaca Flightless Grebe occurs in a habitat mosaic in relatively shallow waters (up to about 10 m deep).
The reed belt is found in water of up to 4 m deep and constitutes the breeding habitat. It is made up mainly of Totora,
Schoenoplectus californicus ssp. tatora. Other plants are the underwater Myriophyllum elatinoides and
Hydrocharitaceae water weeds, and the floating duckweeds and Azolla. Potamogeton constitute the dominant
underwater vegetation in the deeper parts, down to 14 m.

This species, like all grebes, feeds mainly on fish. Nearly 95% of prey mass is made up by the Orestias pupfish of the
Titicaca drainage. The introduced silversides Odontesthes bonariensis (pejerrey) is not usually taken. As the grebe only
eats prey smaller than some 15 cm, the adult pejerrey which are of commercial interest are not part of its diet as they
are far too large.

It is likely that each pair which holds a territory attempts to breed once per year. The period in which the parents care for
the young is probably rather prolonged, and there is possibly no fixed breeding season. Young birds become independent
probably at somewhat less than 1 year of age, and there are usually 2 young per clutch, but there may be up to 4.
Altogether, although more birds are found to incubate around December than at other times, about half the adult
population seems to be breeding or caring for young at any time.
It is classified by the IUCN as Endangered, with a population of less than 750 adults (BirdLife International 2006).
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titicaca_Grebe

Black Skimmer, Rynchops niger

Black Skimmer
Photo: Dan Pancamo

The Black Skimmer, Rynchops niger, is a tern-like seabird, one of three very similar birds species in the skimmer family.
It breeds in North and South America. Northern populations winter in the warmer waters of the Caribbean and the tropical
and subtropical Pacific coasts, but the South American races make only shorter movements in response to annual floods
which extend their feeding areas in the river shallows.

The Black Skimmer breeds in loose groups on sandbanks and sandy beaches in the Americas, the three to seven heavily
dark-blotched buff or bluish eggs being incubated by both the male and female. The chicks leave the nest as soon as they
hatch and lie inconspicuously in the nest depression or "scrape" where they are shaded from high temperatures by the parents.
They may dig their own depressions in the sand at times. Parents feed the young almost exclusively during the day with
almost no feeding occurring at night, due to the entire population of adults sometimes departing the colony to forage.
Although the mandibles are of equal length at hatching, they rapidly become unequal during fledging.

Black Skimmer and Chick
Photo: Dan Pancamo

The Black Skimmer is the largest of the three skimmer species. It measures 40–50 cm long with a 107–127 cm wingspan.
This species ranges from 212 to 445 g, with males averaging about 350 g, as compared to the smaller female’s 255 g.
The basal half of the bill is red, the rest mainly black, and the lower mandible is much-elongated. The eye has a dark brown
iris and catlike vertical pupil, unique for a bird. The legs are red. The call is a barking kak-kak-kak.

Adults in breeding plumage have a black crown, nape and upper body. The forehead and underparts are white.
The upper wings are black with white on the rear edge, and the tail and rump are dark grey with white edges.
The underwing colour varies from white to dusky grey depending on region.

ARKive video - Black skimmer - overview
Black Skimmer, Rynchops niger - Overblikk
BBC Natural History Unit
http://www.arkive. org

Skimmers have a light graceful flight, with steady beats of their long wings. They feed usually in large flocks, flying low over
the water surface with the lower mandible skimming the water (in order of importance) for small fish, insects, crustaceans
and molluscs caught by touch by day or especially at night. They spend much time loafing gregariously on sandbars in the
rivers, coasts and lagoons they frequent.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Skimmer

Titicaca-sjøen, Bolivia.

Mountain caracara, Phalcoboenus megalopterus

Mountain caracara,
Phalcoboenus megalopterus

La Paz.
Mountains around the lake are surprisingly little visited.

Young mountain caracara
Lake Titicaca
But they are also very interesting.

Mountain caracaras,

The Mountain Caracara, Phalcoboenus megalopterus, is a species of bird of prey in the Falconidae family. It is found in
puna and páramo in the Andes, ranging from southern Ecuador, through Peru and Bolivia, to northern Argentina and Chile.
It is generally uncommon to fairly common. An opportunistic feeder, preying on live lizards and rodents, but also feeding in
city dumps or sharing carrion with Andean Condors.

White-throated Caracara, but unlike those species its chest is uniform black. Juveniles are far less distinctive than the red-
faced pied adults, being overall brown with dull pinkish-grey facial skin.

Fjellkarakara, Phalcoboenus megalopterus,
© www.arthurgrosset.com/

Occurs mostly in the puna zone at 3,500-5,000 m, but descends regularly to the coast in Peru. Occurs mostly in open
puna grassland, around montane lakes, in heavily grazed areas, and on recently plowed land. Frequently seen walking,
often a pair or an adult with one juvenile together, or occasionally in flocks containing hundreds of birds, and may also
roost in large flocks on cliffs

Nests are large structures of dried guano, placed on rock ledges. Clutch size is usually 2 (occasionally 3) eggs with a
creamy-white ground color and a heavy, almost complete suffusion of reddish and dark-brown pigment.
In the southern part of the range, eggs are laid in October-November

The Andes near Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.

Part 8. La Paz og mere Bolivia

Tilbake til del 6

All pictures, unless otherwise stated, Copyright © Vladimir Dinets


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