Calilegua National Park Birding – Trip Report

… continued from: Bird Watching Laguna del los Pozuelos

Driving to Calilegua National Park was not very difficult, apart from one wrong highway exit, we did not have any other troubles. From La Quiaca, near the border with Bolivia, to Calilegua it takes six hours so we arrived to Libertador General San Martin by 7 pm. We had originally planned to stay this night at Yavi but we decided to give ourselves more time to explore Calilegua where there are more birds.

Calilegua is the only national park in the province of Jujuy that protects 76,000 ha of Yungas forest providing a bird sanctuary for many endemic species that live in this special forest. This area specifically is renowned for Tucuman Parrots, Yellow-collared Mackaws, Green-cheeked Parakeet, White-throated Antpitta, Creamed-back Woodpecker, Blue-capped Puffleg and Slender-tailed Woodstar, White-bellied Hummingbird, and others.

Calilegua Trails and MapCalilegua Trails and Map

The hotel prepared an early breakfast and we drove to Calilegua which is only 15 minutes away. We made a couple of stops on the road to the park entrance since the birds we active. We were greeted by the Toco Toucan, Roadside Hawk, and Common-bush Tanager, and a pair of Dusky-legged Guan.

Common-bush TanagerCommon-bush Tanager

Roadside HawkRoadside Hawk

We drove past the park entrance at 600 masl and began climbing and exploring the trails. We stopped at the first rest-stop (Sendero Pedemontano) where you reach a lookout and a trail. We were welcomed by a group of Plush-crested Jays that kept diving into a large garbage can.

Plush-crested Jay

Plush-crested Jay

Calilegua LookoutLookout

This trail was mostly flat and we began exploring it near 8 am.  A woodcreeper jumped right in front of us only 100 ft into the trail. The great surprise was even more pleasant when I could only think it was a new bird for us and soon was identified it by its call:

Black-banded WoodcreeperBlack-banded Woodcreeper!

Black-banded Woodcreeper-2Black-banded Woodcreeper

We continued our walk until we found an observation tower! From here we spotted a Blue-crowned Togon, a pair of flirting Black-capped Antwrens which were new to us, and a small juvenile hummingbird that could be the Blue-capped Puffleg but I have never seen one, so this one is difficult to identify but I am almost sure of its ID.

Black-capped Antwren Male-and-FemaleBlack-capped Antwren Male and Female

Blue-capped Puffleg Juvenile-FemaleBlue-capped Puffleg (Juvenile Female)

Blue-crowned TrogonBlue-crowned Togon

After descending from the tower and we found the Ferruginous Pigmy Owl only 50 ft away from the tower while the Antrens bugged him. A bit further we found the White-bellied Hummingbird and finally we heard a Cream-backed Woodpecker and soon he was climbing the trees around us. This bird is stunningly beautiful and has lots of contrasting colors. He stayed in that spot for a while and we took-in all of that beautiful woodpecker.

White-bellied HummingbirdWhite-bellied Hummingbird

Cream-backed WoodpeckerCream-backed Woodpecker

A female Hepatic Tanager was working the canopy, while a Buff-banded Tyrannulet hopped around the making this area one of busiest of the trails. The trails ends in the road so we walked back to car and continued our ride up the dirt road to search for the White-throated Antpitta. The dirt road was in good shape so we rode all the top and started returning back looking for the Antpitta. We found other birds like the Brown-capped Redstart, Buff-browed foliage Gleaner, and the Buff-browed Spinetail.

Brown-capped RedstartBrown-capped Redstart

Buff-browed Foliage GleanerBuff-browed foliage Gleaner

Buff-browed SpinetailBuff-browed Spinetail

The late afternoon arrived and finally we heard the Antpitta call! It was about 5:30 pm at 1100 masl. We tried to see it but she never came close enough to the road. In the process we found the Saffron-billed Sparrow Golden-billed Saltator (thanks Ian), Rufous-browed Pepershrike, and the Stripe-headed Brush Finch.

Safron-billed SparrowSaffron-billed Sparrow Golden-billed Saltator (thanks Ian)

Dark fell upon us as we drove down listening for Owls but did not hear any.

The next day we came back for a quick birding trip to look for the Yellow-collared Macaw. Again we stopped at the first look out and looked around. It was a beautiful morning. Soon I could hear some Macaws approaching and managed to photograph a pair of Yellow-collared Macaws that flew in front of us:

Yellow-collared Macaws FlyingYellow-collared Macaws

That fly-by motivated another Macaw to call from his perch and gave me a chance to get this picture:

Yellow-collared Macaws PerchedYellow-collared Macaw

Soon, the Green-cheeked Parakeets reveal themselves with their calls. They were in the same area hiding in the trees above.

Green-cheeked ParakeetGreen-cheeked Parakeets

And if that was not enough of a party, the Scaly-headed Parrots joined in the racket.

Scaly-headed ParrotScaly-headed Parrots

After that quick one-two-three birding punch, we headed for the trails and found the Amazonian Motmot, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Two-banded Warbler, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, and Golden-olive Woodpecker.

Amazonian MotmotAmazonian Motmot

Narrow-billed WoodcreeperNarrow-billed Woodcreeper

That was a great morning for us and set our new heading for the Chaco area.

To be continued… Birding Chaco at J.V. Gonzles

Written by Renato
Renato was born in Quito, Ecuador and quickly flew to the USA to learn all about engineering and climbing company ladders. After getting his engineering degree from the University of Minnesota he worked in the Standard-American-Rat-Race-Company for fifteen years. After climbing the ladder to where he could no longer see the ground, he decided to jump off the ladder and migrate south like all normal birds do. To his surprise home did not look like it did when he left as a young fledgling; the towns were bigger, most of his friends had nests of their own, and the countryside was changed. Shocked by all the change he searched for a new life and a new wife. He stumbled across a vivacious young chick who would accompany him inside a volcanic crater to set up a love nest. So, after eight years of nesting inside the crater a new love for nature and birds has sprung a career in environmental conservation and birding tours. Finally this bird has come home to roost!