by A. Bennett Hennessey

With limited time, a good strategy is to bird the airport runway and trails.  Spectacular secondary forest birds here include: Yellow-headed Caracara, Crane Hawk, Speckled Chachalaca, Squirrel Cuckoo, Grey-breasted Sabrewing, Yellow-tufted Woodpecker, Magpie Tanager, Musician Wren, Russet-backed Oropendola and Yellow-rumped Cacique.  The airport edges offer a good example of secondary forest, with occasionally Yellowish Pipit, Southern Lapwing and Seedeaters along the runway strip.  As you arrive, ask the airport operators if you may walk along the runway.  In the past this has not been a problem.  The runway is shaped like a cross.  At the main reception building, walk directly across the runway to a small building on the other side.  Here there is a very well used trail, which will eventually loop around to the opposite side of runway, allowing one to return to the reception area along the runway itself.

Rurrenabaque is right on the edge of the Beni River(Have great fish at the restaurant Perla de Rurre).  If you are unable to leave town, or only have a few hours, walking along the river edge will yield birds such as Spotted Sandpiper, Rufous Hornero, Guira Cuckoo, and Silver-beaked Tanager.  Following the river upstream (south) will eventually lead into a disturbed forest habitat with less sensitive forest birds such as Blue-crowned Motmot, Chestnut-tailed Antbird, Purple-throated Euphonia (listen through-out the town for its peep-peep call), Short-crested Flycatcher and Epaulet Oriole.  Along the river downstream (north) will provide access to habitat with early successional plants and a thin forest with Dusky-headed Parakeet, and Smooth-billed Ani.  Good luck determining whether the common sky-blue tanagers are Blue-grey or Sayaca Tanagers; Ted Parker apparently thought that Rurrenabaque was a hybrid zone for the two species.  Also, try the central plaza at night for the Tropical Screech-Owl named Herby, made famous on Sjoerd Mayer’s CD-ROM Birds of Bolivia.

For the more adventurous, there is plenty of good birding in the tropical forest north of Rurrenabaque.  Most of these areas are made accessible by single lane local logging roads.  These roads are constructed to extract a few species of valuable trees (like mahogany) and then abandoned.  Many of these roads can be long and demand a few days of camping.  Unfortunately, good sites are constantly changing.  The best bet would be to rent a car or dirt bike in Rurrenabaque and start exploring.  For those on a tight budget, one can get a lift from passing trucks, jumping off at a promising site (remember in Bolivia , these rides are not free, you are expected to pay a few Bolivianos).

Finally, the endangered Wattled Curassow Crax globulosa is believed to still exist on the east side of the Beni river down river (north) from Rurrenabaque.  The locals say that it can still be found, especially in the dry season around Estrella Lake(Lago Estrella), a trail leading east from the town of San Marcos and the three oxbow lakes found North of San Marcos to the East of Beni River (Wattled Curassow Lodge).

Logistics: Leaving the Rurrenabaque on the only road out of town, the airport is on the left after the only large concrete bridge- you can see the runway to the left from the road.  The airport is before the road tax block and the junction with the road to Reyes and the road to Yucumo and eventually La Paz. A local motorbike taxi (moto taxis in Spanish) can drop you there for 6 Bolivianos and then pick you up later if you are specific about the terms, times and withhold final payment.  If there is a flight later in the day, there will be a bus and many moto taxis to take you back into town.