Rob Williams

Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager

Cnemathraupis aureodorsalis

Location: Central Peru.

Endemic: Yes, from Peru.


This extremely rare bird has a mostly golden yellow back, rump, breast, and belly; while its head, throat, and wings are black.

Length: 23 cm / 9 in.

Threat: Endangered.

Best Time for observation: Seasonality is not documented.

Habitat: it lives near the natural tree line where there is no, or little, burning for pastures.

Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager

The biggest tanager is the Golden-backed Mountain-Tanager. Endemic to Peru and extremely rare; it lives near the natural tree line where there is no, or little burning for pastures. Such areas are almost now only found the remotest areas, and it is known from only five sites, of which the legendary Bosque Unchog in the Carpish Mountains close to Huanuco in Central Peru, is by far the easiest place to see one. It also occurs in Rio Abiseo National Park, and south of there in a place known as Montañita in La Libertad, both which are more for the adventurous to try to get to.

Only described in the the late 70s, it was one of Ted Parker’s favourite birds. In those days it involved an extremely long hike from Pachachupan with the help of local mule driver Reyes Rivera. In the late 90s a road was completed that took one beyond Cochabamba village and above until within one kilometre from the pass where the trail leads down through the elfin forest of Bosque Unchog. The lower road to Cochabamba from Huanuco has also been improved so now it is quite possible to back and forth to Unchog from Huanuco where one sleeps in a proper bed, although some people still prefer camping.

For the last 15 years Peruvian birding companies and their clients have voluntarily made a donation of US$20 per client to the Cochabamba village to be invested in maintenance of the access road to Unchog.

The enchanting stunted forests of Unchog are also home to a number of other good birds including: Swallow-tailed Nightjar, Puna and Andean Snipe, Golden-crowned and Yellow-scarfed Tanagers and the endemics Pardusco, Rufous-browed Hemispingus and Bay-vented Cotinga.

Text by Gunnar Engblom.