Location: North central Peruvian Andes at 2350-2900 m.
Endemic: Yes, from Peru.
This antpitta has a black face and throat, a dark brown crown and back, and slate gray underparts.
Length: 20-21 cm / 8 in.
Threat: Least Concern.
Best Time for observation: Seasonality is not documented.
Habitat: restricted to bamboo-dominated understorey in humid montane forests of Amazonas, San Martin and La Libertad regions.
The spectacular Pale-billed Antpitta is a Peruvian endemic restricted to bamboo-dominated understorey in humid montane forests of Amazonas, San Martin and La Libertad, and is only known from a handful of scattered localities. This highly distinctive species, with its ivory-coloured bill and red eye, was only described in 1982 and remains relatively little known.
There is no really easy way to Pale-billed Antpitta. There are no sites along roads and no-one is feeding them worms. This is an antpitta that one has to work for in the old-fashioned way by getting into the habitat and being patient. The easiest place to see it is above the village of San Lorenzo in Amazonas near the town of Pomacochas. From the village football field one needs to climb onto the ridge above town up a trail comprised of wet muddy areas and multiple sections of seemingly never-ending stone steps. The walk up takes about 45 minutes if you are in reasonable shape, but often takes much longer as there are many other birds to see en route.
The species can also be found near the Laguna de las Momias, famed for its Chachapoyas burial site on a cliff overlooking the lake. The lake can be reached by a day hike or several hours trekking from the town of Leymebamba. Another site is the Abiseo National Park where the species is quite common in the montane forest areas, but this is a remote area and it takes 2-3 days trekking to reach the forested areas.
For most people who see a Pale-billed Antpitta the effort, pain and suffering are considered worthwhile and add to the experience and it is frequently mentioned amongst the top birds of any tour to northern Peru.
Text by Rob Williams.