Junin Grebe and Rail

Lake Junin is the second largest lake in Peru with a surface area of 530 km2. Located on a high plateau at 4082 m (13,395 ft) elevation, the lake is part of the upper Mantaro drainage and one of the streams feeding it may be the true source of the Amazon. The shallow lakes reaches only 12 m depth in the middle and is surrounded by extensive reedbeds and marshes. This makes it very productive and it is home to spectacular numbers of waterbirds including 2 species found nowhere else.

The Junin Grebe is a flightless species very similar to the closely related, and able to fly, Silvery Grebe that is also found here. The Junin Grebes are bigger, longer necked and longer billed with a different head shape. They favour the deeper waters far from shore, only coming to the edges to breed in the reedbeds. To see the grebe one needs to take a boat trip into the open waters of the lake; early morning is recommended as winds can make this less pleasant later in the day.

The Junin Rail is taxa in the Black Rail complex and whilst some authorities only regard it as a subspecies, others consider it a unique endemic species. It is certainly highly distinctive. It was a very little know bird until recent work by a local guide has shown that there are reasonable numbers at some points along the shoreline. He can show people the rail in the late afternoon in the reedbeds but the best way to see it is on a clear moonless night when they will come into the open at certain points. Seeing such a rare bird so well under a sky of myriad stars is a magnificent birding experience.

Text by Rob Williams.