Great Black Hawk
White-breasted Hawk
Barn Owl


P e r q u i n

Last visited 3rd September 2005

Perquin is situated in the East of the country near the Honduran border. During the civil war it was the base for the FMLN guerillas and there are a number of interesting places to visit, such as the FMLN museum. The area around Perquin offers two main habitats: dry deciduous forest and pine forest.

Pines cover most of the surrounding hillsides, with the best place to visit being Cerro El Pericon. This is a hill just to the South of Perquin that is accessed from a ridge that climbs up from the South. The road is steep in places and a four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended, especially in the wet season. There is good pine forest birding all the way up. It is a good site for White-breasted Hawk (this is one of my sites for studying the nesting behaviour of this little known species) and various other highland specialists such as King Vulture, Greater Swallow-tailed Swift, Chestnut-collared Swift, White-throated Swift, Bushy-crested Jay and Grace’s Warbler. At the top of the hill there is an area of open rock with views across the valley below. This is a great spot to watch raptors during migration. I have only made one brief visit during the autumn migration and had good numbers of Swainson’s and Broad-winged hawks passing through, along with an immature Great Black Hawk, which was presumably a resident bird rather than a migrant. In spring I have regularly had large groups of raptors moving through. In the early mornings Collared Forest-Falcons, Buffy-crowned Wood-Partriges and Pheasant Cuckoos can all be heard calling, but they are all very difficult to track down. All around the hillside you will see foxholes that are a remnant of the defenses of the FMLN guerrillas during the recent civil war.

Many of the lowland areas have not been farmed because of the large areas of bare rock. The Rio Sapo is such an area and the habitat is an odd dry forest, mostly comprised of low scrub. There is a trail network, but be warned that the open rocky areas make it very difficult to follow the trails without getting lost and I strongly advise you to take a guide unless you are very careful. This is a good place to find Long-tailed Manikins, Lesser Roadrunners, Salvin’s Emerald and various orioles. It is possible to sleep in bunks or camp at the Rio Sapo and they can provide food if you warn them in advance. Accommodation and guides need to be organized at the office in Perkin, which is on the north side of the main square in the town centre. The best bird guide in the area is Jose (Santiago) Serafin. Alternatively, the Hotel Perkin Lenka, which is just south of the town, can organize guides for you (probably Santiago). This is where I always stay. It has very good cabins, an excellent restaurant and a great atmosphere. It also has very nice eco-friendly grounds which have a good selection of birds. Two good birds that I have seen here are White-throated Flycatcher and Plain-capped Starthroat; neither of which I have ever seen anywhere else. I also once saw a couple of Mississippi Kites migrating over, which were the second and third records for the country and there are Mottled Owls in the gardens. The owners are interested in wildlife and they have several hummingbird feeders hanging up outside their private house. In the reception area they have a number of field guides that you can look at and they sell copies of ‘a checklist of the birds of El Salvador’ by Oliver Komar and Juan-Pablo Dominguez, which is essential reading (in Spanish) for anyone birding in El Salvador. At about 50 dollars for a cabin the hotel may be a bit overpriced for some visitors, but apparently there is cheaper accommodation available in town. Once, when the Perkin Lenka was full, I stayed in El Ocotal, just down the road. I saw a Whiskered Screech-Owl by the car park.


Take the main road up towards Perquin from San Francisco Gotera. Just after km 201 take the gravel road to your right signposted to Arambala which will take you towards Cerro El Pericon and the Rio Sapo (if you continue on the main road for another 3.4km (2.1 miles) and you will see the Hotel Perkin Lenka on your left). After about 2.5km (1.5 miles) on this gravel track you will reach the town centre of Arambala and a T junction. Go left, and then at the bottom of the hill turn right. Go up the hill for about 1.2km (0.75 miles) where you will see a dirt track heading up the ridge to your left. This leads up to Cerro El Pericon. To reach Rio Sapo, do not take this left but continue straight on. After about 1.5km there is a junction with a sign pointing right to El Mezote 1.5km (the area of an infamous civil war massacre). Take the left turn which after about a 1.5km crosses the Rio Sapo. Shortly after crossing the river there is a very poor quality dirt track to your left which takes you down to the car park. You will not get through without high clearance. Use the stepping stones to cross the river and go over the wire fence on the opposite bank. Look for a path that takes you a few hundred metres through dry scrub habitat up to the camp site and headquarters.

Another area to visit lies along the road leading to the frontier with Honduras. Continue on the main road past the turning to Arambala and there is a turning on your right in a small community. This is a good quality gravel road. After a few kilometers you will see Llano de Muerto, which is a resort where you can stay. Just after Llano de Muerto there is a small track to your left which takes you down into some good quality oak and pine oak forest. After about a km or so it reaches the Rio Negro, which marks the border with Honduras.

To get to Perquin, there are two direct buses from San Miguel that head to the frontier at Marcala. However, apparently, you are better off getting one of the buses that leaves San Miguel every 15 minutes to go to San Francisco Gotera. From Gotera there are pick-ups that go regularly up to Perquin. Just flag them down as they pass. The morning bus from San Miguel passes the Perkin Lenka at 7am on its way to the frontier at Marcala. It then returns and passes the Perkin Lenka at 8am on its way back, so presumably it must leave Marcala at about 7.30 on the return trip. Another one passes the Perkin Lenka at 1pm on its way to Marcala and passes at 3pm on its way back to San Miguel. To get to Rio Sapo you can catch a bus from the main road at the Arambala turn off. One passes at 8.30am and the other one at 12.00. It drops you at the turn off after the bridge and you have to walk down the dirt track to the car park. The buses back to the main road are at 6.30 am and at 1pm.

Cerro El Pericon May 03

El Pericon Oct 03

El Pericon Oct 03 (1)

El Pericon Oct 03 (4)

Perkin Dec 03

Perkin hawk site Dec 03

Rio Sapo Dec 03

Rio Sapo May 03

Rio Sapo May 03 (1)

Rio Sapo May 03 (2)

Rio Sapo May 03 (4)

Species list (23 – 24.2.02 / 6 – 7.4.02 / 29-30.3.03 / 23 - 25.4.03 / 10 – 11.5.03 / 24 – 25.5.03 / 7 – 8.6.03 / 25.10.03 / 24-27.12.03 / 7-8.2.04 + many more)

English name Genus Species Abundance
Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge. Dendrortyx leucophrys F
Great Blue Heron. Ardea herodias U
Black Vulture. Coragyps atratus C
Turkey Vulture. Cathartes aura C
King Vulture. Sarcoramphus papa F
Osprey. Pandion haliaetus F
Swallow-tailed Kite. Elanoides forficatus F
Mississippi Kite. Ictinia mississippiensis U
(White-breasted Hawk) Accipiter (chionogaster) F
Gray Hawk. Asturina nitida F
Common Black-Hawk. Buteogallus anthracinus F
Roadside Hawk. Buteo magnirostris C
Broad-winged Hawk. Buteo platypterus C
Short-tailed Hawk. Buteo brachyurus F
Swainson’s Hawk. Buteo swainsoni C
Red-tailed Hawk. Buteo jamaicensis F
Collared Forest-Falcon. Micrastur semitorquatus F
Laughing Falcon. Herpetotheres cachinnans F
American Kestrel. Falco sparverius F
Spotted Sandpiper. Actitis macularia C
Red-billed Pigeon. Patagioenas flavirostris F
Band-tailed Pigeon. Patagioenas fasciata C
Inca Dove. Columbina inca C
Common Ground-Dove. Columbina passerina F
Ruddy Ground-Dove. Columbina talpacoti C
White-tipped Dove. Leptotila verreauxi C
(Red-throated) Parakeet. Aratinga (rubritorques) F
White-fronted Parrot. Amazona albifrons C
Mangrove Cuckoo. Coccyzus minor U
Squirrel Cuckoo. Piaya cayana F
Pheasant Cuckoo. Dromococcyx phasianellus U
Lesser Roadrunner. Geococcyx velox F
Groove-billed Ani. Crotophaga sulcirostris C
Whiskered Screech-Owl. Megascops trichopsis F
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. Glaucidium brasilianum F
Mottled Owl. Ciccaba virgata F
Lesser Nighthawk. Chordeiles acutipennis C
Common Nighthawk. Chordeiles minor C
Common Pauraque. Nyctidromus albicollis F
Chestnut-collared Swift. Streptoprocne rutila C
White-collared Swift. Streptoprocne zonaris C
Vaux’s Swift. Chaetura vauxi C
White-throated Swift. Aeronautes saxatalis F
Great Swallow-tailed Swift. Panyptila sanctihieronymi F
Violet Sabrewing. Campylopterus hemileucurus F
(Salvin's Emerald) Chlorostilbon (salvini) F
Azure-crowned Hummingbird. Amazilia cyanocephala F
Berylline Hummingbird. Amazilia beryllina C
Cinnamon Hummingbird. Amazilia rutila C
Plain-capped Starthroat. Heliomaster constantii U
Ruby-throated Hummingbird. Archilochus colubris F
Blue-crowned Motmot. Momotus momota C
Turquoise-browed Motmot. Eumomota superciliosa C
Acorn Woodpecker. Melanerpes formicivorus F
Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Melanerpes aurifrons C
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Sphyrapicus varius U
Golden-olive Woodpecker. Piculus rubiginosus F
Northern (Guatemalan) Flicker. Colaptes auratus F
Lineated Woodpecker. Dryocopus lineatus F
Barred Antshrike. Thamnophilus doliatus F
Greater Pewee. Contopus pertinax F
Tropical Pewee. Contopus cinereus F
Willow Flycatcher. Empidonax traillii F
White-throated Flycatcher. Empidonax albigularis U
Least Flycatcher. Empidonax minimus U
Dusky-capped Flycatcher. Myiarchus tuberculifer C
Great Kiskadee. Pitangus sulphuratus C
Boat-billed Flycatcher. Megarynchus pitangua F
Social Flycatcher. Myiozetetes similis C
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. Myiodynastes luteiventris C
Tropical Kingbird. Tyrannus melancholicus C
Western Kingbird. Tyrannus verticalis F
Masked Tityra. Tityra semifasciata F
Long-tailed Manakin. Chiroxiphia linearis F
Blue-headed Vireo. Vireo solitarius F
Warbling Vireo. Vireo gilvus U
Rufous-browed Peppershrike. Cyclarhis gujanensis F
White-throated Magpie-Jay. Calocitta formosa F
Bushy-crested Jay. Cyanocorax melanocyaneus C
Gray-breasted Martin. Progne chalybea C
Violet-green Swallow. Tachycineta thalassina F
Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Stelgidopteryx serripennis C
Cliff Swallow. Petrochelidon pyrrhonota C
Barn Swallow. Hirundo rustica C
Rufous-naped Wren. Campylorhynchus rufinucha C
Plain Wren. Thryothorus modestus F
(Southern) House Wren. Troglodytes (musculus) aedon C
White-lored Gnatcatcher. Polioptila albiloris F
Eastern Bluebird. Sialia sialis F
Brown-backed Solitaire. Myadestes occidentalis F
Swainson’s Thrush. Catharus ustulatus C
Clay-colored (Thrush). Turdus grayi C
Olive Warbler. Peucedramus taeniatus U
Tennessee Warbler. Vermivora peregrina C
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Dendroica coronata F
Black-throated Green Warbler. Dendroica virens C
Townsend’s Warbler. Dendroica townsendi C
Hermit Warbler. Dendroica occidentalis F
Grace’s Warbler. Dendroica graciae C
Black-and-white Warbler. Mniotilta varia C
American Redstart. Setophaga ruticilla U
Northern Waterthrush. Seiurus noveboracensis F
Louisiana Waterthrush. Seiurus motacilla U
MacGillivray’s Warbler. Oporornis tolmiei F
Hooded Warbler. Wilsonia citrina U
Wilson’s Warbler. Wilsonia pusilla C
Painted Redstart. Myioborus pictus U
Slate-throated Redstart. Myioborus miniatus U
(Chestnut)-capped Warbler Basileuterus (delattrii) F
Hepatic Tanager. Piranga flava F
Summer Tanager. Piranga rubra F
Western Tanager. Piranga ludoviciana F
Flame-colored Tanager. Piranga bidentata F
Yellow-winged Tanager. Thraupis abbas F
Rusty Sparrow. Aimophila rufescens F
Black-headed Saltator. Saltator atriceps F
Melodious Blackbird. Dives dives C
Great-tailed Grackle. Quiscalus mexicanus C
Bronzed Cowbird. Molothrus aeneus F
Black-vented Oriole. Icterus wagleri U
Yellow-backed Oriole. Icterus chrysater C
Streak-backed Oriole. Icterus pustulatus C
Spot-breasted Oriole. Icterus pectoralis U
Altamira Oriole. Icterus gularis C
Baltimore Oriole. Icterus galbula F
Lesser Goldfinch. Carduelis psaltria F

.: C=Common ; F=Fairly Common ; U=Uncommon ; R=Rare :.