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The Desert Marsh

Sam Brown lives in Lima, Peru! Here Sam compares Pantanos de Villa, and the bird species found there, to... Dorset!

If I say the word “desert”, what do you think of; I think of a fairly dry, sandy and lifeless place except for humans and the occasional animal, right? But, no, not all deserts are like that. In Peru, between the Atacama Desert and the Pacific coast lies Lima, Peru’s capital city. This is what gives Pantanos de Villa (the marshes of the town) its really unlikely location. But against all the odds, Pantanos de Villa is home to resident birds and is a great check point for migratory species.

Pantanos de Villa


Pantanos de Villa spans an area of 263 hectares (2.63 km2) of marshes and lakes, and over 200 species of birds. Within its limits it contains three lakes (plus a very small one). A very large portion of it is covered with reeds. These reeds reach 2 metres above water and 2 metres below. 

I’ve said before that Pantanos de Villa owns three lakes. So where does all this water come from? I thought that maybe its water comes from the sea but after a bit of searching and a leaflet I found an answer. Pantanos de Villa gets its water from streams that flow out of the river “Rimac”.

The ancient populations constructed streams that come from the river “Rimac” so this area could be used for agricultural purposes and when the Spanish came they also used it for the same purposes. Sadly people started building and raising horses which made Pantanos de Villa much smaller.

Bird life


When I made my trip to Pantanos de Villa I recognized the same or similar birds to Dorset. I was quite surprised to find out this because there are no deserts in Great Britain, never mind Dorset! But there is the similarity that both Dorset and Pantanos de Villa are coastal and have marshes.

I’m going to compare some birds with Radipole Lake, which is a marsh in Dorset. Some of the most common birds in Pantanos de Villa are cormorants. These are black birds that give a pig like call. I also saw oystercatchers (picture left). These birds have long, thin, red beaks to catch their food.

Moorhens are also often seen in the reeds. These are also black birds with a red and yellow beak. Egrets are also a common sight, easily distinguishable by their white feathering and long yellow legs. The Mallard is a common duck; the males have green feathering on their heads, females are brown with dark streaks.

So I hope I have made my point - Pantanos de Villa is an incredible diverse and unique place with hundreds of birds a year. So if by chance you are in Lima, see if you can make a time to go to Pantanos de Villa and see the incredible wildlife it has.

Sam Brown
Aged 12

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