Birding Brazil - South Americas Largest Wetland

11birdPhotographer: Jim Liscovec

The Pantanal is one of the world's largest tropical wetland areas, and is located mostly within the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, It sprawls over an area estimated at between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometers (54,000 and 75,000 sq mi). About 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing an astonishing biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping to support a dense array of animal species. The name "Pantanal" comes from the Portuguese word pântano, meaning wetland, bog, swamp, quagmire or marsh. As the South America's largest freshwater wetland providing a great variety of habitats such as grasslands, swamps and different forest types, the Pantanal is the site of South America's greatest wildlife concentrations, and birds are no exception. Harboring over 700 species and providing the ideal habitat for breeding for a variety of heron, ibis, egret and stork species the sheer numbers of aquatic and marsh birds here need to be seen to be believed. Species from Brazil are complimented by seasonal visitors from other parts of the Americas.

Day 1: Cuiaba to the PantanalFlight to Cuiaba and continue to the Hotel Matto Grosso. L:D
Days 2-7: The PantanalThe Pantanal is the largest and best-known wetlands in the Americas. The greater part of the region is vast seasonally flooded grassland lying along the upper and middle course of the Paraná River. Our visit concentrates on the northern fringe of this marsh and as such has access to areas of dry grassland, gallery forest and dry woodlands making for a very varied avifauna. We will be birding along the famous Transpantaneira, a dirt road that crosses many of these habitats. When we are at Porto Joffre we take boats out onto the river for a visit to the National Park. Our stay is divided between Porto Joffre, Matto Grosso and the Araras lodges. Anacondas and Caiman are common.
The Hotel in Porto Joffre gives us access to the untouched Pantanal National Park by boat. It is on this boat trip that we hope to see Jaguar, Giant River Otter and Tapir amongst a host of other species in this un-spoilt area. The rough pasture behind the lodge holds dainty Long-tailed Ground-Doves and a roost of impressive Nacunda Nighthawks. We will be able to see a close hand both the Jabiru and Southern Screamer at a roost accompanied by hundreds of egrets and ibises. We shall also see the less common Plumbeous Ibis and hundreds of raptors. These include Grey-headed and Snail Kites, Crane, Savanna, Black-collared, Roadside and Short-tailed Hawks, Southern Crested-Caracara, Yellow-headed Caracara, American Kestrel and Aplomado Falcon. The scattered patches of gallery forest in the area are home to the Hyacinth Macaw. We shall see a good number of these birds and take time to watch them feed and flop about in the palm groves. Along the highway we should see Chestnut-bellied Guan, Chaco Chachalaca and the bizarre Bare-faced Curassow. As well as taking a boat trip in search of mammals we shall take a night drive to see Ocelot, Jaguarundi, Jaguar and Crab-eating Fox, Coatimundi and other mammals. During the day we shall also see a huge variety of birds that may include Anhinga, Muscovy Duck, Brazilian Teal, Whistling, Little Blue, Capped and Cocoi Herons. 
A bit of luck may produce the lovely Agami Heron or a Boat-billed Heron. Bare-faced, Green and Buff-necked Ibises are common and we shall see many hundreds of Roseate Spoonbill, Wood and Maguari Storks, Purple Gallinule and Limpkin. In the drier areas Monk, Peach-fronted and Yellow-chevroned Parakeet and Turquoise-fronted Amazon are common. We shall also look for Little and Striped Cuckoos, Guira Cuckoo, Band-tailed Nighthawk, Glittering-throated Emerald, Blue-crowned Trogon, Green-and-rufous and Pygmy Kingfishers, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White and Pale-crested Woodpeckers, Red-billed Scythebill, Greater Thornbird, Grey-crested Cacholote, Purplish Jay, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Masked Gnatcatcher, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Yellow-billed Cardinals, Saffron and Red-crested Finches, Rusty-collared and White-bellied Seedeaters, White-browed, Chopi and Scarlet-headed Blackbird. If we are lucky we will find one or two of the more uncommon birds of the area, which include Golden-collared Macaw, Black-hooded Parakeet, Buff-bellied Hermit and Golden-green Woodpecker. 
Day 8: Pantonal to Cuiaba

A final mornings walk and visit the Observation Tower (25 meters) from where we have fantastic views of Pantanal. It is a great area for photography. After an early lunch, we drive to Cuiabá for connecting flights to final destinations.

Some Birds: Boat-billed Heron, Capped Heron, Blue-throated Piping-Guan, Bare-faced Curassow, Sungrebe, Osprey, Black-collared Hawk, Toco Toucan, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Blue-fronted Parrot, Amazon, Green and Ringed kingfishers, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Silver-beaked Tanager, Donacobius, Troupial, Blue-crowned Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Golden-green Woodpecker, Buff-bellied Hermit, Plain-crowned Spinetail, Great Antshrike, Mato Grosso Antbird, Band-tailed Antbird, Large-billed Antwren, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Helmeted Manakin, Gray-headed Tanager, Masked Gnatcatcher, Hyacinth Macaw, Golden-collared Macaw, Jabiru and Maguari Stork, Southern Screamer, Great Horned Owl, Great Potoo, Striped Cuckoo, Pygmy Kingfisher, Gray-crested Cacholote, Chotoy Spinetail, Rusty-backed Antwren, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Large-billed Tern, Black Skimmer, Collared Plover, Pied Lapwing, Plumbeous Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, King Vulture, Laughing Falcon, Band-tailed Nighthawk, Hyacinth Macaw, Yellow-rumped Cacique, Greater Rhea, Undulated Tinamou, Chestnut-bellied Guan, Sunbittern, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Hyacinth Macaw, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Pygmy Kingfisher, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Blue-tufted Starthroat, Black-throated Mango, White-wedged Piculet, Pale-crested Woodpecker, Straight-billed Woodcreeper, Red-billed Scythebill, Dull-capped Atilla, Hooded Tanager, Red-crested Finch, Rusty-collared Seedeater
Some Mammals: Marsh Deer, Jaguar, Black Howler Monkey, Giant Otter, Brown Capuchin Monkey, Brazilian Tapir, Pantanal Marmoset, Ocelot, Giant Anteater, Southern Tamandua and Crab-eating Fox.


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