Introduction: Birding Brazil

Welcome to the birding blog I maintained during the two years I lived in Brasília and traveled throughout Brazil. With over 1800 bird species, including more than 200 endemics, Brazil could keep a birder busy for a lifetime, much less a few years.  This massive and richly diverse country can be divided into six major biomes – Amazon, Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, Cerrado, Caatinga, and Pampa – each with its own unique avifauna. Given the potential for adding to their life list, birders typically plan to hit several regions in a single trip; for example, the state of Mato Grosso contains outstanding birding sites in the Amazon, Pantanal, and Cerrado, while a trip to Bahia will cover Atlantic Forest, Cerrado, and Caatinga birding. Although my country list barely topped 800 bird species, I focused primarily on seeing endemics and relished visiting sites far off the traditional birding circuit, such as Serra do Navio in the state of Amapá, the Araguaia Valley in Tocantins, and Floresta Nacional do Jamarí in Rondônia.

As more new bird species are described and a definitive field guide is eventually published, independent birders should start arriving in larger numbers, while continuing to draw on classic resources such as Bruce Forrester’s text Birding Brazil and Jeremy Minn’s sites notes as well using new distribution maps from Wiki Aves. But future tourism and scientific research are far from given, as evidenced by recent controversial environmental issues, such as the Belo Monte hydroelectric project and the revision of the Forestry Code, both of which severely threaten the integrity of Amazonia. Although there is a growing community of Brazilian birders and photographers that is passionate about conservation, the country’s leaders risk wagering all its natural resources for the sake of immediate economic growth. Traveling by car between well spaced birding sites, you’ll definitely have time to contemplate how mining, logging, agriculture, and cattle ranching are quickly changing Brazil’s landscape.

While I have since moved on to explore another part of the world, please feel free to contact me with any questions as you plan your trip. Don’t let Portuguese or high prices deter you – go big in Brazil!

Jardim Botânico, Brasília: July 28, 2013

After we moved to Brasília in November 2011, the first bit of birding I did was at the Jardim Botânico, so it was logical to visit one last time before we left the country. Actually, I had a few serious targets in mind, both hummingbird species that are only sporadically recorded in the region: Frilled Coquette and Blue-Tufted Starthroat, the latter of which was recorded last year during Avistar Brasília. This year the event, a birding convention of sorts, will again be held at the park on August 3-4 and should include lectures, photography exhibitions, and birding, of course. While Aimee and I did find a few hummingbird species at the exotic trees in bloom in the Japanese Garden, I knew it was a long shot to add another lifer to my list this late in the game.


To commemorate a recent burn of native vegetation that took place in the reserve back towards the observation tower (periodic fires are a natural phenomenon of the Cerrado ecosystem), I’ll include one of my favorite photographs of a male Shrike-Like Tanager, also taken here a few years ago.

Notable birds seen: Aplomado Falcon, Burrowing Owl, Yellow-Chevroned Parakeet, Peach-Fronted Parakeet, Red-Shouldered Macaw, Fork-Tailed Woodnymph, Swallow-Tailed Hummingbird, Glittering-Throated Emerald, White-Wedged Piculet, Black-Capped Antwren, Lesser Elaenia, Yellow-Bellied Elaenia, Rufous-Browed Peppershrike, Purple-Throated Euphonia.

The Big Five of South America

A play on the big five game animals of Africa, the Big Five of South America are the most wanted mammals on the continent – not by hunters, but wildlife enthusiasts. Unsurprisingly, given the country’s incredible size and diversity, all five can be found in Central Brazil, perhaps even on a single trip to the state of Mato Grosso. For hardcore birders seeing the Big Five is just one of the perks of birding in Brazil, not the main pursuit. Aimee and I were confident in our chances, having the luxury of time, and she finally completed the sweep on a recent trip to Bonito in Mato Grosso do Sul.

Jaguar, Panthera Onca: Pantanal, Mato Grosso


There’s no better place to see a Jaguar than in the Pantanal during the dry season. From July to October the largest fresh water wetlands in the world shrink to a few shallow pools and narrow rivers, resulting in incredible concentrations of wildlife, making for easy prey for Jaguars. We organized two full days of boat trips at the end of the Transpantaneira Highway to target these hulking felines, but also saw a few from the road itself and around our pousada. Their proximity actually put me on edge while I was birding. Who wants to get mauled while chasing down a bird?

Brazilian Tapir, Tapirus terrestris: Pantanal, Mato Grosso


The nocturnal Brazilian Tapir is relatively easy to find, and it’s not unusual to see them at the end of a long day of birding. I’ve even heard reports of them in Brasília National Park, just a few hundred meters from the mineral pools, where hundreds of Brasilienses gather on the weekends to swim. The trick is to go on a game drive at night, scanning the adjacent fields with a high-powered lantern. Aimee and I spotted this gentle giant sipping water during the day while we were on a boat excursion in the Pantanal.

Giant Otter, Pteronura brasiliensis: Pantanal, Mato Grosso


Giant Otters used to range all over the continent, but are now considered endangered with only fragmented and dwindling populations left in Amazonia and the Pantanal. Their fierce demeanor and comportment gives the impression that the struggle for survival in the waters of the neotropics is just as competitive as it is on land. We encountered several family groups of otters while on boat excursions in the Pantanal, their high pitched vocalizations betraying their presence well before we saw them.
 
Maned Wolf, Chrysocyon brachyurus: Emas National Park, Goiás


The Maned Wolf is almost certainly the most difficult of the Big Five to see in the wild. Once ranging across the savannas of Central Brazil, it’s now only rarely encountered in the larger national parks, such as Emas and Chapada dos Veadeiros. There is one site in Brazil where they are regularly seen: Santuario da Caraça in Minas Gerais, where they come each night to the steps of the old monastery to feed on table scrabs. In comparison, five full days of driving and birding in Emas yielded this single glimpse of one of the flagship animals of the Cerrado.

Giant Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla: Serra da Canastra National Park, Minas Gerais


The Giant Anteater is by far the strangest animal of the Big Five with its long, tubular snout and massive shaggy tail. Expansive reserves, like Serra da Canastra National Park, that protect native grasslands should produce a few anteaters, as long as there are plenty of termite mounds around. Sadly, I’ve seen more dead Giant Anteaters along the highways than alive, as they are nocturnal, have poor vision and hearing, and are relatively slow moving, making them vulnerable to speeding semi-trailer trucks.

My Top Ten Birds Seen in Brazil

The list filled up quickly when I picked my personal top ten birds of Brazil. While my country list is relatively short, I’ve lived here for two years and taken the opportunity to make several trips to each major biome, seeing my principal target species more often than not. Most of the species below should come as no surprise then, but I also wanted the list to represent a variety of bird families and geographical regions. Of course, the quality of the encounter matters, too – long, close looks at a relatively common bird are generally worth more than a flyover of a rare one.

Harpy Eagle, Harpia harpyja: Alta Floresta, Mato Grosso


The Harpy Eagle must be the most sought after bird of the neotropics. Sightings are rare, as mating pairs have enormous territories and are sit and wait hunters, never soaring over the forest canopy. When they are seen, they’re typically spotted from canopy towers, and occasionally you’ll meet someone with an incredible story of having surprised one on the forest floor, tearing into its prey. By far the best bet for seeing a Harpy Eagle is to visit an active nest, a half dozen of which are monitored in Brazil. Aimee and I visited two different nesting sites in Mato Grosso, spending long hours marveling over these magnificent eagles in the scope while witnessing a wide variety of behavior, including an adult female feeding an eaglet.

Agami Heron, Agamia agami: Lagoa da Confusão, Tocantins


Rare, shy, and nocturnal to boot, the Agami Heron is another very difficult bird to find. You can spend long hours drifting in a dugout canoe in the Amazon, staring intently into dense, swampy vegetation without seeing one. Part of the difficulty is due to their dark coloration, a rich blend of maroon, green, and blue hues. But when you finally do spot one, with its rapier-like bill protruding impressively from the shadows, it will often tolerate a close approach. While I had seen this heron on a few occasions in Ecuador, I was hoping for classic views of the bird out in the open during the dry season in the Pantanal; however, it wasn’t until one of my last trips, this time to the middle Araguaia Valley, that I finally had the encounter for which I was hoping.

Hyacinth Macaw, Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus: Pantanal, Mato Grosso


Happily, the world’s largest parrot species is also one of the easier ticks in the Pantanal, with most visitors spotting the Hyacinth Macaw on their first day in the region. Thanks to conservation efforts and cooperation from cattle ranchers, a bird that was once faced with extinction has rebounded nicely here, although it is generally absent from the rest of Central Brazil. Regardless of which pousada you choose to visit in the Pantanal, there were no doubt be a few Hyacinth Macaws swooping spectacularly about the farm, perhaps even nesting in one of the manduvi trees, whether in a natural cavity or a nest box.

Capuchinbird, Perissocephalus tricolor: Serra do Navio, Amapá


Anyone who has seen David Attenborough’s documentary “The Life of Birds” has no doubt been captivated by the scene of lekking Capuchinbirds, shot precariously from the canopy of the rainforest. In it, dozens of males are filmed in display, emitting their strange mooing calls forty meters above the forest floor while their bodies contort with the effort. While almost all cotinga species involve the spectacle of the male, the Capuchinbird is unique in its bizarreness. My first encounter with the species in the northern Amazon was a classic one, as I tracked down a lekking site at Serra do Navio near the border with French Guiana. While I only glimpsed a few skittish males from below as they bellowed from the canopy, I was rewarded with much better looks at several individuals feeding with mixed flocks in terra firma forest near Presidente Figueiredo, where I took this photograph.

Collared Puffbird, Bucco capensis: Cristalino Lodge, Mato Grosso


More of a personal choice than a recognized top-ten bird of Brazil, the Collared Puffbird became something of a nemesis bird for me as a I visited the Amazon repeatedly, first in Ecuador and Peru, and then in Brazil. While not terribly rare, the puffbird is another sit and wait species typically only noticed when calling at dawn or dusk. Even then it can be difficult to spot, as it perches motionless in tangles of lianas and vines. Having come close on my own, I didn’t finally see the bird until the final moments of our trip to Cristalino Lodge, when our guide Jorge first heard it calling while we were still in the canopy tower. Racing down the stairs and across the forest floor, we searched in vain as the clock ticked away. Just before we had to turn back to catch our departing boat, Aimee pointed it out perched exquisitely in the understory.

Ferruginous-Backed Antbird, Myrmeciza ferruginea: Presidente Figueiredo, Amazonas


Another species I had seen before moving to Brazil, the Ferruginous-Backed Antbird is still one of my all-time favorite birds. Terrestrial and territorial, this classic antbird responded innocently to the masterful use of playback by Mario Cohn-Haft, whom I had the pleasure of birding with on my visit to the famous INPA observation tower outside of Manaus. Coming right up to us, within a meter of our boots, this male paraded back and forth across a fallen tree, calling proudly as it surveyed the scene. After Mario gave me the thumbs up, I briefly illuminated the dark forest floor to capture this photograph.

Swallow-Tailed Cotinga, Phibalura flavirostris: Intervales State Park, São Paulo


Strange and strikingly patterned, the Swallow-Tailed Cotinga is one of the flagship birds of Southeastern Brazil. After spotting a few of them along the forest edge at Santuario da Caraca in Minas Gerais, I got a much better look at three nesting birds at Intervales State Park. Apparently the species can tolerate degraded habitats, as all three nests were in decorative bushes near small buildings at the park headquarters. The photograph doesn’t do the bird justice, as it’s one of the most unique in all of South America.

Blue Finch, Porphyrospiza caerulescens: Cristalino, Goiás


Another personal favorite but unlikely a top ten target on any visitor’s list, the electric Blue Finch is a burst of color and sound in the rocky savannas of Central Brazil. It took me nearly six months to finally catch one singing at Serra do Cipo, but once I became familiar with its preferred habitat, I was successful on many occasions stirring the bird into action using playback, including at several sites near Brasilia. On this particular occasion, a male popped up from the ground without provocation, as I birded one of the trails in a private reserve called Linda Serra dos Topazios.

Brazilian Merganser, Mergus octosetaceus: Serra da Canastra, Minas Gerais


The critically endangered Brazilian Merganser remains at very few sites in Central Brazil. Inhabiting the rocky, crystalline streams of Serra da Canastra, Chapada dos Veadeiros, and only a few other sites, the Pato-Mergulhao, or diving duck, is definitely one of the most sought-after birds in Brazil. Amazingly, I spotted a solitary male on my first day at Serra da Canastra, but haven’t seen one since, despite many long hours of scanning. Recent records in the Chapada dos Veadeiros are from Catarata do Rio dos Couros and within the national park itself, a six-hour hike from the town of Sao Jorge.

Long-Trained Nightjar, Macropsalis creagra: Intervales State Park, São Paulo


While theoretically I would like to see more owls and nightjars, I don’t enjoy the practice of using playback in the forest in the middle of the night. My most meaningful encounters with nocturnal birds have always been fortuitous, surprising birds from the car or while on foot coming back from a long day’s birding. This spectacular male Long-Trained Nightjar jolted me awake at the end of a midnight drive from Sao Paulo to Intervales State Park. While not Brazil’s rarest nocturnal bird, this encounter certainly eclipses my unsatisfying looks at the White-Winged Nightjar in Emas National Park.

Honorable Mention: Red-Legged Sereima, Sunbittern, Crested Eagle, King Vulture, Horned Sungem, Crimson Topaz, Festive Coquette, Pavonine Cuckoo, Curl-Crested Aracari, Saffron Toucanet, Striolated Puffbird, Kaempfer’s Woodpecker, Cipó Canastero, Slender Antbird, Banded Antbird, Bare-Eyed Antbird, Black-Spotted Bare-Eye, White-Bearded Antshrike, Collared Crescentchest, Blue Manakin, Pin-Tailed Manakin, Sharpbill, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Black-and-Gold Cotinga,  Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, Chestnut-Backed Tanager, Crimson-Fronted Cardinal, Yellow-Shouldered Grosbeak, Scarlet-Headed Blackbird.

Araguaia Valley, Tocantins: June 3-7, 2013

According to some accounts, the principal source of the mighty Araguaia River is located in Emas National Park, where it begins a 2600 kilometer journey northwards through Central Brazil before it ultimately joins with the Tocantins River. About midway along, in a particularly flat stretch, the river is bisected by the Ilha do Bananal, the largest fluvial island in the world. The Araguaia National Park and the island itself form a massive natural and cultural reserve, protecting the indigenous people as well as flora and fauna of the region. While it’s well off the beaten birding track, this part of Brazil boasts a handful of endemic bird species, including the spectacular Kaempfer’s Woodpecker, which was only rediscovered in 2006 after being known from just one specimen collected in 1926.

Located in a transition zone between the Cerrado and Amazonia, the avifauna around the town of Lagao da Confusão consists of an interesting mixture of species, including some freshwater wetlands birds usually targeted in the Pantanal, such as the Jabiru Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, and Agami Heron. Much of the rich fluvial land outside the principal reserves has been converted to agricultural use, but there remain ample stands of swampy vegetation and much riverine deciduous forest is still intact. Depending on your attitude towards undescribed species, there are either four or five endemic species to be found: Kaempfer’s Woodpecker, Bananal Antbird, Crimson-Fronted Cardinal, and Araguaia Spinetail, as well as a new Certhiaxis species, similar to the common Yellow-Chinned Spinetail.


Similar to the Pantanal, the best option for visiting the middle Araguaia Valley is to stay at one of the cattle ranches along the river that have been partially converted into pousadas, or inns. While the principal recreational activity is sport fishing, the infrastructure at these pousadas is certainly functional as a base for birding: simply request an early breakfast and substitute binoculars for fishing poles on boat excursions. In particular, Pousada Praia Alta, located 30km from the town of Lagoa da Confusao, is targeting visiting birders, and the son of the owner of the fazenda, Eduardo, knows multiple territories for most of the regional specialties. While not a bird guide of the highest caliber, he has experience organizing small groups as well as working with larger tours from Field Guides over the last three years led by Brett Whitney.

With my time remaining in Brazil fast running out, I weighed my options for a final birding trip.  Should I chase country endemics yet again in the Atlantic Forest, organize an expedition to Eastern Amazonia, or go after the Araripe Manakin and other Caatinga specialties in Northeastern Brazil? Having lived and birded principally in Central Brazil over the last two years, I decided to take a road trip north to the state of Tocantins instead. While I would have the chance to see relatively fewer new species, I would at least be able to hold my head high when considering my commitment to birding the region. Two recent birding trip reports were invaluable in organizing and executing my own visit to Pousada Praia Alta: Bradley Davis’s successful trip with a client in October 2011, and the short but detailed survey by Eduardo’s cousin, who works as a bird guide in the Southern Pantanal.


I took three days off from work adjacent to a weekend in order to have three entire days for birding, the one-way ten-hour drive occupying most of a day on either end. Of course, one could also fly to Palmas and arrange transport with the pousada, a more manageable a three-hour drive, but monetarily I probably broke even driving my own car, a comfortable 4x4 with high clearance. Along the BR-153 highway, I noted a wide variety of wildlife, including several dead Giant and Collared Anteaters along the side of the road, victims of the merciless semi-truck traffic. While keeping an eye on the road, I saw plenty of birds as well, including Red-Legged Seriema, Greater Rhea, Blue-and-Yellow Macaw and several different raptor species, such as White-Tailed Hawk. Having left Brasilia before dawn, I arrived at the pousada with enough time to organize a boat excursion for later that afternoon, a wonderful way to unwind and get introduced to the avifauna of the region.

After I discussed my target species with Eduardo, making it clear birds exactly I was hoping to see, he took me out to a nearby river island, a reliable territory for an undescribed Certhiaxis species. To me the bird looked exactly like the common Yellow-Chinned Spinetail, with perhaps a little less yellow on the chin, although I imagine this characteristic varies significantly among individuals within the same species. The call is perceptibly different though. Around the island I also ticked Glossy and Barred Antshrikes, Gilded Hummingbird, and Pale-Legged Hornero. The river was full of typical species, including Black Skimmer, Large and Yellow-Billed Terns, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Pied Plover, Bare-Faced Ibis.  As dusk approached, new species were noted down by the water’s edge, such as Bare-Faced Currasow, Chestnut-Bellied Guan, Green Ibis, and Sunbittern, while Golden-Collared Macaws streamed overhead.

I had asked Eduardo about the possibility of seeing Agami Heron here, but he had demurred, noting that the water was still too high, not yet leaving enough exposed river bank. Still, he swung by a section of the river where he regularly finds the heron in the height of the dry season. Easily enough, there was a dark colored and slender heron sneaking down to the river to feed. Eduardo cut the motor and paddled us in cautiously as the heron waded belly deep into the water to hunt. Creeping steadily downriver, it suddenly squawked and flew up into cover, having surprised another Agami Heron moving in the opposite direction. Having missed this rare and beautiful bird on several trips to both the Amazon and Pantanal over the last two years, I was truly euphoric after this encounter, ruminating with great pleasure over my grainy photographs later that evening.


We decided to visit the same island the following morning, exploring some seasonally flooded riverine forest as well. Before arriving at the island though, we surprised some local fishermen that were illegally using nets instead of fishing poles. We gave chase and confronted them angrily as they attempted to paddle into cover and ditch their boat for the security of the forest. Eduardo decided to contact the authorities from IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental federal institute, returning to camp to make calls and organize a search party. Meanwhile, I hung out on the island, locating the new Certhiaxis species without trouble and searching around for other interesting birds. I also kept my eyes on the two fishermen, who stashed their catch and gear, fleeing the scene on foot. With our assistance, the IBAMA inspectors eventually found and seized a huge cooler of fresh fish on ice, but they were unable to locate the principal contraband, that is the net.

Eventually, we moved on to do some more birding, noting four kingfisher species and the spectacular Hoatzin on our way to a small trailhead. In the partially flooded vegetation, I noted Little Cuckoo, Glossy Antshrike, Ashy-Headed Greenlet, White-Fringed Antwren, and Buff-Breasted Wren. A bit of playback aroused a pair of Band-Tailed Antbirds, the male of which became very aggressive while fanning its tail and raising a hidden patch of white feathers on its nape. Lettered Aracari, White-Wedged Piculet, and Rufous-Tailed Jacamar were also present along this short trail that provided access to a small oxbow lake nearby. All the while, Eduardo gave me plenty of space, preferring to show me areas for birding and then backing away and minding his own business. Judging from our conversations, he’s definitely interested in birds and becoming a better birder, but he had forgotten his binoculars in Palmas and was struggling to appreciate the tiny and cryptic antbirds, wrens, and flycatchers we had seen along this stretch.


Before returning to the pousada for lunch, I tried playback for a few species from the comfort of the boat. Rusty-Backed Spinetail was an easy tick, and a magnificent Long-Billed Woodcreeper proved to be just nearby, responding inquisitively to a few whistles in imitation of its haunting call. A pair of American Pygmy Kingfishers was busy fishing from low perches deep in cover, and we occasionally heard a subtle splash as they dove in after their prey. Alongside our boat a river dolphin surfaced for air a few times, offering brief and partial glimpses of this endangered animal. Back at the pousada, I spent a while poking around the grounds ticking a few common species, such as White and Green-Barred Woodpeckers, Orange-Fronted Finch, and Palm Tanager. I spotted an immature Long-Billed Starthroat perched in a tree and watched in fascination as dozens of Blue Ground Doves collected on the tall sandbar across the river – hence, Pousada Praia Alta – where someone had spread grain, presumably to attract wildlife.

Later in the afternoon, we briefly birded a road adjacent to the river to try for Araguaia Spinetail but got no response from playback. A midsized hermit then swooped in to investigate us, fitting the description of the Maranhao Hermit, another country regional endemic. After picking up a few new birds, such as Rusty-Fronted Tody-Flycathcer and Great Antshrike, we moved on to a neighboring farm, heading towards a patch of remaining swampy forest where Eduardo had had success locating the Bananal Antbird. From what I observed at several farms during the trip, the individual soy and rice fields in this region are separated by an elevated grid of roads and irrigation canals, which are mostly still lined with native vegetation. This absence of clear cutting, combined with the presence of some original stands of swamp forest, sustains a healthy population of birds and mammals. For example, we saw dozens of Marsh Deer grazing in the fields and large groups of waders and ducks gathered at small pools, including Horned Screamer and Orinoco Duck. According to Bradley Davis’s trip report, in the right season this is perfect habitat for migrating seedeaters as well (in October 2011, he recorded Marsh, Dark-Throated, Rufous-Rumped, and Chestnut Seedeaters, as well as more common species).


Although we struck out on the endemic antbird and didn’t really have a chance to see anything new, I definitely enjoyed this type of birding, and we lingered after sunset to look for mammals and nightjars. We saw dozens of Pauraque on the road, and a curious Crab-Eating Fox approached the car within a few meters. Streams of bats and nighthawks were feeding over the irrigation canals, but it was difficult for me to identify them. One was particularly light colored, and I wondered whether it might be a Sand-Colored Nighthawk, but without another experienced birder present, I was doubtful. Back at the pousada we looked around the grain silo for the resident pair of Barn Owls, but apparently it was still too early. After a few beers and another hearty meal of grilled meat and fish, I crashed in my room for the night. Eduardo mentioned the following day that the owls were flying around the pousada shortly after I went to bed.

We were back at the same patch of swamp forest early the following morning, where two male Bananal Antbirds responded immediately to playback. While the male is equal in appearance to the Mato Grosso Antbird, their calls are certainly different; on the other hand, the females are unique, but female antbirds don’t typically respond to playback in the same territorial manner as males. Although this patch of forest looked promising, there was no other sign of bird activity here, so we continued along the end of the road towards the mighty Rio Araguaia. The ferry is no longer in operation, as the indigenous community on Ilha do Bananal has shut off access to visitors, and so we admired the island from afar. There’s another large farm at the end of the road, where Eduardo has seen Crimson-Fronted Cardinal and regularly records Orinoco Goose.

The narrow strip of vegetation along an irrigation canal that Eduardo pointed out didn’t look very promising, especially with a propeller plane buzzing overhead and spraying pesticides over the soy field; however, it only took a few minutes for us to locate a pair of Crimson-Fronted Cardinals. There was nowhere for them to go, and I was able to track them up and down the canal for thirty minutes, never succeeding in obtaining good photographs, but enjoying their company nevertheless. I also kicked up a pair of Long-Tailed Ground Doves, my fourth lifer of the morning. In the afternoon, we set out again in search of the Araguaia Spinetail, visiting a variety of sights along the river with the appropriate habitat of dense, dry scrub. At one point, we came across a Brazilian Tapir swimming across the river, which abruptly turned around and charged away into the riverine vegetation. We only managed a brief, distant reply from the spinetail and dusk, but resolved to return to the same sight the following day.


Our target bird on my final full day was Kaempfer’s Woodpecker. After much searching, Eduardo’s cousin had discovered a territory at a farm just outside of Lagoa da Confusao. Apparently, the woodpecker’s habitat is gallery or deciduous forest with a bamboo understory, and sure enough the forest along the entrance road to this particular farm revealed a few patches of bamboo. Unfortunately, the owners of the farm had just cleared and burned a hundred meter strip of the forest, exactly where the woodpeckers had first been sighted several years ago. To make matters worse, there was a sizable charcoal production operation eating away at the forest from the opposite side. Despite the obvious habitat destruction going on right before our eyes – the sound of chainsaws and the smell of burning wood were overpowering – we heard a woodpecker vocalizing as soon as we exited the car. Playback yielded a few flyovers and eventually a three-second glimpse of a gorgeous male before the pair fled the scene.


After birding a short track and picking up a few new more species for the trip, including Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Cream-Colored Woodpecker, and White-Flanked Antwren, we returned to try for the woodpecker again. I even returned the follow morning before I drove back to Brasilia, but got nothing in response to playback. Eduardo had put it bluntly: “dias contados.” Indeed, the woodpecker’s days are numbered at this particular site, although photographic records from Wiki Aves show the bird has many known territories in the region. No doubt Eduardo and his cousin will find another appropriate site. Our last excursion later that afternoon finally yielded my last target bird, the Araguaia Spinetail, and we also spotted another Agami Heron hunting on an open beach after sunset. Having seen all my target birds, I opted for an early return the following morning, very pleased with both the birds and the company I found at Pousada Praia Alta.

Notable birds seen: Red-Legged Seriema, Greater Rhea, Undulated Tinamou, Bare-Faced Curassow, Hoatzin, Chestnut-Bellied Guan, Horned Screamer, Muscovy Duck, White-Faced Whistling Duck, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck, Orinoco Goose, Brazilian Teal, Striated Heron, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Agami Heron, Cocoi Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Buff-Necked Ibis, Green Ibis, Bare-Faced Ibis, Limpkin, Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Osprey, Snail Kite, Black-Collared Kite, White-Tailed Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Grey-Necked Wood Rail, Giant Wood Rail, Sunbittern, Wattled Jacana, Pied Plover, Black-Necked Stilt, Yellow-Billed Tern, Large-Billed Tern, Black Skimmer, Pale-Vented Pigeon, Long-Tailed Ground Dove, Scaled Dove, Blue Ground Dove, Gray-Fronted Dove, Golden-Collared Macaw, Yellow-Chevroned Parakeet, Orange-Winged Amazon, Peach-Fronted Parakeet, Little Cuckoo, Greater Ani, Guira Cuckoo, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Burrowing Owl, Band-Tailed Nighthawk, Pauraque, Ashy-Tailed Swift, Maranhao Hermit, Swallow-Tailed Hummingbird, Gilded Sapphire, Glittering-Throated Emerald, White-Tailed Goldenthroat, Long-Billed Starthroat, American Pygmy Kingfisher, Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher, Ringed Kingfisher, Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Rufous-Tailed Jacamar, Swallow-Winged Puffbird, Black-Fronted Nunbird, Lettered Araçari, Channel-Billed Toucan, Toco Toucan, Green-Barred Woodpecker, White-Wedged Piculet, White Woodpecker, Cream-Colored Woodpecker, Kaempfer’s Woodpecker, Blond-Crested Woodpecker, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Long-Billed Woodcreeper, Band-Tailed Hornero, Pale-Legged Hornero, Araguaia Spinetail, new Certhiaxis spinetail, Yellow-Chinned Spinetail, Rusty-Backed Spinetail, Greater Thornbird, Glossy Antshrike, Great Antshrike, Barred Antshrike, Black-Capped Antwren, White-Flanked Antwren, Band-Tailed Antbird, Southern White-Fringed Antwren, Bananal Antbird, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Rusty-Fronted Tody-Flycatcher, Vermillion Flycatcher, Black-Backed Water Tyrant, White-Headed Marsh Tyrant, Rusty-Margined Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee, Boat-Billed Flycatcher, White-Rumped Monjita, Short-Crested Flycatcher, Black-Tailed Tityra, Curl-Crested Jay, Brown-Chested Martin, White-Winged Swallow, Chalk-Browed Mockingbird, Black-Capped Donacobius, Buff-Breasted Wren, Yellowish Pipit, Masked Gnatcatcher, Ashy-Headed Greenlet, Orange-Headed Tanager, Purple-Throated Euphonia, Palm Tanager, Hooded Tanager, Bananaquit, Chestnut-Vented Conebill, Silver-Beaked Tanager, White-Lined Tanager, Crimson-Fronted Cardinal, Grayish Saltator, Double-Collared Seedeater, Yellow-Browed Sparrow, Wedge-Tailed Grassfinch, Orange-Fronted Yellow-Finch, Chopi Blackbird, Chestnut-Capped Blackbird, Yellow-Rumped Cacique.
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