Parque da Cidade, Brasilia: December 7, 2011

I’ve visited the massive city park almost everyday during the last few weeks, as it’s only a short walk from my apartment and boasts approximately four million square meters of green space. Usually I’m walking or running the paved trail that winds past the various courts, pools, ponds, playgrounds, and amusement parks all found here (seriously, there’s a roller coaster and a racing car track in one corner of the park). On occasion, though, I’ll bring my camera and stalk around the grounds off the trail to see what birds I can document.

The city park was actually renamed Sara Kubitschek Park, in honor of the wife of the former president, who realized in 1956 the construction of the long-dreamed of national capital of Brasilia in the far interior of the country (the city was officially inaugurated in 1960). The park was part of the original design of the city whose architects included Lucio Costa and Oscar Neimeyer. the latter famous for the aesthetic use of reinforced concrete in his buildings. While there’s not much design in the park that catches my eye (much of it is overgrown or run down), the landscaping in general echoes the sparsely wooded grasslands of the cerrado.

Although there are stands of non-native conifers and plenty of introduced grasses, many of the trees and shrubs are exactly what you’ll find in the less disturbed countryside around Brasilia. Now that the park’s landscaping is fully mature, the birds have swarmed in, making it a respectable, if isolated, urban site for birding. In particular, many species of tyrant flycatchers abound, including Fork-Tailed Flycatcher, Gray Monjita, Campo Suiriri, Great Kiskadee, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, and Tropical Kingbird. Also, omnipresent are Rufous Hornero, Southern Crested Caracara, Guira Cuckoo, Rufous-Fronted Thornbird, Chalk-Browed Mockingbird, Chopi Blackbird, and various thrushes and finches.

Birding a public space anywhere in Latin America can be a risky proposition, especially in crowded urban areas; however, the city park of Brasilia is surprisingly safe, patrolled extensively by police in cars, on foot, and on horseback. Although there are a few vagrants on occasion, for the most part visitors to the park are from the middle and upper class, simply looking to exercise or tan (in fact, many men prefer to accomplish both tasks at the same time by jogging in their speedos). Still, I prefer to carry my camera in an unassuming plastic bag and never take it out in front of other people. Judging from these and other photos I’ve taken here, the park is not such a bad local patch.

Notable birds seen: Whistling Heron, Southern Crested Caracara, Guira Cuckoo, Burrowing Owl, White-Vented Violetear, Swallow-Tailed Hummingbird, Campo Flicker, Rufous-Fronted Thornbird, Campo Suiriri, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher, Gray Monjita, Fork-Tailed Flycatcher, Saffron Finch, Chopi Blackbird.

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