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Not Just Jaguars - The Birdlife of the Pantanal by Laura Jeeves

Not Just Jaguars - The Birdlife of the Pantanal by
Article Posted: 09/09/2016
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Not Just Jaguars - The Birdlife of the Pantanal

Travel & Tourism
The vast South American tropical wetland region of the Brazilian Pantanal, in the western state of Mato Grosso (extending into parts of Bolivia and Paraguay), is renowned for its extreme bio diversity and the incredible amount of wildlife it supports. Home to one of the highest concentrations of wildlife on Earth, it is particularly popular for Jaguar holidays, boasting the densest population of the big cat in South America.

While wildlife lovers embark on Jaguar holidays to the Pantanal in the hope of a brief encounter with the secretive and mysterious big cat, the abundant avian life of the region is not quite so elusive.

The Beautiful Birdlife of the Pantanal

The diversity of birdlife in the Pantanal is simply extraordinary – with an estimated 600 species. Regardless of the time of year, amateur and professional birdwatchers are rewarded with a smorgasbord of sightings, including rare and endemic species. The world's largest floodplain (bigger than Britain, to put it in context) contains at least 12 sub-regional ecosystems and, as such, provides a habitat or stopover point for a myriad species.

An Important Migratory Junction

The Pantanal is used as a winter resting ground for migratory avian species using three different flyways – from the north, south and west – meaning at any time there are species as diverse as wood storks, ospreys and flycatchers. A large number of North American migratory species can also be seen, including the Black-necked Stilt, the American Golden Plover and the Upland Sandpiper.

The Magnificent Macaws

Only 20 years ago, the world's largest parrot, the magnificently plumed Hyacinth Macaw, was endangered in the Pantanal, with just 1500 of the beautiful birds left. Today, due to concentrated conservation efforts, the number has swelled to around 6500. It's an uphill battle as the birds have just one chick a year and only eat a certain type of nut.

As well as the Hyacinth Macaw there are numerous other species of macaws, parakeets and parrots, including the Monk Parakeet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Black-hooded Parakeet, Golden-collared Macaw, Red-shouldered Macaw, Red-bellied Macaw, Blue-winged Macaw, Red-and-Green Macaw and the Blue-and-Yellow Macaw.


The highly distinctive oversized bill and black, white and orange plumage of the toucan is a fairly common sight in the Pantanal, mainly in semi-open areas around river corridors, savannahs and sparse woodlands. Because it thrives in this type of habitat, its numbers have not suffered (unlike many other species) due to the extensive deforestation of the lowlands. The Toco Toucan found in Brazil is the largest species of the bird.


Hummingbirds are found in abundance in the seasonally flooded plains of the Southern Pantanal region. The area supports a plethora of nectar-yielding plant species on which Hummingbirds feed. Among the species that may be seen (particularly during the wet season) are the Buff-bellied Hermit, Black-Throated Mango, Glittering-Throated Emerald and the Fork-tailed Woodnymph.

The Best of the Rest

Among the many aquatic birds that make these immense wetlands home is the elegant jabiru, as well as numerous species of herons, egrets, storks, ibis and terns, including the Green, Buff-necked and Plumbeous Ibis, the Black-crowned Night Heron, Boat-billed Heron, Capped Heron and the Striated Heron.

There are several different varieties of woodpeckers (which can often be heard before they're seen), including the Crimson-crested, Pale-crested and Golden-green. While for those who venture out on a night drive to catch sight of the myriad nocturnal species, potoos, owls and nightjars are usually out in force.

Jaguar holidays to the Pantanal are not only the ideal opportunity to catch a once-in-a-lifetime sighting of the big cat in its natural habitat, but also to experience one of the most exciting and fulfilling birdwatching regions on the planet.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.

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