Latin America has the most diverse range of avifauna on earth. More than 3,000 different species of birdlife can be found from the mountains down to the coast. Notably places birders should visit are the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the cloud forests of Peru, the Atlantic coastal forest in Brazil, the Iberá Wetlands in Argentina, and the Boquete Highlands in Panama. Here’s a rundown of the most magnificent birds in Latin America that all birders should tick off their lists.
The hyacinth macaw is part of the parrot family and is native to the rainforests of South America. It is characterized by its cobalt blue feathers. It is the largest of the parrot family at maturity can reach up to a metre long from its head to the bottom of its tail. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade, hyacinth macaws are listed as vulnerable. We can recommend spots in the Pantanal where you will definitely see them.
Andean condors inhabit much of the high Andes Mountains. It’s large, with a wingspan off well over 3 metres and is part of the vulture family. They circle on the thermals looking out for dead animals to scavenge. It has one of the longest lives of any bird, with some living to over 70 years. Perhaps one of the best places to see this impressive bird is in Peru’s Colca Canyon.
Cock of the Rock
Though small, the cock of the rock is one of the most colourful birds in Latin America. Inhabiting the misty cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes, these birds are characterized by bright orange feathers including a prominent fan-shaped crest. They congregate in leks where the males display in the hope of attracting a mate. If you want to see a cock of the rock, be sure to visit the cloud forests of Ecuador or Manu in Peru.
These huge 2.5 metre birds descend upon Espanola island in the Galapagos during the mating season in May. Most visit the island to view the majestic birds’ mating ritual of bill circling, sky pointing, and bill clapping. The rest of the year they spend along the coast of Peru and Ecuador. Interestingly, the waved albatross can live up to 45 years.
The resplendent quetzal is found in the cloud forests of Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, and Costa Rica. There are several different sub-species, and they are often considered by many as the most beautiful birds in the world. These solitary creatures are part of the trogon family and are usually found on their own or very small groups.
Magnificent frigatebirds have a large wingspan and are known for stealing the food from other birds. This has led to the Spanish calling the pirate birds. The males have a layer of shiny black feathers along their body and a large red throat pouch which they inflate during mating season to attract a mate. Females are large then the males, and have white breast and shoulder feathers.
Blue footed boobies
Though blue footed boobies can be found along the coast of Ecuador and Peru, the biggest populations are on the Galapagos Islands, and are one of the archipelago’s biggest draws. They are easily recognised by their blue feet which they stamp up and down to impress a female. They reach almost a metre in height (the females are generally taller) and they have a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres.
Most of the population of king penguins are found in the Antarctic, but there is a small population of king penguins on the Falkland Islands and another in Tierra del Fuego. King penguins are around a metre tall and are expert swimmers. While looking for prey like small fish and quid, they often dive down to over 100 metres, though some reach depths three times this.
The beautiful harpy eagle is found throughout the Americas and is one of the most powerful raptor species. They can be seen in parts of the lowland rainforests in Brazil and Central America gliding around on the morning thermal. They have huge talons which they use to grab prey and can lift animals that are as heavy as they are.
This funny looking bird is found in Northern Brazil and Guyana. It’s part of the cotingidae family and is famous among birders as having one of the most unique vocalisations, a low rumble like a cow. It’s got a strange head formation which makes it easy to spot.
Want to see the bird life of Latin America? To start planning, call one of our birding experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.