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Videos of the most magnificent birds in Latin America

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 Ibera 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.

Hyacinth macaws

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 across it’s border. 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.

Andean condors

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 Manu in Peru.

Waved albatross

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.

Resplendent quetzal

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

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 ref throat 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.

King penguins

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. 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.

Harpy eagles

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.

Capuchinbird

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.

TROPICANA BIRD PARK IGUAÇU

Toucan in the Bird Park

Brazil’s Iguaçu Falls National Park is full of exotic wildlife. Exploring the tropical waterfalls is a real ‘bucket-list’ experience, but there’s much more to discover. Often overlooked, is the Parque das Aves or ‘Bird Park’, an ornithological sanctuary. Here rescued birds are find a home. This attraction is a bonus for any wildlife enthusiast. Our private excursion will take a behind the scenes look at the park. You will spend time in the company of chattering songbirds, start at either 7.30am, 10.30am or 2pm. Though we recommend the early morning slot for keen twitchers.

You will have the chance to see staff at work, watch feeding and see rare species up close. Learn how passionate park rangers care for these beautiful, vulnerable creatures. Parque das Aves is also home to a blissful butterfly garden, and a resident boa constrictor. Round the visit off by enjoying some light refreshments and fresh fruit from the region. A delicious, sweet end to this insightful birding experience. This can be booked as part of any tour of the region.

Albatross Breeding Season Comes to Galapagos

The albatross breeding season has started. The waved albatross is the largest species of bird in the Galapagos Islands. They only nest on Española Island, where they can be spotted from the April until the December. This coincides with the cooler season when waters are richer in food. They are called the waved albatross after the wavy lines on their breast. Their courtship ritual is one of the most entertaining spectacles in the archipelago. During the courtship, the male approaches the female, then moves around her. They clack their beaks noisily together and point towards the sky. An eerie rattling sound follow, and much honking prevails. They sway around elaborately leading each other on. The movements are repeated many times. They manage to find their partners from previous years. It is said that they mate for life, which can be up to 40 years. They only lay one large egg on bare ground, which weighs nearly 300g. Once-hatched they rapidly grow, until 6 months later are ready to fledge. One reason they like Española island is it is flat and they can easily take off the cliffs. Film copyright David Horwell.

If you wish to book a Galapagos cruise contact the experts.

9 beautiful exotic birds from Latin America

The thousands of species and sub-species of birds and the high concentration of endemics in Latin America makes it one of the best continents in the world for bird watching. Here are nine of the most spectacular:

Quetzal

Flickr: lgb06

Flickr: lgb06

These shy colourful birds are often considered one of the world’s most beautiful. Part of the trogon family of birds, they are several sub-species found throughout South and Central America. Those who are interested in birding will certainly have heard of the resplendent quetzal, found in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala (who even have the image of a quetzal on their flag). Other than the vibrant colours, the resplendent quetzal’s most prominent feature is their long tail plumes.

Lear’s macaw

Flickr: Joao Quental

Flickr: Joao Quental

Also known as the indigo macaw, this parrot is best known for its brightly colour plumage. Found through the Amazonian region of Brazil, the Lear’s macaw can reach up to 75 cms, almost a kilo in weight and can live up to 50 years.

Keel-billed toucan

This iconic bird will be the most familiar, even to those who take little interest in birding. While there are several species of toucan, the keel-billed toucan’s brightly coloured bill make it the most spectacular. Though the large bill may look cumbersome, it’s actually hollow and extremely light making it easy to collect their diet of fruit and eggs.  They are commonly found in Panama and Costa Rica.

Andean cock-of-the-rock

Found in the misty cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes, the bright orange coloured cock-of-the-rock display a very prominent fan-shaped crest. The males gather in groups to create noisy displays in the hope of attracting a female. One of the best spots to see the cock-of-the-rock is in Peru’s Manu region.

Andean condor

Watching the condors glide above and below you in the Colca Canyon is one of South America’s most amazing experiences. It’s an impressive size, with a wingspan of over 3.3 metres. This black new world vulture is a scavenger feeding on the carcasses of dead cattle or deer. Interestingly, the Andean condor is one of the world’s longest living birds reaching over 70 years.

Inca tern

The Inca tern is a seabird that lives along the Pacific coast of Latin America, primarily Peru and Chile, although it can occasionally be found in Ecuador. It’s most distinctive feature is the white moustache and red-orange coloured feet and beak. It’s one of the larger species of terns reaching around 40 cms.

Capped heron

The capped heron is found throughout the rivers, lakes and mangroves of Latin America from Bolivia to Suriname. This almost all-white heron features a black cap and blue facial features and bill. It mainly feeds on frogs, fish and insects which it captures using a slow walking technique.

Waved albatross

Also known as the Galapagos albatross, these large birds have a wingspan ranging from 2.2-2.5 metres. During mating season, usually May, the entire population of waved albatross descend upon Espanola Island in the Galapagos archipelago. Their unique courtship ritual evolves plenty of in bill-circling, sky-pointing, drunken swagger and bill-clapping. The rest of the time they spend along the coast of Peru and Ecuador and live to 45 years.

Curl-crested aracari

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Flickr: Heather Paul

One of the lesser-known toucan species, the curl-crested aracari can be found along the south-western section of the Amazon basin, the Tambopata National Reserve, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park and the Cristalino State Park. It’s one of the most colourful of the smaller toucan species and one of only three to have red feathers on the nape and shoulders.

To begin organising your birding tour of Latin America, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, send us a message here.

To The End Of The World And Back, A Masterpiece

Guest Blog: Philip & Gillian Moss came on a four week bespoke adventure through Argentina and Chile. Below they write about their experience.

To the end of the world and back – the title David and staff chose for our trip of a lifetime to Argentina/Chile. Despite having discussed the trip in detail, made some adjustments and received a detailed personalised itinerary in a wonderful glossy picture brochure, little did we really imagine what awaited us.

Our first stop was Puerto Piramides on the Valdes Peninsula. We walked into our room at Las Restingas, situated on the beach, and there, from our balcony, we saw southern right whales out in the bay. Our adventure had really begun. Two trips out on the whaling boats brought us not just sightings but incredibly close encounters with mothers and their calves. Words cannot express the emotions at such an experience.

Las Restingas© Philip Moss

Puerto Piramides was referred to by some as a one-horse town, with nothing going on. Yes, it was isolated, the electricity may go off, the water may occasionally not heat up (neither happened to us) but you know what, the best time of day was when the day trippers went home and we were left to enjoy the lovely sandy bay – and the whales – all by ourselves!

Whales Valdes© Philip Moss

Onwards to Ushuaia, ‘Fin del Mundo’, a small but wonderfully characterful city – sporting many brightly coloured dwellings of varied constructions, including corrugated iron. A trip to the Harberton Ranch, where Tommy Goodall, great- grandson of Thomas Bridges, still manages the estate, enabled  close ups with Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins and a visit to a fascinating maritime museum set up by Natalie Prosser, Tommy’s wife. Cruising round Cape Horn on the Stella Australis brought adventures all of its own – clambering on and off zodiacs to land on remote shores – inc Cape Horn, where the weather changed from pleasant sunshine to snowstorm in the blink of an eye. Standing at the top of Cape Horn – if you could call a stoop ‘standing’, having had to crouch down to avoid being blown off, clothed in several warm layers of clothing and waterproofs, you could only wonder and admire explorers of bygone ages, especially when back on board enjoying the warm comforts of the ship.

After four days we disembarked in Chile where our highlight was a visit to the Torres del Paine National Park. A gloriously sunny day made the scenery clear, crisp and bright. The park itself was pristine, but I guess a 4million pesos fine and jail sentence provides a good incentive to take your rubbish away with you!

Torres del Paine© Philip Moss

Back into Argentina and El Calafate and a tour to the Moreno Glacier – awesome. Standing on the deck of a boat or strolling along the walkways you cannot help but be spellbound by the sheer size, the ice blue coloured streaking or the sudden ‘crack’ and calving as chunks of ice fall into the depths below.

Perito Moreno Glacier© Philip Moss

Another sunny day and we are in Bariloche touring the Lake District, one minute reminiscent of Switzerland, next of our own namesake in the UK, yet not ignoring the charm all of its own. An extended stay, due to the airport being unexpectedly ‘snowbound’ for two days, is not to be recommended but was expertly dealt with by SLA and its agents and made what was a difficult situation bearable. Finally away we flew to the Iguazú falls. Our first experience was from the Brazilian side. It was jaw dropping and we were doubtful the Argentinian side could compete the following day. However, with sunshine thrown in there was certainly no disappointment to even consider.

Iguazu Falls© Philip Moss

And so to the close of our trip – a five hour bus ride and then four hour car transfer to Estancia Rincon del Socorro in the Iberá wetlands. Going that distance we knew it had to be worth it; and it was. Not surprisingly it was out in the middle of nowhere so you were surrounded by nature in the raw and bird life and wildlife abounded, not only around the estancia but in the extensive surrounding grounds, where we witnessed a snake peeing and lagoons where birds and cayman flourished.

Ibera© Philip Moss

Our accommodation throughout was first class and our ‘alternative’ title for the trip was ‘Rooms with a View’. A phenomenal trip, well organised, managed and ‘executed’. A true masterpiece.

To start planning your tour of Latin America, get in touch with us here.

Hummingbirds Path Yanacocha

Yanacocha

A short distance west from Quito, as the condor flies, lies Yanacocha or the Inca’s lagoon. Though this pre-hispanic irrigation system has log dried up the old road that passes by here is a gem for nature lovers and bird-watchers. It makes an ideal half-day away from the city. Situated on the slopes of volcano Pichincha, this is a tranquil spot set among high Andean forests, with giant gunnera leaves, native polylepis trees and rare birds such as the Black-breasted puffleg, a kind of hummingbird only found here. We failed to spot one of these but saw about 30 other species including dozens of hummingbirds, a nightjar snoozing a metre from the path. I also saw a tawny antpitta a rare bird indeed. It is a great place for a picnic though watch the altitude as it is over 3,000m. Fortunately the path is quite gentle. For tailor-made birding tours of Ecuador please contact us.

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