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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

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  • Photograph of Plate-billed Mountain Toucan

    The amazing Plate-billed Mountain Toucan at Bellavista Lodge in Northern Ecuador by Dubi Shapiro.

    SOUTH AMERICA and ANTARCTICA

    The destinations listed and linked below are the ones we believe are the best in South America and Antarctica. They have been chosen very carefully and for a multitude of reasons, but mainly based on personal experience of some of them and on dreams of visiting the rest, dreams resulting from what we have heard, read or seen.

    It is our intention to update this list regularly as we add destinations and it was last updated on the 13th of September 2016.

    If there are any other destinations you think should be on the list below then please Email us. Those that have not made it so far include French Guiana.

    The destinations are listed alphabetically with very brief, usually one-line, summaries for those linked to more detailed pages (to reach these pages click on the destination name). Those not linked to more detailed pages are described in a bit more detail here, in italics.

    For more information see Top 100 Birds, Top 100 Other Wildlife and Top 50 Other Natural Wonders.

    Destinations

    A

    Amazon (Brazil)
    The largest river in the world, flowing through the richest rainforest in the world.

    Antarctica - Emperor Penguins
    Fly in (at great expense) to spend a few days at an Emperor Penguin colony.

    Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands
    Whales, penguins, albatrosses in the most amazing settings on Earth make this A Top Ten Destination.

    Argentina - Northern
    Andean Condor, Rufous-throated Dipper and a brilliant hummingbird called a Red-tailed Comet.

    Argentina - Southern
    Killer Whales 'beaching' in pursuit of sealion pups, Southern Right Whale and Southern Elephant Seal.

    Atlantic Odyssey
    Whales, dolphins and 40 seabird species from Antarctica via South Georgia to Ascension Island.

    B

    Bolivia
    Several spectacular macaws including the endemic Blue-throated.

    Brazil - Amazon
    The largest river in the world, flowing through the richest rainforest in the world.

    Brazil - Central (Minas Gerais)
    Some tour companies tie a trip to the Pantanal with the Campo and Cerrado Region of Minas Gerais state in Central Brazil where the main sites are: Serra da Canastra National Park, where it is possible to see Brazilian Merganser, one of the rarest birds in the world with an estimated population below 250, as well as Giant Anteater, Black-ear-tufted Marmoset, Red-legged Seriema, Aplomado Falcon, Golden-capped Parakeet, Toco Toucan, Campo Miner, Grey-backed Tachuri, Cock-tailed, Sharp-tailed and Streamer-tailed Tyrants, Collared Crescentchest, Helmeted Manakin, White-rimmed and White-striped Warblers, Blue Finch and Yellow-rumped Marshbird; Serra do Cipo National Park, where the main attractions are Hyacinth Visorbearer, possibly Horned Sungem, Cipo Canastero and Cipo (Long-tailed) Cinclodes, along with Cinereous Warbling Finch and Pale-throated Pampa Finch; Serra do Caraca National Park, where there is a chance of Maned Wolf on the monastery steps and Black-ear-tufted Marmoset, as well as Slaty-breasted Wood Rail, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Serra Antwren, Rufous Gnateater, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Swallow-tailed Cotinga and Pin-tailed Manakin; and Caratinga National Park, where Buffy-headed Marmoset, and Brown Howler and Woolly Spider Monkeys occur, and there is a chance of Three-toed Sloth and Giant Helicopter Damselfly. The best time to visit is the dry season, July to October.

    From Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais state it is not far east to the state of Espirito Santo where the adjacent Rio Doce Private Forest Reserve and Sooretama Biological Reserve protect one of the largest remnants of Atlantic coastal lowland rainforest and support Red-billed Curassow, White-necked Hawk, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Black-headed Berryeater and White-winged Cotinga. Not far from there is the town of Santa Theresa where the hummingbird feeders at the home of the late Dr Augusto Ruschi attract a whirl of hummers, including Frilled Coquette. Santa Theresa city park is a good place to see Masked Titi Monkey, Geoffroy’s Marmosets and Common Opossums (on the bird tables at night) and Santa Lucia Reserve near Santa Theresa supports Cinnamon-vented Piha, Bare-throated Bellbird, Sharpbill and many tanagers.

    Brazil - Alta Floresta
    This luxurious Cristalino Lodge is about an hour by road and half an hour by river from Alta Floresta which is accessible by air in one and a half hours from Cuiaba, the gateway to the Pantanal, hence the two destinations are often combined by tour operators. Cristalino is situated in southern Amazonian rainforest, the richest place for birds on Earth, hence nearly 600 bird species have been recorded. Many are thin on the ground and/or shy and skulking though so a stay of at least a week is recommended to stand a chance of seeing some of the numerous specialities such as Razor-billed Curassow, Red-throated Piping-Guan, Zigzag Heron, Harpy Eagle, White-browed Hawk, Cryptic Forest Falcon, Dark-winged Trumpeter, Crimson-bellied and Santarem (Painted) Parakeets, Kawallʼs Parrot, Pavonine Quetzal, Tapajos Hermit, Black-bellied Thorntail, Brown-banded, Rufous-necked and (Eastern) Striolated Puffbirds, Blue-necked Jacamar, Black-girdled Barbet, Curl-crested and Red-necked Aracaris, Gould's Toucanet, Glossy Antshrike, Bare-eyed Antbird, Alta Floresta (Spotted) Antpitta, Zimmerʼs Tody-Tyrant, Flame-crowned and Snow-capped Manakins, Slaty-capped Shrike Vireo, Tooth-billed Wren and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak, as well as more widespread species such as Agami Heron, Sunbittern, Blue-and-yellow, Red-and-green and Scarlet Macaws, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Pompadour, Purple-throated and Spangled Cotingas, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Amazonian Umbrellabird, White-browed Purpletuft, Band-tailed Manakin, Musician Wren and Paradise Tanager. There are two 50 metre high canopy towers, lots of trails and boat trips along the blackwater rivers are available to seek out the birds and mammals, which include Red-handed Howler and several other monkeys. The best time to visit is October-November at the start of the rainy season when more birds are in song and there are more antswarms. Similar species occur at Rio Azul Jungle Lodge, three hours by road from Alta Floresta, including Tapajos Hermit and the forest here is a good place to see the rare Bald Parrot.

    Brazil - Northeastern
    Over 15 new species have been described from this part of Brazil in the last 20 years, even though the main habitat is caatinga not rainforest: arid, badly degraded, low thorny scrub and woodland. It is possible to see a hundred Brazilian endemics in this part of the country where the Boa Nova area in the state of Bahia supports the greatest concentration of endemics in Brazil, although many are rare and highly localised in remnant patches of suitable habitat. They include Lear’s Macaw, only about 600 of which survive in the wild, the brilliant Hooded Visorbearer and the beautiful Araripe Manakin, as well as White-collared Kite, Giant Snipe, Grey-breasted (Maroon-faced) Parakeet, Pygmy Nightjar (Boa Nova), Tawny-browed Owl (Boa Nova), White-winged Potoo, Hook-billed Hermit, Racket-tailed Coquette, Stripe-breasted Starthroat, Ruby Topaz, Gould’s and Spot-billed Toucanets, piculets, spinetails, Great Xenops, Pink-legged Graveteiro, several range-restricted antbirds, Black-cheeked, Ceara (Rufous) and Rufous Gnateaters, Collared Crescentchest, many tyrant flycatchers, Bare-throated Bellbird, Black-headed Berryeater, Cinnamon-vented Piha, Banded and White-winged Cotingas (both in Catitu Reserve, Itacare), Buff-throated Purpletuft, Sharpbill, Band-tailed and Blue Manakins, White-naped Jay and lots of tanagers including Seven-coloured. Mammals include White-tufted-ear and Wied's Black-tufted-ear Marmosets, and Coimbra-Filho's Titi Monkey. The best time for birding is January at the start of the rainy season when more birds are vocal.

    Photograph of Brazilian Laniisoma

    The rare Brazilian Laniisoma, or Shrike-like Cotinga, photographed at REGUA, a regular site for the species, by Lee Dingain.

    Photograph of Black-cheeked Gnateater

    The cute Black-cheeked Gnateater, also photographed at REGUA, by Chris Townend. This shy species is endemic to the 'coastal' forests of eastern Brazil.

    Brazil - Southeastern
    There are more endemic birds in this corner of South America than anywhere else on the continent; 170-180 or more of them, and on a thorough trip lasting nearly a month and including Rio Grande do Sul during the southern spring, October-November, it is possible to record over 550 species, including virtually all of the regional endemics and nearly 100 Brazilian endemics (out of 230 or so). Most of the endemics and localised birds are confined to mostly tiny fragments of remaining Atlantic Forest (2-7% of the original forest cover) and adjacent areas in the states of Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Parana, and they include Black-fronted Piping Guan (in the very birdy Intervales State Park), Red-billed Curassow (Reserva Natural Vale, Linhares), Red-legged Seriema, Red-and-white Crake (coming out of the forest to corn at Intervales SP), Rufous-sided Crake (Curitiba), Giant Snipe (Reserva Ecologica de Guapiacu (REGUA)), Long-trained Nightjar, Surucua Trogon, Saw-billed Hermit (Ilhabela Island State Park, Ubatuba), Festive Coquette (Ubatuba area), Frilled Coquette (one of many hummingbirds which can be seen at feeders in the grounds of the Vita Verde Pousada near Santa Teresa, one of several great hummingbird feeding stations), Emerald-crested and Violet-crested Plovercrests, Rufous-capped Motmot, Three-toed Jacamar, Ariel (Channel-billed) and Red-breasted Toucans, Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanets, lots of woodpeckers, over 30 antbirds including some very large antshrikes, Variegated Antpitta and Black-hooded Antwren (Pereque), Canebrake Groundcreeper (Barigui Park, Curitiba), Black-cheeked and Rufous Gnateaters, Sharpbill, Bare-throated Bellbird, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow (scutatus subspecies, Intervales SP), Black-and-gold, Grey-winged (both at Itororo Lodge, Tres Picos SP and Pico da Caledonia, Nova Friburgo), Swallow-tailed and White-winged Cotingas, Brazilian Laniisoma (Shrike-like Cotinga), Black-headed and Hooded (Itororo Lodge) Berryeaters, Cinnamon-vented Piha, Buff-throated Purpletuft (Ubatuba area), manakins such as Pin-tailed, Black-capped (Agulhas Negras road, Itatiaia National Park) and Wing-barred (Intervales SP) Piprites, Black-legged Dacnis, and numerous fabulous tanagers, not least Black-backed, Brassy-breasted, Brazilian, Chestnut-headed, Diademed, Gilt-edged, Green-headed, Red-necked and the very rare Cherry-throated (Fazenda Caetes where there is one of two fragments of forest supporting about 20 of these birds). There are plenty of mammals too, including marmosets, monkeys and Maned Sloth (Santa Maria de Jetibá Northern Muriqui Reserve).

    Farther south via a short flight, off the beaten track in the state of Rio Grande do Sul out of Porto Alegre it is possible to see a wide range of different mainly wetland and open country birds, including Southern Screamer (Tramandai), Chilean Flamingo, South American Painted Snipe (Lagoa do Peixe National Park near Mostardas), Snowy-crowned Tern (Lagoa do Peixe NP), Red-spectacled Parrot, Crested Doradito (Tramandai) and Many-coloured Rush Tyrant (Tramandai).

    Brazil - Southern - The Pantanal
    Jaguar, Giant Anteater, Hyacinth Macaw, Toco Toucan and lots of waterbirds make this A Top Ten Destination.

    C

    Chile
    Puma, a chance of Blue Whale and birds which include Magellanic Woodpecker.

    Colombia
    Birds, birds, birds, nearly 1900 species of them, more than any other country in the world.

    E

    Emperor Penguins - Antarctica
    Fly in (at great expense) to spend a few days at an Emperor Penguin colony.

    Ecuador - Northern
    More birds per square mile than any other country in the world.

    Ecuador - Southern
    A high degree of regional endemism with lots of very local and little known birds including over 40 species shared only with adjacent northern Peru (the Tumbesian Endemics) together with the incredibly bird-rich eastern Andean slope forests and more widespread birds means it is possible to amass a huge list of birds on a trip to Southern Ecuador; easily over 400 species in two weeks and 650 in three weeks, including over 60 hummingbirds, many of which can be seen at several superb feeding stations, and many tanagers. The star birds include El Oro Parakeet, Long-wattled Umbrellabird, Jocotoco Antpitta (now coming out of the forest to feed on worms supplied by local guides, along with Chestnut-naped and Undulated Antpittas), Tumbes Tyrant (at Zapotillo, the only known site for this species in Ecuador), White-tailed Jay and Orange-throated Tanager, while more widespread spectacular species include Horned Screamer, Oilbird (along the old Loja-Zamora road), Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Club-winged Manakin, Giant Conebill, Tit-like Dacnis, Plushcap, and Golden-crowned and White-capped Tanagers. Possible mammals include Hoffmann's Two-toed Sloth and Mantled Howler Monkey. The best time to look for birds is during January to March because this period usually coincides with the annual rains when resident birds start singing making it easier to find the many skulkers. Make sure you book Jocotoco Foundation’s excellent birding lodges at Buenaventura (El Oro Parakeet and Long-wattled Umbrellabird), Jorupe (Pale-browed Tinamou at feeders) and Tapichalaca (Jocotoco Antpitta) well in advance, as well as Copalinga Lodge, near the Bombuscara entrance to Podocarpus National Park (where Grey Tinamou and Wire-crested Thorntail visit the feeders) and Yankuam Lodge (near where Orange-throated Tanager is easiest to see, and where Spangled Cotinga and White-browed Purpletuft occur).

    F

    Falkland Islands
    King Penguins, Black-browed Albatross colonies and Southern Elephant Seals.

    G

    Galapagos
    Giant Tortoise, Marine Iguana and tame nesting seabirds such as Waved Albatross.

    Guyana
    Guianan Cock-of-the-rock and possibly Crimson Fruitcrow, plus Grey-winged Trumpeter.

    M

    Manu (Southern Peru)
    Clay-licks which attract many macaws, and many other birds such as Pale-winged Trumpeter.

    P

    The Pantanal - Southern Brazil
    Jaguar, Giant Anteater, Hyacinth Macaw, Toco Toucan and lots of waterbirds make this A Top Ten Destination.

    Paraguay
    Not a single species of bird is endemic to the country of Paraguay, but the vast plains of chaco, cerrado and flooded grasslands, together with pantanal wetlands and remnant Atlantic Forest, do support many rare and restricted-range species, notably those endemic to the chaco, and they include Greater Rhea, Chaco Nothura, Quebracho Crested Tinamou, Southern Screamer, Spot-winged Falconet (Parque Nacional Teniente Agripino Enciso), Black-legged and Red-legged Seriemas, Giant Snipe (Laguna Blanca), Chaco Owl (PN Enciso), Sickle-winged (Isla Yacyreta) and White-winged (Laguna Blanca) Nightjars, Surucua Trogon, Violet-crested Plovercrest (at San Rafael, a very birdy area where about 430 bird species have been recorded), Rufous-capped Motmot, Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanets, lots of woodpeckers including Black-bodied and Helmeted (Mbaracayu Biosphere Reserve), lots of woodcreepers including Great Rufous and Scimitar-billed (both in PN Enciso), Crested Gallito (PN Enciso), Lark-like Brushrunner, Cock-tailed, Sharp-tailed, Strange-tailed and Streamer-tailed Tyrants, Greater Wagtail Tyrant, Bearded Tachuri, Rufous Gnateater, Chaco (Olive-crowned) and Collared Crescentchests, Sharpbill, Bare-throated Bellbird (Mbaracayu), Band-tailed Manakin (Mbaracayu), Wing-barred Piprites, Curl-crested Jay, seedeaters, and Saffron-cowled and Scarlet-headed Blackbirds. This is hard country to see mammals in - thick bush, few tracks - but persistence may pay off with Brazilian Tapir, Chaco Peccary (Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco), Plains Viscacha, Chacoan Mara, Black Howler, Dusky (Pale) Titi Monkey, Azara's Night Monkey, Black-tailed Marmoset, armadillos and even Jaguar, Puma, Maned Wolf, Giant Anteater, Giant Otter (pantanal) and Geoffroy's Cat. The best time to visit Paraguay is mid-September to the end of October.

    Peru - Central
    Spectacular birds in spectacular mountain scenery, with a chance of 50 highland endemics and many other high elevation specialities including the flightless Junin Grebe (on National Park zodiac boat trips), Andean Ibis, Junin (Black) Rail, Diademed Sandpiper Plover (Marcapomacocha), Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Andean and Puna Snipes, Grey-breasted and Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes, ground doves, Oilbird (thousands in cave near Tingo Maria), hummingbirds such as Bronze-tailed Comet (Santa Eulalia Valley), Black-breasted Hillstar, Fire-throated Metaltail and Olivaceous Thornbill, Golden-headed Quetzal, Grey-breasted Mountain Toucan, White-bellied Cinclodes (Marcapomacocha and Ticlio Bog/Pass), Striated Earthcreeper, canasteros, Eye-ringed Thistletail, antpittas, tapaculos, chat tyrants, ground tyrants, tit tyrants, Many-coloured Rush Tyrant (Lake Junin), Bay-vented (Bosque Unchog) and White-cheeked (Andamarca Valley via Santa Eulalia Valley) Cotingas, Band-tailed, Barred, Green-and-black (Huanaco) and Masked Fruiteaters (all four along Paty Trail), White-eared Solitaire, White-collared Jay, brush finches, mountain tanagers including the endemic Golden-backed Mountain Tanager (Bosque Unchog), Golden-collared, Grass-green, Huallaga and Yellow-scarfed Tanagers, Rufous-browed Hemispingus (Bosque Unchog), Pardusco (Bosque Unchog), Giant Conebill, Tit-Like Dacnis, sierra finches, Plain-tailed and Rufous-breasted Warbling Finches, and Great and Rufous-backed Inca Finches. Not so many mammals though, probably Northern Viscacha and possibly Andean Fox, Andean Huemul and Vicuna. The best time to look for birds is June-July.

    Peru - Manu - Southern
    Clay-licks which attract many macaws, and many other birds such as Pale-winged Trumpeter.

    Peru - Northeastern (Iquitos)
    Over 600 bird species in a small area of Amazonia including Black-necked Red Cotinga.

    Peru - Northern
    Many hummingbirds including Marvellous Spatuletail and a chance of Long-whiskered Owlet.

    S

    South Georgia (and Antarctica and the Falklands)
    Whales, penguins, albatrosses in the most amazing settings on Earth make this A Top Ten Destination.

    Suriname
    Grey-winged Trumpeter and some great cotingas including a big Guianan Cock-of-the-rock lek.

    T

    Trinidad and Tobago
    Nesting turtles and some fine birds, not least Scarlet Ibis and Oilbird.

    V

    Venezuela - Eastern (Rio Grande-Escalera)
    Harpy Eagle, many cotingas including Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, and Angel Falls.

    Venezuela - Western (Llanos)
    Many spectacular birds, some in the amazing Llanos wetlands, not least Scarlet Macaw.

    Photograph of Where to Watch Birds in South America

    Don’t know which country/countries to visit? Why not take a look at Where to watch birds in South America written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course, having been published by Helm in 1994, but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since it was published.

    Reviews of the six books in the 'Where to Watch Birds' series written by this website's author, and covering most of the world, can be read at Reviews (pdf 236KB).