Where to watch birds and wildlife in
THE PANTANAL, BRAZIL
- One of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in South America, in one of the world's most extensive wetlands
- The best place in the world to see Jaguars
- With other mammals including Giant Anteater, Giant Otter, Brazilian Tapir, Black-tailed Marmoset and Black Howler Monkey
- Numerous waterbirds including Southern Screamer, Agami Heron, Sunbittern and
all five South American kingfishers
- And some of South America's and the world's most spectacular other birds including Hyacinth Macaw, Greater Rhea, Bare-faced
Curassow, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Toco Toucan and Scarlet-headed Blackbird
- It is possible to see most of the wildlife in the Pantanal in a week or so. If more time is available it is possible to
link a trip to the Pantanal with one or more of several other destinations in Southern Brazil, perhaps beginning with Iguassu Falls.
These falls on the border with Argentina may not be the highest in the world, at up to 82 m (269 ft), compared to Victoria Falls at 108 m (360 ft)
for example, but they do tumble, in what is a series of waterfalls, over a crescent-shaped cliff about 2.7 km (1.7 miles) long, much longer than
Victoria Falls at 1.7 km (1.1 miles). They are usually at their best during the wet season which lasts from November to March, especially in December,
and have even been known to run dry in May and June during the dry season. There are some good birds too, including Black-fronted Piping Guan,
Red-breasted and Toco Toucans, Spot-billed Toucanet, Great Dusky Swift, Black Jacobin, Surucua Trogon, Rufous-capped Motmot, Rusty-breasted Nunlet,
Blond-crested Woodpecker, Rufous Gnateater, Southern Antpipit, Black-collared Swallow, Sharpbill, Band-tailed, Blue and White-bearded Manakins, and
Green-headed Tanager, with a chance of Plush-crested Jay and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow.
- The nearest major sites to the Pantanal for birds in particular are: Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park, where
it is possible to see Yellow-faced Parrot, Horned Sungem, Caatinga Puffbird, Collared Crescentchest, Chapada Flycatcher, Band-tailed Manakin (at a lek),
Curl-crested Jay, Shrike-like (White-banded) Tanager, and Blue and Coal-crested Finches; and Serra das Araras where Blue-and-yellow
and Red-and-green Macaws occur, along with Toco Toucan and Lettered Aracari, and Harpy Eagle has nested here in the past.
- The nearest major site for mammals is Emas National Park. This is a very good place to see Giant Anteater,
Brazilian Tapir, Six-banded (Yellow) Armadillo, White-lipped Peccary, Pampas Deer and Hoary Fox. Sometimes it is possible to see rare mammals such as
Maned Wolf, and even Pampas Cat, Puma and Giant Armadillo (this rare mammal is most likely to be seen with the help of researchers working for the
Giant Armadillo Project based at Fazenda Baia das Pedras, a small ranch with a small
lodge - a very expensive option). Birds in Emas include Greater Rhea, Red-legged Seriema, Blue-and-yellow and Red-shouldered Macaws, White-winged
Nightjar, Collared Crescentchest, Helmeted Manakin, Cock-tailed and Streamer-tailed Tyrants, and Bearded Tachuri. Nearby is Nazare
Paulista where Buffy-tufted Marmoset occurs. Other good places to see Maned Wolf are: Paranaiba River Headwaters National
Park, four hours by road north of Barreiras de Bahia in western Bahia state, accessible by air from Brasilia, where wolves are seen regularly
near South Wild Wolf Cliffs Camp, from where it is possible to visit 'Nutcracker Monkey' Valley where visitors can watch Bearded Capuchins cracking palm
nuts with rocks, and Wolf Valley Camp where Hyacinth Macaws occur; and Serra do Caraca National Park where wolves visit food put out at
the monastery, though less often in the mid 2010s than before.
- Many tour companies combine the Pantanal with Cristalino Jungle Lodge in Alta Floresta, southern
Amazonia, where nearly 600 species have been recorded, mostly forest birds, including Razor-billed Curassow, Cryptic Forest Falcon, Blue-and-yellow,
Red-and-green and Scarlet Macaws, Fiery-tailed Awlbill (a rare hummingbird seemingly restricted to a few scattered sites), Brown-banded Puffbird,
Chestnut-belted Gnateater, Pompadour and Spangled Cotingas, Bare-necked Fruitcrow, Amazonian Umbrellabird, White-browed Purpletuft, Musician Wren
and Paradise Tanager. More rarely seen birds include Zigzag Heron, Dark-winged Trumpeter and Pavonine Quetzal, and sometimes a Harpy Eagle nest is
located, making it easier to see this elusive species. Mammals include Brazilian Tapir and several species of monkey including Azara's Night
- Three hours by road from Alta Floresta is Rio Azul Jungle Lodge, one of the best places in the world to see
Bald Parrot and Tapajos Hermit, while the still rising list of over 500 species also includes Zigzag Heron, Razor-billed Curassow, Crested and Harpy
Eagles, Cryptic Forest Falcon, Pavonine Quetzal, Crimson Topaz, Gould's Toucanet, Red-necked Aracari, Long-billed Woodcreeper, Bare-eyed, Dot-backed
and Xingu Scale-backed Antbirds, Pale-bellied Mourner, Flame-crowned Manakin, Para Gnatcatcher and White-bellied Dacnis.
- 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. In the same region is the
Bacury Reserve where the rare Southern Muriqui, the largest primate in the Americas, occurs.
- From 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 the largest remnant of Brazil’s southeastern 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
Best Birds and other wildlife in the Pantanal, Brazil
Hyacinth Macaw, Greater Rhea, Southern Screamer, Bare-faced Curassow, Chaco Chachalaca, Chestnut-bellied Guan,
Blue-throated Piping Guan, Anhinga, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Agami, Boat-billed, Capped and Cocoi Herons, ibises including Plumbeous, Roseate Spoonbill,
Jabiru, Black-collared Hawk, Grey-necked Wood Rail, Sungrebe, Sunbittern, Limpkin, Pied Plover, Wattled Jacana, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns,
Black Skimmer, Golden-collared Macaw, Monk Parakeet, Nacunda Nighthawk, Great Potoo, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Glittering-throated Emerald, Blue-crowned
Trogon, all five South American kingfishers, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Toco Toucan, White-wedged Piculet, Pale-crested, White and
White-fronted Woodpeckers, Cinereous-breasted and White-lored Spinetails, Grey-crested (Rufous) Cacholote, Great Rufous Woodcreeper, Red-billed
Scythebill, Great Antshrike, Black-bellied and Large-billed Antwrens, Mato Grosso Antbird, Subtropical Doradito, Stripe-necked Tody Tyrant,
Rusty-fronted Tody Flycatcher, White-eyed Attila, White-naped Xenopsaris, Purplish Jay, Black-capped Donacobius, Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Orange-backed
Troupial and Yellow-billed Cardinal. Also a chance of Zigzag Heron.
Toco Toucan by
Jaguar, Giant Anteater, Giant Otter, Brazilian Tapir, Capybara, Black-tailed (Bare-ear/Pantanal) Marmoset, Black
Howler, Black-striped Tufted Capuchin, South American Coati, Crab-eating Fox, Marsh Deer, and Greater and Lesser Fishing Bats. Also a chance of Puma,
Ocelot and Southern Tamandua.
Giant Anteater by
Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
Yacare Caiman. Also a chance
of (Yellow) Anaconda.
Best Sites for Birds and other wildlife in the Pantanal, Brazil
The best sites include Pousada Piuval (drier, northern end, where possibilities include Zigzag Heron, Bare-faced Curassow and
Chestnut-bellied Guan), Rio Claro Lodge (drier, northern end), Pouso Alegre (drier, northern end), Porto Jofre (where Band-tailed and Mato Grosso Antbirds
occur along the hotel loop trail), South Wild Pantanal Lodge (formerly Pantanal Wildlife Center) next to Rio Pixaim, South Wild Jaguar Flotel on Rio
Cuiaba, and Araras Ecolodge.
Best Times for Birds and other wildlife in the Pantanal, Brazil
The best time to look for Jaguars in the Pantanal is during Southern Brazil's dry season which normally lasts from July to October, especially August
and September, although they are seen regularly at other times, often on river banks where they go to dry out after bad weather or lie in the shade
during hot weather. Water levels in the Pantanal usually peak in February and begin to recede from mid-July onwards until the area is almost completely
dry by the end of October. This period, especially September, is the best time for birds and some other wildlife, especially caiman, since they
concentrate in huge numbers in and around the remaining waters. The maximum temperature in June-July is normally a relatively cool 30°C, but this rises
to a peak of 40°C around mid-September.
Recommended Bird Books etc. for the Pantanal, Brazil
Bradt Travel Guide: Pantanal Wildlife by J Lowen. Bradt, 2010.
Globetrotter Wildlife Guide: Brazil by J Malathronas. New Holland Publishers, 2008.
Mammals of South America by R D Lord. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.
Birds of Brazil by K Zimmer and A Whittaker. PUP, due 2016.
A Field Guide to the Birds of Brazil by B van Perlo. OUP, 2009.
Birds of Brazil: the Pantanal and Cerrado of Central Brazil by J A Gwynne et al. Comstock Publishing Associates, 2010.
Birds of South America: Non-Passerines by J R Roderiguez Mata et al. Harper Collins, 2006.
The Birds of South America: Passerines by R S Ridgely and G Tudor. University of Texas Press, 1989 and 1994 (Two volumes).
Birds of Brazil.
Where to watch birds in South America by N Wheatley. Helm, 1994.
Don’t know which country/countries to visit in South America? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this
book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course 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 on the continent, 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 the book was published.
Birding and Wildlife Trip Reports for the Pantanal, Brazil
Many trip reports, some for Southern Brazil, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these
websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to
Southern Brazil. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites,
which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Southern Brazil' below.
Local bird and wildlife guides in the Pantanal, Brazil
The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders.
Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are
the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional
skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently,
employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the
wildlife you wish to see.
Accommodation for birders in the Pantanal, Brazil
Some Organized Tours for birds and other wildlife to the Pantanal, Brazil
There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other
wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably
according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours
last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an
important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals
and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and
transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where
the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the
cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local
transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and
that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those
which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously
lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit.
Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are
certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are
the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional
skills of the local guides they employ.
While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom
tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set
itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes,
whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made
attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are
also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds
or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best
sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the
pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit
people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of
strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small
groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with
a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the
price quoted for a set tour.
Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Southern Brazil
include the following.