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Gareth Leonard

Top 10 Most Interesting Birds You Will See in Pantanal

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Stretching across three countries and 225,000 square km (96,500 square miles), the Pantanal wetlands are one of the best places in South America to experience wildlife. While encountering a jaguar or giant anteater may take a bit of luck and timing, bird lovers will be happy to know that spotting many of the 600 different species of birds in the Pantanal is just a matter of showing up. From bright green parakeets and pearly white herons to giant hawks and illusive kingfishers, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the variety and frequency of birds I saw. I spent three days in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul to visit Pantanal and here’s a list of what I thought were the ten coolest and most interesting birds I spotted while exploring the region.

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10. Crested Caracara – This orange-faced member of the falcon family was a regular visitor to our camp as they walked around scavenging for food. Despite their lazy demeanor, the Crested Caracara is a well-traveled predator who resides in Central America, Mexico, Southern Caribbean and the southernmost parts of the United States. 9. Greater Rhea – Very similar to an ostrich, the Greater Rhea is only found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay and is the largest bird in South America, weighing up to 55 pounds (25kg). It inhabits locations like the Pantanal, which are grasslands, savannas or grassy wetlands.

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8. Buff-necked Ibis – After the rain I’d walk outside my room to find these guys burying their long beaks in the flooded grounds. The Buff-necked Ibis, also known as the White-throated Ibis, is a fairly large ibis found widely in open habitats of eastern and northern South America, including here in the Pantanal.

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7. Red-crested Cardinal – I like the style of this little guy who looks like he dipped his head in red paint and then spiked his hair. The Red-crested Cardinal is found in northern Argentina, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Among other regions, it’s mostly found in southern part of the Pantanal and has been seen in Hawaii and Puerto Rico as well. 6. Southern Screamer – This funny looking bird is rare to spot but very easy to hear. Like its name suggests, the southern screamer lets out a loud and obnoxious screech that echoes across the Pantanal.

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5. Black-hooded Parakeet – We frequently spotted groups of the Nanday Parakeet, also known as the Black-hooded Parakeet, in the trees along dirt roads and small ponds. The bird is native to the Pantanal region from southeast Bolivia to southwest Brazil, central Paraguay and northern Argentina. 4. Orange-winged Parrot – The Orange-winged Amazon, also known locally as Orange-winged Parrot and Loro Guaro, is a large, bright green Amazon parrot from tropical South America, like Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago south to Peru and central Brazil.  It can also be found all over the world as a popular pet, which is disappointing to me because they are so much fun to watch fly free together over the trees and wetlands.

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3. Scarlet Macaw – A Latin American staple and popular figure for many Central and Caribbean countries, the Scarlet Macaw is absolutely stunning in the wild. It’s bright rainbow colored feathers beam down from the trees and their loud squawk is undeniable.

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2. Toco Toucan – If you’ve ever been to a zoo or strolled down the cereal isle, you’re familiar with this guy. We mostly spotted the toucan flying, which is an interesting sight because his beak looks to be about half his body size. It looks like he’s going to take a nosedive straight to the ground. Their black body makes their bright colored neck and beak stand out even more against the blue skies of the Pantanal. It was amazing to see them in their natural habitat.

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1. Jabiru – The Jabiru, or Tuiuiú is the well-recognized symbol of the Pantanal. This unique stork can be found across the Americas, but is most common to this regional. It’s black head, dark-orange neck and big white body was a surprising site when I first ventured into the area. Like many birds in the Pantanal, this was the first time I have ever seen or heard of him. — For those bird lovers, here are a few more species that I spotted on my adventures in the Brazilian wetlands… The Savana Hawk, Neotropic Cormorant, Boat-billed Heron, Cocoi Heron, Rufescent Tiger-heron, Chaco Chachalca, Ringed Kingfisher (Amazon Kingfisher) Long-billed Woodcreeper, Vermillion Flycatcher, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Little blue heron and the Great Egret pictured in the first photo. A lot of these sightings depend on what season you visit and where you are within the Pantanal (i.e. close to the rivers or inland), so I recommend figuring out what you wish to see and then contact a tour company for more information. Pantanal is one of the few places in South America and the world, where you will see this many species of birds in one place and they are absolutely incredible to see first-hand.    



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