“Calyptura Expeditions” is the birding services offered by the biologist-ornithologist and licensed guide René Santos from Ubatuba. The main goal is to unite birding and conservation since natural areas visited by tourists and birders have less pressure of illegal activities. Especially national and state parks which over time become much more valued.

  • Text and photos: René Santos

Tours are available on the best birding hotspots of Brazil.  For couples and small groups the guide can be the driver. Booking and reservations can also be arranged.

  • Ubatuba/Paraty
  • Trilha dos Tucanos
  • Itatiaia NationalPark
  • Intervales State Park
  • Salto Morato Natural Reserve
  • Regua (Guapiassu Reserve)
  • Caraça Natural Park
  • Pantanal
  • Chapada dos Guimarães
  • Cristalino Jungle Lodge

Contact me in portuguese, spanish or english on: renecardoso@hotmail.com

Ubatuba is a beach resort area on the Atlantic coast north of Sao Paulo and is well-known as a birding destination because of its easy access and its high number of endemic and rare birds. The coastal mountain range slightly inland is commonly known as the Serra do Mar. Most birding areas are on private fazendas that can be visited with prior arrangement.

One prime birding area is a remnant SE Atlantic Rainforest near Pico do Corcovado. Bamboos along the river are an excellent place to find the prized Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant. It is also a good place to look for the rare Russet-winged Spadebill and Atlantic Royal-Flycatcher. The right fork of the same road leads to Folha Seca, a private residence that welcomes birders. The owner, Jonas d’Abronzo, maintains several hummingbird feeders that attract an excellent variety of species including Saw-billed Hermit, Sombre Hummingbird, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Black Jacobin, Brazilian Ruby, and Festive Coquette. Some 22 species of hummingbirds have been recorded on his property at one time or another. In addition, fruit feeders on the property attract tanagers and other birds.

Continuing beyond the entrance to Jonas’ property is a level track into secondary forest. Some of the many possibilities in this tract are Orange-eyed Thornbird (a recent split from Red-eyed Thornbird, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Tawny-throated Leaftosser, Sharpbill, Swallow-tailed Manakin, Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant, Green-backed Becard, Ruby-crowned Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Golden-chevroned Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Red-necked Tanager, and Gilt-edged Tanager.

North of Ubatuba is the fazenda Capricornio, an overgrown cacau plantation, which welcomes birders onto the property for a small entrance fee. Much of the fazenda is forested, and a wide easy trail offers excellent birding. The species composition is similar to the area around Folha Seca. This area is a good place to look for canopy species such as Buff-throated Purpletuft and Sao Paulo Tyrannulet. Another nearby private property is the fazenda Angelim, which has lowland forest habitat that is home to a number of endemic and other specialty birds. Notable possibilities there include Crescent-chested Puffbird, Thrush-like Woodcreeper, Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, Spotted Bamboowren, Pale-browed Treehunter, Squamate Antbird, and Buff-throated Purpletuft.

Paraty is two hours north of Ubatuba and is the only place where one can find the endangered Black-hooded Antwren.

Trilha dos Tucanos is the best birding hotspot close to Sao Paulo. It has simple but comfortable accommodation, delicious homemade meals plus very good trails and fantastic feeders. Located on the hills (1000 m high) and surrounded by pristine Montane Atlantic Forest habitats is place where one can find some quite interesting endemic species such as: Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanets, Yellow-fronted and Blond-crested Woodpeckers, Plain and Maroonbellied Parakeets, Golden-chevroned and Azure-shouldered Tanagers close by the feeders! On the trails the possibilities are: Black Hawk-Eagle, Black-throated Piping-Guan, White-spotted Woodpecker, Ochre-collared Piculet, Scale-throated Hermit, Cinnamon-vented Piha, Gray-hooded and Rufous-tailed Attilas, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Slaty Bristlefront, Variegated and Speckled-breasted Antpittas, White-bearded Antshrike.and Atlantic Royal Flycatcher.

Itatiaia National Park is a ruggedly beautiful region of lush forests, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, alpine meadows, and both primary and secondary Atlantic Rainforest. This park covers a broad range of elevations rising to 9100 ft. This range in altitudes contributes to a most diverse variety of habitats from lower elevation forest to alpine meadows surrounded by granite cliffs. The park is the number one birding destination in southeastern Brazil, and with good reason. Excellent birding can usually be found near the hotels (Hotel do Ype and Hotel Simon). Regularly seen birds include Dusky-legged Guan, Red-breasted Toucan, Saffron Toucanet, Pallid Spinetail, Gray-capped Tyrannulet, and Swallow-tailed Cotinga. Hummingbird feeders near the hotels attract Frilled Coquette and other species.

There are few very good trails in the park. The best is the Tres Picos Trail, which provides access to the forest interior where some good birds can be found. Possibilities are: Slaty Bristlefront, White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Black-billed Scythebill, White-bearded Antshrike, Rufous Gnateater, Fork-tailed Tody-Tyrant, Large-headed Flatbill, and Brown Tanager. The secretive Such’s Antthrush is found in the forest but difficult to see.

The Agulhas Negras road into the highlands is on the far side of the park. It gives access to higher elevation habitat where some specialty birds are found. Notable among these are White-rumped Hawk, Rufous-thighed Hawk, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Itatiaia Thistletail, Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Black-capped Piprites, Brown-breasted Bamboo-Tyrant, Shear-tailed Gray-Tyrant, Diademed Tanager, Gray-throated Warbling-Finch, and Bay-chested Warbling-Finch.

Intervales State Park is widely known for its fantastic birding, and many birders consider the park the highlight of their tour of southeast Brazil. Three primary target birds in the park are Black-fronted Piping-Guan, Helmeted Woodpecker, and Serra do Mar Tyrant-Manakin. Local guides often have a nest of the Swallow-tailed Cotinga staked out during nesting season.

The park consists of 4 adjacent reserves covering some 450 sq. miles and contains pristine Atlantic forest over an altitudinal gradient from nearly sea level to 3000 ft. elevation. Only the upper part of the park has been open to the public. A local guide is required to accompany birders in all but the central area of the park. The central area around the lodge is in a clearing surrounded by forest. A short trail into secondary forest is easy walking and good for birding. Some of the birds regularly found there are Rusty-barred Owl, Buff-fronted Owl, White-breasted Tapaculo, Giant Antshrike, Large-tailed Antshrike, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Golden-chevroned Tanager, and Olive-green Tanager.

The Carmo Road is considered by many to offer the best birding in the park. Notable birds found along Carmo Road and Barra Grande include Mantled Hawk, Blue-bellied Parrot, Silky-tailed Nightjar, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Rusty-breasted Nunlet, Saffron Toucanet, Slaty Bristlefront, White-bearded Antshrike, Star-throated Antwren, Scaled Antbird, Squamate Antbird, Such’s Antthrush, Speckle-breasted Antpitta, White-collared Foliage-Gleaner, Pale-browed Treehunter, Bare-throated Bellbird, Gray-capped Tyrannulet, Oustalet’s Tyrannulet, Brown-breasted Bamboo-Tyrant, Atlantic Royal Flycatcher, Pin-tailed Manakin, Hooded Berryeater, Cinnamon-vented Piha, Brown Tanager, Buffy-fronted Seedeater, Temminck’s Seedeater, Black-legged Dacnis, and Golden-winged Cacique. Near the research station is a fairly reliable site for the endemic White-bearded Antshrike.

The Salto Morato Natural Reserve is a private heritage preserve funded by the The Nature Conservancy to set aside remnant Atlantic Forest habitat. The preserve was established primarily to protect the habitat of the recently discovered Parana Antwren. A variety of trails allow birding within the forest interior. Roadside birding is also productive. Notable specialties include Saw-billed Hermit, Restinga Tyrannulet, Sao Paulo Tyrannulet, Pin-tailed Manakin, Red-ruffed Fruitcrow, Atlantic Royal Flycatcher, and Black-headed Berryeater. Taking a boat into the bay allows one to find Rufous Crab-Hawk, Red-tailed Parrot, Scarlet Ibis, Bicolored Conebill and a few waders species

Regua or Guapiassu Reserve is a private bird sanctuary operated as a non-governmental conservation project whose mission is to preserve the forests in the Guapiassu River Basin. There’s a nice network of trails through the forest within the reserve. These vary from the ½-mile trail around the wetland to 2-3 mile long trails through the forest. Some notable birds along the Wetland Trail are Brazilian Teal, Masked Duck, Capped Heron, and Chestnut-capped Blackbird. It’s possible to find the difficult to see Giant Snipe in the wetlands as well.

The Waterfall Trail is fairly easy and very birdy. It can be done in half a day or all day. The first part of the trail goes through second growth forest. A primary target bird is the Southern Antpipit, a secretive species that is hard to see but sometimes responds to playback. Other possibilities include Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Star-throated Antwren, White-flanked Antwren, Unicolored Antwren, Black-cheeked Gnateater, White-bearded Manakin, Pin-tailed Manakin, Swallow-tailed Manakin, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Black-capped Becard, Rufous-headed Tanager, Flame-crested Tanager, Brazilian Tanager, Golden-chevroned Tanager, Green-headed Tanager, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, and the SE Brazilian subspecies of Turquoise Tanager, a likely split.

Caraça Natural Park is an old and historic former seminary school and monastery that has been converted into a lodge. Monks are still present and operate the lodge. The habitat in this rather mountainous area is a nice mix of SE Atlantic Forest and cerrado (grassland scrub). The best trail is often the Tanque Grande trail, but several other trails leading from the car park and elsewhere on the reserve can also be very good.

Caraca is most famous for the wild Maned Wolves that usually come onto the monastery steps for meat placed there by monks in early evenings, a practice first begun in the late 1980’s. For birders the second star attraction is the endemic and endangered Serra Antwren, which usually can be seen along the Tanque Grande and Piscina Trails within the reserve. Other primary target birds at the reserve are Blackish Rails, which can be seen in the goose ponds in early morning and near dusk, the rare and endangered Hyacinth Visorbearer, White-breasted Tapaculo, Gray-backed Tachuri, Velvety Black-Tyrant, and Pale-throated Serra-Finch.

Pantanal covers an area half the size of France, three-fifths of which is in Brazil. The wetlands expands and contracts in area with the seasonal rains. The rainy season is October to April with peak rains in March. The dry season is from May through September. The Pantanal is heavily visited by Brazilian tourists and families during July and is most crowded then. September is the driest month, when waters have receded to only scattered permanent pools. This situation tends to concentrate wildlife and birds around those pools, which makes September a good month for birding. October marks the beginning of the rainy season, and it’s a great month to visit. New vegetation begins appearing and birds begin nesting once the rains arrive. By March much of the Pantanal is under water and is accessible only by boat.

The best lodges and fazendas (ranches) are located in the northern part of the Pantanal, south of Cuiaba. Even there, accommodations vary from the rustic Pousada do Pixaim to the more comfortable Pousada das Araras and Fazenda Santa Tereza. Accommodations available to tours based out of Campo Grande are more basic lodges or bush camps offering netted communal huts or tents.

Because of the seasonal flooding, most of the Pantanal is unsuitable for agriculture. As a result, the region is largely unspoiled and teems with wildlife and birds. Perhaps the most sought after bird in the Pantanal is the endangered Hyacinth Macaw, a beautiful blue macaw that is still reliably seen on birding tours. Other sought-after birds include Greater Rhea, Maguari Stork, Jabiru, Harpy Eagle, Bare-faced Curassow, Golden-collared Macaw, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Nacunda Nighthawk, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Helmeted Manakin, Common and Greater Thornbird, Yellow-billed Cardinal, and Scarlet-headed Blackbird. In addition to birds, the Pantanal is home to a variety of mammals, including the Jaguar which is regularly seen by visitors.

Chapada dos Guimaraes is located about 40 miles north of Cuiaba in Mato Grosso state in south-central Brazil. It lies on a rocky plateau about 2500 ft higher in elevation than the Pantanal. It is a very scenic region of arid canyon lands and waterfalls reminiscent of southwestern US located a few miles from the geographic center of South America. The major scenic attraction is the 280-ft free-falling Veu de Noiva Waterfall. The park encompasses sandstone cliffs and a unique cerrado habitat interspersed with clumps of gallery forest. It marks the transition zone between the Paraguay and Amazon river basins and is home to a variety of birds not found in the Pantanal. Among these are Red-legged Seriema, White-collared Swift, Biscutate Swift, White-eared Puffbird, Collared Crescent-chest, White-banded Tanager, White-rumped Tanager, Coal-crested Finch, Plumbeous Seedeater, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, and Yellow-billed Blue Finch. Birds to be found around the cliffs include Blue-winged Macaw, Red-and-green Macaw, Crested Black-Tyrant, and Cliff Flycatcher. Gallery forests in the area feature such birds as Cinnamon-throated Hermit, Channel-billed Toucan, Lettered Aracari, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Sirystes, Helmeted Manakin, Band-tailed Manakin, Guira Tanager, and Saffron-billed Sparrow.

Cristalino Jungle Lodge is the base for birding the southern Amazon is, located along the Cristolino River. The lodge features two canopy towers, a variety of trails through terra firme (never flooded) forest along with a steeper trail up to rocky outcrops known locally as serra, and river access into varzea (seasonally flooded) forest. Over 600 species of birds have been recorded in the area. Since many species are uncommon or occur sporadically, not everything can be seen in a visit lasting just a few days. Birding by boat along the rivers is relaxing and extremely rewarding. Birds such as Red-throated Piping-Guan, Razor-billed Curassow, Bare-faced Curassow, Bronzy Jacamar, Glossy Antshrike, Bare-eyed Antbird, Black-spotted Bare-eye, White-chinned Woodcreeper, Amazonian Umbrellabird, Flame-crowned Manakin are regularly encountered. Mammals are also regularly seen, including Giant Otter, which is most often seen rather far up river from the lodge.

Birding trails through forest is much more challenging but can be quite rewarding. Notable possibilities include Amazonian Pygmy-Owl, Rufous-necked Puffbird, Rufous-capped Nunlet, Red-necked Woodpecker, White-eyed Antwren, Rufous-winged Antwren, Para Foliage-gleaner, Zimmer’s Tody-Tyrant, Cinnamon-crested Spadebill, and White-crested Spadebill. Bamboo specialists includeAmazonian Antshrike, Striated Antbird, Manu Antbird, Dusky-cheeked Foliage-gleaner, Large-headed Flatbill, Dusky-tailed Flatbill, and Rose-breasted Chat. A steep trail up into serra habitat may produce Brown-banded Puffbird, Spotted Puffbird, Natterer’s Slaty-Antshrike, White-fringed Antwren, Rufous Casiornis, Brown-crested Flycatcher, and White-browed Purpletuft. The rare Fiery-tailed Awlbill is also possible to be seen in this habitat.

The lodge features two 50m tall canopy towers, offering a chance to view canopy birds from a high observation perch. Possibilities include Black-girdled Barbet, Lettered Aracari, Curl-crested Aracari, Red-necked Aracari, Gould’s Toucanet, Ringed Woodpecker, Cream-colored Woodpecker, the recently described Kawall’s Parrot, Red-fan Parrot, and Pompadour Cotinga. Also possible are sightings of the locally rare Black-necked Aracari in early mornings especially. Sometimes a mixed flock passes through near the towers, giving canopy views of species such as Bar-breasted Piculet, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Tooth-billed Wren, Red-billed Pied Tanager, and Yellow-shouldered Grosbeak. Soaring raptors that may be seen from the towers include Gray-headed Kite, Double-toothed Kite, White-browed Hawk, and perhaps rarer species such as Crested Eagle and Harpy Eagle.

 

 

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