South-east Venezuela - April 12th - 18th 2008

Published by Todd Pepper (pepper_todd AT

Participants: Todd R. Pepper with John Kvarnbäck



Hilty, Stephen L., Birds of Venezuela, 2nd Edition, Princeton University Press.
Restell, Robin, Clemencia Rodner, Miquel Lentino, Birds of Northern South America – an Identification Guide, Helms Field Guides.


The taxonomy in Hilty’s Birds of Venezuela was used for purposes of this trip report. Where the English name differed between Hilty and Clement’s World Taxonomic List, 6th Edition, the Clement’s name is shown in brackets.

Itinerary and Birding Highlights

Day 1 – April 12th

Arrived at Puerto Ordaz airport approximately 8:30 a.m. and was picked up by John Kvarnbäck, my guide for the week. I found John under the professional guide section of Puerto Ordaz is at the confluence of the Caroni and Orinoco Rivers and an hour flight from Caracas. We didn’t linger but started the drive south immediately from Puerto Ordaz to the mining town of Las Caritas, making occasional stops on the way. The first stop, at a small fruit stand produced my first life birds for the trip in a flock of a dozen or more Burnished-buff Tanager, several Saffron Finch and Brown-throated Parakeet. A number of Savannah Hawks were observed during the drive, as was a pair of Red & Green Macaw. Stopping on a bridge over a river we quickly ticked off Black-collared Swallow and Paradise Jacamar. Before checking into our cabins in Las Caritas we added Fulvous Crested Tanager, Masked Tanager, Tepui Swift, Chapman’s Swift, Black-necked Aracari, a heard only Capuchinbird and Red-necked Woodpecker. Overnight in Las Caritas

Day 2 – April 13th

Birded Sierra de Lema. It was a big day with just over 100 species of which 25 were life birds. It is tough to pick out highlights when they include Tepui specialities such as Tepui Spinetail, Roraiman Antwren, Tepui (Orange-bellied) Manakin, Roraiman Warbler and Tepui Whitestart. Throw in killer looks at Red-breasted Fruiteater, a Velvet-browed Brilliant that hovered centimetres from our faces, the dainty Amethyst Woodstar and scoped views of a distant calling White Bellbird and you know you have had a good day. Unfortunately the Capuchinbirds would not come out to play again, although three individuals were heard in the canopy above our heads. We needed the temporary canopy tower allegedly used by Sir David Attenborough to see this species. Overnight again at Las Caritas.

Day 3 – April 14th

Back to Sierra de Lema in the morning. There is no doubt about the highlight this morning, 3 male Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock jumping and dancing in a tree 20 metres over our heads. However, we continued to get excellent views of other Tepui specialties such as: McConnell’s Flycatcher, McConnell’s Spinetail, Tepui Greenlet, and a face to face encounter with a Roraiman Barbtail when I went to pay nature a call. We then started our long drive through La Gran Sabana on our way to El Paují. A break for lunch in a stand of Moriche Palms along a river produced a large flock of Red-shouldered Macaw, a smaller flock of Black-faced Tanager, and a White-throated Kingbird. In the alvar habitat around us was Hooded Siskin, Grassland Sparrow and Tawny Headed Swallow. Our final stop of the night was at a small slash & burn opening in the forest with a never-ending parade of Tanagers, Flycatchers, Barbets and Aracaris, including lifers in Plain-crested Elaenia, Opal-rumped Tanager and Small-billed Elaenia. Three Least Nighthawks fluttered around us as we made the last leg of the trip to El Paují where we enjoyed excellent dinner and accommodation and met up with a friend of John’s, a retired British geologist named Tony who lives in El Paují. Tony had arranged for a local Venezuelan guide named Ivan to take us on a trail in a patch of forest for some localized specialties the next morning.

Day 4 – April 15th

Another tough day to pick highlights. The day started well with Little Chacalaca within a couple minutes of leaving our cabins for the walk to the forest. We then accidentally flushed two Blackish Nightjars from their day roost. The patch of forest produced excellent looks at Saffron-crested Tyrant Manakin, Guianan Slaty Antshrike and Scale-backed Antbird (although we had a good look the day before in Sierra de Lema at what could only have been a Scale-backed Antbird, except that it did not have a scaled-back). I finally got on the Ringed Antpipit, although at least two Thrush-like Schiffornis teased us by calling endlessly, but nobody got a decent look at the birds. Tony promised us Bran-colored Flycatcher in his yard and there were 3 at the top of the driveway. His feeders produced Sooty-capped Hermit, Glittering Throated Emerald and Blue-tailed Emerald. One of the most memorable events of the trip then happened. Tony’s wife Rita was giving us a tour of the vegetable garden when we all heard Ash-throated Crake calling from the marsh behind their house. Tony and Rita have lived here for 8 years and have heard the Crake every day, but have never seen the bird. When we got to the edge of the marsh the Crake was in the short grass of the firebreak Tony had cut along the marsh, but it quickly dashed back under cover. John put his MP3 player and speaker near where the bird had been and we all stepped back into cover. A few minutes later the Crake came out of hiding and then flew right over our heads. Amazing! Tony then took us to see a 27 day old Roraiman Nightjar chick that he has been monitoring since the egg was laid. Got an excellent digiscoped photo. Then on to a pair of Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, and amazing looks at a Stygian Owl on its day roost. I was stunned by this point and the lifers kept coming in Brown Jacamar, White-thighed Swallow, Black-eared Fairy, Coraya Wren, and then we ended the day, just before dusk, with the calls of Russet-crowned Crake. Very fitting. Overnight in El Paují

Day 5 – April 16th

Drove over to a patch of forest near the ameri-indian village of Uaiparú. Lots of slash and burn farming on the way. The dead snags, however, held Olive (Amazonian) Oropendola, Red-Fan Parrot, Sulphury Flycatcher and a lifer for both of us in Purple-breasted Cotinga. The patch of forest produced Cayenne Jay, White-chinned Sapphire, Reddish Hermit, White-shouldered Antshrike and Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin. We then re-traced our steps heading back on the same road to start our long drive back to Las Caritas. The snags provided me with a few more lifers in Red-rumped Cacique, Rufous-tailed Foliage-gleaner and a Ringed Woodpecker that I saw fly in just as we were going to drive off. We kept our eyes out as we drove the La Gran Sabana for Red-bellied Macaw, and while not a lifer it was spectacular to watch hundreds of them fly in at dusk to a stand of Moriche Palm. We had our fingers crossed for Maguiri Stork and as light was fading we spotted two white specks in the distance. We backed up and went up a little side road to a rise and watched the two storks through the scope as dusk faded to dark. Overnight in Las Caritas.

Day 6 – April 17th

Drove north out of Las Caritas to the Guyana Trail. A quick stop at the “Strawberry Ice Cream Lodge” produced Golden-collared Woodpecker, Gray-breasted Sabrewing and Crimson Topaz. Stunning! After we got past the Fer-de-Lance beside the path, The Guyana Trail produced great looks at Black-throated Antbird, White-browed Antbird, Golden-spangled Piculet, a flock of six Painted Parakeet, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin and Long-winged Antwren among many other species. A sugar cane field on the road to El Parmar was also very active with 15 species in only a short stop, including lifers in White-headed Marsh-Tyrant (missed in Trinidad in December 2007), Gray Seedeater and Amazonian Scrub Flycatcher. Driving in the dark to El Parmar we had two more great trip experiences. We first came across a family of Double-striped Thick-knee (finally!), two adults and a chick that would not get off the road. John got some great photos in the headlights and then I got out and finally shooed the chick off the road while John drove past. A few kilometres later a pair of big red eyes flew across the road in front of us. Thinking it might be an owl we stopped and pointed the headlights toward the adjacent scrub forest and there, sitting on a fence post, was a Great Potoo. Out came the scope for a great look. Overnight in El Parmar.

Day 7 – April 18th

Birded Serranía de Imataca near the Rio Grande. Another big day with 120 species. The day started well when three Black Curassow, Crax alector alector, walked out of the forest and onto the road right in front of us. Green-tailed Jacamar showed well. We then headed into the forest where we had a great mixed flock that produced lifers in Pygmy Antwren, Guianan Streaked-Antwren, Ferruginous-backed Antbird as well as Painted Tody-Flycatcher, Rufous-bellied Antwren, Fulvous Shrike-Tanager and Flame-crested Tanager amongst many other species. The forest then quieted down permitting us to recover from the sensory overload of the mixed flock. As we continued to walk we came across a beautiful Rose-breasted Chat working its way through a tangle of vines. Having left the forest, we were driving back to Rio Grande when I shouted out “Cattle Tyrant”. John backed up the car and 2 of them were sitting on a water buffalo. The big bird of the day, both literally and figuratively, was the 27-month-old Harpy Eagle still in its nest tree that we then went to see. The fierce look in its eyes and the massive size of its legs were breathtaking. I would not want to be the monkey in the tree seeing that flying towards me. Overnight in El Parmar

Day 8 – April 19th

We went back to Serranía de Imataca to clean up a few species missed yesterday. A Musical Wren responded to tape and came out and showed off for us, singing its melodic song for about 15 minutes. I then got John his second lifer for the trip (and a lifer for me to) in Curve-billed Scythebill. Also finally got to see Coraya Wren. A stop for lunch in El Parmar produced great looks at Venezuelan Troupial, then it was back on the road to Puerto Ordaz as the trip was winding down. A quick stop at a roadside marsh produced excellent looks at Northern White-fringed Antwren, Yellow-throated Spinetail, and attracted the attention of the local police. On the third pass they stopped to find out what we were doing. After exchanging some pleasantries and a view through our binoculars we were on our way, stopping only for a Two-banded Puffbird - Hypnelus bicinthus – a split from Hilty’s Russet-throated Puffbird that John heard, and I found before hitting the main highway. Driving back into Puerto Ordaz I asked John if I could actually see the Orinoco River. He took me down to the ferry dock to see the confluence of the Orinoco and Caroni Rivers, and, not so coincidentally, my last life bird for the trip in Large-billed Tern.

Species Lists

Total Species: 353
Heard Only Species designated with an asterisk

Tinamous - 3
Great Tinamou*
Little Tinamou*
Variegated Tinamou*

Grebes- 1
Least Grebe

Cormorants - 1
Neotropic Cormorant

Darters/Anhingas - 1

Herons - 6
Capped Heron
Cocoi Heron
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Striated Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron

Storks - 2
Wood Stork
Maguari Stork

Ibises, Spoonbills - 1
Green Ibis

Swans, Ducks - 1
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

New World Vultures - 4
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Greater Yellow-headed
King Vulture

Osprey - 1

Hawks, Eagles, Harriers - 11
Hook-billed Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite
White-tailed Kite
Double-toothed Kite
Plumbeous Kite
White Hawk
Savanna Hawk
Gray Hawk
Roadside Hawk
White-tailed Hawk
Harpy Eagle

Falcons, Caracaras - 7
Black Caracara
Red-throated Caracara
Crested Caracara
Yellow-headed Caracara
Laughing Falcon
American Kestrel
Bat Falcon

Curassows, Guans - 2
Little Chachalaca
Black Curassow

New World Quails - 1
Crested Bobwhite

Rails, Crakes - 4
Russet-crowned Crake*
Ash-throated Crake
Purple Gallinule
Common Moorhen

Sunbittern - 1

Jacanas - 1
Wattled Jacana

Thick-knees - 1
Double-striped Thick-knee

Plovers, Lapwings - 1
Southern Lapwing

Waders - 1
Least Sandpiper

Terns - 1
Large-billed Tern

Pigeons, Doves - 11
Rock Pigeon
Scaled Pigeon
Pale-vented Pigeon
Plumbeous Pigeon
Ruddy Pigeon
Eared Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove
Scaled Dove
White-tipped Dove
Gray-fronted Dove

Parrots - 16
Red-and-green Macaw
Red-bellied Macaw
Red-shouldered Macaw
White-eyed Parakeet
Brown-throated Parakeet
Painted Parakeet
Fiery-shouldered Parakeeet
Green-rumped Parrotlet
Golden-winged Parakeet
Sapphire-rumped Parrotlet
Black-headed Parrot
Blue-headed Parrot
Blue-cheeked Parrot
Orange-winged Parrot
Mealy Parrot
Red-fan Parrot

Old World Cuckoos - 4
Squirrel Cuckoo
Little Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Striped Cuckoo

Typical Owls - 4
Tropical Screech-Owl*
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Burrowing Owl
Stygian Owl

Potoos - 1
Great Potoo

Nightjars - 6
Least Nighthawk
Lesser Nighthawk
White-tailed Nightjar
Blackish Nightjar
Roraiman Nightjar

Swifts - 9
Tepui Swift
White-collared Swift
Band-rumped Swift
Gray-rumped Swift
Chapman's Swift
Short-tailed Swift
White-tipped Swift
Neotropical Palm-Swift
Lesser Swallow-tailed Swift

Hummingbirds - 17
Eastern Long-tailed Hermit
Straight-billed Hermit
Sooty-capped Hermit
Reddish Hermit
Gray-breasted Sabrewing
Rufous-breasted Sabrewing
White-necked Jacobin
Brown Violet-ear
Crimson Topaz
Blue-tailed Emerald
Fork-tailed Woodnymph
White-chinned Sapphire
Glittering-throated Emerald
Velvet-browed Brilliant
Black-eared Fairy
Long-billed Starthroat
Amethyst Woodstar

Trogons, Quetzals - 4
White-tailed Trogon
Masked Trogon
Black-throated Trogon
Black-tailed Trogon

Blue, Rufous Kingfishers - 3
Ringed Kingfisher
Amazon Kingfisher
Green-and-rufous Kingfisher

Jacamars - 3
Brown Jacamar
Green-tailed Jacamar
Paradise Jacamar

Puffbirds - 4
White-necked Puffbird
Two-banded Puffbird
Black Nunbird

New World Barbets - 2
Black-spotted Barbet
Gilded Barbet

Toucans - 5
Green Aracari
Black-necked Aracari
Many-banded Aracari
Channel-billed Toucan
White-throated (Red-billed) Toucan

Woodpeckers - 9
Golden-spangled Piculet
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker
Red-crowned Woodpecker
Golden-collared Woodpecker
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Ringed Woodpecker
Lineated Woodpecker
Red-necked Woodpecker
Crimson-crested Woodpecker

Ovenbirds - 9
Pale-breasted Spinetail
McConnell's Spinetail
Plain-crowned Spinetail
Tepui Spinetail
Yellow-chinned Spinetail
Roraiman Barbtail
Rufous-tailed Foliage-gleaner
Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner
Plain Xenops

Woodcreepers - 6
Wedge-billed Woodcreeper
Black-banded Woodcreeper
Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper
Buff-throated Woodcreeper
Lineated Woodcreeper
Curve-billed Scythebill

Antbirds - 21
Great Antshrike
Barred Antshrike
White-shouldered Antshrike
Mouse-colored Antshrike
Plain Antvireo
Cinereous Antshrike
Pygmy Antwren
Guianan Streaked-Antwren
Rufous-bellied Antwren
Long-winged Antwren
Gray Antwren
Roraiman Antwren
Northern White-fringed Antwren
Dusky Antbird
Gray Antbird
White-browed Antbird
Warbling Antbird
Ferruginous-backed Antbird
Black-throated Antbird
Scale-backed Antbird

Antthrushes, Antpittas - 1
Tepui Antpitta*

Cotingas - 10
Red-banded Fruiteater
Screaming Piha*
Rose-collared Piha
Purple-breasted Cotinga
Spangled Cotinga
Purple-throated Fruitcrow
White Bellbird
Bearded Bellbird
Guianan Cock-of-the-rock

Manakins - 10
Olive Manakin
White-bearded Manakin
Golden-headed Manakin
White-crowned Manakin
Orange-bellied (Tepui) Manakin
Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin
Dwarf Tyrant-Manakin*
Tiny Tyrant-Manakin
Wing-barred Piprites
Thrush-like Schiffornis*

Tyrant Flycatchers - 47
Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Yellow Tyrannulet
Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet
Forest Elaenia
Yellow-bellied Elaenia
Small-billed Elaenia
Plain-crested Elaenia
Lesser Elaenia
Sierran Elaenia
Ochre-bellied Flycatcher
McConnell's Flycatcher
Sooty-headed Tyrannulet
Amazonian Scrub-Flycatcher
Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant
Ruddy Tody-Flycatcher
Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant
Painted Tody-Flycatcher
Common Tody-Flycatcher
Ringed Antpipit
Yellow-olive Flatbill (Flycatcher)
Gray-crowned Flatbill (Flycatcher)
Ochre-lored Flatbill (Yellow-breasted Flycatcher)
Amazonian Royal-Flycatcher
Bran-colored Flycatcher
Ruddy-tailed Flycatcher
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Smoke-colored Pewee
Pied Water-Tyrant
White-headed Marsh-Tyrant
Long-tailed Tyrant
Cattle Tyrant
Cinnamon Attila*
Bright-rumped Attila
Short-crested Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher
Rusty-margined Flycatcher
Social Flycatcher
Streaked Flycatcher
Piratic Flycatcher
Variegated Flycatcher
Sulphury Flycatcher
White-throated Kingbird
Tropical Kingbird
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
Black-tailed Tityra

Swallows, Martins - 9
Brown-chested Martin
Gray-breasted Martin
White-winged Swallow
Blue-and-white Swallow
Black-collared Swallow
White-thighed Swallow
Tawny-headed Swallow
Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow

Wagtails, Pipits - 1
Yellowish Pipit

Wrens - 4
Coraya Wren
House Wren
Flutist Wren*
Musician Wren

Mockingbirds - 1
Tropical Mockingbird

Thrushes - 3
Pale-breasted Thrush
Black-billed Thrush
White-necked Thrush

Gnatcatchers - 2
Long-billed Gnatwren
Tropical Gnatcatcher

Crows, Jays, Magpies - 1
Cayenne Jay

Old World Sparrows – 1
House Sparrow

Vireos - 5
Gray-chested Greenlet
Tepui Greenlet
Buff-cheeked Greenlet
Scrub Greenlet
Rufous-browed Peppershrike

Finches - 5
Violaceous Euphonia
White-vented Euphonia
Orange-bellied Euphonia
Blue-naped Chlorophonia
Hooded Siskin

New World Warblers - 8
Tropical Parula
Yellow Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
American Redstart
Slate-throated Redstart
Tepui Redstart
Roraiman Two-banded)Warbler
Rose-breasted Chat

Bananaquit - 1

Tanagers - 30
Black-faced Tanager
Magpie Tanager
Guira Tanager
Olive-backed Tanager
Fulvous Shrike-Tanager
Flame-crested Tanager
Fulvous-crested Tanager
White-shouldered Tanager
White-lined Tanager
Red-shouldered Tanager
Silver-beaked Tanager
Blue-gray Tanager
Palm Tanager
Turquoise Tanager
Paradise Tanager
Green-and-gold Tanager
Yellow-bellied Tanager
Spotted Tanager
Speckled Tanager
Bay-headed Tanager
Burnished-buff Tanager
Masked Tanager
Black-headed Tanager
Opal-rumped Tanager
Black-faced Dacnis
Blue Dacnis
Green Honeycreeper
Purple Honeycreeper
Red-legged Honeycreeper

Buntings -11
Blue-black Grassquit
Gray Seedeater
Yellow-bellied Seedeater
Ruddy-breasted Seedeater
Chestnut-bellied Seed-Finch
Saffron Finch
Tepui Brush-Finch*
Pectoral Sparrow
Grassland Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow

Cardinals, Grosbeaks - 4
Grayish Saltator
Buff-throated Saltator
Slate-colored Grosbeak
Blue-black Grosbeak

New World Orioles - 14
Red-breasted Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Carib Grackle
Shiny Cowbird
Giant Cowbird
Moriche Oriole
Yellow Oriole
Venezuelan Troupial
Yellow-rumped Cacique
Red-rumped Cacique
Crested Oropendola
Olive (Amazonian) Oropendola
Green Oropendola
Golden-tufted Mountain-Grackle