Birding trip to South-western Brazil and North-eastern Argentina, October 2001

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT

Participants: Sergio Corbet


In October 2001 I undertook a week long survey in a rainforest area in the province of Misiones, very close to the border between Argentina and Brazil. The area consists of low hills and broad valleys covered by rainforest which has been logged in many places yet leaving a secondary growth forest with many tall trees and a thick brush home to myriads of insects, many tropical and subtropical mammals and reptiles and certainly to hundreds of different species of birds. Across the border on the brazilian side, the forest has been mostly cut down and cleared so as to have fields suitable for cattle grazing and cropping purposes.

bird photo - Surucua Trogon
Surucua Trogon

This South American corner is a "birders paradise" as hundreds of different bird species live and thrive here to the joy and amazement of any visiting naturalist. I had made friends with a visiting swedish student Thomas Svensson, a strong birding enthusiast always willing to learn and broaden his birding knowledge whenever he had a chance. I invited him to come along to bird in conditions he hardly would find again as we would be birding in an area only accessible to loggers and small bush farmers. The possibility to see many birds in a scarcely developed area with magnifficent surrounding nature was a temptation not to be overlooked.

Before dawn we left Buenos Aires by car driving to the north of the country expecting to arrive at our destination in the late evening. The day was misty. By dusk we were already driving through Entre Rios province and birds sightings started inmediately. Ducks, ibises, gulls and pigeons were on the move. Beside the road we saw a couple of Giant Wood Rails, several Grey-necked Wood Rails and the always present Road-side Hawk. Quite often White Monjitas showed up as well as some small flocks of Monk Parakeets. While crossing a large river a small flight of Brazilian Teal flew by. We travelled for almost 800 km with a clouded sky and some rain. The sun showed up at last upon our arrival very close to the border between the Corrientes and Misiones provinces and we started to feel the heat inmediately. Now the road was dry and travelling was a different thing. After driving over 1400 km we arrived in the late evening at our destiny as planned. Bats and nighthawks flew through the car's light cutting the darkness catching clumsily flying insects.

Before dinner we heard some funny screeches coming from outside our hotel so with the help of our flashlights we discovered a Rusty-barred Owl looking at us curiously from the top of the house and moving along the edge of the roof.

bird photo - American Kestrel
American Kestrel

The first morning in Brazil was foggy but then when it opened we had a clear sky with a nice warm sun. From the edge of a valley the first birds we saw on that day were an American Kestrel, several Picazuro and Rock Pigeons, a House Wren, many White-winged Swallows flying quite high and a Rufous-collared Sparrow. Fortunately the weather kept fine for the whole week allowing me to complete my task. I was joined by Marcela Sanchez a botanist and we started working hard at once. I did my birding from time to time but even in these conditions I managed to see quite a lot of birds. Marcela got curious enough so as to try and have a look at some birds through the scope when summoned by Tomas, our vigilant birding companion. Some of the more memorable sightings were a pair of Red-breasted Toucans in a tall tree basking in the afternoon sun and then that of a male Swallow Tanager incredibly sky blue courting in the open a couple of green colored females! While looking at a patch of large native trees, a small group of Squirrel Cuckoos arrived landing at a nearby tree.Birds seen on the first leg: Greater Rhea, Rhea americana. Red-winged Tinamou, Rhynchotus rufescens. Spotted Tinamou, Nothura maculosa. Neotropic Cormorant, Phalacrocorax brasilianus. Whistling Heron, Syrigma sibilatrix. White-necked Heron, Ardea cocoi. Great Egret, Ardea alba. Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis. White-faced Ibis, Plegadis chihi. Roseate Spoonbill, Ajaia ajaja. Maguari Stork, Ciconia maguari. Southern Screamer, Chauna torquata. Brazilian Duck, Amazonetta brasiliensis. Snail Kite, Rostrhamus sociabilis. Long-winged Harrier, Circus buffoni. Savannah Hawk, Heterospizias meridionalis. Bay-winged Hawk, Parabuteo unicinctus. Roadside Hawk, Buteo magnirostris. Swainson's Hawk, Buteo swainsoni. Southern Caracara, Caracara plancus. Chimango Caracara, Milvago chimango. Grey-necked Wood Rail, Aramides cajanea. Giant Wood Rail, Aramides ypecaha. Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus. Limpkin, Aramus guarauna. Southern Lapwing, Vanellus chilensis. Wattled Jacana, Jacana jacana. Eared Dove, Zenaida auriculata. Picui Ground Dove, Columbina picui. White-tipped Dove, Leptotila verrauxi. Monk Parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus. Smooth-billed Ani, Croptophaga ani. Guira Cuckoo, Guira guira. Amazon Kingfisher, Chloroceryle amazona. Green-barred Woodpecker, Colaptes melanochloros. Field Flicker, Colaptes campestris. Rufous Hornero, Furnarius rufus. Crested Hornero, Furnarius cristatus. White Monjita, Xolmis irupero. Great Kiskadee, Pitangus sulphuratus. Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Tyrannus savana. Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Mimus saturninus. Red-crested Cardinal, Paroaria coronata. Rufous-collared Sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis. Shiny Cowbird, Molothrus bonariensis.

On another day at sunset, while I was waiting for the truck to come and fetch us, a Stilt Sandpiper came out flying from a close marsh. This really surprised me but it seems that these birds stay at such places and very often remain undetected. As the sun was getting lower and lower, everything seemed to quiet down and all became silent before darkness would creep in. At this right moment a very lood cackling and calling started in the marsh, it was several Blackish Rails doing their day's farewell act.

One morning several vultures were soaring along a slope and among them we discovered a majestic King Vulture and then on one night while coming back from the forest several Long-tailed Nightjars would fly in front of the car's light cone making funny turns and loops in the air showing their incredibely long feathered tails.

bird photo - Plumbeous Kite
Plumbeous Kite

Birds seen during the week: Tataupa Tinamou, Crypturellus tataupa. Black Vulture, Coragyps atratus. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aurea. King Vulture, Sarcoramphus papa. Swallow-tailed Kite, Elanoides forficatus. Plumbeous Kite, Ictinia plumbea. Crane Hawk, Geranospiza caerulescens. American Kestrel, Falco sparverius. Blackish Rail, Pardirallus nigricans. Purple Gallinule, Porphyrula martinica. Stilt Sandpiper, Micropalma himantopus. Pale-vented Pigeon, Columba cayennensis. Picazuro Pigeon, Columba picazuro. Spot-winged Pigeon, Columba maculosa. Reddish-bellied Parakeet, Pyrrhura frontalis. Scaly-headed Parrot, Pionus maximiliani. Squirrel Cuckoo, Piaya cayana. Rusty-barred owl, Strix hylophila. Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia. Long-tailed Nightjar, Uropsalis lyra. Ashy-tailed Swift, Chaetura andrei. Glittering-bellied Emerald, Chlorostilbon aureoventris. Surucua Trogon, Trogon surrucura. Ringed Kingfisher, Ceryle torquata. Red-breasted Toucan, Ramphastos dicolorus. Ochre-collared Piculet, Picumnus temminckii. White Woodpecker, Melanerpes candilus. Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Melanerpes flavifrons. White-spotted Woodpecker, Veniliornis spilogaster. White-browed Woodpecker, Piculus aurulentus. Green-barred Woodpecker, Colaptes melanochloros. Field Flicker, Colaptes campestris. White-throated Woodcreeper, Drymornis bridgesii. Rufous Hornero, Furnarius rufus. Spectacled Tyrant, Hymenops perspicillata. Long-tailed Tyrant, Colonia colonus. Cattle Tyrant, Machetornis rixosus. Sirystes, Sirystes sibilator. Brown-crested Flycatcher, Myiarchus tyrannulus. Great Kiskadee, Pitangus sulphuratus. Boat-billed Flycatcher, Megarhynchus pitangua. Streaked Flycatcher, Myiodynastes chrysocephalus. Variegated Flycatcher, Empidonomus varius. Tropical Kingbird, Tyranus melancholicus. Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Tyrannus savana. Black-tailed Tityra, Tityra cayana. Black-crowned Tityra, Tityra inquisidor. Plush-crested Jay, Cyanocorax chrysops. Grey-breasted Martin, Progne chalybea. Blue-and-White Swallow, Notiochelidon cyanoleuca. House Wren, Troglodytes aedon. Slaty Thrush, Turdus nigriceps. Rufous-bellied Thrush, Turdus rufiventris. Creamy-bellied Thrush, Turdus amaurochalinus. Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Mimus saturninus. Red-eyed Vireo, Vireo olivaceus. Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Cychlaris gujanensis. Masked Yellowthroat, Geothlypis aequinoctialis. Golden-crowned Warbler, Basileuterus culicivorus. Diademed Tanager, Stephanophorus diadematus. Sayaca Tanager, Thraupis sayaca. Ruby-crowned Tanager, Tachyphonus coronatus. Magpie Tanager, Cissopis leveriana. Swallow Tanager, Tersina viridis. Green-winged Saltator, Saltator similis. Red-crested Finch, Coryphospingus cucullatus. Plain-coloured Seedeater, Catamenia inornata. Blackish-blue Seedeater, Amaurospiza moesta. Double-collared Seedeater, Sporophila caerulescens. Black-bellied Seedeater, Sporophila melanogaster. Great Pampa Finch, Embernagra platensis. Saffron Finch, Sicalis flaveola. Rufous-collared Sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis. Screaming Cowbird, Molothrus rufoaxillaris. Red-rumped Cacique, Cacicus haemorrhous. Golden-winged Cacique, Cacicus chrysopterus. Epaulet Oriole, Icterus cayennensis. Yellow-rumped Marshbird, Pseudoleistes guirahuro. Brown-and-yellow Marshbird, Pseudoleistes virescens. Hooded Siskin, Carduelis Magellanica. House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

bird photo - Black-fronted Piping Guan
Black-fronted Piping Guan

Our backtrip took us along the same road and from the car we managed to make some interesting sightings. After getting into Corrientes province, in an adjacent field quite close to the road we saw a small group of about 6 Greater Rhea feeding. Later before sundown while bordering a big marsh several Long-winged Harriers flying low above the reeds were seen and then we saw sitting on a dead twig a Ringed Kingfisher looking into the water. Now ducks, mainly Teals were flying everywhere seeking shelter for the night. A total of 120 different bird species were seen during the whole week long trip.

Acknowledgements: Many of the birds mentioned in this Report would not have been seen had it not been for Tomas Svensson a birder I invited to this trip, who patiently would find them and then would call me when I was available to take a look. The same stands for many of the pictures illustrating this Report, some of these were taken by Tomas Svensson while on the trip and others by Trevor Feltham, a travelling english birder who kindly sent me some of the bird pictures he took while in Misiones. My greatest thanks to both of them.