The Ultimate In Birding Tours

South America (and its islands)

INTERIOR BRAZIL – Minas Gerais, Goiás & Tocantins – A Feast of Endemics

Friday 8th September – Friday 29th September 2023

Leaders: Eduardo Patrial and local bird guides

22 Days Group Size Limit 7

INTERIOR BRAZIL BIRDING TOUR: OVERVIEW

Birdquest’s Interior Brazil birding tours are a true classic among a series of Brazil tours that we offer.

Minas Gerais in interior Southeast Brazil is definitely a state full of natural wonders. Its mountains, the mighty São Francisco River and their respective birds get even nicer during a trip in a region marked by welcoming people and good food. Such a large and diverse state certainly deserves a comprehensive itinerary, given the huge number of endemics and other specialities that it can offer. The addition of sites like the Caraça Sanctuary, the town of Pompéu, Lapa Grande State Park, the Blue-eyed Ground Dove Reserve and the Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park, together with the well-known Canastra and Cipó National Parks, provides complete coverage of the key birds of the state, gathering specialties and endemics from at least three major Brazilian biomes: the Cerrado, the Caatinga and the fringes of the famous Atlantic Forest . This tour offers birders one of the finest bird and mammal lists not just in Brazil, but also in the whole South America. A large bird list includes many localized Brazilian endemics, besides some of the rarest and most threatened species in the world, yet almost all with reliable chances.

Starting at the gorgeous mountains of the Serra do Cipó, we will visit stunning ‘campo rupestre’ (rocky scrub) to look for such localized endemics as Cipo Canastero, Hyacinth Visorbearer, Rock Tapaculo and ‘Cipo Cinclodes’.

A visit to the famous Caraça Sanctuary will surely be an amazing experience as we stay in an old monastery (partly converted into a guesthouse) in the spectacular Espinhaço mountain range, surrounded by lush pockets of Atlantic Forest and ‘campo rupestre’. Maned Wolves have fed for decades at the front entrance to the monastery and will very likely be a spectacle each evening. Our major targets here are the extremely localized endemic Diamantina Sabrewing and the endemic Serra Antwren. Near-endemic specialities include Biscutate Swift, Violet-capped Woodnymph, Brazilian Ruby and Velvety Black Tyrant.

Canastra National Park comes next with the best example of native grasslands that Brazil can offer. Here we have an excellent chance of seeing the endangered Brazilian Merganser and the spectacular Giant Anteater, as well as the wonderful Cock-tailed Tyrant, Lesser Nothura, Campo Miner, the uncommon Planalto Foliage-gleaner, Brasilia Tapaculo, Black-masked Finch and many more great birds. We should at least hear the hole-dwelling Dwarf Tinamou, although seeing one is an entirely different matter! Additional endemic, near-endemic and other specialities include Stripe-breasted Starthroat, Golden-capped Parakeet, Pin-tailed Manakin, Large-billed Antwren, the beautiful Collared Crescentchest, Crested Black Tyrant, White-rumped Monjita, Rufous-headed Tanager, Sharp-tailed Grass Tyrant, Stripe-tailed Yellow Finch and Pearly-bellied Seedeater. Blacksmith (or Eastern Slaty) Thrush and Dubois’s Seedeater are also possible.

After that, the vicinity of Pompéu will offer incredible chances to watch real ‘avian ghosts’ like the near-endemic Ocellated and Rufous-faced Crakes, recently discovered and attracted by our local guides, as well as the near-endemic Coal-crested Finch and Copper Seedeater.

Later we travel to Montes Claros, the main city in northern Minas Gerais, where there will be a day to visit the important deciduous forest (‘Mata Seca’) of Lapa Grande State Park. The reserve protects an extraordinary number of endemic and near-endemic specialities, including Outcrop (or Dry Forest) Sabrewing, Sao Francisco Black Tyrant, Minas Gerais and Reiser’s Tyrannulets, and Sao Francisco Sparrow, not to mention Yellow-legged Tinamou, Spotted Piculet, Ochre-backed Woodpecker, Caatinga (or Cactus) Parakeet, Caatinga Cacholote, Grey-headed Spinetail, Caatinga Antwren, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, Ash-throated Casiornis, White-naped Jay, Campo Troupial, Pale Baywing, Red-cowled Cardinal and Scarlet-throated Tanager.

After Montes Claros another breath-taking speciality awaits in the northern range of the Espinhaço; the rediscovered and super-rare, critically-endangered Blue-eyed Ground Dove at Botumirim.

To finish this incredible journey through Minas Gerais, the dry forests and caatinga along the great São Francisco River will give the final touches to a great journey through a great Brazilian state. At the impressive Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park and along the São Francisco River, we can expect to find such sought-after endemics as Moustached Woodcreeper, Great Xenops, White-browed Antpitta and the very restricted-range Plain-tailed Nighthawk.

Next, we will explore a remote part of the state of Goiás.

It is not often we travel such a long way, just for one target species, but the endemic Pfrimer’s Parakeet is not just some dull tyrannulet or the like but a superb psittacid that hardly any birders have ever seen! Pfrimer’s Parakeet, which is in rapid decline owing to deforestation, has an extremely restricted range in northern Goiás and adjacent Tocantins and favours dry deciduous or semievergreen woodland in karst limestone areas.

We will explore the beautiful limestone hill country around São Domingos and it should not be too long before we encounter this ‘megabird’ in the forest at the base of the sheer cliffs. The scenery here is outstanding and there is a spectacular cavern where a river disappears into the bowels of the earth! Another special bird of this remote region is the endemic and very localized Yellow-faced Parrot. Both Outcrop Sabrewing and Sao Francisco Black Tyrant, which we will have looked for earlier in Minas Gerais, can be difficult birds to find, and here in the Sāo Domingos area we have good extra chances.

Finally, we move on to the state of Tocantins in east-central Brazil. The star attractions here at the Araguaia River are four very restricted-range endemics, the beautiful Kaempfer’s Woodpecker, Bananal Antbird, an as yet undescribed species of spinetail (Bananal Spinetail) and the handsome Crimson-fronted Cardinal. In addition, the very restricted-range, river-island specialist simoni form of the White-lored Spinetail probably represents a distinct species: Araguaia Spinetail.

Other special birds in Tocantins are the fast declining Orinoco Goose, the very patchily-distributed endemic Chestnut-bellied Guan, the endemic Jandaya Parakeet, Glossy Antshrike and Smoky-fronted Tody-Flycatcher and the near-endemic Red-throated Piping Guan, Cinnamon-throated Hermit (of the form maranhoensis), Eastern Striolated Puffbird and Santarem Parakeet.

Birdquest has operated birding tours to the interior regions of Brazil since 1989.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are of a good or medium standard throughout. Road transport is by minibus and roads are mostly good.

Walking: The walking effort during our Interior Brazil birding tours is mostly easy, occasionally moderate. There is one exception; an optional long and fairly hard hike (by the average person’s standards) in order to look for the endemic Diamantina Sabrewing at Caraça sanctuary. This hike is about 5kms (3 miles) without material uphill and on a good trail, then 2-3kms (1.5-2 miles) on a narrow uphill trail into the sabrewing habitat. For anyone wanting to avoid this, the surroundings of the monastery are both birdy and scenic.

Climate: Generally warm or hot, dry and sunny at lower altitudes, but cool in upland areas. Overcast weather is quite regular and there may well be some rain. It will be rather humid in places.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Interior Brazil birding tours are quite good.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Watching the stunning Hyacinth Visorbearer and localised Cipo Canastero in the beautiful 'campo rupestre’ at Serra do Cipó
  • Serra do Cipó's other localized endemics: 'Cipo Cinclodes', Rock Tapaculo and Serra Finch
  • Looking for Brazilian Merganser along the São Francisco River at Serra da Canastra in Mainas Gerais State, one of the world’s rarest birds
  • Taking in the scenery and grassland habitats of Serra da Canastra, one of the most important protected areas in the Brazilian Cerrado
  • Looking for Cerrado specialties at Serra da Canastra such as Campo Miner, Brasilia Tapaculo, Collared Crescentchest, Cock-tailed Tyrant, Sharp-tailed Grass Tyrant, Grey-backed Tachuri, Blue Finch and Cinereous Warbling Finch
  • Watching Giant Anteaters at Serra da Canastra
  • Tasting the world famous Canastra cheese and some great coffee

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • Day 1: Morning tour start at Belo Horizonte airport. Drive to Serra do Cipó.
  • Day 2: Serra do Cipó National Park.
  • Day 3: Serra do Cipó, then drive to Caraça.
  • Day 4: Caraça.
  • Day 5: Caraça, then drive to Serra da Canastra.
  • Days 6-8: Serra da Canastra National Park.
  • Day 9: Drive to Pompeu.
  • Day 10: Pompeu, then drive to Montes Claros.
  • Day 11: Montes Claros.
  • Day 12: Drive to Botumirim.
  • Day 13: Botumirim.
  • Day 14: Botumirim then drive to Januária.
  • Day 15: Cavernas do Peruaçu. Overnight at Januária.
  • Day 16: Drive to São Domingos.
  • Day 17: São Domingos.
  • Day 18: São Domingos, then drive to Palmas.
  • Day 19: Drive to Araguaia River.
  • Day 20: Aruguaia River.
  • Day 21: Araguaia and inland.
  • Day 22: Afternoon tour end at Palmas airport.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)


2023: provisional £6160, $8690, €7290, AUD11900. Belo Horizonte/Palmas.

Single Supplement: 2023: £440, $630, €520, AUD860.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

INTERIOR BRAZIL BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Interior Brazil: Day 1  Our tour begins this morning at Belo Horizonte airport in the capital of the huge state of Minas Gerais.

(We will be pleased to arrange your internal flight to Belo Horizonte from your arrival city in Brazil, even if you are arranging your own international tickets.)

From the airport, we have a relatively short drive to Cipó village in the Serra do Cipó, where we will spend two nights.

The Serra do Cipó is a beautiful and famous geological formation in the state of Minas Gerais, part of the more complex and larger Espinhaço mountain range that extends a thousand kilometres, mostly through Minas but partly in Bahia. After lunch in our rather touristic village, popular with weekend visitors from the city, we will enjoy the afternoon in the hills of Cipó (at around 1200m above sea level), covering the typical rocky scrub (‘campo rupestre’) habitat of the hilltops, which is key habitat to look for three Espinhaço Mountains endemics, Hyacinth Visorbearer, Cipo Canastero and Serra Finch, as well as the restricted-range endemic Grey-backed Tachuri.

Adjacent Cerrado (at a little lower elevation) also offers a good selection of birds, including such near-endemics as the gorgeous Horned Sungem,  Rufous-winged Antshrike, Black-throated Saltator the stunning Blue Finch and Cinereous Warbling Finch and also the endemic Cinnamon Tanager.

Other species in this area include Small-billed Tinamou, Toco Toucan, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Checkered Woodpecker, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Southern Scrub and Suiriri Flycatchers, Plain-crested and Lesser Elaenias, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant and Burnished-buff Tanager.

Very widespread birds in the Cipó area include Turkey Vulture, Roadside Hawk, Crested and Yellow-headed Caracaras, American Kestrel, Picazuro Pigeon, Scaled, White-tipped and Eared Doves, Ruddy Ground Dove, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Tropical Kingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Shiny Cowbird, Chopi Blackbird and Rufous-collared Sparrow.

Interior Brazil: Day 2  In the early morning, we will visit the eastern side of the Cipó plateau, an area comprising grasslands and Atlantic Forest remnants, where we will look for some more target species such as Rock Tapaculo (another species endemic to the Espinhaço) and the ultra-skulking endemic Marsh Tapaculo, as well as some other interesting species of the area like the endemic Gilt-edged Tanager and the near-endemic Lesser Grass Finch, as well as White-barred Piculet, Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Long-tailed Reed Finch, Yellow-rumped Marshbird and Hellmayr’s Pipit. Uncommon possibilities include the near-endemic White-shouldered Fire-eye and the pretty Rufous Gnateater.

We will spend the rest of the morning at lower elevations not far from Cipó village. Here we will cover open areas (‘cerrado’) and dry woodland where we expect to find the noisy and impressive Red-legged Seriema, the endemic Caatinga Puffbird and Silvery-cheeked Antshrike and the near-endemic Pale-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, as well as Sooty-fronted Spinetail, Black-capped Antwren, Chivi Vireo, Flavescent Warbler, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Guira Tanager, Grey Pileated Finch and Saffron-billed Sparrow. With luck, we will also encounter the near-endemic Rufous-capped Spinetail.

From there we have just a short journey to reach the beautiful cerrado in the hills of Lapinha da Serra, where we will the rest of the day enjoying the spectacular scenery and looking for goodies like the endemic ‘Cipo Cinclodes’ (currently lumped in Long-tailed Cinclodes, but so isolated from the range in southernmost Brazil that many Brazilian taxonomists consider it a separate species), the endemic Band-tailed Hornero and White-striped Warbler, and the near-endemic Curl-crested Jay and Shrike-like (or White-lined) and White-rumped Tanagers. Species of wider distribution include Firewood-gatherer, the wonderful Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Red (or Lowland Hepatic) Tanager and Plumbeous Seedeater.

Interior Brazil: Day 3  This morning we will take the Serra Morena road, mainly to check few sections of gallery forest. There we will be mainly looking for the uncommon Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner. The stunning Helmeted Manakin should also appear in the gallery forest and some others like Variable Antshrike, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Streaked Xenops, Greenish Elaenia, Planalto Tyrannulet, Golden-crowned Warbler and Grey-headed Tanager may well be seen.

We will then travel southwards to another magnificent corner of the Espinhaço Mountains, the fascinating and more Atlantic-Forest-influenced Caraça Sanctuary, in the Serra do Caraça. The Caraça Sanctuary combines beautiful humid valleys with lush vegetated rocky outcrops and fields of ‘campo rupestre’, all surrounded by towering mountains.

We will arrive in time for some introductory birding before checking in at the impressively huge monastery building for our two nights stay.

Interior Brazil: Day 4  Visiting the Caraça Sanctuary is always a memorable experience for those who appreciate nature. Here we shall be birding mainly between 1200-1700m (3900-5600ft) above sea level.

We shall be giving priority to one very special bird, the extremely range-restricted endemic Diamantina Sabrewing that occurs on the higher wooded and bushy slopes in the area. This is the only day during the tour when we have a long hike to make (and partly steeply uphill to boot), but we will take our time over it and we have a very good chance of encountering this very rarely observed speciality! We will also enjoy the stunning mountain scenery, with panoramic views over the Caraça Sanctuary.

Another important speciality that we will want to see while at Caraça is the very restricted-range endemic Serra Antwren. We also have another opportunity for Rock Tapaculo, a species that can be tricky to get views of.

Caraça is famous for its Maned Wolves and we have a very good chance of seeing one or two Maned Wolves coming to food placed right at the front entrance to the monastery each evening! Other mammals could include Guianan Squirrel and Crab-eating Fox.

Other likely bird species at Caraça include the restricted-range Dusky-legged Guan (ridiculously tame here as they are fed by both the monks and visitors), the uncommon, near-endemic Biscutate Swift, the near-endemic Violet-capped Woodnymph and the endemic Brazilian Ruby and Velvety Black Tyrant, as well as White-collared Swift, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-throated Hummingbird, Blackish Rail, Long-tailed Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, Blue-and-white Swallow, Rufous-bellied and Pale-breasted Thrushes, Crested Oropendola, Palm Tanager and Saffron Finch (hordes are being fed here).

Interior Brazil: Day 5  After some early morning birding at Caraça we will set out for São Roque de Minas in the southwest of Minas Gerais where we will stay for four nights. The town is situated adjacent to the famous Serra da Canastra National Park.

Interior Brazil: Days 6-8  We will have three full days to explore the unique tableland of Serra da Canastra. Created in 1972, the National Park protects the São Francisco and other river sources, being an important ‘river nursery’ lying between two of the largest watersheds in the country, the Paraná and the São Francisco. This chest-shaped tableland (the shape is what gives Canastra its name) with higher altitudes near to 1500m (4900ft), also protects one of the most threatened habitats in the Brazilian Cerrado, the grasslands. In addition, the Canastra region also comprises other cerrado physiognomies like typical cerrado (savanna), gallery forests, ‘cerradão’, and ‘campo rupestre’, and the area still has some influence from the Atlantic Forest that is revealed by its semi-deciduous forest remnants. It is this marvellous diversity that makes the Serra da Canastra such a special place.

Emblematic mammals are part of the fauna of the national park, with regular sightings of the splendid Giant Anteater and Pampas Deer. There is even a slim chance for a Maned Wolf.

Birding in Canastra is divided into two parts, the open habitats of the high grassland plateau and the much lower foothills and surroundings, which mostly involve more forested, riverine habitats.

The clear river waters of the Canastra region hold the largest population of the super-rare and critically endangered endemic Brazilian Merganser, with about two hundred birds estimated present in the greater Canastra region (IUCN, 2020). Watching this shy and rare bird is a dream for every birder, but the search for it can be prolonged and that is why we allow extra time if necessary, with three full days in the area. This is definitely one we don’t want to miss!

During the dry season (from June to October) the chances of finding Brazilian Merganser are generally higher in the lower part of the Canastra region, so we shall check favoured areas along the Sao Francisco and other rivers. The density of the mergansers is low, and they can hide away in inaccessible stretches of the main rivers or up smaller tributaries, so persistence is often necessary!

The merganser aside, we will have a large list of birds to look for in Canastra during these days. Some of our most important targets here are the endemic Stripe-breasted Starthroat and Brasilia Tapaculo and such near-endemics as Lesser Nothura (a retiring species that can be hard to see or flush), Campo Miner (an uncommon species that favours burnt areas of savanna), Planalto Foliage-gleaner (another uncommon species) and Ochre-breasted Pipit (we will be at Canastra when these shy birds are in display flight and so easier to locate). There are also some important restricted-range specialities including the wonderful Cock-tailed Tyrant, Stripe-tailed Yellow Finch and Black-masked Finch.

The endemic Dwarf Tinamou, a species that lives in holes excavated by armadillos, is quite widespread in the grasslands. We are likely to hear them calling, but seeing one of these tiny creatures in the thick grass is another matter! The near-endemic Yellow-faced Parrot gets recorded here on occasion but is easier to find later in the tour around São Domingos.

Other specialities that we should encounter at Canastra include the endemic Golden-capped Parakeet, Pin-tailed Manakin and Rufous-headed Tanager, the near-endemic Large-billed Antwren, beautiful Collared Crescentchest and Crested Black Tyrant, and the restricted-range Sharp-tailed Grass Tyrant, White-rumped Monjita and Pearly-bellied Seedeater. The endemic Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatcher and Grey-eyed Greenlet are also possible. The near-endemic Blacksmith (or Eastern Slaty) Thrush and the endemic Dubois’s Seedeater spend the Austral winter here and sometimes linger.

More widespread species we should encounter in the Canastra region include Greater Rhea, Red-winged Tinamou, Spotted Nothura, the splendid Bare-faced Curassow, Muscovy Duck, Buff-necked and Green Ibises, Western Cattle Egret, King and Black Vultures, Savanna and White-tailed Hawks, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Smooth-billed Ani, Guira and Squirrel Cuckoos, Great Horned Owl, the cute Burrowing Owl, Least Nighthawk, Sick’s Swift, Planalto Hermit, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Fork-tailed Woodnymph, Surucua Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, White-eared Puffbird, White, Little and Green-barred Woodpeckers, Campo Flicker, Aplomado and Laughing Falcons, Yellow-chevroned and Maroon-bellied Parakeets, and Blue-winged Parrotlet.

Among the likely passerines are Spix’s Spinetail, Plain Antvireo, Southern Antpipit, Small-headed, Highland and Grey Elaenias, Southern Beardless, Sooty, White-crested and Mouse-colored Tyrannulets, Common Tody-Flycatcher, Bran-colored, Cliff, Social, Fork-trailed, Swainson’s and Short-crested Flycatchers, Grey Monjita, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Masked Water Tyrant, White-throated Kingbird, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Plush-crested Jay, Grey-breasted Martin, White-rumped, Southern Rough-winged and Tawny-headed Swallows, Grass and House Wrens, Black-capped Donacobius, Giant Cowbird, Chestnut-capped Blackbird, Purple-throated Euphonia, Grassland Sparrow, Hooded Siskin, Tropical Parula, Southern Yellowthroat, Sayaca and Swallow Tanagers, Blue Dacnis, Pampa Finch, Wedge-tailed Grass Finch, Green-winged Saltator, Blue-black Grassquit, Yellow-bellied Seedeater and Bananaquit.

More uncommon possibilities include the rare Chaco Eagle, Spot-tailed Nightjar, Sooty Swift, Robust Woodpecker, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Rufous Casiornis and Masked Gnatcatcher.

While in Canastra we should also appreciate the opportunity of trying the Canastra cheese, the best one in the country, and also the very good coffee produced in the area.

Interior Brazil: Day 9  This morning we will drive to the town of Pompéu for an overnight stay. Pompéu is situated well to the northeast of São Roque and to the southwest of Belo Horizonte.

There is one big reason why we have come to this little town – seeing tricky crakes! With help of local guides, we will visit at least two different sites where shy and rare crakes are being very cooperative for great views and photos. Our main targets here are the rarely-observed Ocellated Crake and equally difficult, near-endemic Rufous-faced Crake.

The rich cerrado in the area should offer some additions to our list, including the near-endemic Coal-crested Finch and Copper Seedeater as well as Plain-breasted Ground Dove, the marvellous Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Red-bellied Macaw, Turquoise-fronted Amazon, Rusty-backed Antwren, Greater Thornbird, Chotoy Spinetail, the charismatic Suiriri Flycatcher with its impressive display (the form here has sometimes been split as Chapada Suiriri or Chapada Flycatcher) and Black-faced Tanager. There are also chances to catch up with species we might have missed previously, such as Lesser Nothura, Campo Miner, Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner and Black-masked Finch.

Interior Brazil: Day 10  Most of the morning will be spent around Pompéu, checking for crakes and cerrado specialities.

Afterwards, we will commence the drive to Montes Claros, the main city of northern Minas Gerais, where we will stay for the next two nights.

Interior Brazil: Day 11  We have a full day for exploring the rich ‘mata seca’ of Lapa Grande State Park at Montes Claros. The park is right next to the city, and a good mix of species, including cerrado and caatinga specialities, will easily entertain us for a day.

Here we expect to record a really splendid variety of Brazilian endemics including Yellow-legged Tinamou, Spotted Piculet, the superb Ochre-backed Woodpecker, Caatinga (or Cactus) Parakeet, Caatinga Cacholote, Grey-headed Spinetail, Caatinga Antwren, Planalto Slaty Antshrike, the very localized Minas Gerais and Reiser’s Tyrannulets, Ash-throated Casiornis, the localized Sao Francisco (or Caatinga) Black Tyrant, White-naped Jay, the localized Sao Francisco Sparrow, Campo Troupial, Pale Baywing, Red-cowled Cardinal, Scarlet-throated Tanager, and in particular the very localized endemic Outcrop (or Dry Forest) Sabrewing. We should also encounter the distinctive endemic Caatinga form of the Barred Antshrike. Additional specialities include the near-endemic Black-bellied Antwren and the patchily-distributed Stripe-backed Antbird, Yes, that impressive list of specialities just keeps on and on…! What an amazing place Lapa Grande is!

Other species we may well encounter include Grey-lined Hawk, Black-and-white Hawk-Eagle, Ornate Hawk-Eagle (uncommon), Dark-billed Cuckoo, Rusty-breasted Nunlet, Golden-green and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Bat Falcon, Pale-legged Hornero, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Great Antshrike, Black-tailed Myiobius, Crested Becard, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Orange-headed and Hooded Tanagers and Ultramarine Grosbeak.

Interior Brazil: Day 12  This morning we travel eastwards to the little town of Botumirim, back to the amazing Espinhaço mountain range for a two nights stay.

Botumirim has become famous in recent times owing to the rediscovery of the Blue-eyed Ground Dove, certainly one of the rarest and most threatened birds in the world! After two specimens were seen in southeastern Goiás state in 1941, the Blue-eyed Ground Dove was only found again in 2015 by ornithologist Rafael Bessa, in a very specific cerrado habitat; a type of white-sand ‘campo rupestre’ (rocky scrub). The species is definitely correctly ranked as Critically Endangered and the small known population in Botumirim may only comprise twelve birds! Happily a private reserve (the Blue-eyed Ground Dove Reserve) was created in the place of rediscovery by the Save Brasil Foundation (a BirdLife International partner) and now the Botumirim State Park is being implemented in the region, together protecting an area of over 350 square kilometres.

We should arrive in time to start birding by late morning around Botumirim. The mosaic of vegetation in the area, as elsewhere along the Espinhaço range, is rather varied, with influences of cerrado, caatinga and the Atlantic Forest.

Our first site will be the interesting forest known as Mata do Lobo where we will look for such endemics as the localized Narrow-billed Antwren, the uncommon White-browed Antpitta, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant and Long-billed Wren, as well as the impressive, near-endemic Blond-crested Woodpecker. We also have another chance for the rare Planalto Foliage-gleaner. Additional birds in this area include Scaled Pigeon, Blue Ground Dove, White-wedged Piculet and Red-shouldered Macaw.

After lunch at our guesthouse we will make our first visit to the Blue-eyed Ground Dove Reserve. The chances of seeing this ultra-rare bird are surprisingly good and the beautiful ‘campo rupestre’ should provide some other interesting species. These will most likely already have been seen during the tour, but this is a good area for both White-bellied and Copper Seedeaters.

Interior Brazil: Day 13  A full day to enjoy the Blue-eyed Ground Dove Reserve and some other productive areas in Botumirim. Nice views and chances for photos of one of the world’s rarest birds should make this one of the biggest highlights of the tour.

In the reserve, and further down the road, we can search for more cerrado and caatinga specialities, with more chances for White-browed Antpitta, Collared Crescentchest and the endemic Scarlet-throated Tanager. We will also hope to find tough but rather more widespread species like the rare Chaco Eagle and the uncommon Long-tailed Ground Dove.

The trail to the plateau of Campina do Bananal can be a good option if we have the time. Here we have second chances for such uncommon endemic specialities as Hyacinth Visorbearer, Cipo Canastero and Grey-backed Tachuri.

Interior Brazil: Day 14  Today we travel northwestwards to the municipality of Januária, situated in the middle reaches of the mighty São Francisco River (one of Brazil’s largest), where we will stay for two nights. Deciduous forest (‘mata seca’) and caatinga are the habitats we will be covering in the Januária area.

The Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park is an important reserve that protects the typical ‘mata seca’ and also one of the most famous prehistoric archaeological sites in South America, with many caves and rocky paintings from thousands of years ago that will definitely be on our schedule as well.

After lunch, we will spend the rest of the day covering caatinga habitats (from semi-open dry scrub to arboreal) next to the bank of São Francisco.

Our major target here is the restricted-range endemic Plain-tailed Nighthawk, but for this we will have to wait until dusk.

A pleasant session until it gets dark should include numerous bird species, including the endemic White-throated Seedeater and the restricted-range White-bellied Nothura as well as Undulated Tinamou, White-faced and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Crane Hawk, Snail Kite, Giant Wood Rail, Black-necked Stilt, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, Picui Ground Dove, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Ringed and Amazon Kingfishers, Rusty-backed Spinetail, Red-billed Scythebill, Stripe-necked Tody-Tyrant, Tawny-crowned Pygmy Tyrant, Greater Wagtail-Tyrant, Large Elaenia, Black-backed Water Tyrant, Solitary Cacique, Variable Oriole, Orange-fronted Yellow Finch, Silver-beaked Tanager and Greyish Saltator.

Interior Brazil: Day 15  For our last full day of this magnificent trip through Minas Gerais, we will enjoy the beautiful Cavernas do Peruaçu National Park, exploring ‘mata seca’ and wooded caatinga.

One of our main targets will be the rather prehistoric-looking endemic Moustached Woodcreeper, a rather rare bird through its range. In our favour, the national park seems to be this species’ stronghold. Certainly this is the best place in the country for finding this large woodcreeper.

Our priority list will also include the local race of the Scaled Woodcreeper (considered by some a separate species – Wagler’s Woodcreeper), the uncommon Brazilian caatinga-endemic Great Xenops and Red-shouldered Spinetail, the uncommon endemic White-browed Guan, the endemic Sombre Hummingbird and the near-endemic Rusty-margined Guan and Sibilant Sirystes.

We will also have further chances for Yellow-legged Tinamou and the uncommon and localized endemic Outcrop (or Dry Forest) Sabrewing, Sao Francisco (or Caatinga) Black Tyrant and Sao Francisco Sparrow.

The park also offers opportunities to find such species as Grey-headed Kite, Grey-cowled Wood Rail, Plumbeous Pigeon and Pearly-breasted and perhaps Pheasant Cuckoos. A nightbirding session could turn up Spectacled and Black-banded Owls and Rufous Nightjar.

The impressive rocky paintings will also be a major highlight of our visit to the park, allowing us to reflect on our historic dependence (or otherwise) on nature and how important conservation can be in our planet’s very near future!

Interior Brazil: Day 16  Today we have a travel day as we drive northwestwards to distant São Domingos in northern Goiás state, where we will spend two nights. We should arrive in time for some initial exploration in the vicinity of this remote but attractively situated little town.

Interior Brazil: Day 17  It is not often we travel such a long way, just for one target species, but the endemic Pfrimer’s Parakeet is not just some dull tyrannulet or the like but a superb psittacid that hardly any birders have ever seen! Pfrimer’s Parakeet, which is in rapid decline owing to deforestation, has an extremely restricted range in northern Goiás and adjacent Tocantins and favours dry deciduous or semievergreen woodland in karst limestone areas.

Today we will explore the beautiful limestone hill country around São Domingos and it should not be too long before we encounter this ‘megabird’ in the forest at the base of the sheer cliffs. The scenery here is outstanding and there is a spectacular cavern where a river disappears into the bowels of the earth!

Another special bird of this remote region is the endemic and very localized Yellow-faced Parrot.

Both Outcrop Sabrewing and Sao Francisco Black Tyrant, which we will have looked for earlier in Minas Gerais, can be difficult birds to find, and here in the São Domingos area we have more chances.

Interior Brazil: Day 18  After some early morning birding around São Domingos we will head further northwestward to Palmas, the capital city of Tocantins state, for an overnight stay.

Interior Brazil: Day 19  This morning we will head southwestwards to the mighty Araguaia River area for a three nights stay (spending the first two nights at the river and the third night inland from it). We will spend much of today exploring the river itself and adjacent habitats.

Interior Brazil: Days 20-21  The star attractions here at the Araguaia River are four very restricted-range endemics, the beautiful Kaempfer’s Woodpecker, Bananal Antbird, an as yet undescribed species of Certhiaxis spinetail (known as Bananal Spinetail) and the handsome Crimson-fronted Cardinal. In addition, the very restricted-range, river-island specialist simoni form of the White-lored Spinetail probably represents a distinct species: Araguaia Spinetail.

Other special birds here are the fast declining Orinoco Goose, the very patchily-distributed endemic Chestnut-bellied Guan, the endemic Jandaya Parakeet, Glossy Antshrike and Smoky-fronted Tody-Flycatcher and the near-endemic Red-throated Piping Guan, Cinnamon-throated Hermit (of the form maranhoensis), Eastern Striolated Puffbird and Santarem Parakeet.

Many other species will be recorded during our stay and in this area, there are strong influences from both Amazonia (we are in a transitional zone at the Araguaia) and the Pantanal in the composition of the local avifauna.

Likely species include Little Tinamou, Brazilian Teal, Great Potoo, Band-tailed Nighthawk, Ladder-tailed Nightjar, Greater Ani, Little Cuckoo, Pale-vented and Ruddy Pigeons, Sungrebe, Purple Gallinule, Collared Plover, Wattled Jacana, Spotted Sandpiper, the huge Jabiru, Anhinga, Neotropic Cormorant, Roseate Spoonbill, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Striated, Cocoi and Capped Herons, Great and Snowy Egrets, the strange Hoatzin, Greater Yellow-headed Vulture, Western Osprey (a seasonal visitor), Swallow-tailed Kite, Long-winged Harrier, Black-collared, Great Black and Short-tailed Hawks, Tawny-bellied Screech Owl, Black-banded Owl, Green-backed and Blue-crowned Trogons, Green, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Amazonian Motmot, Spotted and Swallow-winged Puffbirds, Black-fronted Nunbird, Lettered and Black-necked Aracaris, Gould’s Toucanet, Channel-billed Toucan, Red-stained and Red-necked Woodpeckers, Barred Forest Falcon (uncommon), Blue-headed Parrot, Orange-winged Amazon and the lovely Golden-collared Macaw.

Among the likely passerines are Plain-brown, Long-billed, Striped, Buff-throated and Straight-billed Woodcreepers, Southern White-fringed Antwren, Band-tailed Antbird, Forest Elaenia, Ringed Antpipit, Amazonian Inezia, Zimmer’s Tody-Tyrant, Rusty-fronted and Spotted Tody-Flycatchers, Grey-crowned and Rufous-tailed Flatbills, Piratic, Rusty-margined and Variegated Flycatchers, Greyish Mourner, Cinnamon and Bright-rumped Attilas, Purple-throated and Bare-necked Fruitcrows, Spangled Cotinga, Blue-backed and Band-tailed Manakins, Masked Tityra, Green-backed Becard (uncommon), Ashy-headed Greenlet, White-winged Swallow, Moustached and Buff-breasted Wrens, Violaceous Euphonia, Yellow-browed and Pectoral Sparrows, Red-breasted Blackbird, Solitary and Yellow-rumped Caciques, the stunning Rose-breasted Chat, White-shouldered and Magpie Tanagers, Lined Seedeater and Chestnut-bellied Seed Finch.

Interior Brazil: Day 22  After some final birding we will return to Palmas. We will stop along the way to look for an undescribed form of antwren that is currently included in Caatinga Antwren but which is possibly a good species. Our tour ends this afternoon at Palmas airport.

(We will be pleased to arrange your internal flight from Palmas to your departure city in Brazil, even if you are arranging your own international tickets. Kindly note that there are only a limited number of flights serving Palmas.)

PANTANAL & INTERIOR BRAZIL TOUR REPORT 2018

by Eduardo Patrial

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PANTANAL & INTERIOR BRAZIL TOUR REPORT 2016

by Eduardo Patrial

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PANTANAL & INTERIOR BRAZIL TOUR REPORT 2015

by Eduardo Patrial

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Other Brazil birding tours by Birdquest include: