BRAZIL’S SOUTHWEST AMAZONIA BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Day 1 Our tour begins this evening at Porto Velho, where we will stay overnight.
Porto Velho is the capital of Rondônia State, with a population close to 450,000 and is located on the border of Rondônia and the state of Amazonas. The town is an important trading centre for cassiterite, the mining of which nowadays represents the most important economic activity in the region, and is also a transportation and communications centre. Porto Velho lies on the eastern shore of the Rio Madeira, one of the many tributaries of the Amazon River, which is an important geographic barrier between the two centres of endemism we focus on during this special tour, Rondônia and Inambari. Rondônia state was once almost entirely covered in tropical forest, but with the mining in the 50s came also a trend of human migration to the state (almost a million people), who were allowed by the government to settle on large cattle farms in the region, and for a long time this led a huge area of Rondônia to suffer from unbridled deforestation. Despite the vast loss of forest in Rondônia, there are still some extensive regions of continuous forest and we will be visiting some of these in the northeastern and northwestern parts of the state.
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Day 2 From Porto Velho airport we will travel to the remote village of Tabajara, situated on the Rio Machado, where we will stay for three nights. We will arrive in time for some initial exploration.
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Days 3-5 During the first part of the tour we will be concentrating our attentions on the Rondonian centre of endemism, in northeast Rondônia. The village of Tabajara is situated inside the buffer zone of Campos Amazônicos National Park, so it is surrounded by a huge area of forest on both sides of the Rio Machado. That will give us the chance to explore the varied habitats on both banks of the river, including areas of ‘campina’ and ‘campinarana’ (the terms ‘campina’ and ‘campinarana’ both describe white sand savannas that are very poor in nutrients, with stunted vegetation). ‘Campina’ is distinguished as being completely treeless and ‘campinarana’ represents the transition to the rainforest. We will also explore both ‘terra firme’ and ‘varzea’ rainforests, as well as the banks of Rio Machado.
Recent surveys have recorded nearly five hundred species of birds in the Tabajara area. The composition is similar to that around Alto do Bode (in Campos Amazônicos National Park), which is relatively close along the Rio Machado, but in Tabajara we will cover more areas and more habitats. Every site visited in the area will provide good birding, both in terms of quality and quantity.
During our stay in the Tabajara area we should expect to record Undulated, Variegated and Brazilian Tinamous, Razor-billed and Bare-faced Curassows, Spix’s Guan, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Capped and Zigzag Herons, Green Ibis, Slate-colored and White-browed Hawks, Sunbittern, Dark-winged Trumpeter, Pied Plover, Large-billed Tern, Black-bellied Cuckoo, Tawny-bellied Screech Owl, Spectacled and Black-banded Owls, Amazonian Pygmy Owl, Great Potoo, Blackish and Ladder-tailed Nightjars, Sand-colored Nighthawk, Mato Grosso Swift, Great-billed Hermit, Crimson Topaz, Blue-tailed Emerald, Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Collared Trogon, Pavonine Quetzal, Green-and-rufous and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Broad-billed and Rufous Motmots, Blue-cheeked, Bronzy and Great Jacamars, White-necked, Eastern Striolated, Pied and Spotted Puffbirds, Rusty-breasted Nunlet, Black-girdled Barbet, White-throated and Channel-billed Toucans, Red-necked Aracari, Scaly-breasted, Ringed, Red-necked and Red-stained Woodpeckers, Red-throated and Black Caracaras, Cryptic Forest Falcon, Scarlet, Red-and-green, Blue-and-yellow, Chestnut-fronted and Red-bellied Macaws, Yellow-crowned and Kawall’s Amazons, Orange-cheeked and Red-fan Parrots, and Golden-winged, Dusky-headed, Santarem and Crimson-bellied Parakeets.
Among the passerine birds: Fasciated, Glossy, Amazonian, Plain-winged, Chestnut-backed, White-shouldered, Natterer’s Slaty, Cinereous, Saturnine and Pearly Antshrikes, Silvered, Rufous-faced, White-browed, Black-faced, Spot-backed, Dot-backed, Ferruginous-backed, Southern Chestnut-tailed, Common Scale-backed, Banded and Wing-banded Antbirds, the amazing White-breasted Antbird, Pale-faced and Black-spotted Bare-eyes, Southern White-fringed, Dot-winged, White-eyed, Amazonian Streaked, Grey Long-winged and Aripuana (this last newly-described) Antwrens, Yellow-browed, Manicore and Rondonia Warbling Antbirds, the uncommon Black-bellied and Chestnut-belted Gnateaters, Variegated, Thrush-like and Alta Floresta Antpittas, Black-faced Antthrush, the endemic Hoffman’s Woodcreeper, Rondonia and Uniform Woodcreepers, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Ruddy Spinetail, Slender-billed Xenops, Snow-capped, Flame-crowned, Blue-backed and Black Manakins, Screaming Piha, Spangled Cotinga, Black-necked Red-Cotinga, Cinnamon Neopipo (or Cinnamon Tyrant-Manakin), White-crested and Golden-crowned Spadebills, Snethlage’s and Zimmer’s Tody Tyrants, the rare Buff-cheeked Tody-Flycatcher, the newly-described Chico’s Tyrannulet, Yellow-throated Flycatcher, Little Ground Tyrant, Rufous-crowned Elaenia, Pale-bellied Mourner, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Grey-chested Greenlet, Plush-crested Jay (ssp. diesingii), White-banded and Black-collared Swallows, Southern Nightingale and Musician Wrens, Yellow-browed Sparrow, Green and Olive Oropendolas, Rose-breasted Chat and Amazonian (or Rothschild’s) Grosbeak. There are even chances for the uncommon Red-and-black Grosbeak.
In this area, we will also be searching for the rare Buff-cheeked Tody Flycatcher, the newly described Aripuana Antwren, Manicore Warbling Antbird, Madeira Stipple-throated Antwren (ssp. dentei, known as Roosevelt Stipple-throated Antwren) and Chico’s Tyrannulet.
As is to be expected, this remote area holds hundreds of bird species, including some of the finest Amazonian birds, such as Razor-billed Curassow, Sand-colored Nighthawk, Striolated Puffbird, Rusty-breasted Nunlet, Great Jacamar, Pavonine Quetzal, Gould’s Toucanet, Red-necked Aracari, Cryptic Forest Falcon, Santarem Parakeet, Orange-cheeked Parrot, Kawall’s Amazon, Saturnine and Pearly Antshrikes, Banded and Ferruginous-backed Antbirds, Yellow-browed Warbling Antbird, Dot-backed, Spot-backed, Common Scale-backed and Rufous-faced Antbirds, the endemic ant-swarm followers White-breasted Antbird and Pale-faced Bare-eye, Elegant and Striped Woodcreepers, the rare Black-bellied Gnateater, Alta Floresta Antpitta, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Snow-capped and Flame-crowned Manakins, the rare Black-necked Red Cotinga, Snethlage’s Tody Tyrant, Little Ground Tyrant, Southern Nightingale-Wren, Musician Wren, White-winged Shrike-Tanager, Masked and Paradise Tanagers, and Slate-colored Seedeater.
Among the more interesting riverine species present in the area are the endemic Glossy Antshrike, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Silvered and Blackish Antbirds, Amazonian Streaked Antwren, White-browed and Dot-backed Antbirds, Straight-billed and Cinnamon-throated Woodcreepers, Cinnamon Attila, Spotted Tody Flycatcher, the rare Buff-cheeked Tody Flycatcher, Grey-chested Greenlet, Yellow-browed Sparrow and many others.
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Day 6 We will return to Porto Velho for an overnight stay, probably arriving in time for some birding around Porto Velho in the afternoon.
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Days 7-9 From now on the emphasis will be on the west bank of the Rio Madeira, where we will be giving special attention to the Inambari specialities. Taking the road BR-319, we cross the Madeira River to the state of Amazonas, the largest in Brazil. We head north towards the town of Humaita, where we will spend three nights.
Humaita is situated about 200 kilometres or 120 miles from Porto Velho and we will spend our time in the region exploring good areas on the west bank of the Madeira between the surroundings of Porto Velho and Humaita. The Humaita region is famous for its unusual enclave of ‘Cerrado’ vegetation amidst the Amazon rainforest, so besides covering areas of ‘terra firme’ and ‘varzea’ forests, special attention will be given to the savanna habitats, including areas of ‘campina’ and ‘campinarana’.
During our time in the Porto Velho/Humaita region we expect to record Red-winged, Small-billed and White-throated Tinamous, Speckled Chachalaca, Slender-billed Kite, Slate-colored and Black-faced Hawks, Ocellated, Russet-crowned and Ash-throated Crakes, Long-tailed Ground Dove, Hoatzin, Pale-winged Trumpeter, Amazonian Pygmy Owl, Needle-billed Hermit, Green-tailed Goldenthroat, Pavonine Quetzal, Broad-billed and Rufous Motmots, Paradise, Blue-necked, Bronzy and Great Jacamars, White-necked, Brown-banded, Chestnut-capped, Spotted, White-eared, Western Striolated and Semicollared Puffbirds, Gilded Barbet, Brown-mandibled and Curl-crested Aracaris, Golden-collared Toucanet, Spot-breasted Woodpecker, Bar-breasted Piculet, Lined Forest Falcon, Crimson-bellied and Santarem Parakeets (and with luck Bonaparte’s Parakeet), White-bellied Parrot, Mealy Amazon, Fasciated, Glossy, Mouse-colored, Barred and Spot-winged Antshrikes, the rare Black Bushbird, Black, Humaita, and Southern Chestnut-tailed Antbirds, Madeira Stipple-throated, Predicted, Pygmy, Sclater’s, Rusty-backed and Southern White-fringed Antwrens, Peruvian Warbling Antbird, the ant-swarm followers White-throated and Hairy-crested Antbirds and even the rare Reddish-winged Bare-eye, Inambari, Long-billed and Bar-bellied Woodcreepers, Curve-billed Scythebill (ssp. gyldenstolpei, known as Tupana Scythebill), Cinereous-breasted Spinetail, Slender-billed and Rufous-tailed Xenops, Olive-backed Foliage-gleaner, Rusty-belted Tapaculo, Pompadour Cotinga, Stripe-necked and Zimmer’s Tody Tyrants, Amazonian Scrub Flycatcher, Citron-bellied Attila, Cinnamon Neopipo (or Cinnamon Tyrant-Manakin), Blue-crowned and Black Manakins, Azure-naped Jay (ssp. hafferi, known as Campina Jay), Inambari Gnatcatcher, Red-breasted Blackbird, Black-faced Tanager, Plumbeous, Chestnut-bellied and Wing-barred Seedeaters, Rufous-bellied Euphonia and with luck the rare Black-masked Finch.
A full day will be dedicated to the forests around Humaita. We shall visit a superb area of ‘varzea’ on the east bank of Madeira, where we expect to find such species as Horned Screamer, Speckled Chachalaca, Black-collared Hawk, Sunbittern, Hoatzin, Little Cuckoo, Chestnut-capped Puffbird, Tui Parakeet, Short-tailed Parrot, Festive Amazon, Zimmer’s and Striped Woodcreepers, Plain Softtail, Rusty-backed and Plain-crowned Spinetails, Blackish and Black-chinned Antbirds, Leaden Antwren, Cinnamon Attila, Varzea Schiffornis and Masked Crimson Tanager.
We shall also cover more ‘terra firme’ forest on the west bank of Madeira at Ramal Novo Horizonte. This area has great potential for rarities and we will search for such near-mythical species as Undulated Antshrike, Black Bushbird and Reddish-winged Bare-eye. Besides these, birding here can be very rewarding with a number of uncommon and delightful species including Rufous-necked and Brown-banded Puffbirds, Blue-necked Jacamar, Pearly Antshrike, White-throated, Hairy-crested, Humaita and Sooty Antbirds, the Inambari-specialty Predicted Antwren, Madeira Stipple-throated Antwren, Curve-billed (Tupana) Scythebill, Rufous-tailed Flatbill, Citron-bellied Attila, White-crested Spadebill, an undescribed species of Hemitriccus, Spangled and Pompadour Cotingas, Blue-crowned, Red-headed and Fiery-capped Manakins, Cinnamon Neopipo, Inambari Gnatcatcher, Cinereous Mourner, Musician Wren, and Masked, Opal-rumped and Paradise Tanagers.
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Day 10 After our pleasant visit to southeast Amazonas, we will drive back into Rondônia, now on our way to the town of Jaci-Paraná, situated by the Madeira River in the northwestern part of Rondônia, near the border with Bolivia and the state of Acre, where we will spend three nights. Our day on the road starts early after departing from Humaita. We may have time for some birding stops on our way and we will also hope to have time for some initial exploration around Abunã, covering the west bank of Madeira.
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Days 11-12 Around Jaci-Paraná we still concentrate our efforts on the west bank of the Madeira. We will access pristine terra-firme forest, river islands and other habitats.
Our ‘mega-target’ here is the enigmatic Rondonia Bushbird, which we shall look for in specific areas of dense vine-tangles.
In this fine area we will also be looking for the uncommon Orinoco Goose, Cinereous, Undulated and Bartlett’s Tinamous, Razor-billed Curassow, Pied Plover, Large-billed and Yellow-billed Terns, Black Skimmer, Sand-colored Nighthawk, Broad-billed and Rufous Motmots, the shy Pale-winged Trumpeter, Scaled Pigeon, Short-tailed Swift, Chestnut-eared and Curl-crested Aracaris, Golden-collared Toucanet, both uncommon Collared and Semicollared Puffbirds, Western Striolated Puffbird, Fulvous-chinned Nunlet, the Stunning Rufous-headed Woodpecker, Bluish-fronted Jacamar, Lined and Slaty-backed Forest Falcons, Crimson-bellied and Cobalt-winged Parakeets, White-bellied and Red-fan Parrots, Blue-winged Macaw, Pearly and Undulated Antshrikes, Reddish-winged Bare-eye, White-throated and Hairy-crested Antbirds, Peruvian Warbling Antbird, Striated and Southern Chestnut-tailed Antbirds, White-chinned and Plain-brown Woodcreepers, Buff-throated and Olive-backed Foliage-gleaners, Ruddy Spinetail, Short-billed Leaftosser, Thrush-like Antpitta, Large-headed and Rufous-tailed Flatbills, Yellow-margined Flycatcher, Bright-rumped Attila, Drab Water Tyrant, Snethlage’s and White-bellied Tody Tyrants, Screaming Piha, Spangled and Pompadour Cotingas, Bare-necked and Purple-throated Fruitcrows, White-banded Swallow, Blue-crowned and Band-tailed Manakins, Dwarf Tyrant Manakin, Slaty-capped Shrike-Vireo, Buff-cheeked and Ashy-headed Greenlets, Green Oropendola, Slate-colored Grosbeak and Dotted Tanager.
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Day 13 After some superb birding by the bank of the mighty Rio Madeira we will finally reach the state of Acre, situated still further west in the Brazilian Amazon, where we will spend three nights at the state capital, Rio Branco.
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Days 14-15 Located in the valley of the Acre River, the city of Rio Branco is bisected by the river with a population of more than 350 thousand people. The settlement in the region started in the early 19th century and the development of the municipality increased during the long period called the ‘rubber cycle’. Nowadays wood is the main export from Acre, besides being a big producer of Brazil nuts, Assai and copaiba oil.
During our time in this part of Brazil, we will be exploring the surroundings of Rio Branco, mainly areas of ‘terra firme’ with large clumps of bamboo. As part of the same rich bamboo zone found in southeast Peru, the ones near Rio Branco also hold a number of bamboo specialities. Birding here has a lot in common with the Tambopata region in Peru, a mega-diverse area which certainly holds some of the best Amazonian birds.
During our pleasant stay at Rio Branco we have three full days to enjoy our final birding, with a list of birds that includes Cinereous, Little, Brown and Black-capped Tinamous, Speckled Chachalaca, Grey-headed and Double-toothed Kites, White-browed Hawk, Chestnut-headed Crake, Ocellated Poorwill, Silky-tailed Nightjar, White-bearded Hermit, Black-tailed, Green-backed, Blue-crowned, Collared and Amazonian Trogons, Broad-billed and Amazonian Motmots, White-throated and Bluish-fronted Jacamars, White-necked, Chestnut-capped and Western Striolated Puffbirds, Rufous-capped Nunlet, White-fronted and Yellow-billed Nunbirds, Lemon-throated Barbet, Lettered, Brown-mandibled, Chestnut-eared and Curl-crested Aracaris, Rufous-breasted and Fine-barred Piculets, Red-stained, Little, Spot-breasted, Chestnut, Cream-coloured, Red-necked and Rufous-headed Woodpeckers, Barred and Collared Forest Falcons, Chestnut-fronted and Blue-headed Macaws, Dusky-headed, Black-capped, Tui and Cobalt-winged Parakeets, Dusky-billed Parrotlet, White-bellied Parrot and Mealy Amazon.
Passerines include Speckled Spinetail, the uncommon Orange-fronted Plushcrown, Peruvian Recurvebill, Bamboo, Buff-throated, Brown-rumped, Ruddy and Chestnut-crowned Foliage-gleaners, Dusky Leaftosser, Bamboo and Bluish-slate Antshrikes, Dot-winged, Ornate, Sclater’s, Plain-throated, Grey and Pygmy Antwrens, the recently described Bamboo Antwren (IOC still treats as ssp. of Ihering’s Antwren), Grey, Riparian, Black and Manu Antbirds, Yellow-breasted Warbling Antbird, White-lined, Southern Chestnut-tailed, Black-throated, Goeldi’s, Plumbeous and Striated Antbirds, Black-spotted Bare-eye, Black-faced and Rufous-fronted Antthrushes, Amazonian Antpitta, Wing-barred Piprites, the newly described Acre Tody Tyrant, Johannes’s Tody Tyrant, Flammulated Bamboo Tyrant, Long-crested Pygmy Tyrant, White-cheeked Tody Flycatcher, Rufous Twistwing, Olivaceous, Large-headed and Dusky-tailed Flatbills, White-eyed Attila, Black-faced and Purple-throated Cotingas, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Band-tailed and Fiery-capped Manakins, Sulphur-bellied Tyrant-Manakin, Yellow-cheeked Becard, Southern Nightingale-Wren, Black-billed Thrush, the rare Black-and-white Tanager, Opal-crowned Tanager, Lesson’s Seedeater and White-lored Euphonia.
Brazil’s Southwest Amazonia: Day 16 After a final full day in the Rio Branco region and a farewell dinner, our tour ends late this evening at Rio Branco airport.
(All flights out of Rio Branco towards the coast depart in the very early hours of the morning, sadly!)