The Amazon Rainforest is home to untold biodiversity, with new species being discovered every year. The megafauna predators often get the most attention, but Amazon Rainforest birds are worthy of the trip alone. These aren’t your everyday sights for birdwatchers, no. The Amazon is a bucket list location for keen birdwatchers to see some of the world’s most unique creatures in their natural habitat, some of which are completely unique to their location.
One of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth occurs in the Amazon on a daily basis, when thousands of macaws gather at clay licks along parts of the Amazon river. Whether you are a keen birdwatcher or not, the Amazon’s thriving selection of beautiful feathered friends is sure to brighten anyone’s Amazon vacation.
There are more than 1,300 species of bird in the Amazon Rainforest. This astonishing amount accounts for one-third of all bird species in the entire world! Around 30 of the birds are endemic to the region, with the many Amazon birds being migratory, either spending the winter or passing through the rainforest at certain times of the year.
Famously, a birding team from LSU (Dan Lane, Mike Harvey, Glenn Seeholzer), and Peru (Fernando Angulo of Corbidi) set the record for the number of bird species seen in 24 hours (354 species) on the way to Abra Patricia Moyobamba in San Martin and Amazonas.
In 1982, the record was set for the greatest number of bird species seen in a single location in 24 hours at the Cocha Cashu Biological Station in the Manu National Park, when LSU researcher Ted Parker and Princeton graduate Scott Robinson spotted 331 species (but it has since been broken in Kenya with 342 species by using light aircraft).
At one site in the Peruvian Amazon, in a mere 5,500-hectare section of the rainforest, some 575 bird species were identified. In comparison, 700 bird species are found in the whole of North America.
Its proximity to the equator and size gives the Amazon Rainforest a wide variety of tropical climates. The variety of climates that can be found across the region are suitable for a number of creatures, from hot and humid in the north and cool and humid in the center to mild and dry in the south, every climate is home to different birds species.
Tropical forests are thought to be the oldest biome (a major community of plants and animals characterized by the adaptations to that particular environment) on earth. This means the animals and plants in the region have had plenty of time to diversify, while the warm, humid, and predictable climates of the tropical rainforest are thought to be a very habitable environment for creatures all year round, particularly when compared with the harsh conditions of the Arctic, which has very few groups of people and species.
Tropical rainforests also have a number of layers in their makeup, providing plenty of homes for birds and their prey, such as insects and rodents. There is the tall canopy, perfect for birds, the mid-layers of the forest, for rodents, and ground-dwelling herbs and shrubs for insects.
The Amazon’s proximity to the Andes Mountain Range, the longest-running mountain range in the world, and its Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot of untold plant species provide great nesting opportunities and an abundance of berries and insects, enough food and shelter for birdlife to thrive.
To give you an example of some of the amazing species of bird that can be spotted in the Amazon, here are 10 of the rarest and most beautiful Amazon Rainforest birds to keep your eye out for:
1. Marvelous Spatuletail: This endangered endemic species is a white, green, and bronze hummingbird that can only be found in the Rio Utcubamga region of Peru.
2. Blue and Gold Macaw: Found across the Amazon Rainforest region, the blue and gold macaw usually live in flocks of up to 100 birds. They mostly feed on fruits, seeds, nuts, leaves, and flowers and use their strong beaks to prise open nutshells.
3. Long-whiskered Owlet: One of the rarest owls in the world, there are just 1,500 Long-whiskered Owlets left in the world after severe deforestation has cut back their numbers. Spot this bird in northern Peru.
4. Curl-Crested Aracari: A species of bird in the Toucan family, the curl-crested aracari has a long tail and curly crest. It’s generally rare to spot, but can be most frequently seen in the Tambopata National Reserve in Peru.
5. Scarlet-banded Barbet: Endemic to the Cordillera Azul National Park in Loreto, Peru, the brightly-colored bird species can be found in central Peru.
6. Harpy Eagle: This incredibly beautiful eagle is most often found in the lowland tropical forest and is the largest raptor in the Amazon Rainforest. Found covering large territories, the Harpy Eagle eats mammals, including other birds! This eagle is an Apex predator of the Amazon, alongside jaguars and anacondas.
7. Andean Cock-of-the-Rock: Peru’s national bird, the brightly-colored males can be spotted by their crest of scarlet or orange feathers and can be found in southern Peru.
8. Golden-backed Mountain-tanager: This endangered species can be found in elfin forests, although its population is decreasing in the Abiseo National Park.
9. White-winged Guan: This critically endangered species can be found in northwest Peru, with an estimated 350 individual birds left in the world.
10. Spix’s macaw: The world’s rarest bird (and inspiration for the film Rio) is a beautiful blue bird, a slightly darker head than its body, with a black mask and bright yellow eye. Native to Brazil, it is limited to palm groves and river edges in a very small area near the center of Brazil, but a combination of deforestation, the importation of Africanized bees, and over-zealous collectors has sadly led to the species becoming extinct in the wild since 2000. However, conservationists have begun a breeding program to restore a wild population using the few remaining captive animals.
Armed with this Amazon Rainforest bird species list, and a good pair of binoculars you are well on your way to a remarkable birdwatching extravaganza. All you need now is to book that Amazon Rainforest tour!
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