Southeast Brazil: Rainforest & Savanna - Birding Tour
It is not just the allure of beaches, music, and sporting events that draws people from around the world to Southeast Brazil; the wet rainforests along the southern coast of Brazil are a birder’s delight. Separated from the Amazonian rainforests by the dry interior habitats that dominate much of the country, the birds here evolved in relative isolation, resulting in loads of endemics. Numerous spectacular antbirds, cotingas, flycatchers, and tanagers are found nowhere else. Just a hundred miles inland, the rainforest is replaced by savanna and gallery forest with a very different set of birds and its own set of endemics. This tour combines the best sites of both regions for a truly unforgettable experience.
26 October - 14 November ($6990; single supplement: $450)
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Other Tour Details:
Length: 20 Days
Starting City: Curitiba
Ending City: Belo Horizonte
Physical Difficulty: Moderate
Group size: 8 + 1 leader
Day 1: Curitiba
Flights arrive this afternoon in Curitiba, and you will be transferred to a nearby hotel.
Day 2: Curitiba to Cananeia
Beautiful wet montane forest occurs less than an hour from the city, where we will spend a few hours birding a quiet dirt road. The loud clanging calls of Bare-throated Bellbirds are often the first thing we hear as we start walking, but they can be surprisingly hard to see sometimes – this road offers one of the better chances to see the. The forest can be pumping with highland Atlantic Rainforest species like Bertoni’s Antbird, Hooded Berryeater, Scalloped Woodcreeper, Ochre-collared Piculet, Rufous-tailed Attila, Brassy-breasted Tanager, and Red-breasted Toucan. Occasionally Canebrake Groundcreeker is seen here too. We’ll then drive about 2.5 hours to the Atlantic Coast and take a short ferry over to Ilha Comprida (Brazil’s Long Island). We should find the the rare and beautiful Red-tailed Parrot as they fly towards their roosting sites in the late afternoon, and will also target species such as Black-backed Tanager, Restinga Tyrannulet, and Azure Jay; Scarlet Ibis can sometimes be seen here too. We’ll have one night in Cananeia.
Day 3: Cananeia to Intervales State Park
After targeting anything we still need near the coast, we’ll drive up into the coastal mountains, still covered in forest, stopping along the way for our first chances at star birds like the handsome Gray-hooded Attila and scarce Mantled Hawk. In the afternoon, we arrive at Intervales State Park. We’ll spend three nights in a simple but pleasant guesthouse.
Days 4-5: Intervales
This huge park is a birding wonderland – large numbers of endemics thrive in the wet montane forest, and many are easier to find here than anywhere else. We’ll spend our days walking various wide dirt tracks through the forest. Portions of these tracks are moderately steep and can be a bit slippery if it has been raining, but overall it is quite easy going. On each day we will return to the park for lunch (or have lunch in a nearby restaurant since sometimes the restaurant in the park is closed), and have a short siesta after lunch. Some of the best birding is in the main park complex. It’s easy to see many of the common Atlantic Rainforest specialties like Azure-shouldered, Golden-chevroned, and Green-headed Tanagers, Green-winged Saltator, Black Jacobin, Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Pallid Spinetail, Red-breasted Toucan, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, and Yellow-fronted Woodpecker. A reed-filled marsh may have Orange-breasted Thornbird and Red-and-white Crake, and local guides sometimes have a nest of Swallow-tailed Cotinga staked out. With a bit of work, we can usually tease out a Dusky-tailed Antbird. A network of forested-fringed roads crisscrosses the park, and we’ll spend our mornings looking for Giant, Tufted, and White-bearded Antshrikes, Black-fronted Piping-Guan, Cinnamon-vented Piha, Hooded Berryeater, Buff-bellied Puffbird, Black-legged Dacnis, Blue-bellied Parrot, Bare-throated Bellbird, Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanets, White-collared and White-browed Foliage-gleaners, Brown Tanager, Solitary Tinamou, Squamate, Bertoni’s, and Ochre-rumped Antbirds and Violet-crowned Plovercrest just to name a few. Night birding can also be good at Intervales. We’ll check stakeouts for the mind-blowing Long-trained Nightjar, and have chances to see several owls including Tropical and Black-capped Screech-Owls, Rusty-barred Owl, and Tawny-browed Owl.
Day 6: Intervales to Ubatuba
After some final birding, we’ll spend most of the rest of the day driving to the town of Ubatuba. We’ll break the trip up with occasional rest stops and a lunch stop at one of the many good buffet style restaurants along the highway. We have three nights in a charming hotel in a quiet suburb of Ubatuba.
Days 7-8: Ubatuba Area
The lowland forest patches near town can be surprisingly good, and the going is easy along mostly flat trails and roads, though there are a couple of small streams to cross and overgrown trails to negotiate. Many great birds are regularly seen here like Buff-throated Purpletuft, Spotted Bamboowren, Tufted Antshrike, Ferruginous and Scaled Antbirds, Spot-breasted Antvireo, Unicolored Antwren, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Red-necked Tanager, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Buff-bellied Puffbird, Black-cheeked Gnateater, White-necked Hawk, Slaty Bristlefront, Thrush-like Woodcreeper, Rufous-capped Antthrush, Fork-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant, Crested Becard, Flame-crested Tanager, Salvadori’s Antwren, Star-throated Antwren, Rufous-winged Antwren, Black-capped Foliage-gleaner, Gray-hooded Flycatcher, Spot-backed Antshrike, and Lemon-chested Greenlet. We’ll visit a private residence with hummer and fruit feeders that is a magnet for handsome birds like Festive Coquette, Saw-billed Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, Black Jacobin, Sombre Hummingbird, Brazilian Tanager, and Green-headed Tanager.
Day 9: Perequê and Guapiassu
We’ll need a very early breakfast today as we start with a 2 hour drive to the town of Perequê (now called Parque Mambucaba). The valley north of town has some drier, scrubbier forest that is one of the last havens for the incredibly beautiful and endangered Black-hooded Antwren. While this is the main target, there are many other possibilities including Frilled Coquette, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Half-collared Sparrow, and Squamate Antbird. In late morning, we will drive another 4 hours, stopping for lunch en-route, before arriving at the Guapiassu Ecolological Reserve (also known as Regua) in late afternoon. There should be time for some easy birding around the wetlands for species like White-faced Whistling-Duck, Brazilian Teal, Capped Heron, Chestnut-capped Blackbird, Wing-banded Hornero, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Masked Water-Tyrant, and others. We spend three nights in a nice lodge inside the reserve.
Day 10: Guapiassu
Birding this huge reserve at the foot of the mountains will give us a chance to find some species we may have missed up till now such as Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Eye-ringed Tody-Tyrant, Spot-billed Toucanet, Black-capped Becard, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, and the star of the reserve, the rare Shrike-like Cotinga. We’ll try to call in the shy and difficult Southern Antpipit at a known stakeout. Noisy flocks of Yellow-green Grosbeaks are often around, and this is one of the better spots on the trip for Pin-tailed Manakin; even though it is a rather common species, it can be hard to find a nice adult male. We’ll spend time on forest trails, but the walking will be done at a fairly slow pace.
Day 11: Serra dos Órgãos
We’ll rise early and head up into this picturesque mountain range, named after the organ pipes they resemble. We’ll first attempt to reach a site for the very rare Gray-winged Cotinga, a ghostly bird that haunts the highest reaches of the forest. We’ll take a 4WD vehicle as high as possible, but road conditions can sometime prevent reaching the best site for the cotinga. The lush forest here is also excellent for Large-tailed Antshrike and Velvety Black-Tyrant, and we’ll have our first shot at some really nice high-mountain species more common in Itatiaia (later in the trip), including Green-crowned Plovercrest, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Black-and-gold Cotinga, and Serra do Mar Tyrannulet. Later in the morning we’ll bird another road that can be excellent for the superb Swallow-tailed Cotinga, and where the Red-legged Seriemas can sometimes be absurdly tame. After a packed lunch, we’ll head back to Guapiassu, likely arriving early enough to some more birding around the wetlands near the lodge.
Day 12: Guapiassu to Itatiaia NP
After a detour to the coast for the endemic Restinga Antwren and the chance for some coastal and seabirds, we carry on to Brazil’s oldest national park. We’ll stay two nights in a lovely hotel with fruit feeders that attract some of the most colorful birds on the planet, including Green-headed Tanager, Blue-naped Chlorophonia, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, and Saffron Toucanet. Hummer feeders bring in Scale-throated Hermit, White-throated Hummingbird, and occasionally even a Frilled Coquette, among others. Dusky-legged Guans are bordering on tame here, and are sometimes joined by a Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail. Blue-winged Macaws can sometimes be seen coming in to roost in the forest below the hotel, and Tawny-browed Owl is a regular visitor to the lodge grounds after dark.
Day 13: Itatiaia NP
We’ll have a full day to explore the lower part of the park. We’ll start birding right near the hotel, which is one of the better spots for the impressive Robust Woodpecker and scarce Pileated Parrot. Swallow-tailed Cotinga can also occasionally be seen here with some luck. Later, we’ll work our way along some moderately inclined (but not difficult) forest trails looking for shy species like Such’s and Rufous-tailed Antthrushes, Speckle-breasted Antpitta, White-bibbed Antbird and Bertoni’s Antbirds, White-bearded Antshrike, and Rufous Gnateater. Other targets include Drab-breasted Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-billed Scythebill, White-browed Woodpecker, Scaled Woodcreeper, and Gilt-edged Tanager. The afternoon plan will depend on remaining targets, but we often bird the grounds of an abandoned hotel, which can be good for species such as Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Black-legged Dacnis, Cliff Flycatcher, and Blue-billed and Velvety Black-Tyrants.
Day 14: Algulhas Negras
The highest peaks in southern Brazil are easily accessed by a dirt road on the other side of the park, about 1h20m drive from our hotel. Species like Itatiaia Thistletail, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Black-capped Piprites, and Thick-billed Saltator are more easily seen here than anywhere else. We’ll also be looking for Rufous-tailed Antbird, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Plovercrest, Mottle-cheeked and Greenish Tyrannulets, Buff-throated and Bay-chested Warbling-Finches, Gray-bellied Spinetail, Araucaria Tit-Spinetail, Olivaceous Elaenia, Swallow-tailed Cotinga, Speckle-breasted Antpitta, and others. Our comfortable hotel is right near the start of the road, giving us a chance for a mid-day siesta if the birding gets slow. Note: the hotel near the Algulhas Negras road is now only open seasonally – if it is not open for our tour, we will have a third night in the hotel in Itatiaia National Park.