Where to See the Amazing Birdlife of Latin America
From the resplendent quetzal to the Andean condor, Latin America’s birdlife matches the unsurpassable diversity of its landscape of snow-capped peaks, wetlands, desert and Amazonian rainforest.
Violet sabrewing, Costa Rica
Bridging the gap between South and North America, the countries that make up Central America have become home to birdlife from both environments. This, along with its diverse landscape of coastal rainforest, mangrove and mountains, has given Costa Rica an incredible richness of wildlife. Over 890 bird species have been recorded, including 30 different types of hummingbirds, alongside toucans, trogons, vultures and the resplendent quetzal. Head to the Nicoya Peninsula, Osa Peninsula, Tortuguero and the Central Cloud Forests to experience this extraordinary abundance.
Respendent quetzal, Costa Rica.
Royal flycatcher, Costa Rica.
The Galapagos Islands are known for their great variety of finches after Darwin noted that the differences within this one species could have been a result of the islands’ differing environments. The Galapagos are also home to many endemic species, such as the Frigatebird, an endemic subspecies, which attracts its mates by inflating its gular pouch. Another fascinating bird to look out for is the blue-footed booby; the feet of these birds are coloured by carotenoid pigments in the fish they eat, indicating their nourishment and key to their courtship. Flamingoes, cormorants, Galapagos penguins and herons are all common sights, with some less expected species like the barn owl.
Blue-footed booby, Galapagos.
In this land of spectacular scenery, from wild Amazonian rainforest and snow-capped Andean peaks to the great white plains of Salar de Uyuni, it seems natural that the birdlife would be just as extraordinary. Thousands of pink flamingos flock around Salar de Uyuni’s lakes, alongside 80 other species that make these salt flats their home. The Bolivian Amazon alone has 218 bird species including toucans and macaws, while the Andes are the territory of the iconic Andean condor, amongst many more highlands species including the endemic Cochabamba mountain-finch.
Great extremes of environment also makes Argentina a wildlife hotspot. In the north, the Ibera Wetlands and Iguassu National Park are especially noted for their birdlife, along with the grass plains of the Pampas, mountainous Patagonia and the Pacific coast. See tropical birds such as toucans, woodpeckers and kingfishers among the 500 species recorded in Iguassu National Park, as many as 350 species in the Ibera Wetlands, and the ostrich like rhea, condors and eagles of Los Glaciares National Park, as well as the famous Magellanic penguins in coastal areas such as Bahia Bustamente.
Colombia can boast the largest number of bird species in any country worldwide with over 1,870 species recorded around the Pacific and Caribbean coast, the Amazonian rainforest, the Andes and the wetlands of Los Llanos. El Dorado bird reserve near Santa Marta is especially worth visiting with around 400 species and an altitude ranging from 900 to 2,600 metres. Popular species to spot are the Andean condor, the Cocora Valley’s yellow-eared parrot, the harpy eagle of Choco and Magdalena Valley, and the golden-headed quetzal that inhabits the Caribbean coast’s rainforest.
With over 1,800 bird species, of which 120 are endemic, Peru is second only to Colombia as the country with the most bird species across the globe. Northern Peru is home to around 85 percent of these, from the coastal regions to the Andes and the Amazonian lowlands, but there are many more to spot throughout the entire country. Watch seabirds such as Humboldt penguins and the Peruvian booby in the Ballestas Islands, macaws on the clay licks of Manu Biosphere Reserve, the Andean condor in the Colca Canyon and the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock throughout the Andes.
Brazil is made up of six biomes: the Amazon, Atlantic forest, the Pantanal wetlands, Cerrado tropical savanna, desert-like Caatinga and the Pampas lowland plains, and each of these distinct environments is home to a different variety of bird species. Across the country 40 species of eagle can be seen, alongside hummingbirds, toucans, trogons, heron and storks. With the Amazon covering 40 percent of Brazil’s land and the Pantanal noted for being the world’s largest wetland, these are two particularly bird rich regions.
Blue-crowned trogon, Brazil.