Category Archives: Birds

Orange-breasted Falcon at Pico da Caledônia

On 23 March, our bird guide Cirilo Vieira was guiding two guests David Wilcove and Tim Treuer from Princeton University at Pico da Caledônia who were keen to see the rare Grey-winged Cotinga Tijuca condita found in the elfin forest around the top of the mountain. Unfortunately they could only hear the cotinga calling, but then imagine their surprise when they caught sight of an Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus perched on a bare branch close to the road (just a few hundred metres from the checkpoint at the start of of the starts to the summit). David had been looking for this bird for 30 years and sighed in disbelief when he realized what it was!

Orange-breasted Falcon Falco deiroleucus, Pico da Caledônia, RJ, 23 March 2017. Note the bulky structure, heavy bill, large feet, white throat contrasting with the orange breast and neck sides, broad barring on the belly and blackish upperparts. The photo also shows the graduated tail quite well. The greenish tinge to the yellow feet, cere and orbital ring suggest this bird is a sub-adult. (© David Wilcove)

Orange-breasted Falcon is very similar in appearance to the much more common and widespread Bat Falcon Falco rufigularis. Identification can be difficult, but there are some key identification features if seen well. Structurally, Orange-breasted Falcon is larger and bulkier than Bat Falcon and with a larger head and slightly shorter graduated tail. The feet are also noticeably larger and are yellow to greenish-yellow compared to the bright orange-yellow feet of Bat Falcon, and the bill is significantly heavier. Orange-breasted Falcon has blackish upperparts that contrast very little with the blackish head, whereas across much of it’s range, Bat Falcon generally has paler greyish upperparts that contrast with the blackish head.

There are several supporting identification features, that while not diagnostic, are also useful. In Orange-breasted Falcon the white throat is bordered by an orange breast (above the black ‘vest’ on the belly) and neck sides, whereas in most Bat Falcons the white throat contrasts strongly with the black vest with little or no orange or buff on the breast (there are some exceptions though so this alone is not a reliable identification feature). Also, the whitish barring on the black vest is coarser with an orange wash on Orange-breasted Falcon compared to Bat Falcon that usually shows faint narrow whitish barring on the vest.

The Neotropical Bird Club website has an excellent paper on the identification of Orange-breasted and Bat Falcons.

Guilherme Serpa informs us that this is only the second sighting of Orange-breasted Falcon for Rio de Janeiro state – an incredible record! Intriguingly, Adilei has seen a falcon here in the past that he assumed was Bat Falcon and Nicholas has photographs of a falcon taken nearby on Pico da Caledônia, again presumed Bat Falcon at the time. We will be checking these photos to double check the identification.

The following day another group from the lodge visiting Pico da Caledônia failed to relocate the bird, but hopefully it will be seen again. Very well done to David Wilcove for an excellent state find and for taking an excellent set of photographs.

A weekend of Birding at REGUA

The Rio de Janeiro Birding Calender for 2017 successfully kicked off on March 11th and 12th at REGUA.

Some 30 local birders came to enjoy the wetlands and waterfall trail.    An early start, followed by Cirilo’s guiding enabled many first time birders to walk the yellow trail and see many of the over 180 species found in this habitat.

Some of the group with Cirilo (© Raquel Locke)

There were ample opportunities to present the work that REGUA has been devoted to and the project’s future plans.

People are always very receptive and positive and the end of the day was filled with promises of return visits and future enjoyment.

 

Barred Forest-Falcon

Some of our visitors will remember bird guide Igor Camacho, who has not stopped his survey work and guiding since he left REGUA.

He continues to bring clients to REGUA and on his visit early this year, to the restored forest around the San José tower, he found Red-legged Honeycreeper, White-bellied Tanager, Yellow-backed Tanager and Blue Dacnis to show Ernani Oliveira. The star of this trip however was Barred Forest-Falcon near the tower.

Barred-forest Falcon (©Igor Camacho)

He suggested a hanging feeder near the tower might attract forest birds such as Yellow-green Grossbeak, Channel-billed Toucans, Rufous-winged Antwren and Greyish Mourner, so we considering how feasible it will be to maintain a feeder at this remote location.

Bird Sightings – three days in February

There are now over 470 species of birds confirmed at REGUA – more than at any other site in the Atlantic Forest and probably a greater number of species than at any site in Brazil outside of the Amazon region.   Here are just a few highlights from recent walks at REGUA.   Whilst this is our Autumn, it just shows what a great all-year-round birding destination our wonderful Reserve is.

Cirilo and Adilei – REGUA’s brilliant Bird Guides (© REGUA)

6th February – a short afternoon walk along the Green Trail
Black-throated Trogon (Trogon rufus)
Rufous-breasted Leaftosser (Sclerurus scansor)
Blue Manakin (Chiroxiphia caudata)
Pin-tailed Manakin (Ilicura militaris)
Eye-ringed Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Yellow-Olive Flycatcher (Tolmomyias assimilis)

7th February – the Forest/Brown  Trail
Blond-Crested Woodpecker – a pair (Celeus flavescent)
Rufous-capped Motmot (Baryphthengus ruficapillus)
Sooretama-slaty Antshrike (Thamnophilus ambiguus)
Chestnut-backed Antshrike (Thamnophilus palliatus)
White-flanked Antwren (Myrmitherula axillaris)
Scaled Antbird (Drymophila squamata)
Eye Ringed Tody Tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Southern Antpipit (Corythopis delalandi)
Blue Manakin (Chiroxiphia caudata)
Green-headed Tanager (Tangara seledon)
Yellow-backed Tanager (Hemithraupis flavicollis)
Orange-bellied Euphonia (Euphonia xanthogaster)

Birding the Yellow Trail with Adilei (© Sue Healey)

8th February – the Green and Black Trails
Grey-hooded Attila (Attila rufus)
Yellow-throated Woodpecker (Piculus flavigula)
Lesser Woodcreeper (Xiphorhynchus fuscus)
Scaled Antbird (Drymophila squamata)
Southern Antpipit (Corythopis delalandi)
Eye-ringed Tody-tyrant (Hemitriccus orbitatus)
Rufous-breasted Leaftosser (Sclerurus scansor)
Grey-fronted Dove (Leptotila rufaxilla)
Spot-winged Wood-quail (Odontophorus capueira)
Red-crowned Ant-tanager (Habia rubica)
Black-capped Foliage-gleaner (Philydor atricapillus)
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner (Philydor rufum)
Pale Browed Treehunter (Cichlocolaptes leucophrus)
Red-necked Tanager (Tangara cyanoventris)
Black-throated Grosbeak (Saltator fuliginosus)
Blue-bellied Parrot (Triclaria malachitacea)
White-browed Foliage-gleaner (Philydor erythrocercum)

Guide Training – part of REGUA’s Education work

Rio’s State Environmental Institute (INEA) organized a summer training course called “Trail Guiding” whose target audience were participants from the local areas of Cachoeiras de Macacu and Guapimirim. Thirty people enrolled in this course including REGUA’s young ranger Miguel – just shows how inspiring REGUA can be!

The course participants with REGUA staff (©REGUA)

The aim is to prepare local guides to help visitors at the Três Picos Park and Natural Park at Macacu. The guides love nature and need to gain experience, knowledge and confidence to show visitors all the beauty and diversity of the Atlantic Forest.

Part of the course covers Bird guiding, and as Regua’s guides have become well known for their skill and knowledge, we were happy to host the birdwatching event around our restored wetlands.   Adilei de Carvalho and Cirilo Vieira, Regua’s bird guides, were in charge of the training, giving a talk on what birding is about and showed them some of the most representative lowland species in the wetlands.

Boat-billed Herons nest at REGUA

Juvenile Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, REGUA, 2 December 2016 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)
Adult Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, REGUA, 2 December 2016 (© Adilei Carvalho da Cunha)

The Boat-billed Heron Cochlearius cochlearius, or arapapá in Portuguese, is one of the more mysterious bird species present at REGUA. Records over the years have been very few and far between, with only occasional sightings of roosting birds from the replanted forest around the wetland.

But for the last three years birds have been arriving at REGUA in the beginning of December and breeding has been suspected. Then on 2nd December Adilei found 12 nests at the wetland in the ten year old replanted forest close to Amanda’s Hide – the first confirmed nesting of Boat-billed Heron at REGUA.

The nests are made from twigs and lined with feathers and situated 6-8 m above ground, and at the time of writing the chicks are close to fledging.

Boat-billed Heron is widespread throughout Latin America and although numbers are thought to be declining, with such a large range they are classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Being a nocturnal species, it is never that easy to see them. But many local birders have recently come to REGUA to photograph these birds and last year Francisco Falcon took this amazing photo of a displaying adult that became a huge success in the local birding world.

In 2012, we captured on camera trap, an adult bird feeding at night along one of the small forest streams that flows into the wetland. Watch the video »

October bird sightings

We are well into the austral spring and the weather in October has been rather mixed, with hot temperatures much rainfall, including a couple of days of full rain. Many bird species have now moved to higher, cooler elevations for the spring and summer, whilst activity around the wetland and lodge garden is increasing as more species are breeding.

The undoubted highlight of the month was finding Rio de Janeiro’s first Andean Flamingo on one of our excursions to Cabo Frio.

On the reserve, the wetland continues to provide excellent birding opportunities with an amazing four Sungrebe now being reported – surely a record count for Rio de Janeiro state? Also at the wetland, Boat-billed Heron, Greenish Eleania (very scarce in Rio de Janeiro state), Uniform Crake, Russet-crowned Crake, Rufous-sided Crake, Pauraque and Red-cowled Cardinal (scarce at the wetland nowadays). The adjacent Brown Trail continues to bring in yet more forest interior species, with White-bibbed Antbird and Scaled Antbird making appearances, along with the more usual Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike and Tawny-browed Owl.

Highlights on the Green Trail include Shrike-like Cotinga, Temminck’s Seedeater, White-necked Hawk, Black Hawk-Eagle, Pin-tailed Manakin, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Southern Antpipit, Saw-billed Hermit, Spot-billed Toucanet, Bare-throated Bellbird, Rufous-capped Motmot and Rufous-capped Antthrush.

On the Grey Trail another of REGUA’s specialities, Russet-winged Spadebill, was seen along with Salvadori’s Antwren, Buff-bellied Puffbird and Least Pygmy-Owl, On the 4×4 Trail the very rarely encountered Tufted Antshrike was heard but not seen, and nearby a Bare-throated Bellbird seen on the area planted two years ago near the Guapiaçu river.

At the other end of the reserve on the Waldenoor Trail, another Tufted Antshrike was heard, as was Salvadori’s Antwren, but 2 male Frilled Coquette, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, White-throated Woodcreeper and Spot-billed Toucanet were amongst the birds seen.

On our night excursions, Giant Snipe, Scissor-tailed Nightjar, South American Snipe, Ash-throated Crake, Streamer-tailed Tyrant and White Woodpecker were all seen.

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Hangnest Tody-Flycatcher Hemitriccus nidipendulus (© Nicholas Locke)

Excursions offsite have been equally popular and productive. Cabo Frio and its rare coastal restinga habitat produced Restinga Antwren, Roseate Spoonbill, American Oystercatcher, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Lemon-chested Greenlet and of course, the Andean Flamingo.

Our trips to the Atlantic Forest mountains produced a good number of high altitude Atlantic Forest endemics. Pico da Caledônia produced great views of the extremely rare Grey-winged Cotinga, nesting Swallow-tailed Cotinga, a female Chestnut-headed Tanager (rare on the coastal slope), Large-tailed Antshrike, Dusky-tailed Antbird, Rufous-tailed Antbird, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Sharp-billed Treehunter, Black-billed Scythebill , Shear-tailed Grey Tyrant, Saffron-crested Tyrant-Manakin, Diademed Tanager, Bay-chested Warbling-Finch and Cinnamon Tanager. While at Macaé de Cima, Black-and-gold Cotinga, Bertoni’s Antbird, Giant Anshrike were among the species noted.

On our excursions to the remnants of the Dry Atlantic Forest around Sumidouro we found the highly sought-after Three-toed Jacamar, as well as other open-country species including Blue-winged Macaw, Magpie Tanager, Serra Antwren, Half-collared Sparrow, Sooty Tyrannulet, Firewood-gatherer, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, Masked Yellowthroat, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Plumbeous Kite and White-tailed Hawk.

Finally a belated sighting from September – a Swallow-tailed Cotinga on the Waterfall Trail!

Sharpbill at the wetland

One very desirable bird found in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest is Sharpbill Oxyrincus cristatus. This enigmatic bird with its distinctive orange eye is never easy to find and many of REGUA’s visitors wish to see it during their visit.

It has a wide distribution and is not uncommon, with a call resembling the sound of a falling bomb without the explosion at the end. It appears to be more concentrated in areas of mature secondary or primary Atlantic Forest where it is often found high in the canopies searching for fruit.

Sharpbill
Sharpbill (© Gustavo Pedro de Paula)

Imagine Gustavo Pedro de Paula’s surprise as he spotted the bird feeding low down on Trema micrantha fruit by the REGUA wetlands recently. Gustavo took several photos and suggested that the presence of this species denoted the maturity of the forests by the wetlands, a real sign of the success of our reforestation project. Gradually the more common open ground species are being displaced as the trees around are growing and maturing.

Upon closer examination of the image one could think that the bird was inspecting some chrysalides left by a butterfly. Some tasty morsels so to speak! In any case we extend a big thank you to Gustavo for sharing the image with us.

Andean Flamingo at Cabo Frio – a first for RJ state!

andean-flamingo_7630-a-alan-martin
Andean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis, Cabo Frio, 16 October 2016 (© Alan Martin)

The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that our news post about a Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis seen at Cabo Frio on 16 October has been removed. Well, there is an exciting reason for this – the bird has been correctly re-identified as an Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus, and the first record for Rio de Janeiro state!

Initially thought to be a Chilean Flamingo, thankfully Alan Martin was able to take a few photos and it was only after subsequently checking the photos a few days later that the true identity of the bird became clear. News of the bird was put out and a major twitch (in Brazilian terms) ensewed, with several local birders making the trip to Cabo Frio to see it. It was still present on 6 November and photos from many photographers can be seen on WikiAves.

Andean Flamingo is the scarcest flamingo species, mostly restricted to the salt lakes of the altiplano of southern Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile and north-west Argentina. They are altitudinal migrants, moving to lower elevations for the winter, and vagrants have made as far as Buenos Aires province in Argentina, the Brazilian Amazon, and Brazil’s southern coast, where flocks of up to 32 individuals together have been found. The Cabo Frio bird is by far the most easterly occurrence of this species.

Very well done to Alan Martin and the Limosa birding group for finding and photographing the bird, and to Gabriel Mello for re-identifying the bird.

Birders hot on the trail for the Kinglet Calyptura

calyptura-cristata-william-john-swainson
Kinglet Calyptura Calyptura cristata (by William John Swainson)

Twenty years following the last recorded sighting, the Butantã Institute with American Bird Conservancy support is inviting birders to search in the area north of REGUA for the Kinglet Calyptura Calyptura cristata, a small Cotingidae bird with a greenish sheen and red crest, considered one of the rarest Atlantic Forest endemic birds of Brazil.

John William Swainson, an English ornithologist discovered this bird whilst travelling with Henry Koster 1806 in Brazil. The last sighting of the bird was in 1996 by Ricardo Parrini and Fernando Pacheco amongst fellow ornithologists just below Teresopolis – the first sighting for 119 years!

Many believe the Kinglet Calyptura is extinct says Erika Hingst-Zaherof the Butantã Institute, but two 12 day “Calyptura” expeditions have been organized at different seasons to search for the mythical bird. One area is the Duas Barras region close to Sumidouro, and Birders Luana Bianquini and Gustavo Pedro will also be leading a walk on the Waterfall Trail this Saturday, an area not dissimilar to the Teresopolis region, to search for the bird.

All bird species seen on the expeditions will be registered on eBird and we shall be following the findings closely. Who knows what we might find!