Birds of the Amazon

Birds of the Amazon

The Amazon rainforest is home to over 1,300 bird species, many of them unique to this area. Take a look at these gorgeous birds and learn their fascinating characteristics!

New research shows that many Amazonian bird populations are declining as a result of climate change, particularly insect-eating species.

1. Macaw

Macaws are one of the most striking birds found in South America. Famous for their giant size and vibrant plumage, these parrots can often be seen flying freely amongst rainforest canopy trees.

At times, they can make quite the noise, but their hearts can also be surprising soft and sensitive. Highly social animals, they will often form pairs that remain together throughout their lives.

Beautiful birds like these can be found throughout the Amazon and are among the most endangered species, threatened by habitat destruction and illegal hunting.

Hyacinth macaws nest in tree hollows in the wild; some even nest near rivers. As they are omnivorous birds, they eat various types of fruits, seeds, nuts and leaves as food sources.

2. Hoatzin

Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) is an herbivorous bird living in riparian forests, mangrove swamps and swamps of the Amazon Basin. This animal represents Opisthocomus as the sole extant member of Opisthocomidae family of species.

It is one of the only birds known to consume leaves, fruits and flowers while using bacteria in its digestive system to digest its food source – much like cows do with an enlarged crop to ferment its plant matter.

Hoatzin chicks are born with clawed wings to prevent them from falling into lakeside vegetation when foraging for food. Unfortunately, young Hoatzins still remain poor flyers and rarely take to flight.

Hoatzin origins remain mysterious; it is thought they began their evolutionary journey in Africa. Based on fossil records, hoatzins dispersed across both land and ocean during parts of the Eocene, Oligocene, and Miocene periods.

3. Sunbittern

The Sunbittern, Eurypyga helias, is an aquatic bird found in tropical regions across Central and South America. As the only member of its family Eurypygidae and Genus Eurypyga it inhabits tropical climates of both regions.

It has cryptic plumage, with grey upperparts that are vermiculated brown and black. When flapping their wings, their spectacular pattern appears when fanning. Two semicircular chestnut patches sit within a vermiculated area composed of yellowish grey hues.

Wing feathers can be used for spectacular displays. When threatened, these birds expand their wings in order to form an eye pattern to dissuade predators and make an effective display.

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Nesting near water sources, both parents feed the chicks for two weeks of their life until fledging, when they will continue relying on them for sustenance for two more months.

4. Kingfisher

The Amazon Kingfisher (Chloroceryle amazona) is an aquatic bird found throughout North and Central America’s tropical areas, breeding by streams and nesting in an unlined horizontal tunnel made on riverbanks that measures up to 1.6 meters long and 10 cm in width.

These species can often be seen perched on branches or rocks near waterways before diving head first into the lake or pond in search of fish prey. Their diet consists of insects, small reptiles and crustaceans as well as an assortment of aquatic creatures like insects.

Their bodies feature large black bill, bronze-green head and upperparts and white throat and broad, white collar.

The Amazon Kingfisher is significantly larger and heavier than its cousin, the Green Kingfisher, sharing its range. Measuring 29-30 cm long and weighing 110g.

5. Horned Screamer

Horned Screamers (Phascolarctos hornedus) are large birds related to ducks, geese and swans that share similar odd appearances to monster movies – though in reality, these peaceful animals reside in South American wetlands.

They’re unique in that their heads feature an unusual horn that grows gradually throughout life, unlike that of rams and rhinos which serve as weapons but rather are made up of cartilage that constantly expands and retracts over time.

Horned screamers possess bone spurs on their wings which they use for combative purposes when competing with other birds for territory and mating opportunities. Sometimes these spurs break off and lodge themselves within another bird’s chest cavity causing significant injury or even death.

These large birds possess hundreds of air sacks beneath their skin that help them float without using muscle energy. Pressing one creates a crackling sound when compressed; scientists believe these airbags create an air pneumatic movement allowing the birds to travel great distances with minimal stress on their bodies.

6. Great Potoo

One of the most captivating, and sometimes terrifying, birds to encounter on an Amazon rainforest river cruise is the Great Potoo. This nocturnal bird spends its days perched upright on tree stumps using its camouflage plume as camouflage while aligning itself so its body appears like part of a tree branch.

As soon as a predator approaches, the bird freezes. Once frozen, however, it opens its eyes and mouth in order to startle it enough that they can flee from danger.

The Great Potoo is an impressive bird with long legs, an extremely broad bill, and large eyes. Relating to nightjars and frogmouths, but distinguished by larger heads as well as longer wings and tails.

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7. Crimson-Crested Woodpecker

Crimson-Crowned Woodpeckers (Campephilus melanoleucos) are widespread birds throughout South America, found living in forests, forest borders and lighter woodlands such as plantations areas.

Crimson-crested Woodpeckers can reach lengths of around 34.5 cm (14 in). Featuring white shoulder stripes that meet in the back and a red beak, these birds make quite an impression when seen flying overhead.

Crimson-crested woodpeckers can be found throughout the Amazon Basin from Paraguay to Costa Rica. These bird are insect hunters that primarily peck holes into trees in search of insects to consume; when they find an ideal site, they enlarge it further to create their nesting hole and increase in size accordingly.

Crimson-crested birds can often be found perched high up in the treetops in rainforest areas. As soon as prey appears below them, they dive quickly to seize it using four-inch talons that strike quickly with precision – an impressive predator that should not be overlooked on birding trips to Amazonia.

8. Jabiru

The Jabiru is an endangered large stork found throughout Central and South America, classified as rare species.

They belong to the Ciconiiformes order and Ciconiidae family, commonly referred to as Black-Necked Storks.

Garzon Soldiers are often known by their Tupi-Guarani name which translates to “swollen neck”.

These birds are opportunistic feeders and will consume various kinds of prey such as fish, frogs, snakes, eggs and even carrion.

They can be seen in various tropical habitats near rivers and lakes. When in shallow waters, these birds wade idly while splashing their bills into the water to scare away potential prey that might swim by. Furthermore, they walk slowly in the water as they search for fish or aquatic prey that swim by and then use their beaks to stab or peck at it before returning it back to shore for consumption.

9. Wire-Tailed Manakin

The Wire-Tailed Manakin (Pipra filicauda) is an abundant species found throughout Central America, inhabiting humid forests with humid soil conditions.

This species is known for lek-mating behavior, where males gather together at an attracting lek to show off in front of females for mating purposes. Their elaborate courtship display involves short flights, swoops and jumps for maximum female attention.

Thought to be caused by hormonal signaling pathways that influence complex phenotype expression, variation in these pathways has yet to be investigated in relation to social network structure in lek-breeding birds.

In this study, we investigate the effect of territorial tenure on reproductive success among a population of wire-tailed manakins (Pipra filicauda) at Tropical Biosphere Reserve (TBS) in Ecuador. More specifically, we assess its effect on within-lek connectivity and between-lek connectivity.