Northeastern Brazil Birding Trips

Chapada Diamantina

Northeastern Brazil: Caatinga & Atlantic Rainforest hotspot for endemics and rare birds

Northeastern Brazil holds an amazing list of more than 100 Brazilian endemics, representing more than a half Brazil’s endemics species. Its immense, arid interior is dominated by a unique habitat known as caatinga, an association of thorn scrub, columnar cacti, and huge terrestrial bromeliads. This region harbors an endemic avifauna that includes some of the least known and most endangered species of birds on the South American continent. Foremost among them is the Lear’s Macaw, just rediscovered in 1978, with fewer than 700 remaining in the wild. Unfortunately, the last individual of Spix's Macaw in the wild is not seen anymore, but we still hope to see it flying over the caatinga sky again. Although the chance to bird the caatinga would alone be worth the trip, it is only half the attraction of the first part of our tour. We will also look for recently described species such as Araripe Manakin, Sincorá Antwren and Diamantina Tapaculo. A constellation of “mega birds” to be seen, including the “real Mega’’ Great Xenops ( Megaxenops parnague). Northeastern Brazil includes also the last remants of the highly fragmented Atlantic coastal forests, home to numerous endangered endemics and which arguably rank as the most critically endangered area of biodiversity in South America. The second half of our tour visit several areas looking for all these specialties. This section will provide an intimate exploration of the avian riches of the fascinating state of Bahia. Chapada Diamantina embraces landscapes of spectacularly eroded mesas, sheer cliffs and plunging waterfalls, and, in its upper elevations, a beautiful and highly endemic plant community that harbors such specialties as the stunning Hooded Visorbearer and Pale-throated Serra-Finch, as well as the recently described (2007) Sincora Antwren and Diamantina Tapaculo. The Serra da Ouricana near Boa Nova is perhaps even less well known, and recent surveys there have also yielded two new species to science (Bahia Spinetail and Bahia Tyrannulet) since 1990! The area surrounding the town of Boa Nova supports some of the most intact examples of a threatened habitat known as “mata-de-cipó” or “vine forest” that harbors a unique avifauna that includes Slender Antbird, Caatinga Antwren, Narrow-billed Antwren, and many, many others. Serra Bonita Private Reserve is home of the bizarre Pink-legged Graveteiro, a bird so unique that it was placed in its own genus, inhabits lowland humid forest in southern Bahia, and was just described in 1996. This reserve is going to be top-notched as a primary destination for birders visiting Brazilian northeast due to the amazing habitat protected (an undescribed species of Heliobletus Treerunner occurs here and other adjancent mountain protected by BirdLife International), excellent accommodations, good birds and the world’s private largest collection of Moths (over 250,000 specimens) from tropical Américas, collected during more than 25 years by Dr. Becker, an Smithsonian affiliate. But not all specialties have come from the mountains; the lowlands around Porto Seguro holds two endemic cotingas: White-winged Cotinga and Banded Cotinga as well as Racquet-tailed Coquette and the recently rediscovered nominate form of the White-winged Potoo, which may prove to be a separate species from the recently discovered Amazonian populations. If these are not enough reasons to visit Porto Seguro, who knows a remnant population of Harpy Eagle in the Atlantic rainforest seen during our previous tour may not make your mind. This tour, designed to thoroughly cover both dramatically different regions, has an extension to the Atlantic rainforest of northern Minas Gerais and Bahia (site for the Stresseman’s Bristlefront) and Murici Reserve in Alagoas, which may be taken in combination or separately to accommodate those desiring shorter trips.

Northeastern Brazil: Caatinga & Atlantic Rainforest hotspot for endemics and rare birds, 14 Days / 13 Nights Itinerary

Days 01 and 02, Chapada do Araripe

Imposing red and grey cliffs surround the isolated plateau of the Chapada do Araripe and at the base of these lives one of the most spectacular members of the manakin family. The Araripe Manakin was described only a few years ago and has an extremely small area of distribution, limited to the lush growth at the base of this escarpment. The adult males with their gleaming white bodies, ebony-black wings and cardinal-red heads have to be seen to be believed and we will make a concerted effort to try to observe this threatened species in our first day. Do you think the Helmeted Manakin was great, wait until see its cousin! During these two days we will concentrate on finding the endemics and specialities of the fabulous forests of the Floresta Nacional de Chapada do Araripe. This fascinating reserve protects some splendid stands of bizarre, stunted and very dense partly-deciduous woodland. Wide sandy tracks cut through this low-canopy forest, where our main target is the enigmatic and endemic Great Xenops. This striking and monotypic species (genus Megaxenops ) is restricted to the caatinga woodland of northeastern Brazil. With a modicum of luck we should be able to admire this bright rufous furnarid with its gleaming white throat whilst it gleans tree trunks or pries off pieces of bark with its upturned, cleaver-like bill, often while accompanying a mixed flock of understorey birds. Shy endemic White-browed Guans will play hide and seek with us and we will make a special effort to get to grips with that egg on legs, the diminutive endemic White-browed Antpitta. It was formerly lumped in Speckle-breasted Antpitta of southeastern Brazil and northeastern Argentina, but has very different plumage characteristics and vocalizations. Our attention will also be drawn to the bizarre nasal calls of the drably-hued Pale-bellied Tyrant-Manakin and to marauding flocks of White-naped Jays. A rufous flash in the subcanopy should reveal the whereabouts of the dainty endemic Ash-throated Casiornis. Other birds here include three more endemics, Caatinga Antwren, Grey-eyed Greenlet (a recent split from Rufous-crowned) and Long-billed Wren, as well as Rufous Nightjar, Pauraque, Glittering-bellied and Glittering-throated Emeralds, Blue-crowned Trogon, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Olivaceous Woodcreeper (of the distinctive rufous race reiseri), Bearded Bellbird (with its arresting and resounding calls), Sepia-capped Flycatcher, Southern Beardless and Mouse-coloured Tyrannulets, Forest and Grey Elaenias, Grey-crowned, Bran-coloured, Fuscous, Swainson's, Short-crested, Brown-crested, Variegated and Piratic Flycatchers, Great Kiskadee, Southern Rough-winged Swallow and Flavescent Warbler.

Day 03, Chapada do Araripe to Euclides da Cunha: Lear's Macaw

Today, we will drive along three Brazilian states, the southern part of Ceara, the central part of Pernambuco and the northern part of Bahia. We will spend the first half of the morning birding the caatinga. Long-bladed terrestrial bromeliads and cacti ranging in size from tiny stumps to tall columns or even massive tangled plants as large as trees create a weird-looking habitat, and in this scorched and xeromorphic landscape we will search for the little-known Red-shouldered Spinetail. This distinctive species with its crake-like song has been put in a genus of its own (Gyalophylax) and is restricted to the arid interior of northeastern Brazil. At dawn the whistles of Small-billed Tinamous and the piping calls of Spot-backed Puffbirds, joined by the more croaky songs of Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrants and Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrants, will emanate over this enchanting habitat. Exuberant Caatinga Cacholotes will show off from their enormous nests high up in the taller bushes and attractive Black-bellied Antwrens will utter their strophes from inside thorny shrubs. Other species to look for here include the endemics White-throated Seedeater, Campo Troupial, the bizarrely beautiful Silvery-cheeked Antshrike (the female of which remained unknown to science until the last 20 years!), the giant Scarlet-throated Tanager (in many respects more like an icterid than a tanager), Gray Pileated-Finch, Ultramarine Grosbeak, as well as the secretive White-bellied Nothura, Comb Duck, Grey-necked Wood-Rail, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Dark-billed Cuckoo, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Burrowing Owl, the superb Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Amazon Kingfisher, recently split Caatinga Barred Antshrike, Stripe-backed Antbird (a terrestrial species with two widely separated populations: one in the chaco of Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina and one in the caatinga of northeastern Brazil), Lesser and Greater Wagtail-Tyrants (both represented by isolated populations in this area and potential splits), Southern Scrub-Flycatcher, the little-known White-naped Xenopsaris, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Grassland Sparrow and Bay-winged Cowbird (here the race fringillarius, this form is split by some authorities, and called “Pale Baywing”). By mid afternoon we should be looking for one of the rarest macaws: Lear’s or Indigo macaw. The scenery will be alluring, as we transect red-rock escarpments rising out of the cactus-studded caatinga. We should see many of the same birds from the previous day. Additionally, we will be alert for Red-legged Seriema, Harris' Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, Burrowing Owl, Broad-tipped Hermit, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper and many more. Our primary goal will be to reach the Raso da Catarina with time to search for the magnificent Lear's Macaw. This blue macaw is found nowhere else in the world, and its population numbers around 700 birds. The Lear's Macaw was described more than 120 years ago, but remained unknown except for specimens and occasional birds which appeared for sale (origin unknown) as part of the commercial pet trade. Finally, in 1978, Brazilian ornithologists mounted a search expedition to the rugged Raso da Catarina, at that time a plateau still inaccessible by roads. There they found the nearly mythical macaws nesting in crevices in the rugged canyon walls. Since that time, the world population of these magnificent birds has declined to as low as 60 individuals, although there have been slight increases in numbers over the past few years. Needless to say, seeing such spectacular birds of such exceptional rarity and mystery will be our major objective. But, there still will be many birds to keep us occupied, foremost among them the poorly known and highly threatened Pectoral Antwren. Other species of interest include Red-cowled Cardinal, Campo Oriole, Silvery-cheeked Antshrike, Black-bellied Antwren, Glittering-throated Emerald, Stripe-breasted Starthroat, Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, Picui Ground-Dove, Picazuro Pigeon, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Pale-legged Hornero, Ash-throated Casiornis, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, White-winged Becard, Long-billed Wren, Gray-eyed Greenlet, Epaulet Oriole, Burnished-buff Tanager, and many more.

Day 04, Euclides da Cunha to Chapada Diamantina

Today, we will travel overland to Chapada Diamantina. Although the drive is a long one, we will break it up with frequent birding stops, both in the caatinga, and at roadside ponds and marshes, where Masked Duck and Spotted Rail are among the possibilities. We will arrive at Chapada Diamantina in the late afternoon with some light to catch up our stakeout for the recently described Sincorá Antwren.

Days 05 and 06, Chapada Diamantina

The Chapada Diamantina is an area where geological forces have created deep valleys and rocky ridges, and the locality derives its name from the precious gems that were once found here. The higher reaches offer spectacular ‘western' scenery with huge, isolated rocky outcrops, steep cliff faces and grassy expanses. This rock-strewn, scrub-covered escarpment is one of the few accessible spots where that remarkable hummingbird, the Hooded Visorbearer can be seen. This bronzy-green marvel of a bird displays a glittering-green throat adorned with a fiery red spot and is restricted to this small area of interior Bahia. Investigation of this restricted habitat should also yield localized species like Grey-backed Tachuri and Pale-throated Sierra-Finch as well as velvety Black-Tyrant. We may also find King Vulture, the impressive Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, White-vented Violetear, Lowland Hepatic-Tanager, Black-throated Saltator and the enchanting Rock Cavy (which looks rather like a hyrax). If we are really lucky, we will encounter the dazzling Yellow-billed Blue Finch. At lower altitudes evergreen forest is to be found. Here, flocks of squabbling Scaly-headed Parrots cruise by and Biscutate Swifts zoom past. Yellow-legged Tinamous call tantalizingly from the undergrowth, but are devilishly-hard to see. Our main target species in this habitat are the heavily-trapped Golden-capped Parakeet and the delightful Spotted Piculet. Other birds we hope to observe include the raucous White-bellied Chachalaca, Pale-vented Pigeon, Violet-capped Woodnymph, Versicoloured Emerald, Surucua Trogon, Crimson-crested Woodpecker, Streaked Xenops, White-shouldered Fire-eye, Yellow Tyrannulet, Greenish Elaenia, Eastern Sirystes, Black-tailed Tityra and Green-winged Saltator.

Day 07, Chapada Diamantina to Boa Nova

After some final birding in the Chapada Diamantina, we will also explore an area of cerrado where the rare and unobtrusive Rufous-sided Pygmy-Tyrant and Horned Sungem can sometimes be found. Another target will be the endemic Gray-backed Tachuri. Other cerrado species may show up such as White-eared Puffbird, Pale-breasted and Chicli Spinetails, the handsome Collared Crescentchest, Plain-crested Elaenia, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Blue-and-white Swallow, Hooded Siskin, Cinnamon Tanager. We will also visit our stakeout for the recently described Diamantina Tapaculo. We will drive southeastwards through arid caatinga to the little town of Boa Nova for a two nights stay. Most of the species we will see today should have been encountered before, but we will of course stop for anything worthwhile. Boa Nova is situated in the heart of the caatinga region of Bahia’s arid interior, and, offers exceptional birding. Most of the surrounding region is caatinga, but on the ridges of the Serra da Ouricana are several remnant patches of Atlantic humid forest, a westward extension of that endangered habitat only recently discovered by ornithologists. As with most ecotones, this transitional area between arid, deciduous scrub and humid, evergreen forest is extremely rich in birds. Indeed, these forests have yielded two new species to science in the last few years, along with a number of significant range extensions!

Days 08 and 09, Boa Nova

The famous Boa Nova area is a transition zone between the dry thorny scrub, known as caatinga and the Atlantic tropical forest that once used to cover most of the southeast Brazilian coastal hill ranges, but of which only a small patch remains here. We will visit two very different habitats, each with its assortment of very distinctive species. The dry, semi-deciduous, low-canopy woodland with its numerous lianas, vine tangles and large terrestrial bromeliads is known as “mata-de-cipo” (vine forest) and holds some extremely rare and localized antbirds. The handsome Slender Antbird is only found where these bizarre, sharp-edged bromeliads (of the genus Alchmea ) grow in profusion on the sandy soil. This endemic of southern interior Bahia is usually not too hard to see well and is readily detected by its shrill song. It was only known from three old specimens until it was rediscovered here in 1974. More arboreal, but almost as rare, is the lovely Narrow-billed Antwren, which gleans in foliage and along limbs. Attractive Caatinga Antwrens always seem to be on the move and tiny Hangnest Tody-Tyrants utter their fast call from a hidden perch in a tangle. We should also meet Silvery-cheeked Antshrike and Stripe-backed Antbird again. Just a few kilometres further east the scenery changes dramatically as, in valleys and on slopes that catch more moisture from the oceanic winds, we encounter a much lusher kind of forest with taller and thicker trees and a much less dense understorey. Here we will try to locate several more members of the marvellous antbird family, including the tangle-loving Spot-backed Antshrike, the exquisite Tufted Antshrike, Spot-breasted Antvireo, the poorly-known Rio de Janeiro Antbird, the endemic Ferruginous and Ochre-rumped Antbirds, and the dapper endemic White-bibbed Antbird. We will also try to get to grips with the secretive endemic Bahia Spinetail. Other species which can be expected here include such endemics as the endearing Frilled Coquette, Crescent-chested Puffbird Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Pallid Spinetail, Striated Softtail, White-collared Foliage-gleaner, Yellow-lored Tody-Flycatcher, Oustalet's Tyrannulet, the vociferous Grey-hooded Attila and Gilt-edged Tanager, as well as Reddish-bellied Parakeet, Scale-throated Hermit, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Black-eared Fairy, Black-throated Trogon, , Swallow-wing, Black-necked Aracari, , Yellow-throated Woodpecker (confusingly represented here by a red-throated race), Plain-winged, White-throated, Planalto and Scaled Woodcreepers, the amazing Black-billed Scythebill, Ochre-breasted and Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaners, the remarkable Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, the aberrant Sharpbill, Swallow-tailed Manakin, the superb Pin-tailed Manakin, Drab-breasted Bamboo-Tyrant, the diminutive Eared Pygmy-Tyrant, Tropical Pewee, Greenish Mourner, Chestnut-crowned Becard, White-necked and Cocoa Thrushes, White-browed Warbler, Red-crowned Ant-Tanager, Black-goggled and Golden-chevroned Tanagers and Orange-bellied, Chestnut-bellied and Golden-rumped Euphonias. If we are really lucky we will observe the endemic Mantled Hawk or a party of beautiful Swallow-tailed Cotingas. A nearby area of marshy terrain holds treasures like Rufous-sided Crake and Blackish Rail, as well as Campo Flicker, Pale-legged Hornero, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Brown-chested Martin and White-bellied Seedeater, and in fruiting bushes at the forest edge we will hope for dazzling Brazilian and Green-headed Tanagers. The afternoon of day 09 we will drive to Camaca.

Days 10 and 11, Serra Bonita Private Reserve

The private reserve of Serra Bonita is a gem in the Atlantic rainforest and we will stay two nights here. Pink-legged Graveteiro, a bizarre little furnarid only discovered in 1994 (and described in 1996), which builds its bulky nests in epiphyte-laden trees shading cocoa plantations could be see at nearly eye-level while visiting its nest. This bird is so unique that it was placed in its own monotypic genus by its discoverers. With a bit of luck we will be able to admire the acrobatic behaviour of these aberrant furnarids in the highest canopies. Although it is not certain that we will see the graveteiro, previous tours have had excellent luck in finding it. But is not only the Pink-legged Graveteiro which will keep our binoculars busy, this magnificent reserve is located at the top of the mountain and is surrounded by forest, our accommodations have a veranda with forest at less than two meters. Spot-billed Toucanets (several pairs), Red-necked and Green-headed Tanagers compete with Reddish-bellied Parakeets, Green Honeycreeper and Violaceous Euphonia the fruit feeders while an array of superb hummingbirds such as Sombre and Swallow-tailed Hummingbirds, Violet-capped Woodnymph, Black Jacobin and Brazilian Ruby dispute the hummer feeders. A small walk from our accommodations to the dining room will produce White-tailed Trogon, Yellow Tyrannulet, Yellow-browed Tody-Flycatcher, and mix flocks passing by will be followed by Plain Xenops, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, a not described yet Heliobletus treerunner, Chesnut-crowned and Crested Becards, Spot-backed Antshrike. Walks along the forest reserve will give chances to Plumbeous Antvireo, Crescent-chested Puffbird, White-eyed Foliage-Gleaner, Gray-hooded Attila, Variegated Antpitta, Chesnut-backed Antshrike. We should hear mega skulkers like Brown Tinamou, the endemic Such's Antthrush and Variegated Antpitta, although seeing any of these would be a bonus. The fierce-looking Least Pygmy-Owl often attracts a mobbing band of hummers and tanagers and at night we will try to catch a Variable Screech-Owl in the spotlight beam. If this is not enough, the reserve maintain the world’s largest private Moth collection, there are over 250,000 specimens from tropical Americas collected during the course of 25 years by Dr. Vitor Becker, owner of the reserve.

Days 12 and 13, Porto Seguro

After breakfast we will go to Porto Seguro. Overthere we will explore sandy soil forest, where our main targets are in the canopy: White-winged Cotinga and Banded Cotinga (rare), and in the process we should find a number of other birds as well, including, perhaps, Red-browed Parrot, Blue-throated Parakeet, Hook-billed Hermit, Band-tailed Antwren, Racquet-tailed Coquette, Sooretama Slaty Antshrike, Bahia Antwren, White-bellied Tanager, Yellow-green Grosbeak, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Eared Pygmy-Tyrant and who knows even a Harpy Eagle, very rare in the Atlantic rainforest but with good chances here, indeed our December 2009 tour saw one. As soon as the day light start dimming, we will look for another extremely rare bird, the White-winged Potoo, found in our last December 2009 tour and representing an extension of over 300km from known type locality at Una Reserve. Overnight at Porto Seguro.

Day 14, Porto Seguro to Sao Paulo

Depending on our actual flight departure times, we may have another chance to look for the cotingas this morning, before taking an afternoon flight from Porto Seguro to Sao Paulo, which will connect to late flights to the USA (arriving in the morning on day 15, allowing time for homeward connections). Participants taking the extension tour will have another afternoon birding.

INCLUDED: The tour fee includes all lodging, meals chosen from the regular menu from dinner on Day 01 to lunch on Day 14, all ground transportation, entrance fees, the services of a full time Pantanal Bird Club naturalist guide. Rates are based upon group tariffs. If the tour does not have sufficient registration, a supplement for a small party size may have to be charged.

NOT INCLUDED: Itens not included are airfare to and from Brazil and the flights within the country from your home to Juazeiro do Norte and return from Porto Seguro, airport departure taxes, drinks of any kind including mineral water, special gratuities, phone calls, laundry, or items of a personal nature.

Extension Trip: Stresseman’s Bristlefront and Murici reserve in Alagoas, 07 Days / 06 Nights

Day 15, 16, 17, 18 ,19, 20 and 21, NE Brazil extension tour: Stresseman's Bristlefront & Murici Reserve

In 1960, Helmut Sick, the “Father of Brazilian Ornithology,” named a Merulaxis bristlefront for his mentor, the prolific German ornithologist Erwin Stresemann (1889- 1972). At that time, Stresemannʼs Bristlefront was known from two old specimens, both taken in coastal Bahia (one near Salvador, the other near Ilheus). Its sister-species (closest known relative) was obviously the Slaty Bristlefront, which was known as far north as the Rio Jequitinhonha in southern Bahia. In 1995, G. Baudet found a single Stresemannʼs Bristlefront near Una Biological Reserve in southern Bahia; he made the first observations of the species in life and the first recording of its voice, but neither he nor anyone else was able to relocate the bird. Then, in 2003, researchers working north of the Jequitinhonha in Minas Gerais reported the fabulous discovery of Stresemannʼs Bristlefront in the hilly, extreme northeast corner of the state. The habitat was, and continues to be, highly fragmented and none of it is in healthy condition. Despite concerted searches in the site of rediscovery and in other, possibly suitable forest fragments in the region, fewer than ten individuals are known to persist. Stresemannʼs Bristlefront teeters on the brink of extinction but, thankfully, the Brazilian conservation NGO “Biodiversitas” has taken up the cause for preservation, the most important property has been converted to a private reserve within the federal preserve system, and Stresemannʼs Bristlefront may well stand a solid chance of surviving if these initiatives remain strong and more forest blocks can be preserved. Our visit will be an affirmation that their efforts are greatly appreciated. After this amazing challenge, we will explore the remnants of the vast expanses of humid Atlantic forest that once covered the coastal strip of Alagoas. Several ridges clad in this dense evergreen forest have been preserved near Murici, whilst everywhere else cattle raising and sugarcane production have taken a heavy toll and so these woods are like fertile islands in a sterile sea. Protection is only partial, so the future of these reserves is still a question mark. These woods, which can be difficult of access after heavy rain, harbour some of the most localized and threatened birds in South America and no less than four species new to science have been described from here in the last 20 years. The very poorly-known Alagoas (or Novaes's) Foliage-gleaner was described as recently as 1983 and can be located by its raucous calls, whilst the unobtrusive Alagoas Antwren was described in 1979 and makes a living in the dense mid-canopy. The Orange-bellied Antwren (also described as recently as 1983) is a bit more widespread, but still restricted to the state of Alagoas and flits about in the highest canopies. Finally, described only in 1987, the Long-tailed (or Alagoas) Tyrannulet is yet another Alagoas endemic which leads a quiet existence in the mid-strata of these forests. We will have to get up very early to reach this splendid habitat before the sun reaches the horizon. The dawn chorus is dominated by the bubbling trills of Cinereous Antshrikes, the penetrating whistles of White-backed Fire-eyes, the loud ringing and unmistakable song of Screaming Pihas and the monotonous voices of Long-billed Gnatwrens. Colourful endemic Jandaya Parakeets inspect promising-looking holes in dead stumps and endemic Black-headed Berryeaters may perch on exposed branches. Rare and localized Pinto's Spinetails and Scalloped Antbirds grovel about in the undergrowth, where the tiny endemic Black-cheeked Gnateater perches close to the ground. Firecracker-like snaps and whistled ‘weeo' calls betray a large lek of pied White-bearded Manakins, whilst nearby their Red-headed and Blue-backed relatives display in a more discrete way. Other species we may well add to our tally include four more endemics, Plain Parakeet, the adorable Scaled Antbird, the gorgeous Rufous-headed Tanager and the colorful Seven-colored Tanager, plus Little Tinamou, Zone-tailed Hawk, Grey-fronted Dove, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Black Jacobin, the endemic Long-tailed Woodnymph, White-chinned Sapphire, Channel-billed Toucan, Golden-spangled Piculet, Red-stained and Lineated Woodpeckers, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Plain Xenops, White-flanked and Rufous-winged Antwrens, White-eyed Tody-Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, Olivaceous Flatbill, Greyish and Thrush-like Mourners, White-winged Becard, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Flame-crested and Opal-rumped Tanagers, Violaceous Euphonia, Green and Red-legged Honeycreepers, Yellow-green Grosbeak and Red-rumped Cacique. Skittish Black-rumped Agoutis can often be found shuffling about. The almost unknown White-collared Kite (known from just a few specimens and sightings) and the almost certainly extinct Alagoas Curassow (maybe a few birds still survive in the wild, but the last confirmed observation dates from the 1970s – a small population survives and breeds in captivity) both used to occur in an area south of Maceio that has now been almost totally cleared for sugarcane.

Northeastern Brazil extension tour: Stresseman's Bristlefront and Murici Reserve, 07 Days / 06 Nights Itinerary

Day 15, Porto Seguro (Bahia) to Almenara (Minas Gerais).

Weʼll have this morning to continue scouring the treetops for rare cotingas and the understory for antwrens and manakins before needing to devote the balance of the day to travel. This afternoon, heading west into the huge state of Minas Gerais, weʼll parallel the course of one of the oldest and most important rivers in eastern Brazil, the Jequitinonha (Jeck-ee-tee-KNOWN-ya). Weʼll stay at a comfortable hotel in the seldom-visited little town of Almenara, our portal to the search for Stresemannʼs Bristlefront. Night in Almenara.

Day 16, Stresemannʼs Bristlefront.

Today is the day that separates casual birdwatchers from birders. The challenge to look for the ultra rare Stressemann’s Bristlefront is not for everybody, indeed very few birders had put the eyes on this bird, not only because is rare (less than 08 individuals tough to exist!) but because the physical requirements to achieve this quest are not also for everybody. Apart from the ultra rare Stresseman’s Bristlefront, other mega birds may hook our attention, among them Three-toed Jacamar, Rio de Janeiro Antbird, Banded Cotinga, Black-headed Berryeater, Pink-legged Graveteiro just to mention the big stars.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Logistics could become complicated by rains meaning that, if roads are impassable, we may have to walk the last few kilometers steeply uphill through wasteland to reach the forest reserve. Such conditions would see us having to walk, possibly in the rain, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) round-trip this morning, so the group would have to maintain a fairly good clip to achieve this. Weʼll have but a single morning to devote to seeing Stresemannʼs Bristlefront, and weʼre going to go for it to the extent that we possibly can. Should we have to hike in, any members of our group not able or willing to undertake the effort will have to remain with our driver at the vehicle. Even if we are able to drive to the end of the road, we will have to ascend a long (300-400 meters), steep slope covered with broken second growth to reach the edge of the first territory of the birds, and this climb itself may well be too much for some people. So, to get in shape for the bristlefront, start taking the stairs instead of the elevator, stick with your neighborhood walks and jogs religiously, ride your bikes and breathe steadily and deeply, and stay psyched for meeting this noble challenge! The good news is that, if we do make it into the bristlefrontsʼ territory, we have a good chance of seeing it.

Day 17, Almenara to Esplanada.

Mostly a travel day (and rest one from yesterday), but we will do some birding along the road where ever is possible.

Day 18, Esplanada to Uniao dos Palmares, Alagoas.

A very early start birding a patch of forest 20km from our hotel where our main targets will be Pectoral Antwren and Fringe-backed Fire-Eye. Back to the hotel for breakfast and then weʼll drive eastward to Uniao dos Palmares in the small state of Alagoas. The Murici Ecological Reserve is extremely endangered. Although it covers just a couple of short ridges (virtually all of the surrounding countryside has been converted to sugarcane), no fewer than four new species of birds were described from it in the past thirty years—but all of them have now become exceeding difficult to find, as the forest is steadily cut back and the interior slowly desiccates. Weʼll arrive at our hotel in time for some productive birding there this afternoon. Night near Uniao dos Palmares.

Days 19 and 20, Murici Reserve.

Our two mornings at Murici will see us up absurdly early, toting sack lunches, and searching for some of the rarest birds in South America. Like some of the reserves we visited on the first couple of days of the tour (which also give us a chance for many of the birds listed here), access to Murici is by steep, narrow, dirt roads that are nearly impassable if wet, even in 4WD vehicles, so keep your fingers crossed for sunny weather (this is a generally dry time of year, but the weather on this planet is not what it used to be). Here is but a partial list of birds we may encounter in this area: White-collared Kite (fingers crossed), Mantled Hawk (very rare), Red-shouldered Macaw, Jandaya and Plain parakeets, Long-tailed Woodnymph (rare), Golden-spangled Piculet (endemic subspecies pernambucensis), Pinto's Spinetail, Alagoas Foliage-gleaner (extremely rare), Alagoas Antwren (Myrmotherula snowi; very rare, known almost exclusively from this patch of forest), Orange-bellied Antwren (Terenura sicki; now very rare, virtually gone from Murici?), White-backed Fire-eye (endemic subspecies pernambucensis), Scalloped Antbird (this is probably the best place to see it anywhere), Black-cheeked Gnateater (endemic subspecies nigrifrons), Alagoas Tyrannulet (now very rare), Smoky-fronted Tody-Flycatcher, White-winged Cotinga, Black-headed Berryeater (rare), Buff-throated Purpletuft (rare, isolated subspecies leucopyga), Sharpbill, the spectacular (and endangered) Seven-colored Tanager, Chestnut-bellied Euphonia, and Black-throated Grosbeak. Night near Uniao dos Palmares.

Day 21, Birding Murici; drive to Maceio.

Depending on what time is your flight home, weʼll be up near Murici Reserve for a third early morning of birding. This afternoon we will drive back to Maceio to connect your flight home.

INCLUDED: The tour fee includes all lodging, meals chosen from the regular menu from lunch on Day 15 to lunch on Day 21, all ground transportation, entrance fees, the services of a full time Pantanal Bird Club naturalist guide. Rates are based upon group tariffs. If the tour does not have sufficient registration, a supplement for a small party size may have to be charged.

NOT INCLUDED: Itens not included are airfare to and from Brazil and the flights within the country from Porto Seguro and return from Maceio, airport departure taxes, drinks of any kind including mineral water, special gratuities, phone calls, laundry, or items of a personal nature.


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