The Pantanal is a birder's paradise. Over 470 species have been recorded in the area and I have read that birders can spot 130 species in a day. We are much more modest and record 90 species during our stay although we spent most of our time in waterside habitats and ignored all the LBJs (little brown jobs). I am no bird expert but do enjoy watching the many beautiful birds that we see as we travel around and trying to remember their names.
There are huge numbers of herons, egrets and storks in the Pantanal wetlands. One morning we watched hundreds of egrets and wood storks in the reeds before dawn. I am particularly keen on the tiger heron (left). The one above left is a juvenile - as they mature they lose the tiger markings but develop a beautiful reddy brown neck instead. The jabiru stork (centre) is the king of the waders here - with a wingspan of 2.5m it towers above the other birds and builds huge nexts in tall trees. The prettiest heron that we saw was the capped heron (right) with its irridescent beak and pale yellow breast.
Another bird that we see everywhere is the kingfisher. Perched on electric wires by the road or on branches by the river and darting to the water to catch fish. The one we saw most often was the amazon kingfisher (centre). We also saw giant kingfishers, which looked similar to the amazon, as well as the ringed kingfisher (left) and the much smaller green kingfisher (right).
There are over 40 species of raptors, or birds of prey, in the Pantanal. The snail kite (right) is a handsome black bird that feeds on the apple snail. We found a huge pile of snail shells under a tree which must have been the kite's favourite perch. The most common of the hawks is the black-collared hawk (centre). We saw many of these perched on river banks and our boat driver enjoyed throwing small fish into the water for the hawk to swoop and carry away. We also saw the roadside hawk and many smaller kestrels. The caracara (right) is another raptor which eats pretty much everything. We found one on the road eyeing up a small anaconda although I think that it was being over ambitious. You also see a lot of vultures - we found several on caiman carcasses using their sharp beaks to prise flesh from the caiman's belly.
One of our favourite water birds is the black skimmer. These large birds look ungainly on the ground but when they take to the air they are a joy to watch. They fly in formation in small groups like an aerobatics team and at dawn and dusk you can watch them skimming the rivers and ponds for small fish. We were particularly impressed with this skimmer above which managed to skim this smallish pond while avoiding the many caimans.
During our trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 2017 I totally failed to photograph toucans. For a while I thought I would have the same challenges here but once we moved away from the river to more woodland habitats we saw quite a few. The very popular toco toucan (right) loves to eat the fruit in trees with its massive beak, which apparently also helps it to regulate temperature. It doesn't just eat fruit and can go after other birds' eggs if it gets the chance. The smaller, but equally attractive chestnut-eared aracari was also a frequent visitor to lodge feeding tables and nearby fruit trees.
Closely related to the nightjar which we see on the ground on a number of night drives, the potoo (left) is an extraordinary bird. During the day it sleeps on tree trunks and mimics the bark with its feathers. Full marks to our driver for spotting this one. It also has 'magic eyes' - two slits in the eyelids that allow it to keep a lookout even when its eyes are closed. The only owl that we saw during our trip was the great horned owl (right). We heard it and spotted it at night and found it again in the same spot at dawn the next morning.
There are so many other types of birds that I could list. Photos of some are in the gallery but here are three more for now. The blue-capped parrot (left) is one of many parrots and parakeets that we saw and very pretty with its colourful plumage. A very noisy early morning bird is the chaco chacalaca (centre) - in the Caribbean it is called the cocorico which is the cry it makes with great gusto. Finally the hugely popular hyacinth macaw is commonly seen hopping around in trees or flying in formation above the forest. This one nests in this hole in a tree near to the landing stage at Porto Jofré and I guess in the most photographed in the Pantanal. It is even in our guidebook!