We saw much more than just jaguars on our boat trips on the Cuiabá River. We also saw plenty of birds, of course; more on those later. And lots of caimans, which are Central and South America’s version of the alligator. For those really into the nerdy details, the ones we saw in the Pantanal were spectacled caimans, while the ones we had seen back in the Atlantic Forest were broad-snouted caimans.

Occasionally we’d pass a capybara, or a family of capybaras, along the shore—capybaras are the world’s largest rodent, weighing up to 150 pounds or more, and they have a cuteness factor that’s hard to beat. They’re found only in Central and South America.

A cocoi heron with a fresh-caught catfish.

As for birds, well, they were everywhere. We saw the three main species of Pantanal kingfishers—Amazon, green, and ringed—and Ricardo got a glimpse of a green-and-rufous kingfisher, but our efforts to track it down were interrupted when the boat driver got word of a jaguar sighting. Wading birds were especially common; we saw many cocoi herons (they look vaguely similar to the great blue herons we see in North America), striated herons, and rufescent tiger herons, along with a capped heron. There were great egrets, too, but we pretty much ignored them because they’re so common in North America. Same with anhingas: We’d see one on a tree branch along the river and we’d just keep on going. Neotropic cormorants were too ubiquitous to get excited about, either.

Southern crested caracara.

We also saw a large number of birds of prey, including great black hawks, black-collared hawks, something called a crane hawk, and a southern crested caracara. Interestingly, you could also see the caracaras wandering around the grounds of the lodge, and they were relatively unfazed by the humans. At right you can see a closeup I took of a caracara. (Click on any of these photos to see them bigger.)

Incidentally, several other birds were surprisingly common around the lodge: Buff-necked ibis (ibises? these plurals are killing me) and bare-faced curassows strutted around confidently, like chickens in a barnyard. Steve and Elizabeth had a currasow walk right into their room—twice! And you could hear hyacinth macaws squawking loudly in the trees overhead, usually at dawn and dusk, it seemed. But since we were out on boats most of the day, we didn’t see much of them.

My list of sightings from the river excursions includes dozens of other birds, including jabirus, black skimmers, a golden-green woodpecker, an orange-backed troupial, little cuckoo, black-capped donacobius, and many more.

Giant river otters.

An especially nice treat was to come upon a pack of giant river otters—an endangered species. In one instance they were swimming around near their den on the river bank, and on another occasion we came across some lounging around on the remains of an enormous tree stump that had fallen into the river. They were all piled on top of one another, constantly wiggling around, rearranging themselves and flopping back down again; the adorableness was off the charts. We took photos nonstop for quite a while.

After two days in Porto Jofre, we packed up and began our drive back up the Transpantaneira Highway, staying overnight at a lodge along the way, and then heading to the airport in Cuiabá to begin the long trip home. So I think I’ll make this my last post from the trip, unless something more occurs to me in the next couple of weeks—or maybe after I get another batch of photos from the trip processed.

I’d really appreciate hearing your reactions to this series of posts from Brazil: Did you find it to be enjoyable? Boring? Useful? Interminable? If enough people say “enjoyable” or “useful,” I may do it again for a future trip. If you’ve read every single post, I’m impressed—and grateful. Thanks so much for following along.


4 thoughts on “Birds, River Otters, and More

  1. Tina, your posts are wonderful. I enjoyed every one and the pictures – terrific. Enjoy your upcoming trip to Costa Rica. Sandy

  2. I loved your posts! Your pictures are out of this world and your commentary is informative and entertaining. Thank you!

  3. I too enjoyed the recap. Great writing and personalized such that my shutter finger would twitch at times just thinking about the bird opportunities. As with all stories, there had to have been some darker moments that, while not fun to relive, do make for a compelling story of the adventure portion of these trips. Of course, with the prices we pay, typically the darker moments are brief and few in number, right! If you feel so motivated a map showing the trip would be fun to see. Sounds like your life list of birds got a nice boost.

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