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Iguaçu Falls area, Parana, and Iguazu National Park

17 - 24 August 2000

by Carol Foil

My birding trip was made while accompanying my husband Lane in attending the International Congress of Entomology, so was not planned specifically for birding. To prepare for the trip I consulted Birding Brazil by Bruce Forrester, which has a list of birds for the Iguaçu area, de la Pena and Rumboll, Birds of southern South America and Antarctica and the Ridgely and Tudor. Each of these three books had different versions of what to expect in the area for late winter. I ended up with a list of 305 bird possibilities of which I personally saw 99 in 5 days of birding, at least 4 of which were not on the list I prepared!

I am submitting this report as I can update some information that has been available from other trip reports that cover the area and because August is not a common time for trip reports to be filed. Also I know there are other birders like me who are moderately competent, somewhat inexperienced in the neotropics and may be traveling in the area without a guide. I do have a guide to recommend for the area, though I was not able to meet up with him in time to employ his services. He is Miguel Castelinho of Trogon Tours Some days I was joined in birding by Neva Pruess, from Nebraska, husband Lane Foil, and David Pearson, who like me was a former ornithology student of George Lowery's at LSU.

Throughout this account, birds all in caps were exclusive to that day and time for the trip.

August 17

AM in the Sao Paulo airport (the international one) awaiting connections to Foz do Iguaçu. It was cool, foggy and then overcast. I was outside from 6 am to 9:45 birding the gardens around the airport parking lots. The airport is modern and thoroughly first-world and everyone was friendly and helpful, including the airport security guard who told me where to find birds, in Spanish, as I don't know any Portuguese. Birdlist included Black Vultures, Unidentified heron flyover - probably white-necked, Southern Lapwing, SWALLOW-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD (Eupetomina macroura), Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Great Kiskadee, Blue And White Swallows, Southern House Wren, Rufous-bellied Thrush, BANANAQUIT, Blue-napped Chlorophonia, Sayaca Tanager. The hummer was using tropical hibiscus planted right along the departure driveway in front of the airport.

PM In Foz do Iguaçu by 2:30 pm. Rented a car for a week for about $145 US from Localiza, the national car rental agency of Brazil. Very friendly, spoke little or no English. Stayed at the Bourbon Hotel -- 5 star and great service, though not where we had intended to be. The hotel has a Nature Trail that doubles as a jogging trail through a bit of forest they are restoring and preserving and through their vegetable garden. They are surrounded by agricultural land on the highway that goes between the town and the Park. There are several nice hotels in this area and if you can't stay at the Tropical that is within the Park, these are all convenient and nice. Unfortunately, though, you can't drive into the park until after 8 am, so the advantage would be with staying in the Tropical, which is also 5 star. These hotels cost in the neighborhood of $150 US per night. I drove out to the falls for the sunset ... as spectacular as advertised ... beyond words, really. The next day, I hooked up with Neva, also attending the convention, with whom I had been in contact via Birdchat.

At the end of the report, there is a list of birds that includes what Neva and I saw and what Dave saw when he was with us or on our hotel grounds. The sites we birded were around these hotels outside of the park as well as the golf resort and the convention center near the airport, as well as the Iguazu National Parks of both Brazil and Argentina. Generally, birding was very good in the morning and very slow after about 10 am.

August 18 Saturday

The National Park at Iguaçu Falls is operated as I understand most Brazilian Parks to be, and does not allow free public access to the forest protected within it. The only free access is along the busy highway that leads to the falls, which has a wide shoulder, and along the trails that are designed for viewing the falls. There are only two trails that lead into the forest and access is granted to an ecotourism concession that will lead guided tours on the trails. At the time of our visit, the concession was held by Macuco Safari, a new and earnest ecotourism company. On Saturday Lane & I took their "Jungle Safari and Boat Trip to the Falls" Tour that cost $30 US and lasted a couple of hours. The first part of the tour is along the trail to Macuco Falls (not to be confused with the Macuco Trail on the Argentine side.) This is conducted in an open trailer pulled by a Jeep in groups of about 15 tourists. The guides are not particularly knowledgeable about bird-life, but they are trying and they are multi-lingual. They suggest birders take the first tour that goes off in the am at 8. It is also possible to talk them into allowing you to take this trail by foot, but they are nervous about that as there are Puma and Jaguars in the area. We took the trip in the early afternoon and did not do this trail by foot. Here are the birds we saw in forest and river: Neotropic Cormorants, Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, White-winged Swallows, Surucua Trogons (a pair at a nest cavity). Neva and her husband took the trail in the morning later in the week and did some walking. She saw Picazaro Pigeon, and just missed seeing a Puma, which occasioned rather frantic warnings from the guides not to stray into the "dangerous" forest from the trail. Not very birdy, but a really spectacular way to view the falls!

August 19 Sunday

Went to the Bird Park, which is a privately owned aviary-zoo located between the airport and the Falls on the main highway. It is worth the visit, as there is a good collection of local birds and a way to get a head-start on learning some of the Guans, Rails and Tinamous and some hummingbirds. It was also the only place that I spotted a BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER. That and a Squirrel cuckoo were the only free-flying birds that I saw there that were not also on display, so securely countable. It is hard to get much done birding-wise except in the early morning, anyway. The rest of the day was spent birding around Foz and walking along the falls trails and ferrying Lane to the meetings. One of the nicest places to bird in the area is in and around the Iguaçu Golf Resort. There is a wetland down the road beyond the resort and there are ponds as well as grasslands within the resort grounds.

August 20 Monday

We had arranged with the same Macuco Safaris to spend the morning birding the one great trail into the forest on the Brazil side - Poço Preto. The cost varies around $120 US with the number of persons, so it cost us each $34, as we were four. Neva and I were joined for this morning of birding by Dave Pearson, who has a good deal of experience in South America, and my non-birding spouse Lane.

We were picked up at the hotel at 6:30 and were on the trail by 7:00 am. Poço Preto is a jeep trail that stretches 12 kilometers through the forest and ends up meeting the Iguaçu River above the falls. It begins behind a dormitory house and the trail head is chained off, so it is not possible to walk it without these guides. It is said to be the best place to find some rarities and forest birds including Ochre-collared Piculet, Russet-winged Spadebill, Sao Paulo Tyrannulet, and Helmeted Woodpecker. We had some success.

Once we convinced the contingent of drivers and guides (one assigned to us for his English-speaking skills, and one who was along because it was her first group of birders and she was the boss, and one who was the company biologist!) to follow behind us with the jeep and to keep a little bit quiet, we had a very exciting birding trip. It began auspiciously as we spotted a pair of big red-crested woodpeckers that we at first thought were the more common Robust woodpecker. Fortunately, the pair obliged us by flying lower and allowing good looks; they turned out to be a pair of much rarer HELMETED WOODPECKERS (Drycopus galeatus).

We next had a brief look at a DUSKY-LEGGED GUAN. Had Southern Lapwing flyovers, heard Picazuro Pigeons, saw White-eyed Parakeet flyovers, Squirrel cuckoos, Smooth-billed Ani in a marshy area, Great Dusky Swift flyovers, unidentified hummingbird, Black-throated Trogons, Surucua Trogons, Chestnut-eared Araçari, Red-breasted Toucan, Ochre-collared Piculets (three for the morning), LINEATED WOODPECKERS (three; this race lacks the white line on the scapulars), Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Ochre-breasted Foliage Gleaners, Buff-fronted Foliage Gleaners, a troop of brown Capuchins, RUFOUS-WINGED ANT-WREN (Dave only), Plain Ant-vireo, heard probable Spotted Bamboo-wrens, unidentified tyrannulets - either Planalto or Greenish, probable Southern Bearded Tyrannulet, unidentified Elaenia, Sao Paulo Tyrannulets (several), Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulets, RUSSET-WINGED SPADEBILL (heard and id'd by Dave), Sirystes (finally SAW one of them; heard lots), Three-striped Flycatchers, RED-RUFFED FRUIT-CROW (Dave only), Plush-crested Jays, Pale-breasted Thrushes, one White-necked Thrush, Golden-crowned Warblers, Tropical Parulas, Green-headed Tanagers, Blue-napped Chlorophonia, CHESTNUT-BELLIED EUPHONIA, GREEN-CHINNED EUPHONIA, White-lined Tanagers, Black-goggled Tanagers, Red-crowned Ant-tanagers, Guira Tanager, Red-rumped Caciques. Great morning! I would have liked to do three mornings on this trail. We carried no tape recorder and we found that few birds pished well (warblers and some tanagers). We heard many birds that remained unseen and unidentified.

August 21 Tuesday

We drove across to the Argentina side before 8:00 and the border crossing was painless and fast. The signs to the park are clear and easy to follow. The Argentine park opens at 8:00 am and costs $5.00 each for entry. There are tall trees along the highway that enters the park and good shoulders for pull-offs. Shortly after entering the park proper, it is easy to see the trailhead for the Macuco Trail, which is currently the only forest trail that park visitors are openly invited to hike and one of only two that we were able to locate. The trail goes for 3 km along a ridge along the lower Iguaçu River and is mostly meant to take tourists to an overview of a small waterfall. It meets up with the Yacaratiia jeep trail. It is surrounded by dense secondary forest with good patches of young cane and a few open tree falls with grassy or marshy habitat.

It was a very birdy place for us from 8 am to 12, which is the time we spent hiking the 6 km in and back out. The birds we spotted that morning included: TATAUPU TINAMOU, SOLITARY TINAMOU ( Lane only), RUSTY-MARGINED GUANS (a pair), Picazuro Pigeon, GREY-FRONTED DOVES (very stealthy and silent), White-eyed parakeets & Scaly-headed Parrots overhead, Great Dusky Swifts, Black and Turkey Vultures, Black-throated Trogon, Surucua Trogon, Ochre-collared Piculet, PLAIN-WINGED WOODCREEPER, LESSER WOODCREEPER, Ochre-breasted and Buff-fronted Foliage Gleaners, VARIABLE ANTSHRIKES, EARED PYGMY-TYRANT, Sao Paulo Tyrannulets, Sirystes (heard), Kiskadees, a wonderful lek of WHITE-BEARDED MANAKINS (only 1 female spotted), Pale-breasted and Rufous-bellied Thrushes, Golden-crowned Warblers ubiquitous, Black-goggled Tanagers common, Red-crowned Ant-tanagers, RUBY-CROWNED TANAGERS (3), GREEN-WINGED SALTATOR, SAFFRON-BILLED SPARRROWS (which pished up at the head of trail). A brief return visit to this spot later in the week yielded my only siting of a BLOND-CRESTED WOODPECKER and also Blue Manakins.

August 22 Wednesday

I joined Lane in a river fishing charter on the Parana River (same Macuco Safari outfit). We boated along the three frontiers (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay) down to the big dam. The birding wasn't great, nor was the fishing (wrong time of year). The birds seen along the river (which is lined with habitations, has high banks and has some central islands that are nature preserves): Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Neotropical Cormorant, RINGED KINGFISHER, Southern Caracara, Smooth-billed Ani, LARGE-BILLED TERN, Blue & White Swallows, White-winged Swallows, Kiskadees, Social Flycatchers.

August 23 Thursday

Neva and her husband Ted Pruess joined me for a trip back to the Argentina National Park. We asked at park headquarters (no English) about the hide for marsh-viewing that is written up in previous reports, and learned that it has been dismantled for construction of the new park headquarters. We later found that about 1/3 of the wetlands themselves have also been given over to this park development. This did not affect our birding, however, as it is dry season in August and the marshlands were bone dry. We did the park walks along the falls for an hour or so starting around 8:30 am and found there to be few other tourists and the birding to be fairly good. The inferior trail is the best place to view the roosts of Great Dusky Swifts, and nestled amongst them we spotted a pair of BISCUTATE SWIFTS. We also had SPOT-BILLED TOUCANET and a pair of SWALLOW TANAGERS. Scacly-headed parrots were leaving roosts along the trail as we hiked. Near park headquarters there were plenty of Plush-crested Jays, a family of CHALK-BROWED MOCKINGBIRDS, and a FIELD FLICKER.

We drove to Puerto Canoas, the part of the park that allows tourists views of the river above the falls and paid $15 each to take a paddle raft float alongside the falls in the quiet backwaters of the upper river. This was late in the day for bird-viewing, but we did see alligator and also Brown Capuchins and some Toco Toucan fly-overs. We walked from the Puerto Canoas parking area toward the campgrounds along the upper river. Here we had a fly-over of YELLOW-CHEVRONED PARAKEETS. Otherwise it was too late in the morning to be productive, but an early morning visit to this site should be profitable. The only other bird of note for me on the upper Iguaçu River was seen from the Brazil side - SNAIL KITE. I also had a brief and distant view of a small accipiter harassing the swifts coming to roost at dusk.

In the hot afternoon sun, we went searching for the other end of the Yacaratiia Trail, which is now located along the new road to the new Park headquarters. It is given over to a jeep safari business, although open for walking. The big jeeps have the road so deeply rutted that one could not take a rental car along it, although it is well wide enough. We did not walk more than a km into the trail before having to leave, but it could be a very promising walk early morning. If you were staying at the International Hotel (now a Sheraton) within the National Park, it would be easy to reach the trailhead in the early morning. The only new bird we had along the trail was a gorgeous male LONG-TAILED TYRANT.

August 24 Friday

Leaving Day. Last bird of the area was fitting. An Elaenia-like flycatcher that I could not identify, despite it giving a call, a harsh "wraaah!" It was the size of a small Elaenia or a Pewee. It had an upright posture, and sat out in the open on a snag for some time with no wing-flicking or tail wagging. Unfortunately, I could not maneuver to get a look from behind, so never saw the wings, except for a hint of an upper wing bar, as it flew off back over a tree-line. It was a very grey and plain-faced bird with a uniform light flat grey color from crest (very cresty) to chest. On the belly there was a hint of darker streaking. It had a hint of a partial paler eye-ring. It was small billed and the bill was not noticeably two-toned -- greyish horn, rather than dark black. I wonder if this was a Suiriri flycatcher?

Here is the bird list with combined efforts of Neva Pruess, Lane Foil, Dave Pearson and myself.

FDI = Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil and environs
NPB = National Park Brazil side
NPA = National Park Argentina
PR = Parana River
Solitary Tinamou  Tinamus solitarius  NPA
Tataupa Tinamou  Crypturellus tataupa  NPA
Neotropic Cormorant  Phalacrocorax brasilianus  NPB, NPA, PR
Great Egret  Ardea alba NPA, PR
Snowy Egret  Egretta thula NPA, PR
Cattle Egret  Bubulcus ibis all locations
Brazilian Duck  Amazonetta brasiliensis  FDI
Black Vulture  Coragyps atratus abundant all locations
Turkey Vulture  Cathartes aura all locations
Snail Kite  Rostrhamus sociabilis  NPB
Roadside Hawk  Buteo magnirostris  NPB, NPA
Southern Caracara  Caracara plancus  NPA, PR, FDI
Rusty-margined Guan  Penelope superciliaris  NPA
Dusky-legged Guan  Penelope obscura  NPB
Southern Lapwing  Vanellus chilensis  all locations
Large-billed Tern  Phaetusa simplex  PR
Picazuro Pigeon  Columba picazuro  all locations
Eared Dove  Zenaida auriculata  common all locations
Plain-breasted Ground-dove  Columbina minuta  FDI
Ruddy Ground-dove  Columbina talpacoti all locations
Grey-fronted Dove  Leptoptila rufaxilla  NPA
Blue-winged Parrotlet  Forpus xanthopterygius  FDI
White-eared Parakeet  Aratinga leucophthalmus  NPB, NPA, FDI
Yellow-chevroned Parakeet  Brotogeris chiriri  NPA
Scaly-headed Parrot  Pionus maximiliani  NPB, NPA, FDI
Squirrel Cuckoo  Piaya cayana  NPB, NPA, FDI
Smooth-billed Ani  Crotophaga ani  all locations
Guira Cuckoo  Guira guira  FDI
Pauraque  Nyctidromus albicollis  NPA
Great Dusky Swift  Cypseloides senex  all locations
Biscutate Swift  Streptoprocne biscutata  NPA
Black Jacobin  Melanotrochilus fuscus  FDI (feeder)
Rufous-throated Sapphire  Hylocharis sapphirina  FDI
Versicolored Emerald  Amazilia versicolor  FDI
Black-throated Trogon  Trogon rufus  NPB, NPA
Surucua Trogon  Trogon surrucura  NPB, NPA
Ringed Kingfisher  Ceryle torquata  PR
Amazon Kingfisher  Chloroceryle amazona  FDI, NPA
Chestnut-eared Araçari  Pteroglossus castanotis  NPB, NPA
Spot-billed Toucanet  Selenidera maculirostris  NPA
Red-breasted Toucan  Ramphastos dicolorus  NPB, NPA
Toco Toucan  Ramphastos toco  NPB, NPA
Ochre-collared Piculet  Picumnus temminckii  NPB, NPA
Yellow-fronted Woodpecker  Melanerpes flavifrons  FDI
Field "Campo' Flicker  Colaptes campestris  NPA
Blond-crested Woodpecker  Celeus flavescens  NPA
Helmeted Woodpecker  Drycopus galeatus  NPB
Lineated Woodpecker  Drycopus lineatus  NPB
Plain-winged Woodcreeper  Dendrocincla turdina  NPA
Olivaceous Woodcreeper  Sittasomus griseicapillus  FDI, NPA
Lesser Woodcreeper  Lepidocolaptes fuscus  NPA
Rufous Hornero  Furnarius rufus  FDI
Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner  Philydor lichtensteini  NPB, NPA, FDI
Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner  Philydor rufus  NPB, NPA
Barred Antshrike  Thamnophilus doliatus  FDI
Variable Antshrike  Thamnophilus caerulescens  NPA a real Skulker!
Plain Antvireo  Dysithamnus mentalis  FDI
Rurfous-winged Antwren  Herpsilochmus rufomarginatus  FDI, NPB
Yellow-bellied Elaenia Elaenia flavogaster  NPB, FDI
Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet  Phylloscartes ventralis  NPB, NPA
Sao Paulo Tyrannulet  Phylloscartes paulistis  NPB, NPA
Eared Pygmy-Tyrant  Myiornis auricularis  NPB, NPA
Russet-winged Spadebill  Platyrhinchus leucoryphus  NPB
Long-tailed Tyrant  Colonia colonis  NPA
Cattle Tyrant  Machetornis rixosus  FDI
Sirystes  Sirystes sibilator  NPB, NPA
Great Kiskadee  Pitangus sulphuratus all locations
Boat-billed Flycatcher  Megarhynchus pitangua  FDI
Social Flycatcher  Myiozetetes similis  FDI, PR
Three-striped Flycatcher  Conopias trivirgata  NPB
White-bearded Manakin  Manacus manacus  NPA
Swallow-tailed (Blue) Manakin  Chiroxiphia caudata  NPA
Red-ruffed Fruitcrow  Pyroderus scutatus  NPA
Plush-crested Jay  Cyanocorax chrysops  NPB, NPA, FDI
White-winged Swallow  Tachycineta albiventer  NPB, PR
Gray-breasted Martin  Progne chalybea  FDI
Blue-and-white Swallow  Notiochelidon cyanoleuca  FDI, NPB, PR
Southern House Wren  Troglodytes aedon  NPB, NPA, FDI very common
Rufous-bellied Thrush  Turdus rufiventris  NPB, NPA, FDI
Pale-breasted Thrush  Turdus leucomelas  NPB, NPA, FDI
Creamy-bellied Thrush  Turdus amaurochalinus  FDI
White-necked Thrush  Turdus albicollis  NPB, NPA
Chalk-browed Mockingbird  Mimus saturninus  NPA
Tropical Parula  Parula pitiayumi  NPB, NPA
Masked Yelllowthroat  Geothlypis aequinoctialis  FDI
Golden-crowned Warbler  Basileuterus culicivorus  NPB, NPA, FDI very common
Chestnut-vented Conebill  Conirostrum speciosum  FDI
Green-headed Tanager  Tangera aroiris  NPA
Blue Dacnis  Dacnis cayana  FDI, NPA
Blue-naped Chlorophonia  Chlorophonia cyanea  NPB, NPA
Violaceous Euphonia  Euphonia violacea  NPB, NPA
Chestnut-bellied Euphonia  Euphonia pectoralis  NPB
Green-chinned Euphonia  Euphonia chalybea  NPB
Sayaca Tanager  Thraupis sayaca  FDI
Red-crowned Ant-tanager  Habia rubica  NPB, NPA
White-lined Tanager  Tachyphonus rufus  NPB, FDI
Ruby-crowned Tanager  Tachyphonus coronatus  NPA
Black-goggled Tanager  Trichothraupis melanops  NPB, NPA, FDI
Guira Tanager  Hemithraupis guira  NPB, FDI
Swallow-tanager  Tersina viridis  NPA
Green-winged Saltator  Saltator similis  NPA, FDI
Saffron-billed Sparrow  Arremon flavirostris  NPA
Shiny Cowbird  Molothrus bonariensis  FDI
Red-rumped Cacique  Cacicus haemorrhous  NPB, NPA, FDI
Solitary Cacique  Cacicus solitarius  NPB, FDI
Epaulet Oriole  Icterus cayennensis  FDI
House Sparrow  Passer domesticus  FDI

Carol Foil
Baton Rouge, LA