Pantanal Escapes


The Pantanal is a paradise for bird watchers and photographers. WIth over 600 species to see, you can be assured of variety. The dry season gatherings of wading birds as they feast on fish and crustaceans trapped in the shrinking water holes is an annual spectacular to see.

Modern South America lacks mega-fauna on the scale of Africa - but it makes up for this in diversity. You'll find some of the most beautiful and renowned species, such as the Hyacinth Macaw and Toco Toucan. This diversity occurs due to the Pantanal being located at the confluence of several other ecologically-important regions (such as the Amazon forest, Brazilian tableland plateau, the cerrado, and Paraguayan/Bolivian Chaco).

The diversity is also due to the wide range of environments and landscapes occurring within the Pantanal itself. Rather than being a ubiquitous wetland, it also contains large rivers, grasslands, dry forest, and high stony hills and outcrops. Although there is some competition between species, many also survive in parallel by exploiting different foods and different niches.
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Kingfishers are globally distributed, having an appearance which (barring colour and size) is generally consistent throughout their range. There are five Kingfisher species within the Pantanal region: Amazon Kingfisher, Green Kingfisher, Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher, American Pigmy Kingfisher, and the Ringed Kingfisher. Since they primarily eat fish, Kingfishers in the Pantanal are encountered along rivers and larger streams, and lakes. The five species here are common throughout most of Latin America. The local Portuguese name for Kingfisher is Martim-Pescador.
The Amazon and Green Kingfisher are almost identical. The female is green and white (pictured). The male also has a patch of brown on the top half of his chest. The simplest way to distinguish these species is size - the Amazon Kingfisher reaches 28cm in length, whereas Green Kingfisher is smaller reaching only 19cm. The Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher and American Pigmy Kingfisher also have similar coloration. They're green but (in place of white feathers) their entire chest is red-brown. The neck area is a mixture of white and brown feathers. The female has a narrow band of green feathers along the top of the chest. Once again, the two species are distinguished by size. The Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher reaches 22cm, whereas the American Pigmy Kingfisher only reaches about 13cm in length. Both are less common than the other species. The most common species is the Ringed Kingfisher, which is also the largest (reaching almost 40cm). It is the most conspicuous (i.e. noisiest), and most distinctive - coloured blue-grey with a red-brown chest and underside.
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Tuiuiu or Jabiri Stork in the Pantanal, Brazil
Amazon kingfisher in the Pantanal, Brazil
Turkey Vulture in flight over the Pantanal, Brazil
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Banner image: Ringed Kingfisher (Wikimedia Commons/Leyo)
Footer images: Tuiuiú, Turkey Vulture(
Andrew Mercer); Amazon Kingfisher (Shutterstock/Ecoventurestravel)