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.
MUTUM or CURASSOW (Crax fasciolata)
Locally known as Mutum, the Bare-faced Curassow is a turkey-sized ground-dwelling bird. The male is plain black, with a yellow beak and blue region of skin around the eye. By contrast, the female has a black beak - but is also more highly decorated with a barred pattern along the tail and shoulders, and a tanned underside. Curassow are closely related to another terrestrial species, the Guan, which is also present in the region. Being hunted as game birds throughout much of their former territory, the few remaining (outside the Pantanal) are generally nervous, fleeing into thicket or branches at the first sign of any disturbance. Fortunately, within the Pantanal, there are still reasonable numbers, and reduced hunting pressures mean they are tamer and less wary of humans. One of the best spots for viewing Mutum is along the Transpantaneira in the northern Pantanal.
Banner image: Bare-faced curassow (iStock/Mike Lane).
Bare-faced curassow headshot (iStock/Mike Lane); Footer images: Tuiuiú, Turkey Vulture(Andrew Mercer); Amazon Kingfisher (Shutterstock/Ecoventurestravel)