Birding Guyana - Unknown South America and Guianan shield specialists

11birdPhotographer: Fabrice Schmitt

This tour is a very good one for birders who have made several trips to other parts of South America and want to look for the regional specialties, which occur in Guyana. Many are not endemics but extremely difficult to see in other places. It is a very suitable trip for less experienced neotropical birders due to the large number of widespread species that can be seen as well as the specialties. Its a haven for Parrots – one of the best places we have been to and include several hard to see species elsewhere. The coastal strip is dominated by an unusual mix of Caribbean and Indian flavours, there being a large immigrant Indian population, but once in the interior of the country we are in the lands of the Makushi Amerindian communities and old colonial cattle ranches. Throw in a bit of Brazil down on the southern border and its quite a fascinating cultural mix. No long walks are planned and it is not physically demanding apart from the early starts and long days. Most days will be split into morning and afternoon excursions and anyone wishing to relax at lodges for half a day and not participate on morning or afternoon birding excursions will be able to do so except on travel days. It does offer an excellent chance of seeing a great range of Guyana’s specialty birds and a unique South American Culture with traces of the old British Colony still in evidence.. Most tours do not get far enough south for Red Siskin and Sun Parakeet – we do!

Some of the special birds we will look for on this trip include Red-legged Tinamou, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Scarlet Ibis, ufous Crab-Hawk, Harpy Eagle, Black Curassow, Crestless Curassow, Marail Guan, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Sun Parakeet, Blue-cheeked Amazon, Red-fan Parrot, Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo, White-winged Potoo, Guianan Puffbird, Black Nunbird, Black-spotted Barbet, Guianan Toucanet, Green Aracari, Black-necked Aracari, White-bellied Piculet, Blood-coloured Woodpecker, Hoary-throated Spinetail, Red-billed Woodcreeper, Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, Black-throated Antshrike, Guianan Streaked Antwren, Rufous-bellied Antwren, Spot-tailed Antwren, Todd’s Antwren, Rio Branco Antbird, Guianan Warbling Antbird, Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock, Guianan Red-Cotinga, Pompadour Cotinga, Crimson Fruitcrow, Capuchinbird, Dusky Purpletuft, Black Manakin, Finsch’s Euphonia, Golden-sided Euphonia, Red-and-Black Grosbeak and Red Siskin.

Day 1: Arriving in Georgetown, Guyana we’ll transfer to our hotel. Overnight at the famous colonial Cara Lodge, Georgetown.

Day 2:After an early breakfast, we will travel eastward from Georgetown to look for Blood-coloured Woodpecker and Rufous Crab-Hawk, the first of the many range-restricted species we will be hoping to find on this tour. The woodpecker is only known from a narrow coastal strip which runs eastward for just a few hundred miles from Guyana and finding this species will be one of our main priorities. We will also look for the poorly-known White-bellied Piculet which can also be found in this area. An area of mangrove less than 50 miles from Georgetown is a good place to find Rufous Crab-Hawk, a species which has been badly affected by the reduction in this habitat type. This is also a reliable site for the Woodpecker and Piculet, so we stand an excellent chance of seeing all three species. Others include Pale-tipped Inezia and a chance at some range restricted coastal Hummers. On our return journey to Georgetown, we may visit some mudflats where we are likely to find a range of herons and waders, as well as Scarlet Ibis, Black Skimmer, Brown Pelican and Magnificent Frigatebird. Lunch in a local restaurant and then after a siesta in our lovely air conditioned colonial hotel (needed in this heat) we head for the Botanical Gardens in Central Georgetown where a good range of species can be found. These include Snail Kite, Gray Hawk, Brown-throated Parakeet, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, Black-crested Antshrike, Grayish Saltator, Buff-breasted Wren, Ashy-headed Greenlet, Golden-spangled Piculet, Spotted Tody-Flycatcher, Wing-barred Seedeater and Carib Grackle. Blood-coloured Woodpecker and White-bellied Piculet can also be found here, however, the Botanical Gardens are not a reliable site for these species and we will count ourselves fortunate to find them here. Overnight at Cara Lodge, Georgetown (B:L:D)

Day 3:We will drive to the domestic airport at nearby Ogle and fly over the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers and hundreds of miles of unbroken tropical rainforest to land at the main town in Southern Guyana right on the Brazilian border, Lethem. Dropping our bags at the hotel we’ll be turning our attention to two birds which have seemingly always had restricted ranges, the Hoary-throated Spinetail and Rio Branco Antbird. Both are only found in gallery forest along the Rio Branco and its main tributaries (all of which ultimately flow into the Amazon) and recent agricultural changes have seriously reduced the amount of available habitat for both birds. As a result bothe species are now classified as Critically Endangered. To reach suitable habitat, we will use 4 x 4 jeeps but if the savannah is flooded travel by boat down the Takatu river (which flows past Lethem) and then up the Ireng river. This is likely to take us at least a couple of hours in each direction and we should encounter species such as Capped Heron, Muscovy Duck, Pale-legged Hornero and various wetland whilst travelling. Although the habitat needs of the Antbird and Spinetail are seemingly slightly different (the Antbird prefers taller trees with vine tangles, whilst the Spinetail is possibly a little more tolerant of some human disturbance), they can both be found along a comparatively short stretch of the Ireng river. We plan to return to Lethem shortly before dusk. Overnight in Lethem (B:L:D)

Day 4:Today we travel by 4x4 toward Dadanawa Ranch birding on the way. We should see a variety of raptors and other open-country birds. Dadanawa Ranch, a cluster of raised wooden buildings surmounted by a towering Brazil nut tree and more or less surrounded by low gallery forest along the Rupununi River. After establishing ourselves here we’ll travel eastward and pass several shallow ponds before reaching Towa Towan, a high, rounded outcrop of blackened granite with a Jabiru nest near the summit and a small pond at the base with dense mucca mucca, a giant arum. We’ll look for certain flycatchers in surrounding Curatella glades and in late afternoon we’ll hope to see nighthawks on the wing and witness the roosting of Yellow-crowned Parrots. Overnight at Dadanawa Ranch. (B:L:D)

Day 5:: Another early start awaits us as we will be travelling to look for another endangered bird, the Red Siskin. Like the Sun Parakeet, this species has been decimated by the cage bird trade, although it was only in recent years that it was actually discovered in Guyana. There is now, however, an active local conservation society which is studying and protecting the birds and with their assistance, we will hope to get good looks of this stunning species. Depending on how long our search for the Red Siskin takes, there should be time for some further birding in the area, although an alternative option is to visit some forested hills on the edge of the Kanaku Mountain range. Afternoon transfer back to Lethem. Overnight Lethem (B:L:D)

Day 6:Before dawn, we will travel by 4x4 to the small community of Karasabai on the western border with Brazil. After arriving at the village, we will transfer to the nearby area by 4 x 4 of the the savanna is flooded to the Ireng River where a chartered boat will take us to look for one of the rarest birds in Guyana, the Sun Parakeet. Thirty years ago, this species was extremely common, however, a huge number were caught for the cage bird trade and the area around Karasabai is now believed to be the only place in Guyana where this spectacular parrot can be found. Now regarded as highly endangered, small flocks can often be seen flying overhead, however, to get really good views, we will need to search the trees close to the river where despite their orange, yellow and green plumage, they can be surprisingly hard to spot. Other species which can be seen in this area include Maguari Stork, Muscovy Duck, Crested Bobwhite, Painted Parakeet and Orange-backed Troupial and for those interested in mammals, the savannahs around Karasabai still hold a reasonably healthy population of Giant Anteaters. After several hours on the river, we will return to Karasabai then drive back to Karanambu Ranch. During our stay, we will make a special effort to locate one of the oddest-looking members of the cotinga family, the Capuchinbird. There are at least two leks relatively close to our lodge and we plan to visit at least one of these display areas, where we should get great looks as the males seek to attract females with their weird, almost cow-like, song. Another of our targets whilst staying at Karanambu will be the near-threatened Bearded Tachuri, a member of the flycatcher family which has declined markedly in recent years as it requires fairly undisturbed savannah grasslands. We have an excellent chance of finding this species and others we will be looking for include Boat-billed Heron, Pinnated Bittern, Sunbittern, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Green-tailed Jacamar, Spotted Puffbird, Black Nunbird, White-fringed Antwren, Black-chinned and White-bellied Antbirds, Finsch’s Euphonia and Rose-breasted Chat. Overnight at Karanambu Ranch (B:L:D)
Day 7 and 8:Karanambu Ranch where we have two days to explore the nearby grasslands, gallery forest and wetlands and can expect to find plenty of species which we are unlikely to encounter elsewhere on this tour. During our stay, we will make a special effort to locate one of the oddest-looking members of the cotinga family, the Capuchinbird. There are at least two leks relatively close to our lodge and we plan to visit at least one of these display areas. Another of our targets whilst staying at Karanambu will be the near-threatened Bearded Tachuri, a member of the flycatcher family which has declined markedly in recent years as it requires fairly undisturbed savannah grasslands. We have an excellent chance of finding this species and others we will be looking for include Boat-billed Heron, Pinnated Bittern, Sunbittern, Sharp-tailed Ibis, Green-tailed Jacamar, Spotted Puffbird, Black Nunbird, White-fringed Antwren, Black-chinned and White-bellied Antbirds, Finsch’s Euphonia and Rose-breasted Chat. We also intend to make a boat trip either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon on the nearby Rupununi River to look for Crestless (or Lesser Razor-billed) Curassow. Although this species has not been hunted on the ranch for many years, it remains rare and difficult to find, although our best chance of encountering it will be if we hear a bird giving its low booming call around dawn or dusk. On one evening, we also plan to head out onto the savannahs after dark to look for night birds and on a good evening it is possible to see at least six species of nightjar and nighthawk including Nacunda, Least and Lesser Nighthawks, White-tailed Nightjar, as well as Double-striped Thick-knee. We may also see a Giant Anteater during our stay, as this species is not uncommon around the lodge. Overnight at Karanambu Ranch (B:L:D)
Day 9: We will leave Karanambu after an early breakfast. Initially we will travel by boat and this should give us another excellent opportunity to look for various river-edge, wetland and open country species and we stand a good chance of seeing Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Jabiru, Wood Stork, Green Ibis, Northern (Crested) Caracara, Black-collared Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Brown-throated Parakeet and Swallow-wing. Depending on the river level, this trip offers an excellent opportunity to look for Giant Otters as there are several family groups which live along this stretch of the Rupununi River. Both Black and Spectacled Caimans also inhabit the river and several species of monkey including Red Howler, White-faced Saki and Squirrel Monkey can be found in the riverside trees. Arriving at Ginep Landing, we will board vehicles for the journey northwards but plan to make several birding stops as we travel towards our next destination, Surama EcoLodge. Species we could encounter include Red-shouldered Macaw, Sooty-capped Hermit, White-tailed Goldenthroat, Cinnamon Attila, Yellow-throated Flycatcher, Pale-tipped Inezia, Cayenne Jay, Flavescent Warbler, Finsch’s Euphonia and Orange-backed Troupial. Overnight at Surama Ecolodge (B:L:D)
Day 10:We will have two mornings to explore the rainforest around Surama where we can expect to see an excellent range of species. One of the undoubted specialities of the area is the Rufous-winged Ground-Cuckoo. Whilst this species is certain tough to find, the nearby forests are certainly amongst the better places in the Neotropics to look for any members of this family and to maximise the odds of us finding one, we will use expert local guides to assist us. We will, however, still count ourselves as extremely fortunate if we succeed in getting good looks at this extremely elusive species. Assuming it is active, we also plan to visit a nearby Harpy Eagle nest which is located in a huge emergent tree only a couple of miles from the village. Although the Harpy Eagle and Rufous-winged Ground-cuckoo may be the two star attractions at Surama, there are plenty of other species to look for and during our stay we will hope to encounter Red-legged Tinamou, Painted Parakeet, Dusky Parrot, Lilac-tailed Parrotlet, Pale-throated Barbthroat, Rufous-throated Sapphire, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Guianan Puffbird, Black-spotted Barbet, Golden-spangled Piculet, Chestnut-rumped Woodcreeper, Northern Slaty-Antshrike, Rufous-bellied, Spot-tailed and Todd’s Antwrens, Dusky, White-browed, White-bellied, Ferruginous-backed, Rufous-throated and Guianan Warbling Antbirds, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Lemon-chested and Ashy-headed Greenlet’s, Blue-backed Tanager and Finsch’s Euphonia. We also plan to do some night birding and will hope to locate the recently split Northern Tawny-bellied Screech-Owl, as well as Tropical Screech-Owl, Lesser Nighthawk, White-tailed Nightjar and both Great and Common Potoos. Overnight at Surama Eco-Lodge (B:L:D)
Day 11: Another mornings birding at Surama After lunch we will transfer to our next destination, the Atta Rainforest Lodge. Although the journey is only about an hour, we plan to spend the afternoon birding along the road between the lodges as this passes through some excellent forest where we are likely to find species such as Grey-winged Trumpeter, Green Aracari, Guianan Toucanet, Spotted Puffbird, Black-spotted Barbet and Black Nunbird, as well as a variety of parrots including Black-headed and Caica. We will stop at Corkwood in the late afternoon to look for Guianan Cock of the Rock. Overnight Atta Rainforest Lodge (B:L:D)
Day 12 and 13: Although the forest around Atta Lodge is excellent for birds, the major attraction here is a 154 metre long canopy walkway which is only 750 m from the lodge. The walkway has four platforms, the highest of which is over 30 metres above the ground, and these will allow us to get great looks at a range of canopy species, many of which we would struggle to see well from the forest floor. Amongst the likely highlights are Painted, Brown-throated and Golden-winged Parakeets, Caica Parrot, Guianan Puffbird, Waved and Golden-collared Woodpeckers, Spot-tailed and Todd’s Antwrens, Grey Antbird and Fulvous Shrike-Tanager. The walkway is also an excellent place to look for various Cotingas including the poorly known and range-restricted Dusky Purpletuft. If there are any suitable fruiting trees nearby, we stand a good chance of seeing this bird, as well as the more widespread Purple-breasted Cotinga. Another area where we will want to spend some time is the clearing around the lodge, as this is one of the best places to see another of Guyana’s “must see” birds, the Crimson Fruitcrow. This species is seen here on a reasonably regular basis, as it often comes to feed in some of the nearby trees. The clearing is also a reliable site for Black Curassow, as there is a family party which has become habituated to people and regularly passes through the clearing. With reasonable luck, we should be able to add this bird to the impressive list of species we hope to see around the lodge and walkway. Other species we hope to encounter during our stay include Spix’s and Marail Guans, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Red-fan Parrot, Eastern Long-tailed Hermit, Crimson Topaz, Great and Paradise Jacamars, Guianan and Pied Puffbirds, Guianan Toucanet, Green and Black-necked Aracaris, Red-billed Woodcreeper, Black-throated Antshrike, Guianan Streaked Antwren, Guianan Warbling Antbird, Pompadour Cotinga, Purple-throated Fruitcrow, Tiny Tyrant-Manakin, Helmeted Pygmy-Tyrant, Golden-sided Euphonia and both Red-and-Black and Yellow-green Grosbeaks. During our three night stay, another of our major targets will be the poorly known White-winged Potoo which, after dark, can be found both around the lodge and at the walkway. Looking for this bird will be one of our major priorities but we will need a bright moon-lit night to stand a reasonable chance of seeing it. Overnight at Atta Rainforest Lodge (B:L:D)
Day 14:We will have a final morning to explore the forests at Surama. We will then continue our journey towards the Iwokrama Field Station and if time allows we will make a number of short stops and species we could encounter include the range-restricted Blue-cheeked Amazon as well as Red-billed Woodcreeper. There will be time to relax in this air conditioned beautiful lodge overlooking the river. Overnight at Iwokrama Field Station (BLD)
Day 15:After an early breakfast, we will cross the Essequibo River and then begin our journey back to Georgetown by chartered bus. We will drive to an area of white-sand forest. Our targets here will include Guianan Red-Cotinga, Black Manakin, Rufous-crowned Elaenia and Yellow-throated Flycatcher. Although this road is the main thoroughfare between Guyana and Brazil, it passes through some excellent birding habitat and we will make a number of birding stops along the way. Overnight at Cara Lodge, Georgetown (BL)
Day 16:Transfer to the international airport for the flight home (B)

Customer Testimonials

Nigel Hewitt - UK

Dear Barry: At last I have found a moment to say thank you again for an excellent [Guyana] trip. As you rightly commented, as the memories of the heat disappear into the past, the memories of the birds we saw continue to improve. I believe that we were honoured, and a bit lucky, to see so many difficult and rare species (the luck certainly applies to Sun Parakeet and Harpy Eagle.) Both David and I enjoyed travelling with you.

Kaye Goodhue - USA

Thanks, Fabrice, for such a full {Guyana} report. I wanted to let you know that I ended up with 19 lifers. So many - thanks for your extra efforts on my behalf. And with Cornell's "Updates and corrections" I'm around 7,200 now - and still counting. Bye and thanks again for a safe, satisfying tour.

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Comments

Thanks, Fabrice, for such a full {Guyana} report. I wanted to let you know that I ended up with 19 lifers. So many - thanks for your extra efforts on my behalf. And with Cornell's "Updates and corrections" I'm around 7,200 now - and still counting. Bye and thanks again for a safe, satisfying tour.

Dear Barry: At last I have found a moment to say thank you again for an excellent [Guyana] trip. As you rightly commented, as the memories of the heat disappear into the past, the memories of the birds we saw continue to improve. I believe that we were honoured, and a bit lucky, to see so many difficult and rare species (the luck certainly applies to Sun Parakeet and Harpy Eagle.) Both David and I enjoyed travelling with you.

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