Most common bird species of the Pantanal in Mato Grosso

The following list of bird species, drawn up with the collaboration of specialists, presents some of the most frequently observed species in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso.

These bird species in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso are identified by their common names, followed by their scientific nomenclature and identification in English.

The popular names, often inherited from the indigenous natives, are of great importance as they can denote characteristics of the birds.

tuiuiú, jaburu,mycteria americana ou jabiru
Tuiuiú or Jaburu is the symbol of the Mato Grosso wetlands – bird specie of the Pantanal in Mato Grosso

The scientific names of the birds, in Latin, classify them in terms of genus and species, which makes it easier to recognise the similarities between them.

Finally, we have chosen to include the names in English as well, in order to help those interested in the practice of birdwatching identify them in foreign field guides.

Aves no Pantanal Matogrossense

Most common bird species of the Pantanal in Mato Grosso

    1. arara-azul, anodorhynchus hyacinthinus ou hyacinth macaw
    2. arara-vermelha, ara chloroptera ou green-winged macaw
    3. biguá, phalacrocorax olivaceus ou neotropic cormorant
    4. biguatinga, anhina anhinga ou anhinga
    5. cabeça-seca, mycteria americana ou wood stork
    6. cafezinho, Jacana jacana ou wattled jacana
    7. colheiro, platalea ajaja ou roseata spoonbill
    8. curicaca, theristicus caudatus ou buff-necked Ibis
    9. ema, rhea americana ou greater rhea
    10. gavião-belo, busarellus nigricollis ou black-collared hawk
    11. maria-faceira, syrigma sibilatrix ou whistling heron
    12. martim-pescador-grande, ceryle torquata ou ringed kingfisher
    13. socó-boi, tigrisoma lineatum ou rufescent tiger-Heron
    14. tucanuçu, ramphastos toco ou toco toucan
    15. tuiuiú, jaburu, mycteria americana ou jabiru

1. Arara-Azul

(Anodorhynchus Hyacinthinus)

English name: Hyacinthine Macaw

arara-azul, hyacinth macaw or anodorhynchus hyacinthinus
arara-azul, anodorhynchus hyacinthinus or hyacinth macaw

This charming bird is the largest of the planet’s psittaciformes, a family that includes macaws, parrots, maritacas and parakeets in general. It measures up to 1 metre from head to tail and weighs 1.5 kilos.

The species, which feeds mainly on acuri and bocaiuva coconuts, came very close to extinction because of the intense illegal trade in wild animals.

Populations are sedentary, but can make small daily migrations to feed or reproduce.

With wings that reach 36 centimetres each, the hyacinth macaw can make long flights of up to 25 kilometres and high flights of up to 100 metres.

Its colour is predominantly cobalt blue, in a gradient from the head to the tip of the tail, while the yellow of the skin appears around the eyes and on the outline of the lower jaw.

The feathers of the wings and tail are black on the underside, which explains its other popular names: black macaw and araraúna (in Tupi-Guarani it means “black-coloured”).

Curious, this bird often flies close to cars or boats, emitting its characteristic sounds, which can be identified from afar.

During the breeding season, from July to December, couples isolate themselves and can be aggressive.

In the Pantanal, hyacinth macaws especially look for cavities in the trunks of manduvi trees to build their nests.

In 2006, it was on Ibama’s list of endangered animals.

2. Arara-Vermelha

(Ara chloroptera)

English name: Green-winged Macaw

arara-vermelha ou green-winged macaw
arara-vermelha, ara chloroptera ou green-winged macaw

Unlike the hyacinth macaw, the scarlet macaw does not fly in flocks; it is usually seen in pairs and with a certain ease because of its exuberant plumage, in which, as the name suggests, the colour red predominates.

The skin of the scarlet macaw’s face is white with some red streaks, and the wing feathers are almost all dark blue with green stripes. The long red tail ends in a shade of blue.

Due to its size – it can reach up to 95 centimetres – this bird needs large cavities in which to nest.

It uses the natural hollows of tall trees (many use the nests of hyacinth macaws) or rocky walls.

Hunting pressure has made it extinct in parts of the Atlantic Forest in south-eastern Brazil, where it used to be common.

In the Pantanal of Mato Grosso, the scarlet macaw can be seen between May and December, during its breeding season.

3. Biguá

(Phalacrocorax olivaceus)

English name: Neotropic Cormorant

biguá or phalacrocorax olivaceus
biguá, phalacrocorax olivaceus or neotropic cormorant

A distant relative of pelicans, this dark-coloured bird measures between 58 and 73 centimetres.

The cormorant is an excellent fisherman and adopts a curious approach when in search of fish: it hooks them in flocks, in a kind of collective fishing trip.

When it’s involved in this endeavour, it dives up to 20 metres deep.

Its feet and beak are essential for chasing and catching prey.

As it loses much of the impermeability of its feathers when it comes into contact with water, it is common to see it flapping its wings repeatedly to dry them even while it is swimming, or opening them to the sun when it lands on logs and trees on the banks of rivers and bays.

In the morning, when the cormorants go out in search of their favourite food, they fly in groups, forming a long “V” in the sky. They usually nest in large colonies, together with herons.

4. Biguatinga

(Anhinga anhinga)

English name: Anhinga

biguatinga ou anhinga
biguatinga, anhina anhinga ou anhinga

Biguatinga is a bird with a long neck and a long, pointed beak, the biguatinga has an unmistakable silhouette – even when flying at high altitudes.

The species has a marked sexual dimorphism: the male is all black and the female has a light, yellow-brown neck.

Only during the breeding season, between September and December, do these birds live in pairs.

Measuring between 81 and 91 centimetres, the biguatinga is a skilful diver, able to catch fish quite easily.

A solitary fisherman, the biguatinga stays close to the banks of rivers, bays and corixos, using its beak like a harpoon: underwater, it pierces the fish and then emerges with the game through it.

Like the biguá, the biguatinga’s feathers get wet easily. To dry them or to get rid of excess heat on very hot days, they perch on tall, dry trees with their wings spread.

5. Cabeça-Seca

(Mycteria americana)

English name: Wood Stork

dry-headed, mycteria americana or wood stork
Cabeça-Seca, mycteria americana or wood stork

When they leave their nests, wood stork godwit chicks have their necks and heads covered in plumage.

As the wood stork chicks grow, they lose this characteristic and, by the age of three, they will have plucked those body parts – hence their popular name.

At the age of four, the dry-heads reach sexual maturity and, in order to reproduce, they form large colonies in the Pantanal nesting grounds.

The smallest of the three species of storks that live in Brazil, it reaches a length of 95 centimetres and can be found alone or in groups in flooded areas on the banks of rivers and bays.

During periods of ebb and flow, the bird walks against the current and holds open its pincer-shaped beak with half of it in the water: it’s a strategy for catching fish carried by the current of the rivers.

6. Cafezinho

(Jacana jacana)

English name: Wattled Jacana

cafezinho, wattled jacana or Jacana jacana
cafezinho, Jacana jacana or wattled jacana 

One of the most common species in the Pantanal, the wattled jacana bird is black and deep rusty-brown, which explains its popular name, with a yellow beak and red front and side membranes.

The wattled jacana bird measures around 23 centimetres and, with its tall legs, long toes and thin nails up to 4 centimetres long, it can walk on the surface of the water, supported only by floating leaves and grass.

The adult female is heavier than the male: up to 159 grams compared to 69 grams for her pair.

Also known as jaçanã, the wattled jacana feeds on insects, molluscs, seeds and small fish.

The females are aggressive and defend their territory even from other wattled jacana, while the males look after their offspring.

Attentive, this bird has a habit of emitting signals when changes occur in the environment – such as the presence of predators or people.

7. Colheiro

(Platalea ajaja)

English name: Roseate Spoonbill

Colheiro ou Roseata Spoonbill
colheiro, platalea ajaja ou roseata spoonbill

Its popular name Roseate Spoonbill is related to one of its most eye-catching physical shapes: the spoon-shaped bill, which starts straight and ends in a broad, rounded tip.

The spoonbill is adapted to catching small animals such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic insects. The spoonbill’s beak is equipped with nerve endings that capture the movement of prey in the water.

The bird, which reaches a length of 87 centimetres, also attracts attention for the beauty of its pink plumage, which it acquired thanks to the carotenoids (pigments) present in its diet.

During the dry season, the Roseate Spoonbill is often seen on the beaches in the late afternoon, together with cormorants, herons and black-headed godwits.

From November onwards, their presence is reduced on the Pantanal plain, as the spoonbill migrates to less rainy regions.

8. Curicaca

(Theristicus caudatus)

English name: Buff-necked Ibis

curicaca or Buff-necked Ibis
curicaca, theristicus caudatus or buff-necked Ibis

It’s hard to see a Buff-necked Ibis in the water.

In small groups, the Buff-necked Ibis bird often wanders through fields, along the edges of marshes and even in burnt areas.

With its long curved beak, turned downwards and adapted to catch small snails, insects, amphibians or snakes that circulate in shallow water, it extracts insect larvae from soft earth or mud.

In addition to this characteristic, the Buff-necked Ibis is easy to distinguish because of its light colouring, with a light grey back and a greenish sheen.

The male, which can reach up to 69 centimetres in length and a wingspan of 43 centimetres, is usually slightly larger than the female.

Outside of the breeding season, which runs from September to December, they live in groups of eight to ten birds.

At dusk, before going to sleep, and at dawn, also in groups, curicacas gather at the top of palm trees on farms and make a racket.

9. Ema

(Rhea americana)

English name: Greater Rhea

ema, rhea americana ou greater rhea
ema, rhea americana ou greater rhea

Brazil’s heaviest bird, the Greater Rhea can measure 1.40 metres and weigh up to 34 kilos.

When running, the rhea reaches a speed of 60 kilometres per hour – second only to the ostrich, its African relative, which reaches 80 kilometres per hour.

Emus were heavily hunted until the end of the 1960s because they were used to make feathers for dusters and various kinds of ornaments.

In addition, they have lost significant areas of their habitat to agriculture.

Able to survive prolonged droughts, their diet consists of grasses, legumes, fruit, seeds and small animals such as snakes, frogs, lizards and insects.

During the reproductive phase, the males form harems with up to nine females. They prepare the nest where their partner lays the eggs.

The males then hatch the eggs, while the females move on and join another harem.

At fifteen days old, the rhea’s cubs are already half a metre tall.

10. Gavião-Belo

(Busarellus nigricollis)

English name: Black-collared Hawk

Black-collared Hawk
gavião-belo, busarellus nigricollis or black-collared hawk

Among the Pantanal. The Black-collared Hawk is also known as the old hawk, washing hawk or grandfather hawk.

Approximately 50 centimetres long, the hawk-eagle is recognisable by its reddish-brown plumage, which is slightly orange on the belly, its black beak and a dark stripe on the neck. It has long, broad wings and a short tail.

It’s easiest to spot when it’s perched: even from a distance, you can see its white head – hence some of the names given to it by the inhabitants of the Pantanal.

The hawk-eagle can spend hours perched in trees on the banks of rivers and bays waiting for a movement in the water; when it notices a fish on the surface, it swoops down and catches it with its long, curved clawed feet.

Fish are the hawk-eagle’s favourite food, but the bird also feeds on insects and molluscs.

Today, the hawk-eagle is almost extinct in the south-east of Brazil.

11. Maria-Faceira

(Syrigma sibilatrix)

English name: Whistling Heron

maria-faceira or whistling heron
maria-faceira, syrigma sibilatrix or whistling heron

Measuring around 53 centimetres in length, they usually live in pairs and are often seen in open savannahs and cleared fields formed during periods of drought.

With its blue face and pinkish beak, greyish colouring and light chest and belly, the Whistling Heron draws attention to its elegant, slow gait when hunting insects – part of its diet, which also includes frogs, small lizards and water snakes.

The Whistling Heron has reddish wing tips with a dark grey colour and black legs. This bird usually stays on the ground, and only in the late afternoon does it choose tall trees to land in and spend the night, where it also usually makes its nests.

They usually live in dry fields or slightly flooded areas. Unlike other heron species, they don’t form colonies: each pair builds its own isolated nest high up in trees with a dense canopy.

Its melodious song is high-pitched and prolonged.

12. Martim-Pescador-Grande

(Ceryle torquata)

English name: Ringed Kingfisher

great kingfisher or ringed kingfisher
Martim-Pescador-Grande, ceryle torquata or ringed kingfisher

Five of the 84 kingfisher species live in Brazil.

The best known is the one with the popular name of martim-pescador-grande or matraca – names that are due to its size (42 centimetres on average) and the fact that it is very noisy: its song is exactly reminiscent of the noise of the “matraca” (used as a liturgical instrument, in place of the bell, in Holy Week events).

The ringed kingfisher is usually seen at the water’s edge lurking for small fish and insects.

Perched on branches, the ringed kingfisher shoots off in sharp, often vertical flights as soon as it identifies its prey.

The bird also hovers in the air in order to find the food and hook it with its up to 8 centimetre beak. The species stands out for its bluish-grey plumage on the back and top of the head, as well as the white neck collar and reddish belly.

The ringed kingfisher is characterised by singing as they fly and by nesting in self-made holes in ravines by rivers or bays.

13. Socó-Boi

(Tigrisoma lineatum)

English name: Rufescent Tiger-Heron

socó-boi or rufescent tiger-Heron
socó-boi, tigrisoma lineatum or rufescent tiger-Heron

The Tiger-Heron is a large bird that can reach 76 centimetres. It got its popular name because its typical long, loud song is reminiscent of the mooing of an ox.

During the breeding season, this sound becomes very deep and can be compared to a jaguar’s roar.

The Tiger-Heron, which feeds on small fish, aquatic insects and crustaceans, has the ability to hunt amphibians and even anaconda young.

When it feels threatened, it stands still, stretches out its neck, points its beak upwards and swings its tail.

A solitary bird with a crepuscular habit, it maintains this behaviour when nesting – couples prefer to isolate themselves rather than form colonies. It is not until it is two years old that it acquires its adult plumage.

Young birds have a brown body with black stripes, which gives them perfect camouflage. A bird of suspicious behaviour, it hides in riverside vegetation, but allows itself to be observed when surprised at the water’s edge, remaining motionless.

14. Toucanuçu

(Ramphastos toco)

English name: Toco Toucan

tucanuçu ou toco toucan
tucanuçu, ramphastos toco or toco toucan

With a length of 56 centimetres – twenty of them in its beak alone – the toco toucan is the largest known species of toucan.

The toco toucan doesn’t just live in the forest: it ventures out into the open countryside. Its huge beak in vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red, with a black tip, looks heavy, but its bone structure is not massive, which makes it light and doesn’t hinder flight.

Adapted to picking and peeling fruit, the toucanuçu uses its beak to intimidate other animals and attract females during the mating ritual.

During the breeding season, from July to December, toucans are seen in pairs.

At this time, the toco toucan usually seeks out bird nests to prey on eggs or chicks. When the chicks leave the nest – 45 days after hatching – they join the flocks.

The bird is not yet threatened with extinction, however its capture for trafficking purposes has reduced the population, which jeopardises the genetic variability of the species.

15. Tuiuiú or Jaburu

(Jabiru mycteria)

English name: Jabiru

tuiuiú, jaburu,mycteria americana ou jabiru
tuiuiú, jaburu,mycteria americana ou jabiru

Jabiru is the symbol of the Southern Pantanal, the bird with the largest wingspan in the region (2.80 metres) and one of the largest in South America, reaching a height of 1.60 metres and a weight of 8 kilos.

Its thick, tapered beak is up to 30 centimetres long.

Another curiosity of the Jabiru is the size of its nest. The nest is built on top of manduvis and piúvas or on dry logs: its structure, which is almost 2 metres in diameter and 70 centimetres high, has new materials added to it every year, as the nests are reused.

Jabiru couples stay together during the breeding season, when the red skin on their chests is emphasised due to the increased blood supply.

The breeding season of the tuiuiú or jaburu coincides with low water – a time when feeding is easy, as the fish are dammed up in small flooded areas.

With a great capacity for flight, the Jabiru soars to high altitudes, and the white plumage of its wings and tail and the black colour of its beak, head and feet stand out in the sky.

See the following publications on the Pantanal of Mato Grosso:

  1. Watching Mammals and Reptiles in the Pantanal
  2. Fishing in the Pantanal – Best places, baits, methods and seasons
  3. Most common fish species in the Pantanal
  4. Bird watching in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  5. Most common bird species in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  6. Flora of the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  7. Fauna of the Pantanal of Mato Grosso
  8. Mato Grosso Pantanal – Geography, Climate, Soil and Rivers
  9. History of the Mato Grosso Pantanal – Discovery and Economic Development
  10. Southern Pantanal Region
  11. North Pantanal Region
  12. Why go to the Pantanal in Mato Grosso?

Comments are closed.

Hide picture