Minas Gerais: Blue-eyed ground-dove
The Blue-eyed Ground-dove (Columbina cyanopis) is one of the rarest birds in the world and has been missing for 75 years until a population was rediscovered in 2015 in Minas Gerais. This tour is going to visit the newly focuses on a unique region of central Brazil that is little-known to birders, but which harbor a number Ground-dove, this tour concentrates on the dry (deciduous) forests of northern Minas Gerais. The deciduous forests of South America have received little attention from biologists or birders compared to the more glamorous rainforests of the Amazon basin, but they have a higher degree of endemism, and are considered to be more at risk. The northern portion of the state of Minas Gerais still contains large expanses of dry forest, and here we’ll seek out some of the most localized and rarest of Brazil’s birds. Amid a landscape dominated by swollen-trunked bombax trees and bizarre rock formations that include cavernous grottos and towering spires.
We will start our exploration of the dry forests of Minas Gerais at the Lapa Grande State Park in Montes Claros. We will search for an array of endemics and highly localized species such as Dry-Forest Sabrewing (Campylopterus calcirupicola). Also of prime interest is the engaging Minas Gerais Tyrannulet, a sprightly and colorful little flycatcher that was virtually unknown until recent years. Described in 1926, it went unseen until 1977, and then disappeared again until a small population was located near Pirapora in 1993. It remains a critically endangered species with a tiny range.
The dry forest here is also home to the seldom-seen Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner, a large, ground-dwelling furnariid that is restricted in range to interior southern Brazil and northern Paraguay. São Francisco Sparrow, São Francisco (caatinga) Black-Tyrant and Reiser´s tyrannulet are other specialties from the region that we will focus on. In our searches for these special birds, we will encounter a number of other species, among them Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl; Caatinga Parakeet; Blue-winged Parrotlet; Guira Cuckoo; Swallow-tailed Hummingbird; Rusty-breasted Nunlet; Spotted Piculet; Green-barred Woodpecker; Pale-legged Hornero; Sooty-fronted, Ochre-cheeked and Chotoy spinetails; Rufous-fronted Thornbird; Olivaceous Woodcreeper; Narrow-billed Woodcreeper; Great Antshrike; Caatinga Barred Antshrike; Planalto Slaty-Antshrike; Black-capped Antwren; Planalto Tyrannulet; Fuscous Flycatcher; Buff-breasted Wren; Gray-eyed Greenlet; White-bellied Warbler; Hooded Tanager; Red-cowled Cardinal; Green-winged Saltator; Campo Oriole; and many more.
In Botumirim, home of the Blue-eyed ground-dove, we will meet SAVE-Brasil staff and visit their new, critically important reserve created just a few years ago by the collaborative effort of SAVE-Brasil and Rainforest Trust to protect the Blue-eyed Ground-dove and numerous other rare and localized birds and plants inhabiting the ancient, rocky uplands of eastern Minas Gerais. Our main target will be the Blue-eyed Ground-dove confine to small patches of white sandy soil cerrado also frequented by Horned sungem and Silvery-cheeked antshrike. But we will also visit high rocky habitat looking for a trio of endemics of the Espinhasso mountains: Pale-throated Sierra-Finch, Hyacinth Visorbearer and the Cipo Canastero, in order of difficulty to be seen. Patches of dry forest hold a population of Narrow-billed antwren, another highly restricted species of northeastern Brazil.
By the vast valley of the Rio São Francisco, the most important river (biogeographically and socio-economically) in eastern Brazil. Expect to tally a bunch of rarely seen endemic species, the likes of Plain-tailed (Bahia) Nighthawk, Golden-capped Parakeet, Henna-capped Foliage-gleaner, Moustached Woodcreeper, Silvery-cheeked Antshrike, Caatinga Antwren, São Francisco (caatinga) Black-Tyrant, Minas Gerais Tyrannulet, Reiser’s Tyrannulet (both tyrannulets very poorly known birds), Scarlet-throated Tanager, São Francisco Sparrow.
The São Francisco river also holds great numbers of ducks including Comb duck, Brazilian teal, Black-bellied Whistling-duck, White-faced Whistiling-duck as well as Giant Woodrail. As the sun sets, we will position ourselves along a nearby river, where we should be able to see the highly localize Plain-tailed (Bahia) Nighthawk foraging low over the water at dusk.
Dawn will find us amid the towering spires, bizarre grottos, and other rock formations that characterize the little-known Cavernas do Peruassu NP. Known more for its caves and ancient petroglyphs, this park (which encompasses 568 sq km) is also a wonderful birding spot. The impressive geological features of the park provide an otherworldly counterpart to the large expanse of deciduous forest that is home to many of Brazil’s most localized bird species. One of our primary target birds is the impressive Moustached Woodcreeper, a large woodcreeper with an outsized bill and a distinctive song that is often one of the first voices heard among the predawn chorus. As light penetrates the canyon floor, the calls of elusive White-browed Guans and raucous White-naped Jays mix with the screeching of flocks of Caatinga and Golden-capped parakeets, whose lively blend of greens, yellows, and oranges brings splashes of color to the nearly leafless forest. The varied and surprisingly musical songs and calls of Chopi Blackbirds echo down from above, while the explosive songs of Long-billed Wrens issue up from below.
As we work our way through the taller forest, we’re constantly sorting through mixed-species flocks of insectivores, in search of a couple of rare and localized flycatcherms: Reiser’s Tyrannulet and the São Francisco (Caatinga) Black-Tyrant. These flocks may host a number of other special birds, among them, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Spot-backed (Caatinga) Puffbird, Spotted Piculet, Little Woodpecker, Gray-headed Spinetail, Streaked Xenops, Red-billed Scythebill, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Wagler´s (Scaled) Woodcreeper, Planalto Slaty-Antshrike, Black-capped Antwren, Black-bellied Antwren, Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant, Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee, Sirystes, Tropical Gnatcatcher, Tropical Parula, Chestnut-vented Conebill, Purple-throated Euphonia, Epaulet Oriole, and others.
A rustling in the dry leaf litter could signal the scratching of São Francisco Sparrow, the movements of a Flavescent Warbler, or even an elusive Tataupa Tinamou.
Farther on, the taller dry forest yields abruptly to a more xeric vegetation typical of the interior of northeastern Brazil’s caatinga. This is home to still more localized birds, including such prizes as Great Xenops, Ash-throated Casiornis, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Silvery-cheeked Antshrike, and White-browed Antpitta. There will be more than enough birds to keep us busy during our time here, and viewing conditions during the dry season (when most of the trees are leafless) should be ideal for locating birds amid the low, dense vegetation. In tall caatinga habitat outside town, we will look for Caatinga Cacholote, Campo Troupial, Red-cowled Cardinal, Caatinga Wagtail-tyrant, and White-bellied Nothura. Damper areas could hold the Giant Wood-Rail.
Guide and ranger team
During our tours at Minas Gerais, some State Parks and Reserves require the escort of a local ranger. This local fellow can point out some nesting activity and help the group participants to spot the birds. With our tour leader, each one working at their best and doing what they are supposed to do better.
Quality of our guides
Our tour leaders are experienced and fully trained professionals who host our guest in a variety of diverse areas. These dedicated people transform an already great safari into one that is out of this world! A guide that hosts you for the duration of your safari provides a consistent, detailed interpretation that is tailored to your specific interests. Our safaris are led by our local naturalist tour leaders, they are equipped with 20-60X spotting telescope for seeing distant animals, recording equipment, shotgun microphone and voice library for luring in rare and hard to see animals that respond to their own call bringing them into view, a spotlight for nocturnal viewing, and the appropriate bird, mammal identification books and updated checklist for your enjoyment.
Our tour uses hotels which serve early breakfast and then we can go birding. All lodges offer rooms with private facilities and air-conditioning. We try to use lodges operated by locals because we firmly believe your money must to go to local hands because are those hands who hold the future of the region.
During the whole tour we will have a private transportation with air-conditioning.
25 years of Experience
Nearly three decades dedicated to show Brazil to different travelers from all over the world! We know Brazil as we know our backyard.
This quick message is to thank you for all your guiding expertise during our trip; you did a superb job, and I was delighted to be with you. I had no idea we were getting as knowledgeable a leader as you certainly are!. I certainly hope we can do something like it again, soon.
Dr. Robert S. Ridgely, Author of "The Birds of South America Vol. I and II" and "A Guide to the Birds of Panama", Senior Research Ornithologist at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia