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Birdwatching in Paraguay

Though it counts on a large list of 708 species, considerably greater than similar-sized areas of Brazil and Argentina, Paraguay remains “South America´s forgotten corner”. Vague memories of dictatorships, poor infrastructure and the lack of a decent field guide have combined to make the country “invisible” to many birders even though the country is one of the friendliest, most traditional and welcoming on the continent! Ironically this is to the great benefit of any birders who do make it out here, rendering the country amongst the most exciting places to bird in the South America. So little is known about the country´s avifauna, and regular birders are so few in numbers that every trip brings with it the promise of new and exciting discoveries.Located in the heart of the continent where six major biomes meet, this compact country offers the possibility to rack up a large list in a short trip and without having to spend hours on the road. Though there are no country endemics, Paraguay is packed with regional endemics. This is the place to go to see threatened local specialities such as White-winged Nightjar, Ochre-breasted Pipit, Vinaceous Amazon, Black-fronted Piping-Guan, Lesser Nothura and Saffron-cowled Blackbird which have all but disappeared from the rest of their respective ranges.

"Chaco Campo Maria with Flamingoes"



For many visitors the desolate Chaco is the big draw, a thorny, dusty region that remains the best place to see large mammals on the continent – everything from Jaguar and Tapir to the “living fossil” Chaco Peccary, a creature known only from fossil remains until its remarkable discovery in the Paraguayan Chaco in 1976!! Specialities up here include the Big Chaco 5 – Chaco Owl, Quebracho Crested-Tinamou, Black-legged Seriema, Spot-winged Falconet and Black-bodied Woodpecker. Other dramatic species you will likely encounter are Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper, Crane Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Black-crested Finch, Orange-backed Troupial and Crowned Eagle. The eastern part of the Chaco is a humid region that is continuours with the Pantanal, difficult to get to but unlike the Brazilian Pantanal unspoilt by the excesses of tourism. Famed for vast flocks of waterbirds including the magnificent Jabiru that gather in the flooded palm savannas here, it is also one of the world´s most reliable sites for the elusive Giant Otter.
Most of the human population lives in eastern Paraguay – the Orient – where infrastructure is rather better. However more people means more pressure on natural habitats and Paraguay is no different from anywhere else in South America when it comes to loss of habitat. That said eastern Paraguay still harbours large blocks of largely unexplored Atlantic Forest, amongst the most endangered habitats on earth and with extraordinarily high levels of regional endemism. The Bare-necked Bellbird, Paraguay´s national bird remains numerous here, and other spectacular and rare Atlantic Forest endemics that can be surprisingly easy to find include Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanets and Helmeted Woodpecker – a bird so little known that it was until recently considered South America´s equivalent of the legendary Ivory-billed Woodpecker! Over 400 species have been recorded in some Atlantic Forest sites in Paraguay and whilst it is impossible to list them all you may expect to see Ruby-crowned, Hooded, Black-goggled, Chestnut-headed and Guira Tanager, Tufted, Large-tailed and Variable Antshrikes. Rufous-capped Motmot, Surucua and Black-throated Trogon, Red-ruffed Fruitcrown, Band-tailed and Blue Manakin, Plovercrest, Scale-throated Hermit, Violet-capped Woodnymph and a great many other beautiful species.

"Tree Ferns"



The northern Orient constitutes the southern extension of the vast cerrado region, the great South American savannas. This is a great place to seek out mysterious local specialities such as Cock-tailed Tyrant (still common in many areas), Reiser´s Tyrannulet, Planalto Foliage-Gleaner, Lesser Nothura, Black-masked Finch, Sharp-tailed Grass-Tyrant and Paraguay´s biggest draw the endangered White-winged Nightjar. Of the three known localities for this species on earth, two are found within the country´s boundaries making it the best and easiest place to see this sought after species.

"Trip map"
Birding guide

Electronic map of Paraguay

Save money with our 2013 fixed date birdwatching tours to Paraguay

Tour I
10 day birdwatching tour


Itinerary

Expect more than 250 species of birds
DAY 1 Asuncion Botanical Gardens.
After arrival we provide you with a gentle introduction to Paraguayan birding at the Botanical gardens, actually a huge park that was once the estate of the ruling Lopez family. We may expect such species as Red-crested Cardinal, Green-barred Woodpecker, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Thrush-like Wren and White-barred Piculet amongst many others. If the summer migrants are in town expect also species such as Tropical Kingbird and Crowned Slaty-flycatcher.
Cultural option - Historic tour of Asunción ($20 extra).
DAY 2 Asuncion Bay and Arroyos and Esteros.
Just outside the capital city this site is of international importance for waterbirds (especially migrants). In addition to the ducks, coots, herons and waders likely to be in attendance we will be looking for smaller birds such as Crested Doradito, Masked Yellowthroat, Greater Thornbird, Chestnut-capped Blackbird and Grey-breasted Crake amongst the marsh vegetation. After lunch we will be leaving the capital heading for our next destination with a stop at Arroyos and Esteros on the way. This is a reliable site for the remarkable Strange-tailed Tyrant and other big ticks such as Long-tailed Reedfinch. Expect also more widespread marshbirds such as Snail Kite, ibises and Limpkin, and a large number of reptiles (especially snakes!) and amphibians.


"Rufous Motmot"

"Photo by Regis Nossent"



DAY 3-4 Laguna Blanca.
One of the top cerrado sites on earth with a total of 10 threatened and 4 near threatened species recorded on a regular basis here. Though there is some degraded humid forest here we will be birding the cerrado looking for globally-threatened species such as Black-masked Finch, Sharp-tailed and Cock-tailed Tyrant, White-banded Tanager and Bearded Tachuri. The two big ticks are the Lesser Nothura (only known site outside of Brazil) and the endangered White-winged Nightjar (one of only 3 regular sites on earth for this species). Other grassland specialities include White-rumped Tanager, Curl-crested Jay, Black-throated Saltator, Greater Rhea, Plumbeous Seedeater and White-rumped Monjita. Night birding is spectacular too, with seven species of Caprimulgid possible. Maned Wolf is here but you will need a lot of luck to see it, Crab-eating Fox, Brazilian Cottontail, Red Brocket Deer and various armadillos are more likely mammal-wise.
Cultural option - Swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the lagoon - not exactly cultural but very relaxing nonetheless!
DAY 5-6 Mbaracayú Reserve.
One of the most important Atlantic Forest sites in Paraguay with over 400 species on the list, there is also a large and healthy area of cerrado. Pretty much anything is possible in the forest here including such gorgeous Atlantic Forest endemics as Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Red-breasted Toucan, Rufous-capped Motmot and Helmeted Woodpecker. We will also spend some time out in the cerrado looking to add a few more grassland species to our list, as well as another chance to see the White-winged Nightjar. Night drives for mammals may find Paca, Azara´s Agouti, Crab-eating Fox and even Maned Wolf, Jaguar and Puma.

"Black-legged Seriema"



DAY 7-9 The Chaco.
We will proceed up through the Low Chaco (Bajo Chaco), a haven for waterbirds, birding the marshes and ponds along the way. Typical species of the flooded palm savanna here include Black-masked Parakeet, Southern Screamer, Jabiru, Maguari Stork, Plumbeous Ibis, Great Black and Black-collared Hawks. Marshier areas attract Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Donacobius and if we are very lucky the extremely rare Dinelli´s Doradito. In the drier High Chaco (Alto Chaco) our main targets are the 18 Chaco endemics including Many-coloured Chacofinch, Black-capped Warbling Finch, Chaco Chachalaca and Brushland Tinamou amongst others. Of these the most sought after, and hence the most difficult are the Big 5 - Spot-winged Falconet, Chaco Owl, Black-legged Seriema, Quebracho Crested-tinamou and Black-bodied Woodpecker. The salt lagoons of the Central Chaco IBA area attract flocks of migrant waders and ducks at certain times of year, but at other times the birding is still spectacular offering up the chance of species such as Coscoroba Swan, Rosybill and Chilean Flamingo. The Chaco is also one of the best places on the continent for large mammals which we will be staking out on night-drives, including the Chaco Peccary, Lowland Tapir and Giant Anteater. Cultural option - Visit to the Chaco War trenches ($25), Project Tagua - the Chaco Peccary Breeding Project ($25.)
DAY 10
Return to Asuncion birding the highway through the Low Chaco again to pick up any species we may have missed!


10 day tour price is: 1 pax Euros 4200 per person, 2 pax Euros 2625 per person, 4 pax Euros 2100 per person.
Due to currency fluctuations and fuel cost we reserve the right to adjust any pricing prior to departure.
10% non-refundable deposit is required to confirm booking.
Note: Four pax price. Most of the places we visit are accessible only by 4x4 vehicles. With the guide and driver 3 people fit in one vehicle. A fourth person means comissioning a second vehicle with the increased fixed costs that includes.


Convert your tour cost into your currency of choice.

Included:
Transportation (incl. p/u and return to airport), Accommodation, All meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and mineral water), Park entrance fees and all Guide fees.
Excluded:
Alcoholic drinks, visas, travel insurance, tips, items of a purely personal nature and cultural extras.

Tour II
Three week birdwatching tour


Itinerary

Expect more than 350 species of birds
DAY 1 Asuncion Botanical Gardens.
After arrival we provide you with a gentle introduction to Paraguayan birding at the Botanical gardens, actually a huge park that was once the estate of the ruling Lopez family. We may expect such species as Red-crested Cardinal, Green-barred Woodpecker, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Thrush-like Wren and White-barred Piculet amongst many others. If the summer migrants are in town expect also species such as Tropical Kingbird and Crowned Slaty-flycatcher.
Cultural option - Historic tour of Asunción ($20 extra).
DAY 2-6 The Chaco.
We will proceed up through the Low Chaco (Bajo Chaco), a haven for waterbirds, birding the marshes and ponds along the way. Typical species of the flooded palm savanna here include Black-masked Parakeet, Southern Screamer, Jabiru, Maguari Stork, Plumbeous Ibis, Great Black and Black-collared Hawks. Marshier areas attract Scarlet-headed Blackbird, Donacobius and if we are very lucky the extremely rare Dinelli´s Doradito. In the drier High Chaco (Alto Chaco) our main targets are the 18 Chaco endemics including Many-coloured Chacofinch, Black-capped Warbling Finch, Chaco Chachalaca and Brushland Tinamou amongst others. Of these the most sought after, and hence the most difficult are the Big 5 - Spot-winged Falconet, Chaco Owl, Black-legged Seriema, Quebracho Crested-tinamou and Black-bodied Woodpecker. The salt lagoons of the Central Chaco IBA area attract flocks of migrant waders and ducks at certain times of year, but at other times the birding is still spectacular offering up the chance of species such as Coscoroba Swan, Rosybill and Chilean Flamingo. The Chaco is also one of the best places on the continent for large mammals which we will be staking out on night-drives, including the Chaco Peccary, Lowland Tapir and Giant Anteater.
Cultural option - Visit to the Chaco War trenches ($25), Project Tagua - the Chaco Peccary Breeding Project ($25).

"Many-coloured Chaco Finch"



DAY 7 Asuncion Bay and Arroyos and Esteros.
Just outside the capital city this site is of international importance for waterbirds (especially migrants). In addition to the ducks, coots, herons and waders likely to be in attendance we will be looking for smaller birds such as Crested Doradito, Masked Yellowthroat, Greater Thornbird, Chestnut-capped Blackbird and Grey-breasted Crake amongst the marsh vegetation. After lunch we will be leaving the capital heading for our next destination with a stop at Arroyos and Esteros on the way. This is a reliable site for the remarkable Strange-tailed Tyrant and other big ticks such as Long-tailed Reedfinch. Expect also more widespread marshbirds such as Snail Kite, Ibises and Limpkin, and a large number of reptiles (especially snakes!) and amphibians.
Cultural option - Historic tour of Asunción ($20 extra).
DAY 8-10 Laguna Blanca.
One of the top cerrado sites on earth with a total of 10 threatened and 4 near threatened species recorded on a regular basis here. Though there is some degraded humid forest here we will be birding the cerrado looking for globally-threatened species such as Black-masked Finch, Sharp-tailed and Cock-tailed Tyrant, White-banded Tanager and Bearded Tachuri. The two big ticks are the Lesser Nothura (only known site outside of Brazil) and the endangered White-winged Nightjar (one of only 3 regular sites on earth for this species). Other grassland specialities include White-rumped Tanager, Curl-crested Jay, Black-throated Saltator, Greater Rhea, Plumbeous Seedeater and White-rumped Monjita. Night birding is spectacular too, with seven species of Caprimulgid possible. Maned Wolf is here but you will need a lot of luck to see it, Crab-eating Fox, Brazilian Cottontail, Red Brocket Deer and various armadillos are more likely mammal-wise.
Cultural option - Swimming in the crystal-clear waters of the lagoon - not exactly cultural but very relaxing nonetheless!
DAY 11-14 Mbaracayú Reserve.
One of the most important Atlantic Forest sites in Paraguay with over 400 species on the list, there is also a large and healthy area of cerrado. Pretty much anything is possible in the forest here including such gorgeous Atlantic Forest endemics as Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, Red-breasted Toucan, Rufous-capped Motmot and Helmeted Woodpecker. We will also spend some time out in the cerrado looking to add a few more grassland species to our list, as well as another chance to see the White-winged Nightjar. Night drives for mammals may find Paca, Azara´s Agouti, Crab-eating Fox and even Maned Wolf, Jaguar and Puma.

"Fork-tailed Woodnymph"



DAY 15-19 Itaipu Reserves and San Rafael NP.
Heading south we will be stopping at some of the Itaipu reserves (created as a result of the Itaipu dam complex) on our way to San Rafael NP. San Rafael is another extraordinary patch of humid forest with a similar-sized list to Mbaracayu but completely different bird communities. We will look for Black-throated and Surucua Trogons, Brown Tinamou, Saffron Toucanet, Robust Woodpecker and Short-tailed Antthrush. We will also spend some time at the grassland site Estancia Kanguery with specialities including Sedge Wren, Capped and Marsh Seedeater, Giant Snipe, Sharp-tailed Grass-Tyrant and Lesser Grassfinch.
Cultural option - Instead of the Itaipu Reserves a visit to the Itaipu Dam complex, Zoological Museum and Zoo can be arranged($25). Alternatively a few hours bargain-hunting in Ciudad del Este - the “Supermarket of South America” (depends what you want to spend!)
DAY 20 Hotel Tirol.
A beautiful hotel located in a small, easily-navigable patch of forest that is species rich. It is another chance to clean up on Atlantic forest birds that we may have missed eg Southern Bristle-tyrant, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Fawn-breasted Tanager and Rusty-breasted Nunlet.
Cultural option - Visit to the Jesuit ruins of Trinidad and Jesus ($15 Trinidad, $25 including Jesus).
DAY 21 Return to Asuncion.
Heading back to Asuncion we will birding en route through the Neembucú grasslands where we will hope for a few last ticks to round off the trip. Specialities include Saffron-cowled Blackbird, Ochre-breasted Pipit and the wonderful Cinereous Harrier.


21 day tour price is: 1 pax Euros 8820 per person, 2 pax Euros 5515 per person, 4 pax Euros 4410 per person.
Due to currency fluctuations and fuel cost we reserve the right to adjust any pricing prior to departure.
10% non-refundable deposit is required to confirm booking.
Note: Four pax price. Most of the places we visit are accessible only by 4x4 vehicles. With the guide and driver 3 people fit in one vehicle. A fourth person means comissioning a second vehicle with the increased fixed costs that includes.


Convert your tour cost into your currency of choice.


Included:
Transportation (incl. p/u and return to airport), Accommodation, All meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and mineral water), Park entrance fees and all Guide fees.
Excluded:
Alcoholic drinks, visas, travel insurance, tips, items of a purely personal nature and cultural extras.
Notes:
The above birding itineraries are based on what are essentially popular routes for birders. It can be shortened or extended and adapted to concentrate on clients must-see species.
Accommodation is the best available at each site, though because of the few tourists that visit Paraguay options are sometimes limited. Note that in the Chaco we will be visiting very isolated sites with only one accommodation option and room sharing may be necessary for large groups. In all cases accommodation is clean, comfortable and with hot water showers.
Itineraries include arrival and departure dates.
All trips are available year round, but prices may be adjusted around special holidays. Advance booking is required. Allow minimum two months prior to departure date.
To check availability for tours on short notice, fill out “Request for Quote” form with desirable dates.
What to bring:
Prepare for all eventualities. If you are visiting in the summer (October-Feb) expect hot dry conditions in the Chaco and hot humid conditions in eastern Paraguay. You should have your own water bottle. The Chaco is thorny so bring lightweight, long trousers and strong shoes. Sun hat and sun cream are vital. Rain coat is important, especially during the wet season (September-October) when there may be sudden electric storms. This is also the time of year when insects are most prevalent and though they are not usually a big problem repellent helps. Winter weather (May-August) is in general drier. It can be cold at night and there are occasional early morning frosts so bring warm clothes.
Fitness:
Paraguay is a very flat country and trails in the areas we are visiting are well-maintained. This tour is suitable for all ages and heat is the only real factor to contend with. If humidity is likely to be a problem, we recommend booking outside the summer months ig. from April to August.


Should you only need a guide for a day please send a message to Paul.   

Birding guide Paul Smith, your local Birdingpal guide

Paul Smith is a freelance zoologist resident in Paraguay since 2002 where he is authoring the forthcoming first English-language Field Guide to the Birds of Paraguay to be published by Helm. He is the Paraguayan representative of the Neotropical Bird Club and founder of FAUNA Paraguay www.faunaparaguay.com a website designed to disseminate information about the fauna of this little-known and chronically understudied country. Paul works as a South American correspondent for Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and Footprint travel books which has enabled him to get to know the continent and its wildlife intimately and it was a commission to author the Rough Guide to South America that first brought him to Paraguay. He then fell in love with the country and decided to stay!!


Birding guide Hugo del Castillo, your local Birdingpal guide

Hugo del Castillo is a Paraguayan birder and author of several texts on the country´s ornithology including the Atlas of the Birds of Paraguay and the Checklist of the Birds of Paraguay. He is the records keeper for the Guyra Paraguay Biological Database (Paraguay´s Birdlife International Partner) which gives him an unrivalled knowledge of bird distribution in Paraguay. Hugo has travelled widely across Paraguay and is familiar with some of the least visited corners of this mysterious country.



Testimonial.

I joined a birding tour with Paul in Paraguay last summer and I was delighted with the results of visiting this lesser known nation. Having previously visited more familiar destinations such as Costa Rica and Ecuador for birding excursions, I wasn’t sure how Paraguay would stand up against these avian giants. But after just visiting a few sites, I was able to observe over 300 species including 280 life birds. The amazing variety of habitats found in Paraguay accompanied with the friendly people, fascinating culture, and the feeling of being in an untouched wildlife paradise made the trip just as exciting if not more so than any of my previous trips. With a list of over 700 hundred species, I most definitely plan on returning to Paraguay for more birding opportunities and another amazing adventure.
Adam Betuel - Ykcul88(AT)aol.com
In September, 2006, I went on an extended tour for three weeks throughout Paraguay. Paul Smith designed and led the trip. Hugo del Castillo provided transportation and logistics. All of the habitats were explored from the Chaco and the Paraguay River to the forests of the East. We encountered almost 400 species of birds and 20 macro animals as well as various reptiles. My personal favourites were close-up views of a male and a female Spot-billed Toucanet. For anyone wishing to really experience the country of Paraguay this is the ultimate trip. Accommodations are basic in some areas and everything has to be taken with you into the Chaco. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Paraguay.


Some facts about Paraguay.

History: - Paraguay has a fascinating political history peppered with insane wars, madcap dictators and stories of bravery and resolution on the part of its people. A brief rundown of the history is available at www.faunaparaguay.com/about_paraguay.html. Topography: - Paraguay is extremely flat, the highest peaks in the north-eastern part of the country reaching c700m. Climate: - Paraguay is split by the tropic of Capricorn. Climate is tropical or subtropical. Western Paraguay (Chaco) is generally hot and dry all year. Eastern Paraguay is hot and humid for most of the year. Summer temperatures can reach 40C but generally in the region of 30C, winter temperatures average around 18C with occasional hot days and rare frosts. Most rain falls September-October in the form of sudden and torrential electric storms. Winter is generally drier than summer.
Vegetation: - There are six major eco-zones in Paraguay. The High Chaco (hot, spiny, stunted woodland), Low Chaco (seasonally-flooded Palm Savanna), Pantanal (subhumid forest and wetland), Cerrado (endangered South American savanna), Atlantic Forest (endangered subtropical humid forest) and Mesopotamian Flooded Grassland (unique and threatened seasonally-flooded grasslands).
Population: - The population of the country is 6 million people most of whom live in the eastern (Orient) part of Paraguay. The population is largely mestizo of mixed European descent. A large number of indigenous tribes belonging to the Guaraní group are present in Paraguay, each with its own dialect and many still practising traditional ways of life.
Capital: - The capital city is Asuncion with a population of approximately 1.6 million people. It is much the largest city in the country, the second largest being Ciudad del Este (population c350,000) and third largest Encarnacion (population 80,000).
Government: - Paraguay is a democratic republic with an elected president.
Religion: - The dominant religion in Paraguay is Roman Catholocism.
Language: - Paraguay is the only South American country to have an indigenous language as one of its two official tongues – Guaraní. The other official language is Spanish. Most people are bilingual. Spanish is the language of business and is most often used in the cities, in rural areas Guaraní dominates and many people do not speak Spanish at all.
Health requirements: - Visitors should be in possession of a valid health certificate for yellow fever, legally it may be requested for entry though in practice it rarely happens. All the usual vaccinations for visits to Neotropical countries are recommened. There is no malaria in Paraguay.
Time: - Paraguay is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time in the northern hemisphere summer and three/four hours behind in the northern hemisphere winter.
Currency Regulation: - Cash machines are widely available in cities that accept Visa and Mastercard. Travellers cheques are not widely accepted and commission is high. Money changers give good rates for US dollars, less favourable for Euros and Sterling.
Visa requirement: - Visas are required for US visitors to Paraguay. Most European nationals do not require a Visa but check in advance


More facts about Paraguay.

Guide books and CD’s recommended:

Until the publication of the Field Guide to the Birds of Paraguay the only English-language guide that covers most of the birds of the country is Collins Illustrated Checklist to the Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica by de la Peña and Maurice Rumboll. FAUNA Paraguay website www.faunaparaguay.com has an extensive collection of images, videos and sound recordings of Paraguayan fauna, including over 60% of the bird species and an up to date species list (other online lists are in general wildly inaccurate!). Rough Guides, Lonely Planet and Footprint guides to South America all include a section on Paraguay.

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Last update 20/02/2014