Brazil has some of the most amazing and unique birds in the world! As the fifth largest country on Earth, spanning multiple ecosystems from the Amazon rainforest to the Pantanal wetlands, Brazil is home to over 1,900 species of birds. Let’s look at some of the coolest Brazilian birds you must know about!
The Vibrant Amazon Kingfisher
The Amazon kingfisher is one crazy-looking bird. This bird grabs your attention with its bright orange chest, electric blue back, and wild mohawk-like head feathers. Amazon kingfishers are about the size of a robin, but unlike robins that visit your backyard, the Amazon kingfisher lives deep in the rainforests of the Amazon basin.
These kingfishers hunt for food while perched on branches above streams and rivers. When they spot a fish swimming below, they plunge headfirst into the water to catch it!
The impact is so strong it looks like a blue and orange torpedo crashing into the water. Don’t worry, though. The kingfisher’s sturdy beak and streamlined body allow it to dive safely. After catching a fish in its beak, the kingfisher returns to its perch to eat its meal.
The Graceful Violet-Capped Woodnymph
Deep in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, you may catch a fleeting glimpse of the violet-capped woodnymph hummingbird. About the size of a ping pong ball, this tiny bird zips through the forest like a winged jewel. Its body has an iridescent emerald green back and a bright white underside. But its most striking feature is the male’s brilliant violet cap of feathers.
The woodnymph got its name from its graceful and elusive flight. Flapping its wings up to 70 times per second, it hovers delicately as it drinks nectar from flowers using its thin beak. It even flies backwards occasionally!
The Largest Bird in South America – The Greater Rhea
Now let’s look at a bird on the opposite end of the size spectrum – the greater rhea. This big bird is the largest in all of South America, growing over 5 feet tall! But despite its large stature, the greater rhea cannot fly. It’s part of a group of flightless birds called ratites, which includes ostriches and emus.
The rhea’s wings have evolved into plumes of long feathers that help it balance as it runs. And boy, can it run! When alarmed, the greater rhea dashes away at speeds over 35 miles per hour using its thick, powerful legs. It can even sprint for over a mile without getting tired.
Greater rheas prefer open grasslands where they can see predators coming. You’ll most likely see these speedy giants in southern Brazil’s sprawling Pampas region. They travel in small groups while foraging for seeds, leaves, insects, etc.
A Bird That Sounds Like a Scream – The Horned Screamer
Brazil has some birds with bizarre names, and the horned screamer is no exception. This unique waterbird gets its name from its bizarre screeching calls that sound like human screams! A secretive bird of swamps and waterways in the Amazon, the horned screamer is rarely seen despite its loud voice.
Both males and females have distinctive horn-like black protrusions above their eyes. They use these horns to help them swim and dive underwater to find food like water plants and small fish. Interestingly, the horned screamer is more closely related to ducks and geese than other skinny-legged wading birds like herons.
A Turkey-Like Bird – The Bare-Faced Curassow
Deep in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest roams the bare-faced curassow, a bird in the same family as turkeys and chickens. But one look at its unique facial features, and you’ll agree this bird is no ordinary fowl! The bare-faced curassow is a large, long-tailed bird with a bizarre blue knob protruding from its beak. And yes, its face is bare and featherless, hence the name.
These birds travel in small groups, constantly making quiet clucking noises as they forage along the forest floor for fruits and seeds. Their black feathers help camouflage them in the dim light beneath the rainforest canopy.
Bare-faced curassows play an important role in seed dispersal. The seeds they eat pass through their digestive system unharmed, and the birds spread them through the forest in their droppings.
A Brilliant Forest Pheasant – The Dusky-Legged Guan
The dusky-legged guan is a wild forest pheasant with vibrant plumage and an impressive red-throat pouch. About the size of a chicken, this social bird travels in noisy groups through Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, foraging for fruits and seeds.
The male guan has striking white spots on its back and wings, contrasting sharply with its iridescent black plumage. Along with its bright red throat and legs, the dusky-legged guan is showing off all the colours of the rainbow! The female is duller grey and brown, helping camouflage her while nesting.
A Pigeon with Scaly Feathers – The Scaled Pigeon
The scaled pigeon is a truly unique bird only found in northeastern Brazil. This charming pigeon lives in tropical dry forests and savannas characterized by spiny trees and shrubs. But what makes the scaled pigeon unique are the neat, scalloped edges on its wing and body feathers resembling fish scales!
These scale-like edges gave the bird its name and helped provide camouflage among the spiny vegetation where it lives. About the size of a mourning dove, the scaled pigeon feeds on seeds and fruits it finds along the forest floor. It gets the water it needs from the food it eats, so it doesn’t need to drink.
The scaled pigeon blends right into its thorny surroundings with its sand-coloured plumage and scaly texture. This disguise helps protect it from predators like hawks and snakes that would like to make a meal of the portly pigeon.
A Noisy Forest Guest – The Guira Cuckoo
Nestled in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest lives the guiro cuckoo, an unusual-looking bird with a big personality. This plump, dove-sized cuckoo has a remarkably long brown tail and short grey wings. But its most distinctive feature is its bare grey face surrounded by a black feather necklace.
The guiro cuckoo lives in small family groups that travel together throughout the forest. You’ll often hear them before you see them, thanks to their constant chattering calls that sound like “weeoo-welo-weloo.” They make an impressively loud ruckus for such small birds!
A Mysterious Cave Dweller – The Oilbird
Very few birds use echolocation like bats do – but the oilbird is one of them! This unusual nocturnal species roost in caves during the day and emerges at night to forage for food. Also called the guácharo, the oilbird gets its name from chicks that were so oily that they were once used to make oil for lamps.
Oilbirds have very large eyes, and wide mouths bristled with whisker-like feathers to help them navigate and catch food in complete darkness, similar to whales. Their primary diet is fruit, but they’ll also eat insects, pollen and nectar. While often silent during the day, oilbirds fill their caves with loud chattering calls throughout the night.
A Master of Camouflage – The Greater Potoo
Last but not least is the greater potoo, a master of camouflage resembling a branch come to life. Found in forests across Brazil, this nocturnal bird roosts immobile during the day, perfectly disguised as part of a tree. Its mottled brown plumage, stretched-out shape, and closed eyes make it nearly impossible to distinguish from actual tree limbs.
Only when night falls does the greater potoo become active, sallying forth from its roost to hunt large insects like bats and dragonflies with its huge, gaping mouth? Its huge yellow eyes allow it to see well in the dark. And its almost noiseless flight enables it to swoop down on unsuspecting prey undetected.