Birding excursions

When you join us on one of our tours to the Atlantic rain forest we will be birding in some truly spectacular places! The following information aims to give you an introduction to the various trails and places will be birding at during your stay with us. All of the trips are led by Andy Foster who has a very good knowledge of the local birds. We use an air-conditioned mini-bus for all of our journeys. With our programme of daily trips we offer you a chance to cover every altitudinal aspect of the surrounding mountains, from just above sea level all the way to the highest peaks at 2300 m, therefore increasing your chances of seeing as many of the Atlantic forest endemics as possible. Our half days in the field generally last for 5 – 6 hours, and our full days last between 9 – 10 hours, this can obviously vary slightly depending upon daily conditions.

We have graded each trail to give you an idea of what they entail, whether it’s an easy gradual walk, or something a little more strenuous.

Grade A = Driving and birding, with short easy walks en-route.

Grade B = Easy birding on almost level ground.

Grade C = Some extent of up hill walking, no problem for averagely healthy people.

Grade D = Steep up hill walking, sometimes long distances, good level of fitness required.

Itororo Lodge trails – Grades B & C

There are a total of 4 trails leading from the main lodge, all differing in distance and with an amazing diversity of birds to be found on them! To date we have recorded over 180 species within the lodge grounds, of which over 60 are Atlantic forest endemics!

We offer a full or half day around the lodge trails and hope to see some of the following species: Brown Tinamou, Dusky-legged Guan, Spot-winged Wood-Quail, Black Hawk-Eagle, Black and White Hawk-Eagle, Barred Forest-Falcon, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Scaly-headed Parrot, Scale-throated Hermit, White-throated Hummingbird, Plovercrest, Brazilian Ruby, Surucua and Black-throated Trogon, Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanet, Yellow-eared and Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Rufous-capped, Pallid, Grey-bellied and Chicli Spinetail, White-browed, White-collared, Buff-browed and Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, White-throated, Lesser, Scaled and Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Black-billed Scythebill, Giant and Variable Antshrike, Star-throated Antwren, Bertonis and Ochre-rumped and Dusky-tailed Antbird, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Rufous-tailed Antthrush, Rufous Gnateater, Gray-capped Tyrannulet, Gray-hooded Flycatcher, Drab-breasted Bamboo-Tyrant, Gray-hooded Attila, Bare-throated Bellbird (absent April – July), Sharpbill, Greenish Schiffornis, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, Yellow-legged Thrush, White-rimmed Warbler, Half-collared Sparrow, Chestnut-headed, Black-goggled, Ruby-crowned, Azure-shouldered, Golden-chevroned, Fawn-breasted, Brassy-breasted and Burnished-buff Tanager, Uniform Finch and Green-winged Saltator.

This is a half or full day excursion.

Theodoro Trail – Grade B

After a 20 minute drive from the lodge we arrive at the beginning of the Theodoro Trail. Commencing at 1100 m above sea level, this path offers superb birding. The entire length of this gradually descending trail used to be part of the old Cachoeiras – Nova Friburgo railway line and in places still remains surfaced with asphalt.

Birds that can be seen include Brown Tinamou, Mantled Hawk, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Plain Parakeet, Scale-throated Hermit, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Black-throated and Surucua Trogon, Spot-billed Toucanet, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Streaked Xenops, White-browed Foliage-Gleaner, Buff-fronted Foliage-Gleaner, Black-capped Foliage-Gleaner, White-eyed Foliage-Gleaner, Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, White-throated Woodcreeper, Lesser Woodcreeper, Scaled Woodcreeper, Variable Antshrike, Star-throated Antwren, White-shouldered Fire-eye, Rufous-tailed Antthrush, Variegated Antpitta, Bare-throated Bellbird, Blue and Pin-tailed Manakin, Gray-hooded Atilla, Greenish Schiffornis and Brassy-breasted Tanager.

This is a half day excursion.

Bamboo Trail – Grade C

The Bamboo Trail starts practically opposite the Theodoro Trail. As its name suggests, this trail runs through an expanse of native bamboo and leads gradually up to an altitude of 1450 m above sea level. This provides a great opportunity to get into some good primary forest.

Birds that can be seen include Slaty-breasted Wood-Rail, Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Scale-throated Hermit, Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanet, Yellow-browed and Green-barred Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Pallid Spinetail, Sharp-billed Treehunter, White-browed, Buff-browed, Buff-fronted and White-collared Foliage-Gleaner, Lesser and Scaled Woodcreeper, Black-billed Scythebill, White-bearded Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Bertonis and Ochre-rumped Antbird, Rufous-tailed Antthrush, Rufous Gnateater, Slaty Bristlefront, Mouse-colored Tapaculo, Black and Gold Cotinga, Hooded Berryeater, Bare-throated Bellbird, Blue and Pin-tailed Manakin, Gray-hooded Flycatcher, Drab-breasted Bamboo Tyrant, Greenish Schiffornis, Sharpbill, Rufous-crowned Greenlet, White-rimmed Warbler, Azure-shouldered and Brassy-breasted Tanager and Uniform Finch.

This is a full day excursion. Please note that this is a narrow trail that can be quite overgrown in places and is not suitable for groups of six or more.

Cedae Trail – Grade C

At an altitude of 650m this trail is quite steep but offers good chances of seeing some of the following species: Maroon-bellied Parakeet, Plain Parakeet, Saw-billed Hermit, Black-throated and Surucua Trogon, Rufous-capped Motmot, Buff-bellied Puffbird, Saffron and Spot-billed Toucanet, Channel-billed Toucan, White-barred Piculet, Yellow-eared Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Spinetail, White-browed Foliage-Gleaner, Pale-browed Treehunter, Black-capped Foliage-Gleaner, White-eyed Foliage-Gleaner, Lesser Woodcreeper, Spot-backed Antshrike, Spot-breasted and Plain Antvireo, Star-throated Antwren, Ferruginous Antbird, Streak-capped Antwren, White-shouldered Fire-Eye, Black-cheeked Gnateater, Blue Manakin, Pin-tailed Manakin, Gray-hooded Flycatcher, Oustalet’s Tyrannulet, Eared Pygmy-Tyrant, Black-tailed Tityra, Rufous-headed, Yellow-backed, Olive-green, Flame-crested, Ruby-crowned, Black-goggled, Green-headed, Red-necked and Brassy-breasted Tanagers and Black-throated Grosbeak.

This is a half day excursion and is quite often combined with the Theodoro Trail for a full day excursion.

High Altitude Excursion Pico da Caledonia – Grade D

For this excursion we take a 40 minute drive from the lodge where we drive to an altitude of approximately 1600 m. We drive as far as we can until we leave the minibus for the remainder of the day and start our walk towards the summit at 2300 m. Its more quality rather than quantity of species today with plenty of endemics to find! Our first high altitude birds should include Black and Gold Cotinga, Swallow-tailed Cotinga (absent during March – July) Plovercrest, Bay-chested Warbling Finch, Serra do Mar Tyrannulet, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Large-tailed Antshrike, Giant Antshrike, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Black-billed Scythebill, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Mouse-coloured Tapaculo, Rufous-tailed Antbird and Olivaceous Elaenia.

As we continue to climb at a slow birding pace we will reach the first area where we hope to see the very localised and endemic Grey-winged Cotinga. This bird was only known to exist in the Serra dos Orgaos National Park until we found a population at Pico da Caledonia back in 2003. We will also start to look for Velvety Black-Tyrant, Thick-billed Saltator and Diademed Tanager. A little further up we will arrive at the security guards hut, sign in and continue our walk up to the start of 620 steps that will take us right to the top of the peak. Here we hope to see the Itatiaia Thistletail, again discovered by us and our good friends from REGUA, Nicholas and Raquel Locke back in 2003.

For those that wish we can continue up for the spectacular view from the top, or turn around and head on down back to our transportation. Once back at the minibus we will take a short drive to another spot, where we will rest our legs (!) and do some birding from beside the minibus for an hour or so. Species we hope to see include Red-legged Seriema, Swallow-tailed Cotinga (absent during March – July), Azure-shouldered Tanager, Shear-tailed Gray-Tyrant, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Pallid Spinetail , White Woodpecker, Orange-eyed Thornbird and Glittering-bellied Emerald.

This is a full day excursion.

Three-toed Jacamar excursion – Grade A

Many birders who visit south-east Brazil go in search of the endemic Three-toed Jacamar. On this full day excursion we visit several sites where this bird is regularly found. Along the way we pass through a variety of habitats and cover a fair distance (150 km) stopping regularly en-route to look for other species.

Our target bird is the Three-toed Jacamar (!), however… other birds we could encounter include Whistling and Capped Heron, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Savanna Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Laughing Falcon, Aplomado Falcon, Bat Falcon, Red-legged Seriema, Blue-winged Macaw, White-eyed Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrotlet, Striped Cuckoo, Planalto Hermit, Glittering-bellied Emerald, Sapphire-spangled Emerald, Amethyst Woodstar, White-eared Puffbird, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Black-necked Aracari, White Woodpecker, Band-tailed Hornero, Orange-eyed Thornbird, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Gray and White-rumped Monjita, Streamer-tailed Tyrant, Yellow-browed Tyrant, Long-tailed Tyrant, White-rumped and Tawny-headed Swallow, Black-capped Donacobius, Curl-crested Jay, Magpie, Hooded, Hepatic and Gilt-edged Tanagers and Hooded Siskin.

We usually see between 65 – 100 species during the day! The record currently stands at 124, can you beat this?!

This is a full day excursion.

REGUA wetlands – Grade C

On this excursion we visit a local nature reserve – Reserva Ecologica de Guapiacu (REGUA). Established in 2002, this large wetland restoration project has been very successful in the amount of species that it has attracted over the past year. The reserve also protects a large amount of forest within the local area and employs rangers to ensure that species on the reserve are safeguarded.

We will spend almost a full day here and spend the first hour or so birding around the wetlands. Species we expect to see here amongst others include Least Grebe, Whistling and Capped Heron, Brazilian Teal, Masked Duck, Grey-headed Kite, Crane Hawk, Savanna Hawk, Limpkin, Yellow-chinned Spinetail, White-headed Marsh Tyrant and Chestnut-capped Blackbird. Surrounding the wetland is lowland forest, a habitat very difficult to encounter as much of this habitat has been destroyed in the past, we venture into this forest in the hope of finding species such as Reddish Hermit, Rufous-breasted Hermit, White-chinned Sapphire, Rufous-capped Motmot, Rufous-tailed Jacamar, Crescent-chested Puffbird, Yellow-throated Woodpecker, Chestnut-backed Antshrike, Sooretama Slaty-Antshrike, White-flanked Antwren, Unicolored Antwren, Brazilian Laniisoma (Shrike-like Cotinga) and Long-billed Wren.

On the way back to the lodge we will stop and bird some of the Cedae Trail if time allows.

Macae de Cima – Grade C

After a 20 minute drive from the lodge we arrive at the beginning of the track towards Macae de Cima. Depending upon weather conditions we may leave the minibus and take a gentle walk or the minibus will accompany us for the next few hours. Birds we hope to see on this trail include Plumbeous Pigeon, Scale-throated Hermit, Plovercrest, White-throated Hummingbird, Brazilian Ruby, Yellow-browed Woodpecker, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Pallid Spinetail, Orange-eyed Thornbird, White-collared Foliage-Gleaner, Giant Antshrike, Tufted Antshrike, Bertonis Antbird, Ochre-rumped Antbird, Rufous Gnateater, Black and Gold Cotinga, Bare-throated Bellbird, Pin-tailed Manakin, Serra do Mar Tyrant-Manakin, Drab-breasted Bamboo-Tyrant, White-rimmed Warbler, Chestnut-headed Tanager, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager and Green-winged Saltator.

This is a half or full day excursion.

Portao Azul – Grade C

After approximately 30 minutes we arrive at our destination and leave the minibus to walk a trail for the morning. What makes this excursion so good is the mixture of habitats that this area offers, it is also a stronghold for the endemic Half-collared Sparrow, sometimes difficult to see in other areas this species is abundant here. Other birds that we expect to see during the morning include Dusky-legged Guan, Scale-throated Hermit, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-throated Hummingbird, Saffron Toucanet, Rufous-capped Spinetail, Grey-bellied Spinetail, Pallid Spinetail, White-collared Foliage-Gleaner, Black-billed Scythebill, Giant Antshrike, White-bearded Antshrike, Rufous-backed Antvireo, Bertonis Antbird, Azure-shouldered Tanager, Brassy-breasted Tanager, Gilt-edged Tanager, Buffy-fronted Seedeater and Uniform Finch.

This is a half or full day excursion.

The Itororo Lodge trails provide great birding habitat at 1000m (© Andy Foster)
Blue-naped chlorophonia (© Andy Foster)
High altitude forest at Pico da Caledonia (© Andy Foster)
Scale-throated Hermit (© Andy Foster)
The summit of Pico da Caledonia, at 2300 m (© Andy Foster)
Magpie Tanager (© Andy Foster)
Open country habitat, Sumidouro (© Andy Foster)
Red-legged Seriema (© Andy Foster)
The REGUA wetlands (© Andy Foster)
Blackish Rail (© Andy Foster)
Guira Cuckoo (© Andy Foster)