NEOTROPICAL Tropical & Subtropical Savanna

The diverse but often overlooked birds of the South and Central American tropical savanna grasslands and woodlands... 

Family Rheidae: Rheas

(Pouse Alegra, Brazil)

Rhea americana, 'Greater Rhea', 'ñandú' (Spanish), 'Ema' (Portuguese). The largest bird in South America. Found in open woodlands of South America.

Family Cracidae: Currassows, Chachalacas, Guans
Family Columbidae: Doves & Pigeons

Family Cuculidae: Cuckoos

(Pousa Alegre, Pantanal, Brazil)

Crotophaga major, 'Greater Ani'. Found in mangroves, freshwater, edge of forest, and open woodlands in South & Central America.

Family Caprimulgidae: Nightjars, Nighthawks

(Pousa Alegre, Pantanal, Brazil)


Family Trochilidae: Hummingbirds

Family Cathartidae: New World Vultures

Turkey vultures at carcass of raccoon (image by Damon Ramsey)(Transpantaneira highway, Pantanal, Brazil)

Cathartes aura, 'Turkey Vulture'. Widespread in many habitats across South America and North America.

(Manaus, Brazil)

Coragyps atratus, 'American Black Vulture'. Found in a range of open lowland habitats across the warmer parts of South, Central and North America.

Family Accipitridae: Hawks, Kites, Eagles

(Pantanal, Brazil)

Buteogallus urubitinga, 'Great Black Hawk'. Large bird with huge yellow beak. Adults mostly uniformly charcoal, except for white patch underside of tail (not obvious in this image). Found in forest, woodlands and wetlands in Central and South America.

Family Picidae: Woodpeckers

(Pousa Alegre, Pantanal, Brazil)

Dryocopus lineatus, 'Lineated Woodpecker' . Large. Found in rainforest and open woodlands in central & South America. 

(Pousa Alegre, Pantanal, Brazil)

Melanerpes candidus, 'White Woodpecker'. Found in tropical open woodlands and grasslands in South America.

Family Falconidae: Falcons, Caracaras

(Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso, Brazil)

Caracara plancus, 'Southern Crested Caracara', 'Carancho' or 'Carcará'.  Very widespread bird found in many open habitats across South America.

Family Psittacideae: African and American Parrots

South and Central America has a diverse range of parrots. Although people often associate these birds with the rainforest in the tropical Americas, I think they are just as easy, perhaps even easier, to see in the more open woodlands.

(Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso, Brazil)

Eupsittula aurea, 'Peach-fronted Parakeet'.

(Pousa Alegre, Pantanal, Brazil)

Psittacara leucophthalmus'White-eyed Parakeet/Conure'. Medium-sized green parrot with red spots on body and head. Found across much of South America in a range of habitats, including urban areas.


Of course there is one group of parrots that stands out - the Macaws. There are some 19 species, and they are all native to the Neotropics, distributed as far north as Mexico. This group of genera include some (relatively) smaller species of parrot, but it is the larger and more colourful species that literally stick out. Compared to other parrots, these larger species usually have a paler face, massive curved bill, and very long tails. Each individual macaw has a different pattern on its face, uniquely identifying each one like a humans fingerprint.  

(Pouse Alegre, Brazil)

Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, 'Hyacinth Macaw'. The largest flying parrot in the world (the flightless Kakapo of New Zealand is heavier). It is also the longest parrot in the world. Found in the tropical open woodlands of central and eastern South America.

Family Tyrannidae: Tyrant Flycatchers


(Pousa Alegre, Pantanal, Brazil)

Tyrannus savana'Fork-tailed Flycatcher'. Found in open habitats in South America, and can migrate into North America.

Family Corvidae

(Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso, Brazil)

Cyanocorax cyanomelas, 'Purplish Jay'.

Family Icteridae: New World Blackbirds

This family includes: (New World) Blackbirds, (New World) Orioles, Cowbirds, Grackles, Oropendolas, etc

(Pousa Alegre, Pantanal, Brazil)

Molothrus oryzivorus, 'Giant Cowbird'.

(Pantanal, Brazil)

Icterus croconotus, 'Orange-backed Troupial'.

Family Thraupidae: Tanagers

(Hotel Pantanal Mato Grosso, Brazil)

Paroaria capitata 'Yellow-billed Cardinal'. Despite the common name, this bird is a Tanager, not a true Cardinal.

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