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Brazil’s Atlantic Forest – Living in Shade

Mondo Verde

Mondo Verde Expeditions
July 8-26, 2022
Photos by Bob Gress / Birds in Focus

In two previous PhotoBlasts on Brazil’s Atlantic Forest I included colorful birds like tanagers, hummingbirds, parrots, trogons and toucans. The intention of this PhotoBlast is to offer a balancing perspective on birds living in this unique habitat. Not all rainforest birds are colorful and charismatic with strange beaks, long tails, or unusual behavior. There are many rainforest birds that spend secretive lives skulking about the darkness in deep shade. They creep around dense thickets and watch us through layers of overlapping vegetation. They are a challenge to photograph. Here are a few of them.

Squamate Antbird (below), Ubatuba, Brazil, July 19, 2022

Long-billed Gnatwren (above), Ubatuba, Brazil, July 19, 2022

Rufous Gnateater (below), Itatiaia National Park, Brazil, July 16, 2022

Our group of eight Kansans, on this Mondo Verde Expedition, would have found only a tiny fraction of these birds if not for the keen hearing and knowledge of our guide Bradley Davis (on the left in the photo above).

Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner (below), Estrada Hans Garlip-Road, Nova Friburgo, Brazil, July 14, 2022

Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper (above), Paraiso Eco Lodge, Brazil, July 25, 2022

Plain-winged Woodcreeper (below), Itatiaia National Park, Brazil, July 16, 2022

Black-cheeked Gnateater (above) Ubatuba, Brazil July 19, 2022

Many of these secretive, skulking birds are colored in black, brown, gray, or rusty tones making them even more difficult to observe in the dark understory.  They are more often heard than seen.

Ochre-breasted Foliage-gleaner (below), Salve Floresta, Tapirai, July 21, 2022

Eared Pygmy-Tyrant (above), Itatiaia National Park, Brazil, July 15, 2022

Shrike-like Cotinga (below), Reserva Ecologica Guapiacu, Brazil, July 12, 2022

Chestnut-backed Antshrike (above), Reserva Ecologica Guapiacu, Brazil, July 11, 2022

Rainforests have lots of birds with “ant” in their names.  Dozens of species follow army ant swarms to feed on insects escaping from these miniature, invading armies.

Ferruginous Antbird, Ubatuba, Brazil, July 19, 2022

We took advantage of forest roads which allowed access into dense understory.  A search for the “chit, chit, chit” notes provided the following short glimpse of the caller.

Mouse-colored Tapaculo (below), Itatiaia National Park, Brazil, July 17, 2022

White-collared Foliage-gleaner (above), Estrada Hans Garlip-Road, Nova Friburgo, Brazil, July 14, 2022

Saw-billed Hermit (below), Ubatuba, Brazil, July 18, 2022

Spot-winged Wood-Quail (above), Intervales State Park, Brazil, July 23, 2022

At Intervales State Park we were joined by a local birding guide, Betinho (Beto) Rodrigues, who has worked here for 20+ years.  Beto took us to a place where he has been conditioning two secretive species to come to food.  He positioned us quietly along a trail, then moved off a short distance and began rattling his can of cracked corn and called softly to the birds he knew were hiding in the understory.  Eight Spot-winged Wood-Quail were soon following behind him as he brought them to us before putting their snack on the ground.  He then put corn on a horizontal log and the quail fed there before slowly wandering off.  We continued to wait quietly and after about 20 minutes a Solitary Tinamou cautiously approached while we remained motionless.  The tinamou watched us carefully while approaching the corn, then paused on the log as if posing for photos.

Solitary Tinamou (below), Intervales State, Park, Brazil, July 23, 2022