Brazilian Specialties: Oct 26—Nov 13, 2010

The Wonders of Minas Gerais and Intervales

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Departs: Sao Paulo (ends in Belo Horizonte)
Tour Limit: 14
Operations Manager: Erik Lindqvist
Download Itinerary: PDF (121.1 KB)

Tour Leaders


Andrew Whittaker

Andrew Whittaker, a senior member of the VENT staff, has led VENT tours since 1993 throughou...


Kevin Zimmer

Kevin Zimmer has authored three books and numerous papers dealing with field identification ...

More Information

"Atlantic" Royal Flycatcher (female)— Photo: Kevin Zimmer

Varied mix of habitats, from grasslands and cerrado to humid Atlantic Forest and montane páramo, combined with often spectacular scenery, many colorful and endemic specialty birds (Brazilian Merganser, Helmeted Woodpecker, Red-tailed Parrot, Hyacinth Visorbearer, Cock-tailed Tyrant, Three-toed Jacamar), and great mammal-viewing (including maned wolf, giant anteater, woolly spider monkey, and others) make this an ideal introduction to the biological riches of Brazil.

Few countries can match the diversity of natural history experiences available in Brazil, South America's largest country. With more than 1,600 species of birds and a wide range of habitats spread over an area larger than the contiguous 48 United States, Brazil requires multiple visits to be fully appreciated. Even those who have visited many times find themselves returning again and again to this land of friendly people, great food, and abundant natural beauty. This tour is designed both for the first-time visitor to Brazil and for seasoned veterans of previous trips. We have selected a unique mix of sites and habitats, each of them teeming with birds and each of them conducive to seeing birds with relative ease.

Habitats visited will include Atlantic Forest, campo grasslands, cerrado brushlands, gallery woodlands, rocky serras (isolated mountains), and restinga (coastal scrub woodlands growing on sandy soil). The general "birdiness" of each site, combined with the variety of habitats visited, makes this an excellent introduction to the biotic diversity of Brazil. At the same time, we have deliberately selected sites that are not visited on any of our other Brazil tours. For the many folks who have taken all of our other Brazil trips and who have been clamoring for more, this is the ideal chance to experience a number of special places and exotic birds not previously offered. As a side note, opportunities for seeing some special mammals should be excellent throughout.

We will begin our tour in coastal restingas south of Sao Paulo, where numbers of threatened Red-tailed Parrots are known to roost. Then, it's on to Intervales State Park, recently designated as a World Heritage Site, and protecting an impressive expanse of Atlantic Forest some 200 km southwest of Sao Paulo. Based out of a lovely lodge, and with access to an exceptional trail system, we will seek out a multitude of Atlantic Forest specialties including, perhaps, Black-fronted Piping-Guan, Helmeted Woodpecker, Long-trained Nightjar, Blue-bellied Parrot, Plovercrest, Giant and White-bearded antshrikes, White-breasted Tapaculo, Slaty Bristlefront, Atlantic Royal Flycatcher, Buffy-fronted and Temminck's seedeaters, Half-collared Sparrow, and many more. The rarely seen Buff-fronted Owl is a distinct possibility, and our chances of seeing the threatened and spectacular woolly spider monkey (or muriqui) are good.

Canastra grasslands, Brazil

Canastra grasslands, Brazil— Photo: Andrew Whittaker

Serra da Canastra National Park encompasses a wonderful realm of plateau grassy campos and chaparral-like cerrado, dissected by forested streams and plunging waterfalls. Greater Rheas, Red-legged Seriemas, giant anteaters, and maned wolves roam the open habitats of the park, while the streams below are home to the endangered and highly sought-after Brazilian Merganser. We will search the grasslands here for Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Campo Miner, Sharp-tailed Tyrant, Stripe-tailed Yellow-Finch, and the incredibly endearing Cock-tailed Tyrant. The forests here are home to the localized White-striped Warbler, as well as Helmeted and Pin-tailed manakins, and the seldom seen Brasilia Tapaculo. Serra do Cipó National Park also offers spectacular canyonlands and waterfalls, along with a nice mixture of campo and cerrado habitats. The higher portions of the park are also home to a handful of highly localized birds including two spectacular hummingbirds, the Hyacinth Visorbearer and Horned Sungem, as well as the Cipó Canastero (first discovered in 1985 and still known only from this park), Gray-backed Tachuri, Cinereous Warbling-Finch, and Pale-throated Serra-Finch.

Beautiful Serra do Caraça combines montane Atlantic Forest habitats and birds with those of the rocky serras and cerrados, all as a backdrop for a 200-year-old monastery. Here, the possibilities range from Large-tailed Antshrikes and Swallow-tailed Cotingas to Red-eyed Thornbird, Serra Antwren, Hangnest Tody-Tyrant, and Red-ruffed Fruitcrow. For all of the abundant bird possibilities, this park is best known for the maned wolves that put in near-nightly appearances. On our return to Belo Horizonte, we will make a special stop for Three-toed Jacamar.

Good accommodations; good food; generally easy terrain and hikes of short to moderate length; early morning starts with many afternoon breaks; only one internal flight, and a couple of lengthy drives; generally warm, dry climate, with cool evenings at Caraça.