The Pantanal is a bird watcher's dream. There are all sorts of feathered creatures in the region – from birds of prey and waterfowl, to hummingbirds and motmots. And there are of course, like in most parts of the world, plenty of L.B.J.'s (Little Brown Jobs that fly by too quickly to be identified). However, the most distinctive birds we regularly saw here belonged to the taxonomic order of Ppsittaciformes – or parrots.
Parrots can be found across the Southern Hemisphere, with higher frequency in tropical areas. Characteristics that make them easily identifiable include short, down-turned bills, typically bright plumage and claws that include two toes pointing forward and two curving backward.
This family of birds has the unfortunate honor of being the bird group with the greatest number of endangered species – with over seventy species listed as imperiled. Parrots, which include macaws, cockatoos, parakeets, dubgerigars and others, have suffered greatly from a combination of habitat loss, exploitation for sport or fashion, and capture to supply the legal and illegal pet trades.
Parrots are gregarious birds and, with the exception of macaws, can usually be found in large
||This family of birds has the unfortunate honor of being the bird group with the greatest number of endangered species|
flocks. They have sharp-tipped beaks with hooked upper mandibles that are useful for cracking nuts and grasping trees as they climb. Parrots also have muscular tongues that can be used for scooping fruit and seeds out of their skins or shells.
Macaws are the largest members of the parrot family. There are nineteen species of macaws found in the "neotropics," or the tropics of Central and South Americas. Macaws all have long, pointed tail feathers, and exposed skin on their faces. Well-known species of macaws include scarlet macaws, blue-and-green macaws and red-and-green macaws.
Lesser known macaws include those known as the "blue macaws." Hyacinth macaws are not only the biggest of this group, but the largest of all parrot species. These birds can only be found in Brazil, eastern Bolivia and northeastern Paraguay, distributed among three distinct populations. Hyacinth macaws are recognizable by their cobalt blue colored feathers and bright yellow patches of exposed skin around the eye and lower mandible of the beak.
Another species of blue macaw is the Indigo, or Lear's, macaw. This species, which is very similar in coloring and markings to the hyacinth macaw, can only be found in a scattering of rare populations in Bahia, Brazil.
The smallest species of blue macaw, the Spix macaw, is now thought to be extinct in the wild, however, a small existing captive population may be used some day to breed and release this species back into their former habitat.
Another bird species considered an icon of the American tropics is the toucan. Toucans are in the same family order as woodpeckers, barbets, puffbirds, jacamars and honeyguides.
Perhaps best known for their over-sized, lightweight beaks and striking contrasting colored markings, toucans are primarily frugivores, and play an important role in their ecosystems consuming fruit and dispersing seeds.
The toco toucan is the largest and most easily recognized toucan, however, there are a variety of other toucan species in the toucan family, including smaller aracaris and toucanets.
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