Venezuela Bird trip report

To: Birding-Aus <>, COG list <>,
Subject: Venezuela Bird trip report
From: Robert Gosford <>
Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2007 13:20:11 +0930
Dear all,

Early last month I traveled to Venezuela to attend the VIIIth
Neotropical Ornithological Congress. The Congress itself was very well
attended and organised, with over 400 delegates from 27 countries
attending. There were 5 plenary sessions on a range of important issues
for neotropical ornithology, 24 themed oral presentation sessions 23
symposia. 6 Workshops and over 100 poster presentations.

I presented a paper titled "Recent developments & future prospects in
ethnoornithology" at the 'Exploring Bird Conservation by Indigenous
People: Insights for Bio-cultural Conservation" symposium convened by
Leonardo Cabrera of McGill University, Canada and Mark Bonta of Delta
State University in the US.

The symposium and the conference went very well and I've made a number
of new contacts throughout the New World. I have also been asked to
participate in the next Partners in Flight conference to be held at
McAllen, Texas in February 2008 and to assist in the development of two
sessions, provisionally titled “Bird Consciousness – The Sentient Bird
and bicultural conservation practices and principles – alien or allied?”
and "Bird Knowledge across cultures in the Western Hemisphere and its
use in bird conservation projects." - I'll hear further about the
progress of these proposals and pass on any relevant news.

As this was my first time in central/south America, just about
everything we saw was new for me. There are certainly some fascinating
birds in this part of the world. As usual for such large meetings, there
were a number of conference-related field trips. One of those trips was
to the "Cueva del Guácharo" (Oilbird Cave), in the mountainous Caripe
district of northern Monagas, Venezuela, is where Alexander von Humboldt
first studied the species. The caripensis of the binomial name means "of
Caripe", and Steatornis means "fat bird", in reference to the fatness of
the squabs.

The "Cueva del Guácharo" was Venezuela's first national monument, and is
the centerpiece of a national park; according to some estimates there
may be 15,000 or more birds living there. Colombia also has a national
park named after its "Cueva de los Guácharos", near the southern border
with Ecuador. Oilbirds have been reported in various other places along
the Andean mountain chain, including near Ecuador's Cueva de los Tayos
and in Brazil: they are known to dwell as far south as the Carrasco
National Park in Bolivia. Dunstan Cave, at the Asa Wright Nature Centre
in Trinidad, is home to about 200 nesting pairs of oilbirds.
The Oilbird (Steatornis caripensis), also known as Guácharo, is a slim,
long-winged bird related to the nightjars and usually placed with these
in the order Caprimulgiformes. It is sufficiently distinctive to be
placed in a family (Steatornithidae) and suborder (Steatornithes) of its
own; more recent research[citation needed] indicates that it should even
be considered a distinct order (which does not yet have a valid
taxonomic name). It is found in the northern areas of South America from
Guayana and the island of Trinidad to Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
and Bolivia in forests and woodland with caves. It is a seasonal
migrant, moving from its breeding caves in search of fruit trees. It has
occurred as a rare vagrant to Costa Rica, Panama and Aruba.

This nocturnal species, uniquely, is a specialist feeder on the fruit of
the Oil Palm and tropical laurels. All the other nightjars and their
relatives are insectivores. (Thanks to the Wikipedia page: for this information)

The other field trips headed for the Morichal Largo river and Monagas

The Morichal Largo river is one of the four large natural regions that
comprise the Orinoco Delta biome. The river originates in a low mesa and
flows into the Gulf of Paria. Due to its relatively short length, the
composition of the rock over which it flows, and the particular
characteristics of the riverine vegetation, the Morichal Largo carries
relatively low sediment loads and is therefore a clear-water river.

The vegetation associated with the Morichal Largo includes the Moriche
palm (Mauritia flexuosa) swamps that give the river its name. This
species of palm has considerable socioeconomic value to local indigenous
communities, especially in the manufacture of baskets, hammocks and
other artisanal goods.

The waters are home to a diverse tropical fish fauna, including several
species typical of aquaria and – of course – piranhas. Red Howler and
Capuchin monkeys are also found along the river.

Morichal largo river is a good location for birds of prey, including
King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa), Greater Yellow-headed Vulture
(Cathartes melambrotus), Gray-headed Kite (Leptodon cayanensis),
Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus) and Laughing Falcon (Herpethoteres
cachinnans). In the contiguous savannas, Savanna Hawk (Buteogallus
meridionalis), Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus) and
Northern Crested-Caracara (Caracara cheriway). Other species include
Red-bellied Macaw (Orthopsittaca manilata), Red-shouldered Macaw
(Diopsittaca nobilis), Russet-throated Puffbird – treated some times as
Double-banded Puffbird – (Hypnelus ruficollis), Point-tailed Palmcreeper
(Berlepschia rikeri), Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin), Squirrel Cuckoo
(Piaya cayana) and Little Cuckoo (Piaya minuta).
Other highlight birds include the Great Kiskadee (Pitangus sulphuratus),
Social Flycatcher (Myiozetetes similis), Rusty-margined Flycatcher
(Myiozetetes cayanensis), Piratic Flycatcher (Legatus leucophaius),
Sulphury Flycatcher (Tyrannopsis sulphurea) and Fork-tailed Flycatcher
(Tyrannus savana). (This information from the conference website:

The field trips were organised by Ascanio Birding Tours
( and I would highly recommend them to anyone
wanting to bird in Venezuela, Surinam & Guyana).

Bird list - this represents the 113 species seen by all three boatloads
on the Morichal Largo River:

Least Grebe Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture
Crested Caracara Yellow-headed Caracara
Zone-tailed Hawk White-tailed Hawk
Roadside Hawk Grey-lined Hawk
Long-Winged Harrier Savannah Hawk
Black-collared Hawk Black-shouldered Kite
Plumbeous Hawk American Kestrel
Burrowing Owl Grey-breasted Martin
Brown-chested Martin Southern Rough-winged Swallow
Forktailed Palm Swift Short-tailed Swift
Fork-tailed Flycatcher Pied Water Tyrant
Carib Grackle Yellow-rumped Cassix
Shining Cowbird Shining Cowbird
Rufous-vented Chachalaca Whistling Heron
Great Egret Cocoyi Heron
Cattle Egret Snow Egret
Masked Duck Roseate Spoonbill
Black-bellied Whistling Duck White-faced Whistling Duck
Southern Lapwing Wattled Jacana
Pale-vented Pigeon Scaled Dove
Ruddy Ground Dove Pl (?)-breasted Ground Dove
Eared Dove Common Ground Dove
Orange-winged Parrot White-eyed Parrot
Brown-throated Parakeet Red-shouldered Macaw
Squirrel Cuckoo Groove-billed Anis
Greater Anis Smooth-billed Anis
Black-throated Mango White-chested Emerald
Rufous-breasted Hummingbird Glittering-throated Emerald
White-tailed Trogon Rufous-tailed Jacama
Green Kingfisher Pygmy Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher Red-billed Toucan
Lineated Kingfisher Buff-throated Woodcreeper
Plain-fronted Thornbird Black-crested Antshrike
Silvered Antbird Black-tailed Tityra
Cattle Tyrant Tropical Kingbird
Sulphury Flycatcher Social Flycatcher
Rusty-margined Flycatcher Great Kiskadee
Boat-billed Flycatcher Brown-crested Flycatcher
Short-crested Flycatcher Yellow-bellied Eleania
Mouse-colored Tyrannulet Southern Beardless Tyrannulet
Yellow-crowned Tyrannulet Pale-eyed Pygmy Tyrant
Common Tody Forest Eleania
Bicolored Wren Striped-back Wren
Dark-backed Donacobius House Wren
Tropical Mockingbird Pale-breasted Thrush
Rufous-barbed Peppershrike Scrub Greenlet
Bananaquit Blue Gray Tanager
Palm Tanager Silver-beaked Tanager
Oriole Blackbird Orange-crowned Oriole
Yellow Oriole Red-breasted Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark Grey Saltater
Lesser Titfinch Saffron Finch
Ruddybreasted Seedeater Neotropical Cormorant
Anhinga Horned Screamer
Pied Water Tyrant Double-striped Thicknee

Phew - that was some day and Venezuela, with over 1300 species, is some
country for watching birds!!
(and they've got good coffee!!)

Cheers and best,

Bob Gosford


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