The main focus of our trip to Brazil and the Panatal was to see Jaguars. However, we had been told that the birds of this area were stunning. It is a paradise for birders and photographers. There are over 600 species to see and very few humans to disturb them. It’s often possible to get fairly close to many of the them. This was particularly true of the kingfishers that inhabit the rivers and ponds. Before we travelled we’d asked a keen birder, who had recently returned from a similar trip, if we would see kingfishers. She had assured us that we wouldn’t have a problem. Little did we expect to both see and photograph so many. Although identification was never easy, as three of the species have very similar colouring
There are five Kingfisher species in the Pantanal
- Ringed Kingfisher
- Amazon Kingfisher
- Green Kingfisher
- Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher
- American Pigmy Kingfisher,
As they all feed mainly on fish most of our sightings were as we cruised along rivers systems or travelled along the track by the many swampy ditches.
The largest and most common of the five species is the Ringed Kingfisher
Reaching almost 40cm it was the most distinctive and common species we came across. It’s coloured blue-grey with a red-brown chest and easily seen along the river banks. They are found throughout South and Central America even as far south as Tierra del Fuego. It has now increased its range north to along the lower Rio Grande River valley in Texas in the United States.
The second largest of the five species is the Amazon Kingfisher measuring about 30 cm in length.
Its’ upper parts are oily green colour with a distinctive ragged crest and a white collar. Like the ringed Kingfisher the Amazon is found around lakes and slow flowing rivers from Mexico, to central Argentina
The Green-and-rufous Kingfisher is arguably the most attractive and one of the less common species we came across.
It is 24 cm in length, so not the smallest, but very difficult to spot. This is due to its’ dark glossy green upper parts, with white spotting on the wings, and a rufous nape. These all act as excellent camouflage.
Like the other kingfishers it’s found around streams and rivers. It’s distribution is from Nicaragua, through Central America and across much of the northern parts of South America, as far as Paraguay.
Next in size is the Green Kingfisher.
Measuring about 19 centimeters in length, it looks like a smaller version of the Amazon kingfisher. It has dark green upper parts, a white collar and a rufous breast band, Although the females lack the breast colouring.
Like all the other kingfishers they’re always found near water. However being smaller they seem to favour the smaller streams and around the edges of ponds. Here the dense low foliage provided perches close to the water.
American Pygmy Kingfisher
The 5th of the Pantanals Kingfishers is the American Pygmy Kingfisher.
Only reaching about 13cm in length and although wide spread in the Pantanal it was the species we encountered less frequently. This was possibly due to its minute size, and colouring. It is dark green above, with a buffy-orange collar, rufous underparts and a small white belly. They often spend their time perching on low overhanging branches, staying concealed. This makes them difficult to spot in the dense undergrowth along the banks
They range from southern Mexico south, through Central America down to central Brazil.