Amazon River

Blog posts about International Expeditions' Amazon River cruises
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Howler monkeys are abundant in the Amazon rainforests and as the name indicates, they are quite a vocal group of primates. There are a number of howler monkey species living in South America, from the mantled howler and the black howler to the red-handed and Colombian red howler. The black howler is one of the largest species of the New World monkeys, standing at just over three feet tall with a tail about the same length.

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Along the Peruvian Amazon River near Iquitos, the fluctuation of water levels is one of the Neotropics’ most amazing natural history events. The ebbing and flooding of water dictates the way of life for so many species including plants, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and the local people — the ribereños. During high water times and low water extremes, the difference in water levels may change over 45 feet in one year in the Iquitos area.

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Hatchet-faced treefrogs are extremely attractive greenish colored frogs with very short, sharply angular noses which give them their name — hatchet-faced. There are three species of this frog found in the Peruvian Amazon, and the greater hatchet-face and pygmy hatchet-face tend to be relatively abundant.

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Many of us living in the United States — especially in the central states of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas — are very familiar with a long-tailed bird called a scissor-tailed flycatcher. They are often observed on fences, light posts and other exposed places where they scan the air for flying insects, upon which they feed. In the Southern Hemisphere, there is a counterpart of the scissor-tailed flycatcher called a fork-tailed flycatcher. Amazingly, this species has even longer tail feathers — so long that it is a wonder that these birds can even fly!

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Anyone visiting the neotropics is most likely very aware of the large, paper-like nests that are often found in trees at various levels from near ground level to the mid-story or even the higher canopy at times. These large structures are the nests of a variety of type of termites. (Not a variety in one nest but each species makes nest in similar shapes)

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The Amazon River and its surrounding rainforests are shrouded in mystery, and scientists are constantly discovering new species and information culled from the South American jungles. For the most part, experts visit the jungle to study it in person, but new research has created a 3D map of a three-mile stretch of the rainforest in Peru.

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Pygmy marmosets, which have long held the title of the smallest monkeys in the world, make their homes in the rainforests of the Upper Amazon Basin. Be sure to keep a keen watch for these tiny primates on your small-group cruises (see this post about Amazon wildlife sightings).

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Paradise tanagers are as colorful as parrots and just as plentiful in the Amazon rainforests and throughout northern regions of South America. These small birds are prized by birders, and you can see one of the subspecies on your next Amazon cruise. These creatures travel in mixed-species groups of about five to 20, but rarely remain in one spot for very long.

August 14, 2012

Leaf Cutter Ants

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Every four years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature evaluates the status of animal species and determines if they belong on the Red List of Threatened Species, and the latest list has many conservationists worried. The number of bird species on the Red List jumped from 1,253 to 1,331 and the majority of the newly added species are found in the Amazon, specifically in the Brazilian Amazon Basin where the new Forest Code loosens protections on the Amazon.

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