Blog posts about International Expeditions' Amazon River cruises
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!
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)
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.
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).
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.
Workers in a massive farming industry best describes the amazing leaf-cutter ants.
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.
Low-level fires are a natural but infrequent occurrence in rainforests, but due to industrialization, logging and other deforestation, the severity of forest fires is increasing. This may pose a serious threat to the plants and animals of these regions, and many scientists are concerned for the future of the Amazonian rainforest. The impact of forest fires on local bird populations in Brazil was the focus of a recent study conducted by researchers from the U.K. and Brazil.
Our second full day in the Amazon on our International Expeditions River Cruise started at the crack of dawn, as we left on our skiffs for an early morning birdwatching expedition on a small tributary of the Ucayali River. We saw dozens of species along the way, but the light was largely too low (or the birds too far away) for good photos, even with my 400mm lens. But this gorgeous Dusky Headed Parakeet proved remarkably cooperative, posing atop a stump near the water.