Usually you’re looking up. You lift your gaze to the upper canopy to find a fruiting tree, and even before you hear or see them their energy alone betrays their presence, and you realize it. There are birds here…
Here on the west slope of the Andes is a melastome tree, sporting tiny pea-like fruits. Birds hustle into the dense clusters of veined, cross-hatched leaves, jostling to snag the fruits before scrambling off with bellies and mouths full. You’re enjoying the avian traffic when your attention is arrested by a splash of color. Something green, which seemed a part of the canopy foliage before, pivots to face you and reveals a sherbert-orange throat, a scarlet bill, incisive yellow eyes, and a black hood. It flexes and twitches, looks right through you, and inhales deeply – puffing up almost like a pufferfish before giving a long and silent sigh. As it exhales, the movements seem almost reptilian. Suddenly it bursts into flight, and that’s it.
It’s over. That’s all you will get of the male Orange-breasted Fruiteater today. It lasted just a few seconds, but it sure was sweet. If you weren’t standing at that exact spot, you would never have seen it. You had a window. The branches and leaves parted in just the right way so that you locked eyes for a few enormous and excruciatingly beautiful seconds, and then it was over. It happened quickly, and sometimes that is the case with birds in the Cotinga family, such as these fruiteaters.
Birding the Neotropics is the ultimate treasure hunt, and the Orange-breasted Fruiteater is one of 1000+ species possible on our Colombia – 1000 Birds Mega Tour 2018 from 1-30 November. About a tenth of all bird species in the world in 30 days, with our incomparable ace, Stephan Lorenz, guiding the way. If you want something shorter with a more relaxed pace, and still crave cotingas, there are few places more magical than Brazil’s Atlantic Coastal Forest. Based at our comfortable lodge for 1 week, with no long drives, this tour offers upwards of 250 species, including chances for a staggering 80 (!) endemics, not to mention some snazzy cotingas – such as Grey-winged, Black-and-gold, and Swallow-tailed – and Bare-throated Bellbird and Hooded Berryeater.
If you desire a quick getaway or a 1000-bird odyssey, South America is an avian goldmine, with eye-candy birds to spare. Join us today and discover more.