The Chaco is a vast and monotonous thorny thicket covering half of Paraguay and sections of Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. It is known colloquially as the Infierno Verde (Green Hell) for good reason. The Bolivians and Paraguayans fought each other to a deadly stalemate here during the 1930’s in what is officially known as the Chaco War, but better known to the belligerents as La Guerra de la Sed (The war of the thirst). Few roads penetrate this vast habitat, just enough to allow us access to a stunning array of species evolved to live in these harsh conditions. While we do not expect to see all the Chaco endemics, we will certainly seek many of them including Black-legged Seriema, Spot-winged Falconet, Chaco Chachalaca, Crested Hornero, Many-colored Chaco Finch, Short-billed Canastero and Lark-like Brushrunner.
Black-legged Seriema, Crested Gallito, Coscoroba Swan, Spot-winged Falconet, Chaco Chachalaca, Bolivian Slaty Antshrike, Chaco Puffbird, Crested Hornero, Blue-tufted Starthroat, Chaco Earthcreeper, Short-billed Canastero, Little Thornbird, Lark-like Brushrunner, Many-colored Chaco Finch
very hot and dry with cooler nights and early mornings
Day 1: Arrival day in Santa Cruz de la Sierra
Guests arriving from their various points of origin will be greeted at the airport, and then transported to our hotel accommodations in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. After a welcome dinner to discuss the forthcoming day’s birding, a good night’s rest will be in order, as we begin our Bolivia birding tour adventures bright and early the following morning!
Day 2: Birding en route to the Chaco
An early start will see us heading due south out of Santa Cruz de la Sierra towards Boyuibe. Recent improvements to the road network in Bolivia mean that we can make steady progress on asphalted roads. Stops en route may reveal the near endemic Bolivian Slaty Antshrike as well as commoner Green-cheeked Parakeet, Plush-crested Jay, Chaco Chachalaca, Chaco Puffbird, White-barred Piculet, Suiriri Flycatcher, Chotoy Spinetail Greater Thornbird, Toco Toucan, Blue-crowned Trogons, White Monjita, Rufous Casiornis, Plain Tyrannulet, Screaming Cowbird, Saffron-billed Sparrow, White-bellied Seedeater, Ultramarine Grosbeak, Dusky-legged Guan, Bicolored Hawk, Golden-collared Macaw, Ocellated Piculet, Black-banded and Tschudi’s Woodcreepers, Ochre-cheeked Spinetails, Straneck’s and Sclater’s Tyrannulets, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Green-backed Becards and White-banded Mockingbird – all this before we even reach the Chaco proper. Depending on weather conditions, small ephemeral pans may turn up White-faced Whistling Duck, Brazilian Teal, or possibly Ringed Teal!
Days 3 & 4: Birding the Chaco
We have two full days of our Bolivia birding tour to search the vast Chaco for its avian denizens. Birding time in the Chaco is realistically split into two small windows – sun up and the late afternoon. During the middle of the day, bird activity ceases and the fierce heat becomes implacable. Thus, at the break of dawn, we will be in position for the flurry of early morning activity. Black-legged Seriema perch on exposed stumps to vocalise, White-fronted Woodpecker perch up on spiny cactus branches, while we can expect to hear the raucous Monk Parakeets and Chaco Chachalaca vocalising. Careful scanning of the brush edges should reveal Crested Hornero and Lark-like Brushrunner, which often forage together while Chaco Earthcreeper will likely prove more challenging. Tyrant flycatchers will also be in evidence, comprising Southern Beardless, White-bellied, Plain and Straneck’s Tyrannulets, Suiriri Flycatcher, Sharp-billed Canstero, Cinereous Tyrant, Hudson’s Black Tyrant as well as White Monjita.
Many-colored Chaco Finch and Black-capped Warbling Finch often find spishing irresistible, while Crested Gallito, Chaco Earthcreeper, Short-billed Canastero and Little Thornbird are sure to take much more effort than that. Both Sooty-faced and Stripe-crowned Spinetails often allow for better views than the rest of their family members, while Green-cheeked and Blue-crowned Parakeets and a trio of Woodpeckers – Checkered, White and the stunning Cream-backed, should add some good vibrancy to proceedings. Narrow-billed Woodcreepers are likely to be found prodding amongst the deeply gnarled bark, and both Glittering-bellied Emerald and the gorgeous Blue-tufted Starthroat will add another touch of colour to the day. Although highly unlikely, we do have theoretical chances of finding such Chaco megas as Spot-winged Falconet or Chaco Owl.
Depending on our success over our first full day here, we may decide to head over to a nearby patch of foothill woodland. Star species here include Military Macaw and Dusky-legged Guan, while more regular species include Ochre-faced Tody-Tyrant, Ocellated Piculet, White-banded Mockingbird, Ochre-cheeked Spinetail, Sclater’s Tyrannulet, Black-goggled Tanager, Red Pileated Finch, and Red-legged Seriema.
Day 5: Return to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, start of Comprehensive Tour
With our action-packed Chaco birding days now behind us, we will start the drive back to Santa Cruz de la Sierra. We’ll make one final birding stop at the nearby Lagunillas, a series of small wetlands. A number of new species could be added to our burgeoning list here, including the giant Southern Screamer Brazilian and Ringed Teals, White-cheeked Pintail, a number of herons and egrets, Red-crested Cardinal and possibly large numbers of Mitred Parakeet. We may have a few hours to relax before enjoying a celebratory dinner together while discussing the forthcoming highlights of our Bolivia Comprehensive tour.