With the male’s brilliant orange colourings, the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock is a striking bird and often on top of the list for many birders. It is a proud attention-grabbing bird that is hard to miss. About 12 inches in size, the bird weighs around 250 grams, with fruits featuring as the major part of diet. Rocky cliffs are often chosen as nesting sites where you can often find the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock nesting in groups. Fortunately, Guyana has a healthy population of the species, especially in areas like Kaieteur National Park and other dense rainforests in the heart of the country. There are several known cock-of-the-rock nesting sites or leks, giving birders a decent chance of seeing males competing for female attention during the lekking season. The mating process is rather interesting. The females and males live separately and meet only to mate. The females fly over to observe and choose a mate. On selection, the females tap the males’ rump to seek attention. Watching the birds interact is a rare experience indeed.
Also known as the Lesser Razor-billed Curassow, this species is found across much of the Guianan Shield. It can be found through the core of Guyana, reaching its southernmost limit near the city of Manaus in Brazil. The dense lowland forests are safe haunts for this species which can usually be found in close proximity to watercourses, forests in savannah, river islands, or seasonally flooded areas. The curassow’s voice is what gives it away even in the thick rainforests. It is a shy bird that is largely terrestrial, ensuring that it gets a constant supply of fruits. This bird safely retreats to a canopy when done with feeding. The sharp voice is loudest during the breeding period – the early wet season of Guyana. The Crestless Curassow is mostly black or dark blue and has a chestnut belly. Its red bill stands out in contrast.
The Blue-cheeked Parrot is endemic to the Guianas, which includes Guyana, south-eastern Venezuela, and northern Brazil. With a low population density, it is rarely spotted. Seasonal migrations to and from coastal sand ridge forests in Suriname provide serious birders specific timelines to visit. At other times of the year, the species stays within the interiors of forests, sometimes even in the higher regions or woodlands in the savannah. The Blue-cheeked Parrot is threatened due to loss of habitat and the caged bird trade
Other birds of interest include:
- Blood-coloured Woodpecker
One of the most remarkable and distinctive varieties of the veniliornis group of birds, the Blood-coloured Woodpecker is also one that is least seen amongst the woodpecker species. To spot them, one has to traverse the coastal lowlands along the Atlantic Ocean. These are specifically found in South American coastal plains, where a variety of wooded habitats, including mangroves and plantations make the safest homes for them. The Blood-coloured Woodpeckers confine themselves to flying low over the ground and are not too vocal. They remain single or travel in pairs, keeping nesting duties equal for both genders. With their deep red upper bodies and contrasting dark and pale-barred underparts (especially males), the birds add a fantastic touch of colour to green shaded forests.
- Bearded Tachur
The near threatened species, has a reasonable distribution across eastern South America, including Guyana. Most of it can be found in the savannahs of the Guianan Shield. The decline in population is the result of conversion of native grasslands to agriculture. The males have a black head, with a white stripe in front of the eye, rufous underparts, and largely brown upperparts. Females don’t adorn the black feathering on the head, but do have a pale supercilium.
- Crested Doradito
The Crested Doradito is counted amongst the brightest of flycatchers with a dotted distribution across a large part of South America. This olive and yellow bird dons a black eye mask, dusky wings with two grayish wingbars, and a short crest. It is distributed in dense marsh and marsh edge habitat filled with water. Birdwatchers are often able to spot these through their high, squeaky, four-part series call.
- Olive-sided Flycatcher
If you hear the faint pip-pip of this big-headed flycatcher from atop the highest dead branch of a tree, consider yourself lucky. The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a long-distance migrant that breeds mostly in northern coniferous forest and winters in the tropics. Over the years, the bird has become very rare to spot. Lucky birders have caught a glimpse of it in the tropical forests of Guyana, making it a go-to destination for serious avian enthusiasts that want to see the Olive-sided Flycatcher. From their high exposed perch in forest openings, natural meadows, wetlands, canyons and rivers, the birds look out for flying insects for nutrition.
The dual climate of the Rupununi Savannahs – dry grasslands and marshy wetlands after the seasonal rains – creates the perfect birdwatching opportunity for amateurs as well as seasoned bird enthusiasts. Hawks, falcons, caracaras, quail, flycatchers, Harpy Eagles, Guianan Cock-of-the-rock and Red Siskins hold sway during the dry periods. An array of water birds such as storks, ibises and ducks take the reins during the wet months. The rains also bring with it the opportunity to use slim boats to get close to the nesting grounds and observe the birds from up-close. Major locations for birders include Karasabai, Yupukari and Karanambu in the North Rupununi. Further south are Sand Creek village and Dadanawa, Wichabai, and Saddle Mountain Ranches in the South Rupununi, another major area where a wide array of birds can be seen including the rare Red Siskin.
The virgin rainforests of Guyana cover most of the country’s geography. This landscape stretches from all the way in the north, to the southernmost tip of the country, largely occupying the core of the nation. Naturally, their density and diversity make for a perfect sanctuary for birds to nest. Treetops that stand hundreds of feet above the ground are home to a colourful array of harpy eagles, toucans, parrots, macaws, cotingas, woodpeckers and trumpeters. The otherworldly symphony of their calls will leave you spellbound as you hike through the forest.
A slice of northwest coastline offers forested patches around Warapoka, which is home to the harpy eagle. Amongst the high forests is Kaieteur National Park, where you can spot the bright orange Guianan cock-of-the-rock. In the central rainforest, the Iwokrama Centre for Rainforest Conservation and areas around are ideal for birding. Further south is Dadanawa Ranch, another major area where a wide array of birds can be seen.
Hilly Sand & Clay Areas
The hilly and sand clay region lies just below the coastal plains of the north. The entire north-eastern area of the country is bound by the thick rainforest in the south and the open wetland grasslands and mangroves to the north. This hilly sand and clay region is home to a very unique food source – the Doka Tree. This remarkable plant bears a fig-like fruit that is favoured by many bird species. Take a trip and gain a chance to see the Red-breasted Blackbird, the Buff-necked Ibis, the Little Blue Heron and many other bird species. The Upper Demerara, East Berbice and parts of Pomeroon/Supernaam mark this area. Amongst the big junctions, Rockstone is a key town which offers access to many hilly sand and clay areas that are ideal for birding.
The great thing about Guyana is that even the urban areas are bursting with birds, so you do not have to go too far to see a variety of species. Technically, most of the urban areas are part of the low coastal plains of the country, but the environment is different due to human habitation, traffic and buildings. Even in bustling Georgetown, you can regularly spot more than 200 species of birds flying around or perched on rooftops. The city’s parks and other green hotspots make for an ideal environment for birds, such as the Guiana Shield endemic, the Blood-coloured Woodpecker. Other towns like Lethem, which lie in the heart of the grasslands of the south, also astonish travellers with an amazing variety of birds.
Low Coastal Plains
The coastal plains stretch along the Atlantic Ocean on the northern fringe of the country. Thick mangroves, sprawling beaches and dense forests protect this region, making it a comfortable habitat for a staggering number of bird species. Egrets, ibises, gulls, herons, hawks, tanagers, flycatchers, finches, blackbirds and orioles dot the wild forests, seashores and farmlands around the Waini River, Mainstay, Hope Beach, Mahaica and Abary. Some of these spots are a day’s trip from Georgetown.
Epic Savannah Drive
The Epic Savannah Drive is a weekend-long event that traverses four Indigenous communities, including Yarrowkabra, Swan, Lailuni and Pakuri. 4×4 vehicles, ATVs and dirt bikes are all welcomed to participate in this epic weekend that promises adventure. You will get to experience local foods and hospitality, a manmade obstacle courses, a variety of scenery as you move from one location to the other.