The Canudos Biological Station, located in Brazil’s Bahia Department, is a pioneering initiative managed by Biodiversitas Foundation that protects one of the planet’s most endangered and admired birds, theLear’s Macaw(EN). Thanks to focused conservation efforts, the species’ numbers have increased from a few dozen in the late 1980s to approximately 1,700 today. The 3,274-acre reserve is striking: Its sandstone canyons are weathered into odd forms, cloaked in Caatinga habitat with giant cacti and unique flora, including the Licuri Palm, an important food for the macaw.
To see the Lear’s Macaw, go during the breeding season (March to May) and be prepared to rise before dawn. Guides at the reserve, employed from the local community, will lead you to see flocks of these large, noisy, dazzling blue birds as they flap past the dramatic red sandstone canyons where they roost and nest.
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Rupicola peruvianus POPULATION: Unknown TREND: Decreasing HABITAT: Subtropical and cloud forests of the Andes Mountains from Venezuela to Bolivia
The male Andean Cock-of-the-rock is an unmistakable sight, with brilliant red-orange plumage, black-and-white wings, and a large fan-like crest that almost completely obscures its bill. Known as tunki in Quechua, this cotinga is the national bird of Peru and is related to other distinctive tropical fruit-eaters such as theBanded Cotinga,Long-wattled Umbrellabird, andBearded Bellbird.
Why is this bird called a”cock”? We can only guess that the male bird reminded early observers of a rooster. It’s also hard to imagine a bird much cockier than this one!
BIRD OF THE WEEK: February 22, 2019SCIENTIFIC NAME:Parabuteo unicinctus POPULATION: 55 million TREND: Stable HABITAT: Resident in desert scrub, lowland savanna, or marshy open country.
Harris’s Hawk is found from the southwestern United States through Mexico and in appropriate habitats as far south as Argentina. One of the species’ interesting behaviors is called “back stacking,” when up to four Harris’s Hawks stand on top of each other while perched.
Back stacking is actually a sensible adaption to the Harris’s Hawk’s wide-open habitats. The hawk on top gets a better view for hunting, making up for the lack of elevated perches in the landscape.
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Columbina cyanopis POPULATION: Estimated at just 16 individuals. IUCN STATUS: Critically Endangered. TREND: Decreasing HABITAT: Tropical savanna of eastern Brazil.
The aptly named Snow Bunting is a bird of extremes. It may look like a feathered snowflake, but don’t let its small size and immaculate white feathers fool you: The Snow Bunting is a tough survivor that breeds on frozen tundra in sub-zero temperatures. It’s also the most northerly recorded passerine in the world.
One of the Snow Bunting’s most obvious adaptations to its extreme environment is its color. Like theSnowy Owl, ArcticHare, Arctic Fox, Polar Bear, and ptarmigans, its mostly white coloration serves as effective camouflage in its open, snow-covered habitat. Snow Buntings also have feathering on their ankles, an adaptation providing added warmth on the high Arctic tundra of North America, Europe, and Russia.
SCIENTIFIC NAME:Sialia currucoides POPULATION: 6 million TREND: Decreasing HABITAT: Breeds in open areas with scattered trees; winters on plains and grasslands.
The Mountain Bluebird was once called the Arctic or Ultramarine Blue-Bird — names that recognize its northerly range and the male’s vivid sky-blue plumage. This small thrush, about two-thirds the size of an American Robin, is the state bird of Idaho and Nevada.
Mountain Bluebirds breed in high, open country across western North America, as far north as Alaska. Usually nesting at elevations above 7,000 feet, they favor open territories year-round, including alpine meadows and clearings, as well as lower-elevation grasslands, plains, fields, farmland, pastures, and gardens.