Sao Paulo — Urban Birding Brazilian Style
In Sao Paulo there are a surprising number of quite common species to keep an Urban Birder's interest alive. Birds like the Blue-and-White Swallow and the equally common Ashy-tailed Swift can be seen almost anywhere, even among the tower blocks that dominate so much of the skyline. They share the skies with the ubiquitous Black Vultures.
There are of course the ‘imports’, House Sparrow and Feral Pigeon, but happily some natives are equally as common such as Great Kiskadee, Sayaca Tanager, Ruddy Ground Dove, Bananaquit, and Plain parakeet that screeches among the skyscrapers and perch noisily in the tree-lined avenues.
If you are in the commercial centre of the city based around the Avenida Paulista, then a taxi ride away is the Parque IbirapueraA. This green oasis with its many paths and tracks is a favoured place to exercise for city folk. Don't be put off though. In general, the Brazilians and birds pay little heed to one another, so by and large, the birds are quite tame here.
In addition to the common species mentioned earlier, Rufous-bellied Thrush can be found here filling the niche of the Common Blackbird although it's song is a bit more repetitive perhaps recalling Song Thrush. Rufous Horneros potter about oblivious to the many fitness fanatics whilst the scolding and flashes from the scurrying Southern House Wrens is a common sight.
Tanagers are typical denizens of the Neotropics and in Ibirapuera I have seen Sayaca, Orange-headed and Swallow Tanagers. The most conspicuous hummingbird is the large Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, a bird you can see feeding at sugar feeders on the balconies of apartment blocks. Also common in the park is the Chalk-browed Mockingbirds that sit conveniently on top of bushes and other prominent perches.
There is also a large lake that brings a whole different selection of species to the party. Out on the water you can see Neotropic Cormorants and White-faced Whistling Ducks, while stalking the edges are Great White and Snowy Egrets plus Striated Herons. Hawking for insects above the water are Blue-and-White Swallows and sometimes Brown-chested Martin.
If your stay in the city allows, you could do worse than to visit the old faithful 'Urban Birder' refuges, the Botanical GardensB and the Zoological GardensC. These are both conveniently situated near to each other in the south of the city. Take the Metro on the line to Jabaquara and get off at Sìo Judas, from here a taxi ride will get you to the gates of either in about fifteen minutes.
The Zoological Gardens are of course interesting in themselves as they do have a good number of native bird species. Between the cages there is a lot of shrubbery and I have seen Plush-crested Jay, Squirrel Cuckoo, Black-crowned Night Heron, Picazuro Pigeon, Blackish Rail, Southern Lapwing, White-crested Tyrannulet, Reddish-bellied Parakeet, Shiny Cowbird and Common Moorhen.
Next door are the Botanical Gardens where looking for birds feels more like real birding. On entering, the usual suspects can be found with the occasional Reddish-bellied Parakeet. Beyond the information centre and a couple of cafes are more formal gardens and a lake. Here I have seen Brazilian Teal, Common Moorhen and around its lawned edges, Masked Water Tyrant.
Deeper into the gardens is a children's playground and off to the right a trail that leads back to the entrance passing through some decent remnant forest. I have seen monkeys here as well as birds such as Red-breasted Toucan, Chivi Vireo, Blue Dacnis, Burnished-buff Tanager, Ruby-crowned Tanager, Green-winged Saltator, Pale-breasted Thrush, Tropical Kingbird, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-throated Hummingbird, Guira Cuckoo and White-spotted Woodpecker.
My visits to these places were all too short, and not at very good times of day. If you can afford to devote more time to really birding them properly, then you will almost certainly find many more avian delights.
Ruddy Ground Dove (R. Simpson)
Swallow-tailed Hummingbird (R. Simpson)
Pale-breasted Thrush (R. Simpson)
Rufous Hornero (R. Simpson)