French Guiana is an 'overseas department' of France, located on the Guianan Shield on the northern coast of South America. At 84,000 km2, it is roughly one-third the size of Ecuador. The tiny human population just 200,000 people has had comparatively little impact on natural habitats, and forest still covers 90% of French Guiana. As such, there is great potential for fantastic birding experiences for visitors willing to travel off the beaten track in the continent's sole francophone region.

French Guiana has a bird list of 701 species (see www.gepog.org/index_en.html), including one endemic, Cayenne Nightjar Caprimulgus maculosus. This nightjar falls into a small group of Neotropical species known with certainty only from the type-specimen, in this case collected at Saut Tamanoir on the Fleuve Mana in 19174. However, given two records of a nightjar thought to be this species at Saül in 1992, it is entirely possible that this great avian prize awaits intrepid birders heading into the heart of French Guiana.

Aside from this nocturnal Holy Grail, French Guiana holds a range of other scarce and sought-after birds to interest the birder. Several species typical of the avifauna of the Guianan Shield and the northern bank of the lower Amazon River (i.e. the Brazilian states of Pará and Amapá) are common and will be certainly seen during a stay of several days in the field, e.g. Black Nunbird, Guianan Puffbird, Todd’s Antwren, Spot-tailed Antwren, Rufous-throated Antbird, Brown-bellied Antwren and Buff-cheeked Greenlet.

The city of Cayenne is the capital of French Guiana. Cayenne is also a great place to bird the coast. The old harbour is good for skimmers, terns and gulls. Thousands of waders (notably Semipalmated Sandpiper, for which French Guiana is internationally important) winter on the coastal mudflats. Depending on tides, Scarlet Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill are regular, particularly at dusk.

For more information on birding French Guiana read this article from Neotropical Birding

Rufous-throated Antbird

Rufous-throated Antbird © Dubi Shapiro

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