Located at the heart of South America, where north meets south and five globally important biomes merge, it is perhaps surprising that Paraguay is one of the South American countries that is least visited by birders. Fiercely traditional yet warmly welcoming, the appeal of Paraguay lies in its compact nature, allowing the visiting birder to notch up a large and varied list by spending more time in the field and less time on the road.
Western Paraguay is known as The Chaco, and despite its reputation as a desolate, thorny desert, first time visitors may be surprised by how lush and green it can be in the right season. A series of seasonal saline lagoons here make up the Central Chaco Lagoons IBA and attract waterfowl, waders and birders alike. Further along the Ruta Trans-Chaco the vegetation becomes more stunted, drier and thornier. Birders visiting the Chaco target the Quebracho Crested-Tinamou, the endemic Chaco Nothura, Spot-winged Falconet, Black-legged Seriema, Chaco Owl, and, toughest of all, the scarce Black-bodied Woodpecker.
Eastern Paraguay hosts the Cerrado, the South American grassland. Officially the most rapidly-disappearing habitat on earth and the endemic wildlife that inhabits it is, as a result, becoming increasingly threatened. The Paraguayan Atlantic Forest belongs to the lowland Paraná type, described by Conservation International to be of 'critical conservation importance' and one of the five most threatened habitat types on earth. Birding here may produce sightings of Giant Snipe, Saffron Toucanet and the globally-threatened Vinaceous Amazon. In the far south of the country, the flooded Mesopotamian Grasslands, hosts a plethora of tyrant flycatchers and emberizids, as well as the bizarrely-adorned Sickle-winged Nightjar.
Paraguay's large areas of untouched wilderness also offer great opportunities for mammal-watching and night drives are often productive with spectacular species such as Puma, Tapir and the endangered Chaco Peccary on the menu.
With thanks to Birdquest for introductory text.
Black-legged Seriema © Paul Jones, from the surfbirds galleries.