A Field Guides Birding Tours Report


January 11-14, 2023 with Jesse Fagan & Ivan Lau guiding

Field Guides Birding Tours
So much going on here, but that was par for the course in the llanos. Where do you put your binoculars?! This photo was taken at the large permanent water lagoon called Matapalma by guide Jesse Fagan.

The llanos is a real experience. It takes a long time nowadays to find places where there is, like, nobody around. Plus views stretching to the horizon and in the evening, pure silence, except for the natural noises like frogs and insects. That is exactly what we enjoyed during our four nights at Juan Solito Ecolodge on the Hato La Aurora property. The name Juan Solito literally means "lonely Juan." Except we weren't really alone, were we? There were lots of things around to look at and enjoy including capybaras, iguanas, deer, snakes (except no anaconda this year!), and lots of cool birds. The big lagoon of Matapalma felt like something from years long gone; the Pleistocene, maybe? Jabirus towered over hundreds of whistling-ducks, egrets, and capybaras, while Nacunda Nighthawks called from the savanna. There was also the human experience, too, as we enjoyed the cowboy lifestyle and in the evenings listened to the traditional llanos music, joropo. All of it felt like a time warp, but in a very good way.

Thanks for coming along with me to a special place in the world. It was great to share our time together and I look forward to more adventures in the future. Also, thanks to Ivan, our local guide, for his superb work.

—Jesse aka Mot (from Lima, Peru)

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

Anhimidae (Screamers)

HORNED SCREAMER (Anhima cornuta)

We had good numbers (usually in pairs) every day during our trip. We also heard them "screaming" and watched them flying or perched in trees. There are threes species in this family and all are confined to South America; though Horned Screamer is a monotypic genus!

Field Guides Birding Tours
Jabirus tower over a Capybara, this pair one of several seen on the tour. Photo by guide Jesse Fagan.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)

WHITE-FACED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna viduata)

Small numbers mixed with the next species at Matapalma.

BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis)

ORINOCO GOOSE (Oressochen jubatus)

Usually a target for many folks that take this tour. Thankfully, they are common along the Rio Ariporo and at other wetland sites. Seen every day of the tour.

MUSCOVY DUCK (Cairina moschata)

BRAZILIAN TEAL (Amazonetta brasiliensis)

Good numbers were around Matapalma this year.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL (Spatula discors)

Cracidae (Guans, Chachalacas, and Curassows)

RUFOUS-VENTED CHACHALACA (RUFOUS-TIPPED) (Ortalis ruficauda ruficauda)

Common in the llanos area and they were even vising the banana feeders at the lodge.

CRESTLESS CURASSOW (Mitu tomentosum)

What a great sighting of a family that left the forest edge at dusk. We were able to watch them closely in the scope.

Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)

ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]

PALE-VENTED PIGEON (Patagioenas cayennensis)

SCALED PIGEON (Patagioenas speciosa)

RUDDY GROUND DOVE (Columbina talpacoti)

SCALED DOVE (Columbina squammata)

Quite common in the savanna, but mostly heard.

BLUE GROUND DOVE (Claravis pretiosa)

We watched several in the dirt track early one morning.

WHITE-TIPPED DOVE (Leptotila verreauxi)

GRAY-FRONTED DOVE (Leptotila rufaxilla)

Field Guides Birding Tours
Your main way of travel in the llanos, especially during the rainy period, is by boat. Photo by participant Russ Cole.

EARED DOVE (Zenaida auriculata)

Cuculidae (Cuckoos)

GREATER ANI (Crotophaga major)

Seen along the Rio Ariporo during our afternoon boat rid.

SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani)

STRIPED CUCKOO (Tapera naevia) [*]

LITTLE CUCKOO (Coccycua minuta)

A pair showed nicely in the afternoon as we returned from the El Hato ranch house. This is never a common species.

SQUIRREL CUCKOO (Piaya cayana)

Caprimulgidae (Nightjars and Allies)

NACUNDA NIGHTHAWK (Chordeiles nacunda)

Very cool to spot these day roosting birds at Matapalma and also to hear them calling, and eventually watch them flying around. A classic llanos species!

BAND-TAILED NIGHTHAWK (Nyctiprogne leucopyga)

Large numbers flying over the Matapalma wetland at dusk.

COMMON PAURAQUE (Nyctidromus albicollis)

At least one was around the lodge each morning and evening.

WHITE-TAILED NIGHTJAR (Hydropsalis cayennensis)

We head this species calling and eventually had one settle in the spotlight for excellent photos.

Nyctibiidae (Potoos)

GREAT POTOO (Nyctibius grandis)

A day roosting bird was scoped near the lodge.

Apodidae (Swifts)

FORK-TAILED PALM SWIFT (Tachornis squamata)

Field Guides Birding Tours
But, during the dry season, you can get around in tough 4x4 jeeps, like these two that we used on our trip. Photo by participant Suzi Cole.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)


A young male was seen near the dining area at the lodge.

PALE-BELLIED HERMIT (Phaethornis anthophilus)

BLUE-TAILED EMERALD (Chlorostilbon mellisugus)

This small hummingbird was seen a couple of times. Most of them in the this genus look alike, but they often separate out by range.


Opisthocomidae (Hoatzin)

HOATZIN (Opisthocomus hoazin)

Good numbers on our boat ride up the Rio Ariporo.

Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)

ASH-THROATED CRAKE (Mustelirallus albicollis) [*]

GRAY-COWLED WOOD-RAIL (Aramides cajaneus)

Often seen visiting the river edge each morning or evening.

Aramidae (Limpkin)

LIMPKIN (Aramus guarauna)

Burhinidae (Thick-knees)

DOUBLE-STRIPED THICK-KNEE (Burhinus bistriatus)

Small numbers on the large hilltop near Matapalma.

Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)

BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)

Field Guides Birding Tours
Nice capture by Linda Rudolph of a pair of Black Skimmers on the Rio Ariporo.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)

PIED LAPWING (Vanellus cayanus)

This nice-looking plover was seen on the sandbars along the Rio Ariporo.

SOUTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus chilensis)

COLLARED PLOVER (Charadrius collaris)

Some of the group had this species from the vehicle as we made our way back to the lodge at dusk.

Jacanidae (Jacanas)

WATTLED JACANA (Jacana jacana)

Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)

LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla)

SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularius)

SOLITARY SANDPIPER (Tringa solitaria)

LESSER YELLOWLEGS (Tringa flavipes)

Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

YELLOW-BILLED TERN (Sternula superciliaris)

Nice looks at both species of terns and skimmer during our boat trip up the Rio Ariporo.

LARGE-BILLED TERN (Phaetusa simplex)

BLACK SKIMMER (Rynchops niger)

Eurypygidae (Sunbittern)

SUNBITTERN (Eurypyga helias)

Always a treat to see, but they are common along the Rio Ariporo. We saw good numbers each day during our stay. A monotypic family, of course.

Ciconiidae (Storks)

JABIRU (Jabiru mycteria)

Iconic large wader of the llanos. We were able to get up close to several individuals. Such a bizarre creature!

WOOD STORK (Mycteria americana)

Anhingidae (Anhingas)

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

Field Guides Birding Tours
Is this cover material or what? Amazing photo by participant Linda Mack of a soaring Black-collared Hawk.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)

RUFESCENT TIGER-HERON (Tigrisoma lineatum marmoratum)

COCOI HERON (Ardea cocoi)

GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)

SNOWY EGRET (Egretta thula)

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea)

CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)

STRIATED HERON (Butorides striata)

WHISTLING HERON (Syrigma sibilatrix)

We got to hear why they are called "whistling" herons.

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax)

BOAT-BILLED HERON (Cochlearius cochlearius)

We had one briefly on the Rio Ariporo as we floated back to the lodge.

Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus)

A six species ibis trip! This species is the least common on the tour, but we saw a few individuals at Matapalma.

SCARLET IBIS (Eudocimus ruber)

Such a lovely splash of color in the greens and browns of the savanna.

SHARP-TAILED IBIS (Cercibis oxycerca)

One of our targets for the llanos was this large ibis. They were around in good numbers and we especially enjoyed their rollicking calls.

GREEN IBIS (Mesembrinibis cayennensis)

BARE-FACED IBIS (Phimosus infuscatus)

BUFF-NECKED IBIS (Theristicus caudatus)

Also a specialty of the llanos. Less common than Sharp-tailed, but still seen every day of the tour.

ROSEATE SPOONBILL (Platalea ajaja)

Cathartidae (New World Vultures)

KING VULTURE (Sarcoramphus papa)

The king of the sky was seen soaring a couple of times.

BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)

TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)

Field Guides Birding Tours
What do you do during your free time in the llanos? You look for anacondas with a stick! Photo by participant Suzi Cole.

LESSER YELLOW-HEADED VULTURE (Cathartes burrovianus)

We discussed the difference in tail structure and underwing pattern in comparison with the previous species.

Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)

BLACK-COLLARED HAWK (Busarellus nigricollis)

A highlight for most everyone. Seen a few times near wetland areas where the patiently wait above the water's edge.

PLUMBEOUS KITE (Ictinia plumbea)

CRANE HAWK (Geranospiza caerulescens)

Not common, but seen a couple of times on the tour.

SAVANNA HAWK (Buteogallus meridionalis)

GREAT BLACK HAWK (Buteogallus urubitinga)

We observed one from our safari vehicles perched in the monte scrub.

ROADSIDE HAWK (Rupornis magnirostris)

Strigidae (Owls)

TROPICAL SCREECH-OWL (Megascops choliba) [*]

BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia)

These guys are so cute! We enjoyed watching and photographing several individuals near their burrows.

Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata)

AMAZON KINGFISHER (Chloroceryle amazona)

Galbulidae (Jacamars)

PALE-HEADED JACAMAR (Brachygalba goeringi)

One of our main targets was easily encountered on the lodge grounds! Seen again a few other times,, but always near water.

RUFOUS-TAILED JACAMAR (Galbula ruficauda)

Also seen near the lodge, but in the taller riparian forest where it prefers to stay mostly hidden.

Ramphastidae (Toucans)

CHESTNUT-EARED ARACARI (Pteroglossus castanotis)

Several visited the large trees above the lodge on the first morning of birding.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Here we are waiting until dusk on the big hilltop near Matapalma. Photo by guide Jesse Fagan.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)

SCALED PICULET (Picumnus squamulatus)

RED-CROWNED WOODPECKER (Melanerpes rubricapillus)

LITTLE WOODPECKER (Dryobates passerinus)

CRIMSON-CRESTED WOODPECKER (Campephilus melanoleucos)

LINEATED WOODPECKER (Dryocopus lineatus)

SPOT-BREASTED WOODPECKER (Colaptes punctigula)

A nice looking woodpecker that is quite common on the hato property.

Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)

LAUGHING FALCON (Herpetotheres cachinnans)

A couple of different individuals were seen on the trip.

CRESTED CARACARA (Caracara plancus)

YELLOW-HEADED CARACARA (Daptrius chimachima chimachima)

AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)

APLOMADO FALCON (Falco femoralis)

Pairs were seen on two different days.

Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)

YELLOW-CROWNED PARROT (Amazona ochrocephala)

There were large numbers of this species and the next seen daily especially leaving evening roosts in the early dawn light.

ORANGE-WINGED PARROT (Amazona amazonica)

SPECTACLED PARROTLET (Forpus conspicillatus)

BROWN-THROATED PARAKEET (Eupsittula pertinax)


Seen most mornings around the lodge.

BLUE-CROWNED PARAKEET (BLUE-CROWNED) (Thectocercus acuticaudatus koenigi)

Large flocks were seen on our arrival day.

Thamnophilidae (Typical Antbirds)

BLACK-CRESTED ANTSHRIKE (Sakesphorus canadensis)

Fairly common on the hato property in the dry monte scrub.

BARRED ANTSHRIKE (Thamnophilus doliatus)

Seen near the lodge in the riparian habitat, but also heard/seen in a few other places.

WHITE-FRINGED ANTWREN (NORTHERN) (Formicivora grisea fumosa)

Normally heard calling from the thick understory.

Field Guides Birding Tours
What's not to love about this dusk shot of a Double-striped Thick-Knee at Matapalma? Perfect capture by participant Suzi Cole.
Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)


RUFOUS-FRONTED THORNBIRD (PLAIN) (Phacellodomus rufifrons inornatus)

Common in the llanos. Their conspicuous stick nests were seen on most of our stops.

RUSTY-BACKED SPINETAIL (Cranioleuca vulpina)

We caught up with a responsive pair along the Rio Ariporo.

YELLOW-CHINNED SPINETAIL (Certhiaxis cinnamomeus)

PALE-BREASTED SPINETAIL (Synallaxis albescens)

Tityridae (Tityras and Allies)

WHITE-WINGED BECARD (Pachyramphus polychopterus)

Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)

SEPIA-CAPPED FLYCATCHER (Leptopogon amaurocephalus)

One showed well in the riverine forest near the lodge.

PALE-EYED PYGMY-TYRANT (Atalotriccus pilaris)

Their trilling call was a constant sound from the dense monte.

COMMON TODY-FLYCATCHER (Todirostrum cinereum)

YELLOW-OLIVE FLYCATCHER (Tolmomyias sulphurescens) [*]

OCHRE-LORED FLYCATCHER (Tolmomyias flaviventris)



YELLOW TYRANNULET (Capsiempis flaveola)

Pretty common in the thick savanna scrub.

YELLOW-BELLIED ELAENIA (Elaenia flavogaster)


One of the specialties of the llanos. They were seen a few times during our stay.


We called one up near our stop at the main house, La Aurora.

WHITE-HEADED MARSH TYRANT (Arundinicola leucocephala)

The next two species were seen near the big lagoon Matapalma, and we even saw the nest of the Pied Water-Tyrant.

PIED WATER-TYRANT (Fluvicola pica)

BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus tyrannulus)

CATTLE TYRANT (Machetornis rixosa)

Mostly standing on the backs of capybaras!

Field Guides Birding Tours
One of our targets for the llanos was this tiny jacamar, Pale-headed Jacamar, which is found only in Colombia and Venezuela. Photo by guide Jesse Fagan.

GREAT KISKADEE (Pitangus sulphuratus)

BOAT-BILLED FLYCATCHER (Megarynchus pitangua)

RUSTY-MARGINED FLYCATCHER (Myiozetetes cayanensis)


A llanos endemic and specialty of Colombia and Venezuela. We encountered them most days, but our first were right at the lodge on the first morning.

PIRATIC FLYCATCHER (Legatus leucophaius)

TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)


A very elegant flycatcher that fits the llanos landscape perfectly.

Corvidae (Crows, Jays, and Magpies)

VIOLACEOUS JAY (Cyanocorax violaceus)

Seen a few times, but their raucous calls were heard most days.

Hirundinidae (Swallows)

GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN (Progne chalybea)

At the airport in Yopal when we arrived.

WHITE-WINGED SWALLOW (Tachycineta albiventer)

This species was common along the Rio Ariporo often sitting on branches sticking out of the water.

BARN SWALLOW (Hirundo rustica)

Polioptilidae (Gnatcatchers)


Troglodytidae (Wrens)

HOUSE WREN (SOUTHERN) (Troglodytes aedon musculus)

BICOLORED WREN (Campylorhynchus griseus)

RUFOUS-AND-WHITE WREN (Thryophilus rufalbus)

We caught up with a pair along in the taller forest along the river on our first morning of birding. They showed well for a skulky understory wren.

BUFF-BREASTED WREN (Cantorchilus leucotis)

Fairly common by voice in the thick monte scrub, but always difficult to see well.

Field Guides Birding Tours
Fun on the river! Photo by guide Jesse Fagan.
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)


Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)

SPECTACLED THRUSH (Turdus nudigenis)

Several flybys and calling birds, but never seen super well on this portion of the tour.

BLACK-BILLED THRUSH (Turdus ignobilis)

This is the common Turdus in the llanos.

Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)

YELLOWISH PIPIT (Anthus lutescens lutescens)

Several displaying birds was a nice experience.

Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)

PURPLE-THROATED EUPHONIA (Euphonia chlorotica) [*]

THICK-BILLED EUPHONIA (Euphonia laniirostris)

Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)

YELLOW-BROWED SPARROW (Ammodramus aurifrons)

Common in the short savanna. Their buzzy song sounds a lot like an insect.

Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)

EASTERN MEADOWLARK (Sturnella magna)

This area of Northern South America is about as far south as the species range.


The specific epithet "militaris" refers to its black and red plumage. Otherwise it isn't a very aggressive bird.

CRESTED OROPENDOLA (Psarocolius decumanus)

This species and the next were common in the llanos and seen most days of the tour. They both make pretty crazy calls often mimicking other bird species.



We lucked out seeing this species briefly visiting the feeders at the Auroro mainhouse. Ivan felt right at home!

YELLOW ORIOLE (Icterus nigrogularis)

The common oriole species in the llanos.

The famous llanos music is called "joropo" and we were lucky enough to experience it live during our stay at Juan Solito. Video by guide Jesse Fagan.

SHINY COWBIRD (Molothrus bonariensis)

GIANT COWBIRD (Molothrus oryzivorus)

CARIB GRACKLE (Quiscalus lugubris)

ORIOLE BLACKBIRD (Gymnomystax mexicanus)

On all of my previous trips to the llanos I had never seen so many Oriole Blackbirds. Must have something to do with the month and season.

Cardinalidae (Cardinals and Allies)

DICKCISSEL (Spiza americana)

We heard several flying over on the first morning, but eventually saw a small group perched on our last day. Very cool to see this long distant migrant passerine.

Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)

MASKED CARDINAL (Paroaria nigrogenis)

Feeding on the tables in the dining area.

HOODED TANAGER (Nemosia pileata)

Small groups seen a couple of times including on the grounds of the lodge.

WHITE-LINED TANAGER (Tachyphonus rufus)

SILVER-BEAKED TANAGER (Ramphocelus carbo)

This species replaces Crimson-backed Tanager in the eastern part of Colombia. Otherwise they are pretty similar looking.

BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus)

PALM TANAGER (Thraupis palmarum)


Always nice to see this species as it can be relatively scarce in places.

CHESTNUT-VENTED CONEBILL (Conirostrum speciosum)

This was a lifer for our guide, Ivan! It is uncommon in the llanos, but a resident.


Also, a very local species in Colombia, and has an oddly disjunct range.

SAFFRON FINCH (Sicalis flaveola)

BLUE-BLACK GRASSQUIT (Volatinia jacarina)


GRAY SEEDEATER (Sporophila intermedia)

BANANAQUIT (Coereba flaveola)

OLIVE-GRAY SALTATOR (Saltator olivascens)

The recent split from the old Grayish Saltator. This taxon is confined to Northern South America.


COMMON OPOSSUM (Didelphis marsupialis)

The night vision helped to spot this one.

RED HOWLER MONKEY (Alouatta seniculus) [*]

GIANT ANTEATER (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)

The last vehicle in our convoy got a glimpse of this rare species. Congrats!

CAPYBARA (Hydrochaeris hydrochaeris)

Too many to count!

CRAB-EATING FOX (Cerdocyon thous)

WHITE-TAILED DEER (Odocoileus virginianus)

Lots of jaguar food out here.


GREEN IGUANA (Iguana iguana)

Large bodies and numbers at the lodge and along the Rio Ariporo.

SPECTACLED CAIMAN (Caiman crocodilus)

Good numbers along the Rio Ariporo.


Other critters seen on the llanos extension:

1) Long-tailed Porcupine (Coendou longicaudatus) - Best I can tell this is the Coendou species we saw feeding in the tree above the dining area at La Aurora. It replaces Mexican Hairy Dwarf Porcupine in South America, along with a few other species.

2) The "tegu" lizards we saw might have been Tupinambis lizards (like Gold Tegu).

3) Savanna Side-necked Turtle (Podocnmeis vogii) - Seen a few times on the Rio Ariporo.

4) Red-footed Tortoise (Chelonoidis carbonarius) - One was seen near the edge of the Rio Ariporo on our boat trip.

5) Ashmead's Banded Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira ashmeadii) - We saw this snake near our cabins as we walked back from owling one evening.

6) Banana Tree Dwelling Frog (Boana platanera) - Seen near the lodge on our night excursion.

7) Our scorpion outing was successful: the species we found was Tityus bastosi, which is found in the lowlands of Northwest South America.

Totals for the tour: 178 bird taxa and 6 mammal taxa