Venezuela, Summer 2008 Birding Trip Report - Part 9 of many - Los Llanos Home » Forums » Birding » Trip Reports

Our trip to Los Llanos with Gravity Tours included one day of rafting
in the upper Llanos and two days in the lower Llanos. The upper
Llanos is close to a large cloud forest, but our immediate area was
rather deforested. Not much was seen here, but the rafting and our
early morning departure kept us busy. If you do a Llanos tour, I
recommend trying to find one without the rafting component. But the
tours leave all from Merida and seem to have the same structure, so
probably it will be up to you to convince others in your group.

Los Llanos, translated 'the flatlands', cover maybe 20% of the
country. The region is famous for a very wet wet season and a very
dry dry season. During the dry season, birds come by the millions to
feed on fish (including piranas) dying in the drying pools. The birds
are present in the wet season as well, but are more spread out. Other
wildlife includes the Giant Anteater, Giant River Otter, River
Dolphin, Anaconda, Capybara, Caiman, Ocelot, and Jaguar. We saw six
out of eight; the Jaguar and River Otter eluded us. And the Ocelot
was captive. I hope to return one year during the dry season to
witness the feeding spectacle, but I would also be happy to return in
the wet season.

Much of the Llanos, including the area we visited, is used for rasing
cattle. Unlike Brazil where cattle require deforestation, they don't
interfere with the wildlife too much. Trees are present but sparse.
The unprotected areas of the Llaons are probably mostly hunted for
capybara and caimans, and logged as well, but our area was preserved
for eco-tourism. The Llanos are famous for the 'hatos', or eco-lodges
for rich Venezuelans to ride horses, view wildlife, and in some cases
hunt. But those were outside of my budget. One concern for the
future is that President Hugo Chavez has bought much of the land from
the hatos, against the will of the owners, in his efforts to socialize
the country. This land is being distributed presumably primarily for
raising cattle.

After maybe four hours of driving, we arrived at our lodge in the
lower Llanos. Water levels were about a foot below normal, but there
was still water everywhere. Our first days activity was to find an
anaconda, and while driving along the raised dirt road, I couldn't
believe how many bird species I was seeing. A few include the
Large-billed Tern, Buff-necked Ibis, Savanna Hawk, Caracaras,
Vermilion Flycatcher, Pied Plover, Jabiru, Zigzag Heron, Burrowing
Owl, and many more. Search for 'Los Llanos' on What
a treat! Our group quickly found an ananaconda, and my wife made me
return to the group to take pictures of her with the snake.

Next morning I wandered around our site, and saw many new birds,
including the Double-striped Thick-knee, Venezuelan Troupial, Orinico
Goose, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, White-faced Whisting Duck a quite few
more. I read Los Llanos has over 300 species of birds, and I felt
like I might have seen half of those on this trip. The outing for
second day of the trip was a canoe ride and horseback riding. We got
hit by a downpour on the canoe so strong my camera got wet even
through a reasonable waterproof bag. Luckily it was ok. From the
boat we caught a glimpse of a nesting Hoatzin and I believe a Black

If I kept a life bird list, I would have left with dozens more
species. I did leave with a few hundred mosquito bites. I hope I can
return to Los Llanos again, perhaps during the dry season. And I hope
the Venezuelan government has the wisdom to protect these remarkable
national treasures.