Birds of Eastern Bolivian Lowlands

I am catching up on some of my observations this summer (July/August) in Bolivia.

One of the most common birds of open country in South America is the southern lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) in the photo above. Their tendency to live in territorial groups, harsh squawks and flashes of black and white in the wings when they take flight, makes them very conspicuous. They do have a striking plumage! I most often see them on golf courses, parks and other open grassy areas.

The department of Santa Cruz in Bolivia has undergone rapid deforestation recently. As more people have moved to the city of Santa Cruz, in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia, more development has taken place. From the time I lived in the city in 1997-1999 to today, there are many more paved roads, housing developments and large agro-industrial businesses. It is sad to see the loss of neotropical, lowland forests, but the population is growing and people do need to make a living. I am frustrated that community leaders cannot take today’s knowledge base of conservation and ecology and develop in a sustainable manner. It was add value to the area to keep large areas of forests intact.

We spent a couple of days in one of the new urbanizaciones between Santa Cruz and Warnes. My sister-in-law invested in a piece of land in a middle-class “weekend” development. I took many photos of the birds that thrive in environments that have been disturbed by human habitation.

The white-faced whistling duck (Dendrocygna viduata) has an unusual range, being found throughout both South America and Africa. They prefer wetlands of open areas and can congegrate in the thousands. I only saw the one on the property and did not hear its eponymous call. It was quite wary and I had a hard time approaching it for a photograph.

The Great Egret (Ardea alba) is literally found all over the world, including all of South America. The majestic wader is the symbol of the Audubon Society.

One of my all-time favorite birds is the Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia). A colony of them lived on campus at the school in Venezuela and I came to know them quite well. They live in burrows in the middle of open areas and are diurnal and easy to spot at anytime in the day. It was easy to analyze their diet by collecting owl pellets by the burrow. In Venezuela, we found they mostly ate beetles, but we also found mice and grasshopper remains.


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