Georgetown is a bustling capital city, but thanks to its location at the convergence of the Demerara River and Atlantic Ocean, the city is filled with unique birding habitats. The capital boasts a list exceeding 284 species from 39 families in the city. Flycatchers, Tanagers, Hummingbirds, and many migrating species such as Peregrine Falcons and Warblers can be found around the capital, but the true stars are the Blood-colored Woodpecker, which is endemic to the Guiana Shield, and Festive Parrot; both are regularly spotted in the Botanical Gardens. Species can also be found in the Promenade Gardens and the Sea Wall.
Legend has it that Kai, a selfless Patamona Amerindian chief, sacrificed himself in an effort to appease the Great Spirit Makonaima and save his tribe from the vengeful Caribs; the marvelous act involved Kai paddling over the point where the Potaro River tumbles 741 feet into the gorge below. Today the site is better known as being the home to the world’s largest-single drop waterfall and Guyana’s prized Kaieteur National Park. The beauty of Kaieteur Falls is found in its impressive size and raw natural surroundings. The unusual conditions created by the falls support a fascinating microenvironment and an abundance of bird life. Included are the White-colored Swifts, or Makonaima Birds, which nest under the vast shield of rock hidden behind the curtain of falling water. At sunset thousands of swifts perform an acrobatic display of feeding before disappearing into the mysterious caves behind the falls – a scene beautifully captured in Werner Herzog’s Time magazine-award winning documentary The White Diamond. The beautiful but elusive Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock lingers around the waters of Kaieteur Falls too.
In 1989, the Government of Guyana gifted one million acres of pristine rainforest to the world – a nature preserve to be used as a living laboratory for scientific research, eco-tourism, and tropical forest management. Iwokrama is home to more than 1,500 species of flora, 200 mammals, 500 birds, 420 fish, and 150 species of amphibians and reptiles. Drawn by over 500 bird species, birders can be found in boats floating down the great Essequibo River, whacking their way through thick jungle trails, or perching 100 feet in the air on the Canopy Walkway. They marvel at the large population of fruit-eating birds (cracids, cotingas, and parrots) and the chance of spotting a prized species, such as Harpy Eagle, Crimson Topaz, Hoatzin, and Crimson Fruitcrow. Along the way, they have the chance to see some of the world’s largest species: Black Caiman; Capybara (rodent); Arapaima (freshwater fish); Anaconda (snake); Giant Anteater; Giant River Otter; Giant River Turtle; and Jaguar (largest cat in Western Hemisphere).
Karanambu Ranch, once a bustling cattle ranch in the northern Rupununi Savannah, is now widely known for owner Diane McTurk’s work rehabilitating orphaned Giant River Otters. Her unique passion, which has garnered the attention of the BBC, Wild Things, Jeff Corwin, and National Geographic, offers an interesting backdrop to the plentiful birding opportunities. The nearby woodland patches are home to Spotted Puffbirds, Striped Woodcreepers, and Pale-bellied Tyrant-Manakins, and during the rainy season a wooded swamp fills with Boat-billed Herons and other water birds breeding in this natural nursery. Green Ibis, and several species of nightjars and raptors are also common around the ranch and along the Rupununi River, whose large population of Black Caiman adds an interesting twist to birding.
Dadanawa has a long, rich history that has included stints as both the world’s largest cattle ranch and virtual home base for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, one of television’s first wildlife shows. Today, visitors can combine some cattle rustling with their birding, although naturalists often find themselves too distracted by one of Guyana’s most diverse ecosystems to get around to helping the vaqueros. Located in the savannahs of southern Guyana, Dadanawa cradles the foothills of the Kanuku Mountains, a range that is home to 70 percent of Guyana’s known mammal species and more than 50 percent of Guyana’s avifauna; it has been declared by Conservation International to be one of the few remaining pristine Amazonian habitats. Exploring the ranch and vast surroundings by Land Rover, boat, and foot offers the possibility of seeing nest of Harpy Eagle and Jabiru Storks, roosting Yellow-crowned parrots, Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock leks, and the rare Red Siskin, a population of which was recently found in the forested mountains nearby.