Raleighvallen Rainforest School

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We are studying birds this month-February.  We will share some of our research into the habits of some of the most impressive of the locals.  We hope to have photos to illustrate our writing.


Macaws are the longest and the brightest in the parrot family. They are easy to recognize because they are big colorfully birds. Macaws all live in the tropical parts of South, Central America. Biggest macaw’s wingspan is around four feet the smallest macaws wingspan is fifteen inches. Many macaws are in endangered because their habitat is being destroyed by mans (farming, lumbering and land clearance). They are also being killed cause of their features and they are also bringing captured for pet trade. The larger the macaws the ones who are more likely to be endangered. Macaws eat poisonous seeds it is thought that the reason macaws eat clay is to absorb the poison they also need the clay for minerals which they need. Macaws never make their own nest they either fight for one or they find holes in cliffs or abandon nest of woodpeckers. The large Macaws lay two to three eggs, All may hatch but usually only one survives to leave the nest. The small macaws lay five eggs less then five survive the nest. How ever very few macaws live to become adults possibly less than 10% because they breed slowly so it takes population time to build up. Macaws like other parrots and woodpeckers are zygodacitc (they have two toes in the front and two toes in the back). The genus of macaws is Ara. 

photo by Adam Reeck, 2004

Harpy Eagle 

The name harpy comes from a Greek myth about monsters that are half woman and half bird. When harpy eagles are alerted feathers stick up on top of their heads looking very disorderly and menacing. Harpies are one of the biggest and fiercest of the 59 species of eagles. They are found in tropical South American forest aften near river banks. Harpies have black wings, white belly and breast, a grayish head and tails that are striped black and brown. Male and female harpies look alike in every way except in size. The female is slightly bigger, about a yard 9almost 1 meter) from head to tip of tail. This 20lb bird can fly at a speeds of 50mph. Harpies eat sloths, monkeys, other birds, and lizards. Harpies catch their prey by circling, diving and gripping them with their strong talons.  The talons are 5 inches long and strong as a grizzly claws. They make big nests 4ft in diameter at heights of 90ft in the canopy.  The nest may be used for a pair’s 20 year reproductive span.  Harpies may successfully raise only a few chicks as the offspring require two years of parenting. Usually 2 eggs are laid but only one hatches because the first one to hatch pushes the other egg out of the nest. The harpy hatches 30 days after the eggs are laid. During the first six weeks the male brings food to the female and baby. At 4 weeks of age the chick begins to exercise by jumping up and down in their nest; at 6 or 7 months it takes short flights; at 12 months it begins to hunt and is finally ready to leave the nest at 18 months.

There is a harpy nest nearby so we occasionally see them; they sometimes bring prey to the island to eat it.

-------  by Pascal,   February, 2005

Fork-tailed Woodnymph
This male comes often to one of our feeders.  He defends the feeder against other hummers sometimes even his own mate. Tiny, 4.1g.


Greater Kiskadee
This large flycatcher will "eat almost anything from insects and small invertebrates to fish and occasionally fruit." (Hilty, Birds of Venezuela) They like the open riverbank near our lodging. They like to perch very low.

photo by Phil Friedman, 2005


 The cock-of- the -rock is the brightest bird in the rainforest. They live deep in the rainforest in the understory near the cliffs and rocks. They make their mating grounds on the forest floor, which is called a lek. The female's color is a dark uniform ashy-brown with a rudimentary, frontal crest that is dark orangey-brown. The male cock-of -the rock is a brilliant orange bird with a large crest that extends between the eyes.  The lek is where the males hang out, perched on a low branch above the patch of ground that they have cleared about 4 feet wide.) For food they eat nearby fruit.  When it is mating 20-30 or more males gather around the lek waiting for a females to come.  When one comes they all try to impress her by spreading their feathers and tilting their heads sideways to show off the large round crest of feathers. The male watches the female with one eye and does a little dance for her. The females are very hard to impress. A few males get to do most of the mating.

The females build nests on the cliffs of mud that blend in with the rocks.  The females coloring is dark so she also is camouflaged.  She raises the young alone.  Birds that eat fruit take longer to grow up because they do not eat a lot of protein.
-----by  OMAR,  February 2005

Green-tailed Jacamar 
Jacamars are insect hunters.  They perch in open places and watch for insects, rapidly moving their heads, then loop out for their prey and return.  This pair makes their nest in a termite mound on a tree just outside our door.

In the middle of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve, Amazonia, South America