Amazon Rainforest Blog
The Amazon Rainforest is a vast ecosystem covering 40% of the South American continent and crosses nine South American nations. Fed by the mighty Amazon River, one of the largest rivers on Earth, the Amazon’s tributaries feed this tropical wilderness with waterways reaching deep within this incredible forest.
Amazon jungle animals you can find include some of the icons of Amazonia, such as colorful macaw parrots, giant river otters, and the famous jaguar, but also a multitude of others. Here we will mention the main groups of animals visitors love to see and know about with photos from TourTheTropics.com who provide a large selection of the best Amazon Rainforest tours in South America.
Amazon Rainforest Mammals
The mammals to find in the rainforest are some of the favorite Amazon jungle animals to see. Several different rainforest monkeys make their way through the trees, such as capuchins, one of the New World’s most intelligent primates, squirrel monkeys with their curious nature, mysterious saki monkeys watching from a distance, titi monkeys, spider monkeys, the largest primate in the Amazon, and howler monkeys with their incredible voice traveling miles through the rainforest. For some more info on the Amazon’s monkeys, you can have a look at the article on the monkeys of Tambopata.
Apart from the different monkeys, such as this pygmy marmoset photographed at the Tahuayo Lodge, you can spot tamandua anteaters climbing through the trees or poking their heads from tree holes, coatimundis running through the leaf litter, agoutis searching for Brazil nuts and other foods, giant otters fishing in the Amazon’s oxbow lakes, and the iconic two-toed or three-toed sloths clinging to the branches high in the trees.
The largest terrestrial mammal on the continent are the cumbersome looking tapir, which are about the same size as a large pig. They are easily distinguished as tapir are equipped with a very unique flexible snout. Although cumbersome looking, tapir can move very efficiently and can even navigate practically vertical and slippery rainforest slopes. For an idea of the mammals and other wildlife you can see in the Amazon, have a look at a video above filmed from the Heath River Wildlife Center in Tambopata National Reserve. A fantastic Amazon tour, this is the only lodge located on the highly biodiverse Heath River.
The big cats like jaguar and puma are a rare wildlife sighting, but there are Amazon areas where you can increase your chances of seeing jaguar in South America. For example, the photograph above was taken at the Tambopata Research Center in Tambopata National Reserve.
Jaguar have some of the most specialized senses and adaptations of any mammal and are very hard to spot, but they are seen by a comparatively high amount of Amazon Rainforest tourists who choose some of the deeper Amazon Rainforest lodges. Often, jaguar are then seen sunning themselves by waterways either resting on the ground or on logs. You stand less chance seeing jaguar walking through the rainforest, as they will hear you before you approach and run from view. A better idea to identify their presence deep in the rainforest is to see images from camera traps, which often photograph these highly elusive predators.
Amazon Rainforest Reptiles
The reptiles are another fantastic group to see in the rainforest. A favorite wildlife sighting at night are the caiman crocodilians lurking in the waterways waiting to ambush prey. The dominant species it the black caiman, a similar size to large crocodiles, which enjoy living in the Amazon’s lakes. The more numerous spectacled caiman are then often encountered when young in the waterways as you scout the rivers by boat.
On walks in this impressive forest, you can enjoy finding various Amazon snakes, such as beautifully colored rainbow boas, emerald boas, or even the venomous coral snakes. Careful where you tread, however, as a venomous snaked called a fer de lance enjoys resting on man-made trails. These can easily be stepped on by distracted walkers if walking without a highly trained Amazon guide. A more famous snake, anaconda are one of the most famous reptiles in the Amazon and an iconic rainforest snake. Chancing upon these animals is an incredible experience as you watch these giant reptiles move cautiously through the water
A very docile reptile encountered in Amazonia are the caiman lizards, often seen relaxing on branches above waterways. Often attractively colored, their skin is more akin to a crocodile rather than a lizard, which gives these animals their common name. Caiman lizards swim for prey and feed on various invertebrates having an apparent preference for water snails.
Amazon Rainforest Birds
Birds are everywhere in Amazonia and the rainforest’s protected areas, such as Manu National Park, Tambopata, Madidi, and the Pacaya Samiria Reserve bost more birds than found in many countries. For example, the Manu National Park of southern Peru contains more bird species than all of the USA. Accessed from Puerto Maldonado in Peru’s southern Amazon, Manu is one of the best places to enjoy large clay licks.
Perhaps the most famous of Amazon Rainforest birds is the harpy eagle, a giant bird of prey capable of hunting sloths and monkeys. Other iconic species include the incredible macaw parrots, which are more easily found in the Amazon Rainforest of southern Peru where they are often seen gathering in great numbers at clay licks.
Other colorful bird species in the Amazon include spangled or plum throated cotingas, paradise tanagers, scarlet tanagers, orange-backed troupials, a plethora of parrots, hummingbirds, and the large magnificently-colored king vultures like the above bird photographed at the Tambopata Research Center.
Amazon Rainforest Spiders
The most diverse groups of animals in the Amazon Rainforest are the insects and spiders. Small jumping spiders are the most diverse spider species in tropical environments and use their fantastic vision to hunt down their insect prey. Water spiders can then be seen hunting fish by using the water surface tension to walk on water.
One of the few Amazon Rainforest spiders to be weary of due to their aggressive nature and venom are the wandering spiders, which have a very distinct threat display where they raise their front legs up and wave.
A fascinating group are the social spiders, which can be seen using their silken webs to cover entire trees and work together to bring down large insects together. Of a night, you will then see the stereotypical spider group, the orb weavers making their intricate webs on different rainforest trees. Of course, it’s the tarantulas that often steal the show and you can find some fascinating different types, such as the pink toed tarantulas on forest trees or goliath tarantulas, the world’s largest arachnid, and a number of other species walking around the forest floor as you head out on night walks.
Amazon Rainforest Insects
The dominant insects in the Amazon Rainforest are the ants and termites. Although living in a similar social organization, termites are more closely related to cockroaches and mantids whereas ants are more closely related to bees and wasps. Enjoy finding army ants crossing the forest floor followed by a variety of antbirds picking off fleeing insects. Many ants have a mutualistic relationship with different Amazonian plants. The plants supply the ant’s food in exchange for their security and the ants aggressively defend their home.
The largest insect in the Amazon are the titan beetles, a longhorn species capable of snapping pencils in half with their jaws. But the most loved insect to find in the Amazon are butterflies and especially the blue morphos, with their large and bright blue wings fluttering across the waterways. You can then see puddling groups of sulfur and swallowtail butterflies either near small bodies of water or even drinking the tears from turtles or caiman.
Amazon Rainforest Amphibians
The hot and humid environment of the Amazon Rainforest provides the perfect habitat for an incredible biodiversity of rainforest amphibians. The iconic amphibians of the Amazon are the colorful poison dart frogs. The dart frogs often have a very caring behaviour when raising young as some species carry the tadpole on their backs to deposit high in the trees.
Often seen in similar habitat to the poison dart frogs, harlequin toads with their intricate patterning can also be seen hopping around the Amazon Rainforest’s floor. Although often separated into distinct groups, there is no real scientific difference between a frog and toad. This has led to many species within this genus, Atelopus, being referred to as both toads and frogs, such as the threatened golden frogs of Central America.
Other amphibians living in the Amazon include the rarely seen climbing salamanders, horned toads in the leaflitter, tree frogs clinging to the rainforest’s leaves, and cane toads, which have reached infamy in certain areas where they were introduced. In their native range, however, as with all invasive species, they are part of a balanced ecosystem and may play an important role in maintaining diversity. Another large species in the Amazon are the smokey jungle frogs, which are sometimes eaten by indigenous communities.
Books on Wildlife & Rainforests
It’s always good to have some books with you on the rainforest & Amazonia, even while on tour to help familiarize yourself with the environment, its history and wildlife. The following is a brief list of our recommendations to learn more about this incredible forest and other rainforest areas. Take a look.
- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide
- Natural History (Smithsonian)
- The Encyclopedia of Animals
- The Diversity of Life
- Wild Amazon: A Photogapher’s Incredible Journey
- Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
- Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice: An Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicines in the Amazon Rain Forest
- Diversity and the Tropical Rain Forest: A Scientific American Library Book (Scientific American Library Series)
- Emerging Threats to Tropical Forests
- A Walk in the Rainforest (A Simply Nature Book)
- A Teacher’s Guide to A Walk in the Rainforest