There are many rainforest birds in the world’s tropics. Tropical biodiversity is generally gifted with species richness and the avian community is no exception. You will already be familiar with the most famous of all rainforest birds, the jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) – ancestors of the domestic chicken. However, the animals put in your McChicken sandwich are a far cry from their regal beginnings.
Rainforest Birds – The Amazon Rainforest
Main Article: Amazon Rainforest Birds
In the Amazon, you can find rainforest birds like the famous macaw parrots. The most well known are the scarlet and green-winged macaws seen frequently flying over the rainforest canopy. These birds are an icon of the Amazon Rainforest and often a tourist must-see. Because of this, some Amazon lodges include clay licks on wildlife tours where macaws gather to eat clay. These sites give guests fantastic opportunities to photograph these magnificent rainforest birds.
If you’re very lucky, you may spot the world’s most powerful bird of prey, the harpy eagle (pictured above), sometimes seen carrying large rainforest mammals likes sloths or monkeys.
You may also catch sight of the strange hoatzins. Unusually for a bird, hoatzins feed off leaves they digest by fermentation. The young possess strange claws they use to clamber their way through vegetation. Because of the claw, the birds are thought to be a very old lineage linked to the ancient fossil Archaeopteryx.
Toucans are another favourite rainforest bird, with their enlarged, often colourful, attractive bills. The bird’s famous beak is used for fencing displays and potentially to control temperature.
There are many Amazon Rainforest Birds, but they are unfortunately threatened by various factors. For these animals the most important causes of biodiversity loss are destruction of habitat and trapping. Their magnificence is a curse as many are wanted for pets. A notable example is the largest flying parrot, the hyacinth macaw, which is severely threatened by the pet trade.
Rainforest Birds – The Congo
In the African rainforest, the most famous bird is perhaps the African grey parrot (photo above). These parrots are thought to be amongst the most intelligent of all birds. One, named Alex, was exceptionally famous. Alex was well known in the world of animal behaviour for intelligence. Alex could accurately demonstrate his understanding of shape and colour, and was able to perform simple counting tasks. Again like other rainforest birds, African grey parrots are threatened by the pet trade and habitat loss.
Another African rainforest bird is the red-crested turaco. These birds have an noticeable red crest and an iridescent sheen over their plumage. These attractive rainforest birds live in the African canopy feeding on fruits.
Lyre tailed honey guides are another bird of the African rainforest. Despite their name, this particular species isn’t known to lead other animals to bees’ nests, but they do feed on beeswax. They do perform impressive aerial displays to impress females. On their descent, a sound is produced from air passing over their feathers.
Rainforest Birds – The Australasian Rainforest
In the Australian tropics you can find the most talked about bird in north Queensland, the southern cassowary (above). This intimidating bird can stand two metres tall and is highly territorial. Unusually for ratites (e.g. ostriches, emus, cassowaries, and kiwi) cassowaries are very colourful with a bright blue neck and red wattle. They also possess a casque atop their head. This is thought to offer protection as they move through the rainforest.
Because we continue to encroach on the last remnants of Australian rainforest, the cassowaries are under severe threat from habitat destruction. Cassowaries are a keystone species and highly important for other rainforest life. To help save this fantastic bird, you can visit the Save The Cassowary site and voice your concern.
Rainbow lorikeets are a favourite parrot of the Australian rainforest. These birds have a specialised brush-tipped tongue to feed off pollen and nectar. Rainbow lorikeets are very colourful and have a green, yellow, orange, and blue plumage.
The palm cockatoo is an interesting species to spot in the Australian tropics. These will signal to Australians that they have ventured into the tropics, as they contrast against their more common sulphur-crested cousins. Palm cockatoos are jet black with a large crown of feathers and have a red facial patch.
In south Australian rainforest, you can find the highly impressive lyre birds. These birds have a large tail reaching up to 60 cm, but their most impressive feature is the male’s song (see video below).
In New Guinea, the iconic animals are the birds of paradise. They have a high diversity and some males perform spectacular displays. They are often seen in documentaries with their brilliant colouration, unusual ornaments, and sometimes bizarre dances.