Before I begin this post showing just a few of the beautiful owls of southeastern Brazil, I felt it worth a brief introduction to the area. I will follow this post on Brazilian nightbirds with a series of overdue posts on the birds and wildlife of southeastern Brazil in general.
The humid Atlantic Forest of southeastern Brazil is an area of rich endemism and biodiversity. Although not nearly as long or tall tall as the Andes in western South America, the Serra Do Mar Mountain Range reaches nearly 3,000 m ASL and is separated from the Andean montane forests by the lowland Chaco region (Gran Chaco, in essence a large depression of Bolivia, Paraguay, northernmost Argentina and a small part of western Brazil) and the Pantanal, and from the Amazonian rainforests by the intervening belt of relatively open and drier Caatinga and the Cerrado habitats (paler green in map below). On the Google Earth image below this can be seen this belt of darker rainforest in the pink oval, although note that it also extends northward a fair distance in a very narrow belt along the coast and (now) patchily inland.
The Atlantic forest, in particular the lowland portions, is a highly endangered ecosystem, possibly now reduced to a mere 7% of its former extent (according to www.atlanticrainforest.org/index.php?page=facts). The endemic bird area of Atlantic forest lowlands is in critical shape (http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/ebafactsheet.php?id=71) though the mountain EBA is not considered quite as severely threatened (due to access limitations). You can view a polygon map of the Atlantic forest on the WWF site at http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/atlantic_forests/ although note that much of this area no longer contains intact rainforest. With the already major and expanding urban centers of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro placed in the heart of the Atlantic Forest, it is not hard to understand the pressure that these forests now face.To give you a little sense of the forest that once covered this rugged coastal region, here are two photos from Intervales State Park, part of an important connection of five protected areas, the first showing a view from the Carmo Road and the second of flowering trees (Ype) around the lake.
One of the larger owls of southeastern Brazil is another regional endemic in the Pulsatrix genus (the “spectacled owls”, name for the pale facial marking surrounding the eyes), the Tawny-browed Owl. The Tawny-browed Owl is found in the regions humid forests and also in the regions high elevation Araucaria forests (Araucaria is a genus of coniferous trees from the Southern Hemisphere with a bizarre distribution in only South America and Australasia, including some Pacific islands, and which includes the famous "monkey puzzle tree" of Chile). The rich colour and distinctive patterning of this large owl is reason enough to admire them but their indescribable call, like other Pulsatrix owls, will send shivers down your spine! This bird was perched very high above the ground so the photo does not do them justice.