The Orinoco Delta of eastern Venezuela is home to many unique animals.
Here are some of the ones I ran into during my tour into the Orinoco.
The Boatbill is a nocturnal bird who lives in mangrove swamps from Mexico down through Brazil and Peru. The species eats meat (as you can see from the photo – this is what the tour operators would put out for it when it would come to visit at night), but in the wild the mostly feed on insects, amphibians, mice, fish, water snakes, eggs and crustaceans.
The Boatbill is on the “Least Concerned” status on the conservation list – meaning that it lives in high numbers, over a large area and is in no danger of becoming extinct.
Ibis (Likely Green Ibis):
The Green Ibis lives in the wetlands and swamplands of Central and South America (around Honduras to Argentina). It eats small water creatures like fish and frogs, as well as insects. This bird is also quite common and of “Least Concern” on the conservation status.
(Capibara or Chigüiro in Spanish)
The capybara is the largest rodent in the world. They are semi-aquatic animals and native to South American grasses and wetlands and cover a huge section of the continent (pretty much everywhere except Chile). They are also sometimes kept as exotic pets, but this is not that popular as they are huge animals. Adults can weigh 150 or more (66kg+) and grow around 4 1/2 feet in length (134cm) and stand 2 feet (64cm) tall. They are herbivores and are not endangered in any way.
They also have 2 rows of teeth (on in the front of the mouth and one an inch or so behind it). Their fur is wiry and they make noises similar to guinea pigs.
Iguanas live all over Central and South America, as well as some places in the Caribbean Islands, and parts of the USA, including Hawaii (usually as released pets). They are great swimmers and climbers, (mostly arboreal), herbivores (but will eat meat if presented to them in captivity), and like to live near water.
They are often kept as pets, but many owners do not realize the care they need and size they can grow to, and end up discarding their iguana pets into the wild (hence the populations in the USA). An adult iguana can grow to almost 6 feet (2 meters) in length – head to strong, whip-like tail.
They come in a variety of colors, and though not endangered, are on the watch list due in large part to the pet trade.
Vultures live all over the world. This species – the Turkey Vulture – is the same species you see in the USA. It actually lives from southern Canada to the tip of South America.
Like all vultures it is a scavenger that lives primarily on carrion (rotting dead meat). It has amazing sight and smell it uses to find animal corpses. They live in large groups, but forage individually.
This toucan, (which I forgot to ask the species. I think it is the White Throated Toucan – but I am not sure. ), is common in the Orinoco. The name “toucan” comes from the indigenous Tupi word “Tukana” via the Portuguese who landed in Brazil.
The range in size from a few ounces to a few pounds and they are easily identifiable by their distinguished long beaks and bright colors. They are native to all of Central America, northern South America, and the Caribbean.
Pretty much everyone knows about Piranhas. The fish with teeth that swarm and kill you! In reality they are tiny fish (most species), and yes they swarm, and yes they bite, but unless you fall into a ginormous vat of starving piranhas and flail around like a..well..a fish out of water, you aren’t going to die. However, it is warned not to enter unknown waters in many parts of South America due to known deaths of people (though it seems the deaths are of small children or drunk people). You can get pretty banged up by an attack of hungry piranhas though, but they rarely attack humans unless very hungry.
Piranhas are DELICIOUS and are very common food in the Amazon and Orinoco areas. I recommend sautéing with just a bit of salt and finish off with a few spritzes of lime.
I would like to thank the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park, Missouri for helping me identify some of the birds. I hope I can come visit you guys in Missouri some day soon!
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.